Just For Fun

Here is a short video of my silly instructor before I met him.  He’s the clown.  He’s dancing with his friend dressed as a cowboy who is also a pro.

If you enjoyed this Crazy Clown and Cowboy Waltz, you can see them dance a Sassy Samba together on The Facebook Page.  While there, like the page to it to add it to your Facebook feed for extra content beyond the blog, and go here to write a comment and help me get into the next round of the Dance Advantage Best Dance Blog competition.  Any comment with a date of January 22nd will count!

TTFN!  -Stef

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Only Your Face Looks Stupid

Dancing at 6:30 in the morning is kind of tough.  First off, I’m not a morning person.  Second, my body isn’t at all warmed up.  I am usually stiff and tight in the muscles and groggy in the brain.  But Ivan, if you haven’t figured it out yet, is crazy, and I guess so am I.  For a while now, we have regularly met at a dance studio on the way to my work, before work.  Location-wise it works out well because it is convenient along the drive to work which is very far from where I live.  And dancing, even at ungodly hours, is better than not dancing, so I’ve agreed to it making sure that on weekends we schedule later in the A.M. so I can get my much-needed beauty sleep.

I am trying to write a blog here but this is what keeps staring at me for a treat and she is PERSISTENT!!!!

So today was one of those early days, but surprisingly, it went pretty well.  Even though my right calf is so sore from ballet this weekend that I can’t easily create an up and down motion, Ivan and I danced the Waltz to begin.  On our last lesson I had told him that he needs to correct me all the time, at least one thing in every dance we do.  Otherwise, I will continue to practice the same habits.  Ivan must have heard my request because we actually worked on some new things before the sun came up.

Like I am aware that there is supposed to be a lot of body contact when in frame in Smooth styles.  It’s difficult to maintain and because I only do Smooth, not Standard, and we go in and out of frame frequently, I haven’t been as disciplined as I could be in regards to this detail.  Well, today, that changed.  I think we began with Ivan putting me in a twisted back-bend position, kind of the same position to set up a develope’ and Ivan told me I have to give him my hips.

Intellectually, I am aware of this.  From books, talking with friends who do more closed-frame dancing, I “know” about it.  But it is a whole other level of “getting to know” your instructor when you really have to do this body mash-up.  But that is how it’s done.  That is part of what makes it possible to move as a single unit while gliding across the floor.  And you know what…it actually felt more secure.  To put my hips in the proper position is uncomfortable on some levels, but I felt more stable.  It was almost, well, comforting.

To pull back out of fear in an attempt to maintain space between bodies, puts my body out of alignment, messes with my balance, and makes it more difficult to move.  It was especially weird when Ivan demonstrated the lady’s part, rotating around my left hip, maintaining contact all the while.  I’m pretty much supposed to stick to him (or my partner) like glue.  Though it appears classy and smooth, the dances in hold feel to me more intimate in some ways than the sexy, slinky Latin and Rhythm dances.

Regardless, it was a good notice, something specific I can focus on during practice.  I’m just glad we’ve been dancing long enough now that I feel comfortable being in the proper position.  Well….I did laugh a lot out of nervousness, but still, this is not something that has happened with either of my other two previous instructors.

So after this, we worked on our open Rumba routine.  It is coming along.  I am getting better at remembering the sequence of steps and I’m also getting more clear on the counts.  I am also really excited to do this one move which involves a double Spiral Turn, which is something I really need to practice, but it is going to be so nice when I am more comfortable doing it.  Really, smooth as melted chocolate.

I also made a discovery about how to position myself with my body weight forward on the opening move we do, kind of a reverse turn step with my leg pointed behind me.  It made it look more dramatic while at the same time I felt more secure doing it.  In addition it helped with doing the proper weight changes, not rushing through the movement to the next step, which is for sure one of my bad habits….not living in the moment, not finishing, and rushing to the next thing before the last thing is complete…no I don’t do that in real life either, ha ha.

But the best thing was a new dimension to hip movement that we discovered.  Instead of simply going side to side, front and back, or making a figure eight, my hips are going to lift up as well.  Kind of difficult to describe, but it is very feminine.  Marieta does something similar in one of Ivan and her routines, but it is one of those details you absorb while watching that makes the movement look interesting but that you might not actually be able to pinpoint.  In any case, I do this little hip wiggle after a step turn and this “lifted hip” action was added.

“It look so good!”

“Then why are you laughing at me.”

“Your hips, your legs, your arms, even your neck moving are all so feminine.  It so natural and so good.  It’s just your face that is looking stupid.”

I guess I make funny faces when I’m trying to be “sexy.”  And the way Ivan was imitating me had me in stitches.  Kind of like a slack-mouthed zombie in search of brains.  Figuring out facial expressions is definitely one of my weak points.  Smiling I can do, no problem.  But looking like I want to attack, or being “sexy” or flirty, not my forte.

Well, I do have awesome hips that work for me, though.  And we incorporated this increased dimensionality into the fan as well.  I don’t find it that challenging.  In fact, it made me feel more secure, and caused me to commit my body weight over my right foot more quickly which also helped me propel myself forward and keep my energy forward.  But Ivan seemed to think it was a special ability.  Well, I’ll take it.  It feels good.  That plus I guess another of his students liked how I styled my arms when we both danced at Galaxy and she told him she wanted to have arms like mine.  Well, that was pretty surprising and also felt good, even if I still have a long way to go with them!

In the end, Ivan said what he’s only said maybe three times before, “I like this lesson.”

“I know!  I wish all could be like this.  So happy, and fun, and discovering new things.”

Truly, it doesn’t happen all that often so when it is nice like this on a lesson I really appreciate it.  It’s not every day that only my face looks stupid!  Usually much more looks stupid!  Heh heh heh.

The end.

Topical Series: Ballroom Demystified (Part Deux)

Where was part one, you may ask?  Well this post is an extension of another post by Alaina which you can read here.

I thought it was an excellent topic and told her so.  And, me being as opinionated and vociferous as I am (at least as a writer), I was inspired to continue the conversation.

I’ll use Alaina’s same format.  She was comparing DWTS, which probably represents how most uninitiated people think of ballroom, to what actually happens at a ballroom competition.  If you’ve never been to one, then you can’t possibly know, but the two are worlds apart.  I think pretty much the only things they have in common are spray tans, amazing outfits and hair, the fact that there are judges, and Pro/Am couples.  Other than that, things are really different.  And one housekeeping note – I’m talking about NDCA Dancesport competitions as those are the ones I have experience with.  There are other competitions put on through studio chains or through other independent companies like World Promotions which have their own set of rules and protocols.

Point 1: In competition, there are multiple couples on the floor at the same time

Alaina got this right.  The only thing I’ll add, is man, is it a different experience with all that movement going on at the same time.  It kind of makes more sense as to why ballroom couples try to be so ostentatious.  If you don’t know what they will be up against, it may seem particularly gaudy and over-the-top how they move, how they dress, how they do their hair and make up, and all that.  Each couple is vying for the attention of the judges and the audience and being showy, glittery, or even ridiculously cheeky, may help achieve that aim.  It is practically impossible to watch just one couple while they compete as each one will catch your eye at a different point.  This is also part of why couples rotate around the ballroom between heats – to perform for a different section of the audience and hopefully gain their support.

Point 2:  Two styles of dance

I’d argue that there are 4 categories of dance – broadly divided into American styles and International styles.  But it’s not just the styling that is different – it’s also the dances that are performed.  On the American side are the American Rhythm and Smooth Divisions, and on the International side are Standard (or Standard Ballroom) and Latin.

American

American Rhythm – Cha Cha, Rumba, East Coast Swing, Bolero, Mambo

American Smooth – Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot, Viennese Waltz

International

Standard Ballroom – Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot, Viennese, Waltz, Quickstep

Latin – Samba, Cha cha, Rumba, Paso Doble, Jive

As you can see, some of the dances are the same.  This is where that styling that Alaina was referring to fits in.  In general, legs are straight in Latin Rumba and Cha Cha but there is a bending and straightening action that occurs in American Rhythm.  In American Smooth, couples can go in and out of a dance frame hold and tend to do lots of sweeping movements, and spins with the lady, and maybe dips too, but in Standard Ballroom, the couples must remain in a dance frame hold throughout the entire dance and travel in unison around the floor.  On DWTS, Len’s background would be more in Latin and Standard Ballroom (being from Great Britan) and this is why he often harps about couples breaking out of hold (which I think he used to do more often than he currently does).

In addition, there are also other dances that may be at competitions like country western dances, Night Club Two Step, Argentine Tango, and West Coast Swing, but generally they have different stylization as compared to the dances as danced in their traditional milieu, like a milonga, or with true “Westies.”

Furthermore, there are more types of pairings that can occur.  On DWTS we see a little of this – sometimes there are Pro/Pro pairings, also formation teams, both of which occur at competitions.  In competitions, there are also purely Amateur couples, some of which are very high level and almost as good as the pros.  This pairing is two amateurs and would be the equivalent of two of the “Stars” on DTWS pairing up.  Now that would be interesting to see on the show, but would probably result in poor dancing because instead of only 1 person not knowing what they are doing, both would be clueless!

Also, remember that the couples dancing at competition do not know ahead of time which music they will be dancing to.  On DWTS the routines are more like those that would be presented during a showcase; the music is known and choreographed to.  But in competition, you may have a routine but it has to work and the timing must be correct no matter what music is played.  DWTS did show some of this with those “Instant dances” they have had on a few seasons.  Those dances test the skill set of leading and following.  I believe (though I don’t know for sure) that for most divisions the couples have a pre-planned routine, however they still have to remain in connection so they can react seamlessly if another couple gets in their way or something unexpected happens like one partner forgets the routine.  They can then fall back on lead-follow dancing to get them through.  However, in the Standard Ballroom division, I think there is more of a chance that the couples don’t have a planned routine.  They probably have the basic idea of what they will do and also which steps they will want to show off, but because there is so much movement around the floor and many couples are buzzing around, floorcraft is key in this division in particular.  The couple has to react quickly and often to avoid collisions. (As an aside, I think Artem and Inna are particularly adept at this.  I’ve only ever seen them almost collide once, ever, on a video, and I have seen them masterfully avoid collisions multiple times without missing a single step.)  Anyways, I think in this division, and probably Smooth as well, lead-follow plays a much bigger role.

Amendment:  Please do see the comments section of this post!  Why? Because Ellen so generously and eloquently clarified this detail, about Standard Ballroom dancers.  I am incorrect, it seems!  Standard dancers do have planned routines, and maybe even more so than other dancers!  Who knew?  See Ellen’s explanation!  The main idea is that there are only certain ways to get into and exit out of various steps (very true) so they have to be strung together in careful and meticulous order, which many times will require a pre-set routine.  And yes, I admit when I am wrong! LOL!  Love it!  Thank you for interacting, Ellen!  I appreciate you so very much.

Point 3: Scoring and points

Yeah, there are no paddles at competitions.  Instead, judges mark couples, ranking them or recalling them on forms which are collected and tabulated, and then at various intervals during the day there are awards.  The announcer quickly calls out who made 3rd, 2nd, and 1st in a particular heat.  That’s it.  You may get some gold stickers, or you may get some coupons for $1 off rounds if you compete again next year for placing, and a plaque for participating, but no mirror ball trophy.  Medals are sometimes given for placing in a scholarship competition (I will explain that in a bit).  But certainly no commentary on what each couple did well or any advice on how to improve like happens on DWTS.

Another difference is that because there are multiple couples competing at the same time, if there is a large heat, with many participants, it is possible that many rounds may have to be danced.  There can be multiple preliminary rounds, then quarterfinals, then semifinals, then finals.  During each iteration, a few of the couples will be eliminated.  In the earlier rounds where there are many couples on the floor, the judges simply vote to “recall” those couples they’d like to see more of.  The final round will consist of 6, maybe 7 couples, so getting to semifinals can be a real feat if there are like 24 couples entered in the competition.  Rounds like this can be found at bigger competitions like Ohio Star Ball, or Millennium, or USDC, but usually only happen for pros.  I’ve only ever had one heat large enough to require a semifinal.  All the other heats I’ve danced have always been a final right off the bat because there aren’t enough couples to warrant multiple rounds.

Once reaching the final, judges then place the couples as 1st, 2nd, 3rd and so on.  Each judge gives his or her own individual opinion/ranking and these are tabulated.  This is why you see perhaps 33221 by the picture or write-up in the media of a couple that placed 3rd.  In this example, 2 judges placed the couple 3rd, two judges placed them 2nd, and 1 judge placed them 1st.  The couple with the most 1st’s wins and the ranking follows the same pattern.  Hopefully the rankings will agree somewhat, indicating that the positions were highly contested, and the the judges were generally on the same page as to the excellence of the the couples.  Sometimes, however, they may also vary widely.  A couple can miss a final round, or a higher placement by the opinion of just one judge.  Truly, for this reason, I have such respect for the strength of character and perservence of the pros who put themselves out there to compete.  It can be a brutal process sometimes and very difficult to convince the majority of judges to place you highly enough to reach any level of professional success.

Often competitors can obtain their scoresheets after the competition online to see how a particular judge placed them, or if that judge recalled them.  If the competitor knows the predilections of that judge, then they may gain insight in areas to work on.  For instance, some judges are known to focus in on toplines, others footwork, others overall presentation.  In addition, competitors can see if there was a wide variation in their placements, or if the judges generally agreed upon how they were placed, again giving them more of an idea of what to focus on in the future.

Here’s where I’m going to veer off the path laid by Alaina.

Point 4: Single dances versus Scholarship Rounds, Open versus Closed heats

Okay, so in competitions there are a variety of types of heats.  Single dances are just what they sound like.  You want to dance Mambo, you dance a Mambo.  You will dance it at the appropriate level and age category.  In America, there are Bronze, Silver, and Gold levels.  These may be further divided into “pre-” or “full” or “intermediate” levels.  For instance, as a way of stretching yourself, if you are ranked as a full-Bronze student, you may also participate in a pre-Silver level heat to see how you fare against more advanced competition.  In addition, you dance with people your same age, and can dance against those one age category below you.  This makes it fair so 20-year-olds aren’t competing against octagenarians.

Scholarship rounds are kind of like a mimic of what the pros do.  The pros don’t dance a single dance.  They dance all the dances in their category.  Now, for us beginners, they go a little easier on us.  First, for the lower levels like Bronze, you may only dance 3 or 4 of the dances required by the pros.  Also, the length of the heats is less – 1:10 minutes to 1:2o seconds versus about 2:00 minutes for pros.  Thank God, I have to say, because it takes time to build up the cardiovascular capacity and skill level necessary to complete all the dances for such a (relatively) long duration.  So for instance, I did a closed Bronze scholarship round in Latin at Desert Classic.  This meant that I danced 3 dances in a row: Samba, Cha cha, Rumba and was ranked on those compared to the other Pro/Am couples on the floor at the same time in my same skill level and age category.  No Paso Doble of Jive for me! (Thank heavens!  However, I did dance some single dances in Jive, separately)

Again the scholarship rounds are divided by skill level and age.  They can get very competitive, especially at the Open level.

Okay, now for the difference between Open and Closed.  Closed rounds are those that only include steps in the syllabus.  For NDCA events, this is the DVIDA syllabus.  Open rounds can include more creative choreography and include steps not strictly on the syllabus.  There can be open single dances as well as open scholarship rounds.  They can also still be divided by skill level, so for instance you can dance an open bronze Bolero or an open silver Waltz.

When pros compete, they are competing as an open.  Anyone can enter.  Though for Pro/Am and Amateur levels, the open scholarship rounds are generally still divided by age, but then again, you don’t usually see senior citizens in open professional competition, but you will see them in open Pro/Am scholarship rounds.

Hmm….well, that’s probably just scratching the surface of the differences between DWTS and a NDCA competition.  Honestly, if you’ve never been to one, it’s worth checking out.  The energy of the ballroom during pro heats is unbelievable.  And it’s so inspiring and incredible.  Though I love getting my DWTS fix, I love being a part of this other world and participating in the “real deal.”  There are a lot of ways to participate in ballroom and I’d encourage anyone to participate to any level that works for them, from social dancing, to full-on competition.  All are wonderful, and special, and important.  But for me, I’ve decided, it’s the competition route I’m interested in.  Yeah, I’m crazy.  I know.  Lol.

If you do happen to have anything to add, or any further questions, please comment!  I love hearing other perspectives, and about other experiences.  Part of what I’m after here on the blog is to build community.  Please join in the fun!

Dancing With Lady Gaga

My goodness.  Lots has happened in my dancing life in the last 72 hours.

First, USDC has been going on.  I have many friends who danced there and it was exciting to hear how they did, as well as to watch some of the professional performances via live streaming on the web.  It is amazing to feel connected to the dancers.  Lots of them I just admire from afar, but others I have a personal connection to, or, since ballroom is a small world, sometimes I am just one person removed.  For instance, my friend “Lady Gaga” is a student of the current national American Rhythm champion, Decho, and of course I have personal ties to Ivan and Marieta and Artem and Inna.  I also am aware of other pro dancers and have briefly interacted with many in the Phoenix area or at other competitions I attended, all of which makes me feel connected in a personal way.  (By the way, I call my friend Lady Gaga for two reasons: first, to protect her anonymity, and second, because Ivan had trouble saying her actual name and dubbed her Lady Gaga.)

Me and Lady Gaga – a new partnership!

Anyways, it is exciting to see my classmates be recognized for their amazing dancing, and to get to watch the pros.  I was especially intrigued by something that happened in the American Rhythm final.  The couple who got second place, Emmanuel and Liana, got a standing ovation from the crowd and they even did a victory lap, grandstanding.  Then very interestingly, the champions received only polite clapping.  It seems perhaps the audience disagreed with the judges’ decision.  I have to say that personally, I did feel that Emmanuel and Liana danced stronger that particular evening than the winners, though all the couples in the final, as well as many other who were cut in earlier rounds, were pretty darn amazing.  Is this just a case of an uninformed audience who doesn’t understand what they are seeing?  I doubt it considering most of that audience are dancers themselves and have some level of expertise.  It begs the question why was the judges evaluation so at odds with what the audience ascertained from the performances? Of course flashy moves that may not be executed with as high a level of technique may capture the audience attention, but hey, that is partly what ballroom is all about.  I just think it was very interesting.

I loved the ability to stream the competition online though I wish it were televised.  I suppose it’s a pretty niche market here in the US, kind of like Rugby or Lacrosse, but I think especially in Europe, it is much more followed and they do televise the bigger competitions.  I’d love to see this available in the US as well, but at least I can stream the “real deal.”  I enjoy DWTS and all, but it is like a cotton candy, cream puff version of ballroom.  I give the stars and pros on that show props for the hard work they do and the good dancing they produce, but the parts I especially love are when they showcase what the pros can do.  However, it’s still worlds apart from an actual ballroom competition.

I don’t think the average American viewer of DWTS has any concept of what ballroom is really like.  And, on the world/European stage it is even more different.  I do think it takes some education to actually understand what you are seeing in the case of say, watching International Standard Ballroom.  Plus, if you have no idea how difficult it is to execute these moves, it might not be as exciting, to a general viewer, than the “flash and trash” shown on DWTS.  Me, I love all dance, pretty much and appreciate different aspects of it in different contexts, but still, I’d personally love to see competitions broadcast live.  I wish that PBS show of the Ohio Star Ball was still going on.  In fact, I’m so “into” all this stuff, that I hunt down pictures and results of people I know and share them on the Facebook page for the blog.  It’s fun pretending to be a “ballroom correspondent!”  I don’t know who, if anyone, actually cares about this stuff they obsessive way I do, but oh well.  It floats my boat.

In any case, watching the USDC added some excitement to my mundane week and it also motivated me once again to get with the program and live up to my dance manifesto.  Why?  Well, because I want to be there next year!  I want to be at the bigger competitions, and not just as a spectator.  I want to be a fierce competitor.  So, I have a year.  Let’s see what progress I can make in that time.  I’ve made a deal with myself.  After Galaxy, I am not going to even think about competing until I shed 50 pounds.  I just have to, for myself, be different the next time I take the floor.  I just won’t do it if I don’t look significantly different.  It’s important to me.  I’m not going to like, wait to be “perfect” or at my final goal before I play, but there needs to be significant, apparent, progress.  It’s just something I’ve got to do for me.  I believe in my potential too much to just lay down or settle for less than my best, and being my best in terms of ability, athleticism, artistry, will greatly have to do with my physical body and it’s health.

Alright, enough of that!  That’s looking a bit ahead.  And Galaxy is in just a few short days.  In fact, I’ve already gotten my nails put on and the first layer of the spray tan.  I’m meeting Marieta about some accessories tomorrow, and making the hair and makeup appointments.  Just a short 3 day work week then dancing for 4 days in a row!  Woo!

And probably the very best part is that I’m on home turf this time.  I have friends who will also be dancing, more so than at Desert Classic.  Also, there will be other students of Ivan to share the table with, and my family will be able to attend.

Two of those friends who will be dancing at Galaxy are Lady Gaga and my friend who I will call “Skinny Blue Eyes.”  We went out dancing last night and, I have to say, it was magical.  I happened to see a post on Facebook for a Dance Phoenix group to which I’m subscribed advertising a guest instructor for a Rumba lesson at Lady Gaga’s home studio.  I put a shout out to my buds spontaneously, and both said “yes!” to going.  We were kind of hoping, from the course description, that maybe the class would be something similar to Inna’s class, but alas, it was another social dancing class.  However, since I already knew the steps as a girl, I chose to attempt to learn the boy part.  That was an excellent choice for two reasons, one, I got to practice being the man with my guinea pig Skinny Blue Eyes, a process in which and hilarity and fun ensued, and two, I got to appreciate the tough job of the man in ballroom dancing.

It felt so completely awkward to reverse the hold in rumba.  Plus I lacked a basic boy skill which would be leading a cross-body lead.  It was challenging, but super fun.  It actually made me more motivated to learn the guy part on more steps.  One day I think it’d be awesome to be a Dancing Classrooms instructor or something.  Plus, it might give me more insight in the mechanics of the dance and help me to be a stronger partner.  Anyways, it was very fun, even if it felt completely  weird.

But after the class, we were hungry for more.  The three of us went to an open dance party at another local studio, and I braved the social dancing scene once again.  Previously, at other studios, I’ve had fairly disappointing experiences, even getting injured once.  So I was wary, but I was with friends and figured I’d risk it.  Boy am I glad I did.  It reminded me of how magical it can be to social dance.  The fact that you can not know a person’s name and then move in unison with them is mind-blowing.  I had the pleasure of dancing with a lot of leaders last night who gave clear, confident leads.  I floated across the floor in some lovely Waltzes, did the Merengue with men older than my grandpa, and especially enjoyed some frantic Swing and Mambo with an older gentleman who was an instructor in the past and knew all the moves.  I spun for most of the songs and it was ever so much fun!  I do think I will be back to do it again, which is a first for me, because it was so comfortable and safe.  It was a great, friendly crowd for the most part and I even enjoyed dancing the Cha Cha on the wrong beat because the leader was respectful.  Oh, and I learned the Night Club Two Step.   It helped that my friends could make some introductions so that I could dance but once I did, and people could see that I moved well, then others felt more confident asking me.  I think it would be a great way to burn some more calories while enjoying myself!

Skinny Blue Eyes, Me, and Lady Gaga

So I got home around 1am which is super late for me, but I got enough sleep in to be well rested for my double lesson this morning with Mr. Ivan.  And what a lesson it was.  I am feeling more confident in my dancing, overall, though it was quite challenging to dance in my new heels, which feel less secure and maybe have a slightly higher heel than my other heels (and are certainly more difficult to wear than my comfy practice shoes!)  But I coped pretty well, and I think it makes my movement look more feminine and delicate.  I definitely need to practice more in my heels, but my feet need more conditioning, as well as my ankles and calves, and of course losing more weight can only make it all easier.  So my plan for the competition and on future lessons is to see how much I can do in my new, snazzy, sexy shoes, and then put my old heels on if necessary.  My smooth heels are considerably shorter and much easier to move in, and this time I have ones with actual straps on them so they shouldn’t fly off my feet or cause me to fall like has happened in my last two competitions.

And, today on my lesson, I’m happy to report I had a Tango breakthrough.  I find it hilariously frustrating that a tiny little fix can change the entire quality of a dance.  Tango has been a struggle for me, and the dance that Ivan says I was hanging on him the most.  All it took was for me to do the movement by myself.  Ivan prompted me to lift my toe and drag my heel of the front foot when I stepped backward and bam!  Everything changed.  I mean everything.  It’s not like I didn’t “know” this, oh I did.  I’d heard it before and even practiced it.  But after doing it alone a bit Ivan partnered up with me and it was as light as a feather!  He was pleased and so was I.

It goes back to the idea that I need to be able to dance every step by myself, then partner with Ivan (or any other leader).  It happened in the Bolero as well.  And Ivan needs to work on pulling back, not holding me up so much because when he does that I’m allowed/forced to be on my own feet and hold my own balance and I actually tend to do better.  Of course there are steps still where I need an assist, but I can’t know what those steps are without the kinetic feedback of having to “dance myself.”

Anyways, It was a great, empowered feeling, and I’m really motivated about dancing right now.  I’m excited just to dance and reveal myself at Galaxy, in my present incarnation.  I’ve decided it will be fun.  Period.  I am going to do my darndest to live my dance manifesto and enjoy the experience.  That is all that is required…this time around.  Then, the work of transforming my body and really stepping into the competitor I know I can be, because that is what I want to do.

I’m excited.  I’m excited about my stupid fake tan, and about my new shoes, and about social dancing.  I’m full of vivacity, and looking forward to my lesson tomorrow, and to the competition.  I’m looking forward to the next one after that, too!  I’m looking forward to Inna’s class, and to meeting more ballroom friends, and cheering them on.  I’m also excited to go watch some professional Swing dancing tonight at the convention that’s in town.  Benji Schwimmer is here and hopefully I’ll get to see him bust a move!

Ta-ta for now.  I’m sure another I’ll have another post soon with all that is going on!  And a special thanks to my dear ballroom friends Skinny Blue Eyes and Lady Gaga for being so awesome and sharing a spectacular night alongside me.  I treasure having you in my life.

Can You Be A Little More Elegant….Not So Heil Hitler?

First blog post in the new house!  Yay!

Yes, I’m still alive, but I realize it’s been a bit since I last posted.  Well, after yesterday I finally have something to write about.

It was kind of a rough day.  One of those days, if you’ve ever had one, where I just woke up feeling low about being me.  A low self-esteem day.  No particular reason.  No event that triggered it.  But for whatever reason, it just hit me.  To the point that I was tearing up on my way into work.

But before I went in to work and realized how low I was really feeling, I had a lesson with Ivan.  He had absolutely nothing to do with this foul mood.  In fact, he provided some of the laughter I experienced during those 24 hours.  Yes, it’s true.  Even on an emotionally low day, there are moments of joy to be found.

So Ivan was just back from the Crystal Ball in Chicago where he danced with my friend Katie and another student, and of course Miss Marieta.  They placed 3rd in Professional Open American Rhythm, which is awesome, and Ivan felt like he danced really well.  This was an interesting comment because usually he focuses (like a lot of us perfectionist-prone dancers) on what was lacking, what could have been better.  I’m so proud of Ivan (and Marieta too) for doing such great work on their “mental problems.”  If you don’t know what I’m referring to, you can read about it here.  Anyways, they are really coming to think like the champions I know they are.  It will be exciting to watch what happens over the next couple of competitions.

So Ivan seems pretty excited to be going to Desert Classic with me.  I know it is going to be an absolute blast.  I’ve already decided.  We are going to have fun, enjoy ourselves, and dance amazing.  It’s just my vision of what is going to happen.  I’m working on practicing owning my space, doing the (what feels like) over-the-top facial expressions, practicing the presentation and bow/curtsey portion of the performance, and fixing what technical details I can correct in the next 4 weeks.  It would feel amazing to just act as if I owned the dance floor!  Which, is a challenge, I tell you!  I have a hard time doing it with Ivan, and also in Inna’s group class.

Anyways, so Ivan was on a high from the competition and we began.

Oh arm styling, I’ve mentioned you before, and I will mention you again.  And Ivan really picked up on it that morning as well.  Doing under arm turns in Rumba, I did my usual arm and Ivan stopped me.

It was weird.  He kind of enunciated the question to me more clearly than I’ve ever heard him speak.  “Can you please be a little more elegant…”  The “t” particularly popped, like a single drumbeat.  “And not so heil Hitler.”

Well, that gives the visual.  I was thrusting my arm out in a straight line rather than developing it throughout the entire arm, using all my muscles and joints to unfold it.  But seriously, only a comment you’d hear from Ivan.

Later in the Waltz, I was reaching upwards on a side sway and I heard, “Hit the balls!”

“What?”

“Hit the balls.”  Ivan punched one of the beach balls hanging from the ceiling at the studio where we’ve been practicing.  He so totally knows he’s using a double entendre.  Yes, it was an admonition to reach upwards to my very limit, but really?

Then on the Waltz, I groaned, grunted.  Why?  The freaking effort it takes to move!  I takes so much energy!  It feels exhausting.  Maybe this was the straw that broke the camel’s back in terms of breaking the damn of emotion that was coming toward me on the ride to work.  I am sick and tired of it feeling like such a Herculean effort to dance.  When is it not going to feel like this anymore, I wonder?  There was a time in my life when I felt strong.  Yes, I got out of breath.  Yes, my muscles burned.  But underneath that, I felt powerful.  I don’t feel like that at my current weight.  And it sucks.  And I’m tired of whining about it.  And I’m on day 3 of my eating plan.  And, simply, I’m tired of being at war with my body.  I’m tired of all the self-hate.

Anyways, so I grunted, a grunt containing all of that angst, frustration, anger, in it, and Ivan was like, “How you have a man in you?”

Yeah…that’s graceful and elegant like I should be in a Waltz….not!

So that started me giggling.  Uncontrollably.  To the point that I bent forward.

“Are you fart?”

To translate Ivan’s Bulgarian English, he was asking me if I had farted and that was why I was losing it in the huge guffaw.

“No! I didn’t fart!” I exclaimed, after I caught my breath.

Well, anyways, we ended the lesson and Ivan was talking up Desert Classic and saying things like “I so excited to going with you!  I want to dance with you all day!”  I mean, to hear your teacher tell you things like that, how could you have a bad day?

Oh, I managed.

It’s a dark place, my mind sometimes.  Also, there are the painful realities of what I’ve done to my body.  And the grief I feel for the loss of what could have been if I had not given up dancing, if I had found ballroom sooner, if I had stuck to my diet 9 months ago.  You know, the futile, negative, voice, blah, blah, blah.  It hurts.  And it doesn’t change anything.  And in just a few weeks I’ll be at a competition.  In a body I’m not thrilled about.

So I made my way to the car and fell a little bit to pieces.

I bulldozed through work and headed home.  Convinced the best plan was to come home, prepare my food for the next day, and crawl into bed to fall asleep by 7:30 and start a new day as soon as possible, I was in the middle of packing up my last food container when I got a text.

You know, sometimes God intervenes in our lives.  Yesterday it was in the form of a text message from my friend Colette.

*Bleep* *Bleep* I heard the ringer on my cell phone.

“Are you coming to Latin?”

Oh, I was aware it was a Tuesday.  I was aware Inna’s butt-kicker was going to start in about 20 minutes.

I texted back:

“I’m not decided.  Feel fat.  Sluggish.”

She texted back:

“AW HELL NO YOU DIDN’T JUST SAY THE F WORD!”

Well, it was enough of a nudge to go to class.  I knew I’d be late, but they always seem to start a few minutes late.  And, I didn’t have any clean dance clothes, so it was black leggings and my XXL Boston t-shirt.  It was that or not go.  Not a cute outfit by any means, but functional I suppose.  You know, only one option had any chance of getting me closer to the dancer and body I want to be and have.  Painful as it was, and as much as I liked (on some level) my pity-party (as my husband called it), I knew I’d feel better if I went.  But still, part of me wanted to not go.  Crumbling into a limp lump in bed did seem somewhat attractive.

But another part of me knew better, so I went.

I made it to Inna’s butt-kicking class and got to see the blonde elfin powerhouse for the first time in a month since she left to compete with Artem in Blackpool where they placed 2nd in Rising Star and 16th in Open Professional.  They are amazing!  I feel so blessed to be learning from them and Ivan.

Artem and Inna at Blackpool

Just another reason to ask myself, what am I saying yes to (and conversely no to).  In this instance I said yes to movement, dance, the chance to burn some calories, the opportunity to learn from an internationally ranked professional, and the pleasure to see my friends Colette and Toni.  I also got to work on my arm-styling which was a topic of interest in the group class as well (it was an arm-themed day).  I definitely benefited from Inna’s perspective on this issue and feel like I have a better understanding of ways to improve my arm styling because I was present in class last night.

Yes, yes.  Logically, that all makes sense and it is the clear beneficial decision to make.  But emotionally, well, I just didn’t feel like going.

On the converse, however, by going to class even when I didn’t want to, I was saying no to wallowing in self-pity, dwelling in self-hatred, and my comfy, comfy bed.  And trust me, that bed was calling to me as sweetly as a Siren!

Ah, well, every moment is a choice, and every choice has prices and benefits.

And because I showed up, there were two wonderful moments for me.  One, I met a new friend who had just taken her second dance class!  She came to watch the group class and I gave her a card for the blog, in case she’d be interested to read it.  It is exciting to meet new dancers, and exciting to share the blog.  Two, Inna had me demonstrate a Samba combination.  Usually she has one of her more experienced students demonstrate the combinations, but every once in a while she has me do one.  I heard her saying, “Good!” as I did the combo across the floor and when I got to the other side she had me do it all by my lonesome.  It kind of gave my ego a boost.  And, whether true or not, I feel inside, that Samba is one of my stronger dances.  I can move those hips!

So thank you, Colette, for getting my ass moving last night!  You were a Godsend.  Also, you cracked me up after class when I was sharing with you my woes, deep in lamentation, and you said, “Well snap out of it, girl!”

And now it comes full circle.  Today was better and my favorite dance show is on (SYTYCD).  The last guy they showed was tubby, like me.  And in some ways it didn’t matter.  He was a good human being and a good dancer and his joy and passion shone through.  He was absolutely able to move people with his dancing.  Then, in some ways, of course his size did matter.  Clearly he wasn’t in any shape to continue on in the competition past the choreography round.

Well, I kind of think that is how it is for me, at the moment.  Tubby, but passionate and can move surprisingly well.  However, my vision is to marry that with a healthy body, and it is painful that reality is nowhere near what I can envision in my mind.

And yet, I will be there on July 12th with my sparkles on.  I will be there shaking what my momma gave me, as I am, on that day, whatever that looks like.  All I know is that I have a focus and drive like no kidding to make the most of the last four weeks before the competition.  I have this time to do what I can to best prepare myself for the upcoming challenge.

Wish me luck!

How Does 75 Become 120???

The quick answer is, Ivan Dishliev.

Here’s the longer version:

So, if you’ve read my story, you know that I’m going to compete at the Desert Classic DanceSport Competition.  It’s coming up in July, the 11th through the 14th to be exact.  And today I wrote the check.  I kissed a nice sum of money goodbye and also made it official.  I’m REALLY going.  It’s REALLY going to happen.

So when we started talking about the competition, I thought I’d maybe do like 75 entries.  That’s still no small number, maybe averaging out to be around 25 per day of the 3 days of the competition.  I’m going to do Latin (minus Paso Doble, but plus Jive, which I haven’t worked on one iota), and Smooth, and American Rhythm.  We’ll also throw in a Hustle or two and some West Coast Swings just for fun, just to relax and enjoy.  I thought this would be enough dancing that I’d feel like I was doing something while I was there, but not so much that I’d kill myself.

If you read more of my blog, you’d know that last June I did 150 heats at the San Diego DanceSport Competition, and that was in two days time. I had to ice my feet between heats, and had 30 in a row right off the bat which about killed me.  It was a Herculean feat, one I didn’t know if I could do, but I did, and even earned Top Student in the Bronze category.  So anyways, I’ve done a marathon.  I’ve done pushing my limits past what I thought I could do.  So I thought I wouldn’t do that this time around and 75 seemed like the reasonable number.

But not to Ivan.

“Why only 75?”

“Ivan!  That’s a lot!  That’s plenty!”

I suppose to someone who once did 600 heats in a competition I’m small potatoes.  But I’m no pro.  I’m just me.  And I’m not in the best dancer’s shape either!  75 sounded like a good challenge.

“How about 100?”

“I might consider 100.  But I want to try doing a scholarship round this time.  I’ve never done one of those.  I’d like to see how I’d do.”

“Okay, okay.  It’s fine.  You think about it.  Maybe if you doing 100 you can be Top Student.”

To be honest, that would be cool.  I would be thrilled to achieve that again.  But with the 150 heats I did last time, that was my clear intent.  I wanted to prove to myself that I could actually do it.  And I made sure to enter enough heats that I had a fighting chance.  Not a lot of people do that many heats, I don’t think.  But since I already did that, it’s actually about having more dance time this go-around.  I want to be out on the floor showing off what Ivan and I have worked on for the last 8 months.  I want to have time to really express myself.  I want enjoy my time dancing.

So the prospect of going for Top Student hasn’t really been a driving force in my decision.  But I know that I would rather be dancing than sitting so since I can afford it right now, I thought, well, if Ivan wants to dance with me that much, then I will say yes.

But the negotiations didn’t end there, it seems.

Today I showed up on my lesson and wrote out the check for 100 heats.  I thought that was it.  But Ivan had another surprise in store for me.

Around 10am I got a call.  Somehow Ivan had a way for me to dance in 20 more heats for the cost of only 2 more.  How could I say no to an opportunity like that?  Suddenly I was dancing in 120 heats instead of 75.  So I guess that’s how you get from 75 to 120!

“Now you maybe can be Top Student.”

“Maybe Ivan.  We’ll see.”

“Yes.  You have to doing all the expression, and melt the ice, and energy, and breathing, and all that.  Me too.  Me too.  It depending.  But maybe we can do it.”

It’s actually kind of exciting.  I think it is a longer shot and would mean more if I actually made Top Student in this upcoming competition.  For one thing, it would be at a larger competition.  For another, I’d have to place really well in most heats to earn enough points to win.  In the other competition I had 30 more heats which meant more opportunities for points, even if I placed last.  We’ll see.

I’m actually more psyched about the scholarship rounds.  I’m excited about being introduced on the dance floor like they do with the professionals (assuming I make it to the final!  Just making the final would be a huge accomplishment for me!).  I want to put myself out there and see what happens.  I figure it will be some great feedback no matter what the outcome and great experience as well.

Anyways, that’s what’s going on in my world right now.  We moved this weekend and I’m dancing.  I’ve been going in at 6:30 am before work.  I think it’s a good thing and I’m excited to see how far I can get in terms of fitness and cardiovascular endurance with a final concerted effort in this last month before the competition.  Today I did 2 minutes on most dances we did and over 3 minutes of Waltz.  It’s brutal, but great!  Progress!

And one final thing.  I’d like to share something that made me smile.  I get spam links on my blog all the time. Luckily I have a program that identifies them and I can look through them, purge them, etc.  But every once in a while one comes along that isn’t trash.  There was a bona fide comment in there once, and today, it probably was spam, but I clicked the link because it had dance in the title and it turned out to be a fun thing.  It also made me think, if this guy can go out there and shake it in a tiny sequin speedo, I can go out there and shake it in my bedazzled ballroom dress.  I have to admit, I was a little worried for him doing the open-legged handstands…that could have gone very wrong, but I love his energy, and cool, calm confidence.  Hopefully I’ll be like that at Desert Classic…but don’t expect to see me in a sequined speedo any time soon!  Enjoy!

Medusa

Good news is, I’ve begun a new job.  It’s a contract job and guaranteed for six months.  After that, who knows, but I’m really hoping it might turn into a “real” job.  They have to put a lot of resources into training us newbies and I can’t imagine they’d want to mobilize the resources again in a few months, except for in extreme cases of workers with poor performance or a hiring freeze or financial cutbacks.  But again, not something I have control over and I am just extremely thankful for what is, right now.

The bad news is, the learning curve is steep.  Not the normal pharmacist stuff…that’s fine…it’s all the company-specific computer and operational stuff.  It is just a LOT of information to absorb (not unlike learning the entire Bronze syllabus for the Rumba or something in just a few days).  In any case, it was so much info that I dreamt about it last night!  I just know my little brain was assimilating all it could.

You see, I’m playing catch-up because I was added to the job a week after everyone else started.  I’ve had 2 days.  They’ve had 9.  AHHH!  Luckily, I got some one-on-one training to help with all that, but it is still a lot to absorb.  So, all-in-all, not bad news, really – not even close!  After all I’ve been through in the job/financial/work environment categories, I’m GRATEFUL!  It’s just that my mind is spent.  I have the IQ of a wombat by the end of my 8 hour shift (no offense to wombats! Perhaps they are very smart, like parrots.  But I wouldn’t know about that, especially right now.)  And this showed up in my lesson tonight….not to mention the fact that yes, I did watch DWTS this week, and yes, the topical series articles are still in process, but I just haven’t had the mental fortitude to actually complete posts about them with real words and sentences and paragraphs in English and all that.

So anyways, I finished work for the day as a mental case and headed to meet with Ivan.

Even from the beginning he noticed a difference.  I told him, “Ivan!  I’m so tired.  I’m stupid right now.  Seriously.  It’s just that I’m starting a new job and have a lot to learn.  Let’s just dance something socially, kay?”

He was amenable and we began with a nice, soft, sloppy West Coast Swing.  Seriously, I was just barely moving as compared to how I normally show up, but it was about all I could physically and mentally muster.

“Stefanie?  What happen?  You dancing like Medusa?”

“Huh?  The woman with snakes for hair? The one who turned men to stone?  Also known as a Gorgon?  What the hell are you talking about, Ivan?”

“No, a medusa.”

“????”  Arms spread outward to the sides, palms up, shoulders shrugged.

“I make a picture later.”

“Okay Ivan.”

So before I get to that…this is/was the other “bad” news of the night.  I was pretty much worthless on my lesson.  First, I was exhausted mentally.  Secondly, the energy in my body seemed to be completely sapped after about 15 seconds of any dance we worked on.  And, finally I was laughing so much my belly hurt, I almost peed my pants, and because I was guffaw-ing so hard, I couldn’t breathe to dance properly.  It didn’t help that Ivan made fun of every little noise I made.  Yes, I admit, they weren’t what you’d usually hear on the dance floor, but I was so tired that I sighed, or grunted, or squealed depending on if I was trying to push through a move or scared or whatever.

Seriously, my stomach hurt from giggling so much, especially when I tried to “be serious” and then made a noise out of frustration or effort or just to try and breathe and Ivan imitated it which, like a row of dominoes, cascaded into a collapsing heap of me folding inward into a belly laugh.

In any case, we continued to dance and Ivan decided that Bolero was appropriate. Somehow this morphed into Latin Rumba and my Bulgarian dance instructor then decided that it was a prime opportunity to practice crazy stupid lifts and dips for someone as large as I am. We did a few leans with developes and some dips with me lifting my left leg into the air.  But Ivan was making me place all my body weight on his knee while he was in a deep lunge.  It freaked me out.  I actually felt my foot leave the floor for a second, realized that for that moment he was bearing all my body weight, and immediately broke the position so I could plant my feet firmly on the ground.  How can that man hold me up like that?!  I am just so insecure about it I wish he wouldn’t do it.

I have to admit this is not a new fear.  Even when I was 16 and weighed 116 pounds I was concerned about this.  Not logical, I know.  But I was in a production of “The Music Man” in my high school and cast as a dancer and member of the chorus.  There was one move in which I was partnered with a senior theater “god” which made me feel horribly insecure because 1) he was a Thespian paragon and 2) he had to pick me up at the waist and place me on a table.  But then again, looking back on it, it might not have been because of my weight that he failed to get me up there on the table that night.  Truly, he was a slight young man, and not at all muscular in the upper limbs.  In addition, he never practiced the particular move but once with me, and it had absolutely been ingrained in me to practice piano/ballet/anything if it was to be performed to the point where you can do it mindlessly, because when the moment comes to perform, all kinds of things can go wrong.  (And also, once I didn’t practice appropriately and bombed my piano recital.  Not a good feeling! But that is another story).  Anyways, I had a high anxiety level about this move knowing how un-practiced it was, and not having any connection to the person who was responsible for lifting me aloft except for a fearful and reverent adoration from afar, and so, my big fear did come to fruition.  He went to lift me up and I just fell right down.  At least I landed upright, on my feet (so that was good), and he had the theatrical training to grab me and sway side to side to cover the mishap – but I’m pretty sure the audience noticed the gaffe because 1) I made a big loud BOOM! when my character shoes hit the wooden stage floor instead of the table and 2) my dancing counterpart was on a table on stage right doing the same choreography I was supposed to be doing on stage left so things didn’t look symmetrical.  This, plus the fact that the bench I sat on during “Oliver!” while singing “Food, Glorious Food,” collapsed on stage while I (and about 19 other people) were sitting on it, confirmed my fear that I was horribly huge and fat.  See, all along, I really DID have a mental problem.  It just now has manifested into my physical reality, not just my mental reality.

Okay, back now from that psychological detour.  Interestingly, I actually thought this post would be quick because not much happened on the lesson – but clearly my complexes are rooted deeply!  Ahhh!

So a brilliant thing did actually happen on this very-low-energy lesson.  Ivan and I did all our basic Latin Rumba stuff and then I asked him about a step I’ve seen others do, and one that I *think* Igor may have been trying to lead me into last Friday, but that I didn’t know how to do.  What happened next may or may not be the same move, but it was damn cool, whatever it was.  Pretty much from an Alemana I then step forward into a double spiral turn and complete with two walks around the back of Ivan to fan position.  But I didn’t know this at the time.  All I knew was I’d seen this turn-y thing done on YouTube videos by professionals and Igor tried to lead me into something I wasn’t familiar with.

After two tries to decipher which step I meant, Ivan demonstrated what I *thought* I wanted to know so I said, “Ivan, teach me this step.”

At first he seemed a little reluctant but then he was like, okay.

“Is this a Bronze or Silver step?”

“No.  It’s an Ivan step.”

“Huh?”

“It not in the syllabus.  You do it, they kicking you off the floor.  You know who doing this?  It Joanna Leunis.”

“Really!?!  I LOVE her.  She’s amazing.  But okay.  I’m clear. So if we get to do it, we do it in an open heat.”

“Yes, open.”

He led me into it, but only indicated one spiral turn.  I did this successfully then he said, “Oh.  It better if you can do a double.  Can you do a double?”

I didn’t know if I could but I wanted to try.

Bam!  I totally did it.

Ivan and I gave each other a double “Hi Five” and a hug.  I was so excited.  In fact, it was probably the most animated part of my lesson, succeeding at this maneuver.  He told me, “Most people doing this step and can’t even do a single turn.”  He demonstrated, in his Ivan-exaggerated way of how people fall out of the turn (normally), leaning and listing to this side or the other and causing a big problem.  So he wanted me to try it again, just to make sure it wasn’t a fluke.

But me, woot! I easily did the double again! Maybe I’m finally finding my center, once again, and also remembering to spot, plus I had the added advantage of just that little assist in balance from connecting with Ivan – for me that little bit of support makes all the difference, I have to say. So yay.

“See.  I no have to teach you the step.  You already doing it.”

“Let’s try it again, Ivan.”

We did.  And it was successful for the next 3 tries.  On the 4th try I fell to the floor.  I swear the wooden floor at the church is so slippery!  I need new shoes and that floor is difficult.  I love the sticky/tacky floor at Imperial.  It spoils me and I wish it were everywhere!  Anywhoo….I fell.  But I am uninjured and overall the move was a rousing success.

Next onto a Samba.  For some reason, Ivan keeps calling it “Sambera” lately.  Whatever.  He put on the music and since I had suggested we dance socially, we decided to do the Samba in that character.  Oh my gosh, I can’t remember when I ever laughed so hard.  I told Ivan that it is sometimes painfully difficult to watch social dancers do the Samba.  Some of them hop, and jolt, and have no hip movement.  They dance like 2 x 4’s as Ivan calls it when he means people are stiff.  This isn’t to generalize or degrade people who socially dance the Samba, I promise, it’s just that I’ve seen some couples and I’m like, wow, why are you dancing this dance this way?  It is awkward.  Probably the same reaction someone had to me dancing West Coast Swing (as taught by a ballroom instructor) before I knew about the dance.  I promise, we all have stuff to work on, you know?!

So Ivan and I danced this way – no hips, stiff, 2×4, wooden.  It was hilarious!  It looked ridiculous.  And such a contrast from Ivan, who normally dances it so amazingly, and from me, who works so dang hard to create a proper Samba bounce plus hip motion.  I truly wish I had that s*@t on film!  It was too funny.

Honestly though, besides that, the rest of my lesson was unremarkable.  We did Foxtrot, Tango, Waltz, Viennese Waltz, and Cha Cha.  I dragged.  Ivan poured as much Chi energy my way as he could.  It felt a little like an energetic transfusion of sorts.  I did feel somewhat better by the end of the lesson, but still, I’m drained.  Oh well.  Glad I did have one “triumph.”

So please root for Ivan and Marietta as they compete this weekend at the Emerald Ball in LA.  There is live streaming of the entire event (though a pay-per-view) here if you want to watch from home.  It is a big and prestigious and competitive event.  I really, really hope my favorite couple (besides Joanna Leunis and Michael Malitowski) does well.  Ivan seemed to think they wouldn’t even make the final at such a large comp, but I reminded him to look into his mirror, remember the champion he already is, and have an optomistic attitude.  Because you know what? I believe in him and Marietta.  I enjoy watching them dance because they have an real and emotional connection.  And to me, that makes things interesting.  As I’ve said before – I’d prefer to watch a couple that is less technically excellent with an authentic connection than an impeccably technically excellent couple with no emotion or connection any day of the week.

So anyways, as I pumped this positive support Ivan’s way, he rebutted my support by asking me to jump on the roof.  So I jumped.  Not high, not impressively, and certainly not onto the roof, but happily.

He about peed his pants laughing at me.  He said, “Being in the final of Emerald Ball for me is like jumping on the roof right now.  Can people do it?  Yes.  But they need to practice.  You have to remember, I lazy.  And I should be practicing jumping and little by little I jump on the roof like it easy.”

“So what?!” I replied. I jumped up again.  Again, not graceful, not impressive, but to illustrate a point that I hope Ivan got.

The point is, GO FOR IT.  Wherever I am/he is/you are right now, go for it.  Why not?

“You can’t controlling how the judging goes in competitions so you might as well have fun.” Said Ivan.  And I agreed.

“So go have fun at Emerald Ball, Ivan, damnit!  Go have fun!  I will be watching and rooting for you.  You know you are my favorite couple? Right?  Well, if I am honest, besides Joanna Leunis and Michael Malitowski….they I like them best, and you guys (Ivan and Marietta) the second best.”

Ivan was so excited by my comment he said laughingly, “I tell Marietta this.  You know her favorite dancer?”

“Yes, Ivan.  I know it’s Joanna.”

“Yes.  She gonna get a kick that your two favorite couples are Joanna Leunis with Michael Malitowski and us!”

But I mean it.  And so you must be wondering why?  Well, my response is, why not love these two couples?  Because for me, when I watch them, there actually seems to be a connection and that makes the interaction between man and woman interesting to watch.  And Joanna is immaculate.  Truly.  From my perspective, all the high level competitors are technically excellent in their dancing, no doubt about it, but I love the drama, the connection, the emotion.  I personally prefer that above perfect technique, and I guess Ivan does too, based on our conversation which is interesting and makes it no mystery why he ended up being my instructor since we both value the same things in dancing.  I do believe Joanna and Michael to be superior to Ivan and Marietta in terms of experience, ranking, technicque, and even, I hate to say it, connection, but I also happen to believe Ivan and Maretta have the potential to forge an excellence and connection strong enough of their own to compete with the best in the world.  Of course, I’m biased.  But as a dancer and human being, I also happen to see that potential in them.

Whew!  Have I said everything I wanted to say?  Yep.  A brief post – just another 2800-word (and change) post.  Ha ha. Not!

Oh – and before I sign off, I have to explain the title of this post.  Medusa. Well, Ivan “made” me a picture of what “the hell” he was talking about….a jellyfish.  Apparently I was dancing like a boneless, blubbery, soft jellyfish.  The interesting part is that how Ivan described “medusa” to me was that it “90% water.”  Uh huh.  How do you know how to communicate something like that but you don’t know the word for jellyfish?  I’ll never know.  And also, once I figured out that medusa meant jellyfish, I asked Ivan, “Is that the word in Polish or Bulgarian?”

” Bulgarian,” he replied.

“Well great.  ‘Cause that is a useful word, if I ever go to visit there….now I know how to say jellyfish.”  Probably “bathroom” and “beer” and “I’m sorry” would actually be more useful, right?

Damn.

Watch out you Bulgarians.  I am now armed with the word for jellyfish.  Kind of like a Marine armed with a banana.  Sheesh!

It’s way past bedtime.

Gute Nacht,  Stefanie