I’m Baaaaaaaack!

Did you miss me?

Well, this will be a short one (for me)! There will probably be more to come after I debrief with Ivan tomorrow morning about Desert Classic and after my husband (finally) manages to send me the photos and videos he took.

So here’s the quick update about my most recent competition:

First, I had a new dress made.


I know it is not the best picture but you can get an idea of the bright colors. That’s right….color! And I actually liked the color combo on the floor from the pictures I’ve seen so far.

What I didn’t like was my big belly. And the fact that my big belly wasn’t smoothed out/hidden with draping or ruching. I didn’t see the final product until the day before the competition so it was like, well, this is what it is and it is either wear it or don’t because there really isn’t time to fix it. I think it will look so much better on me with a flatter stomach but that was not to be on Thursday.

Thursday was Latin and I danced very inconsistently. I got marks all over the place but didn’t make the final from a semi final with 14 couples in the Latin closed bronze A scholarship. So I was kinda bummed about that but even more bummed that I was feeling really exhausted, had some balance issues, and felt like Ivan and I were pushing and pulling each other all over the floor. Basically that means I wasn’t “moving my ass” like I need to and because I’m late he tries to help to get me where I need to go which creates resistance in our hold and then, paradoxically, I move even less and also get more exhausted. It is a vicious cycle and totally sucks. So I wasn’t over my feet or moving fast enough and this caused a chain reaction which compounded the problem. And it meant Ivan was kinda disappointed in my performance because we both knew I was off and have the potential to do better. So boo! Thursday was not my best day.

And wouldn’t you know it – I did best in stupid Jive again! I hate that dance in terms of the cardio it requires but somehow, even though I only know like 3 figures, and we like never practice it, that is the dance I placed best in most consistently. Go figure! lol.

But still, there are always learning opportunities just from participating. I realized how little I had mentally prepared for the competition. I realized, in hindsight, the importance of putting energy into getting myself into a strong frame of mind before stepping on the floor. I became more aware of things I wish to improve and work on, and I also became more clear on how I wish to direct my physical fitness training in the near future.

Because I’m done with not feeling awesome about myself when I step on the ballroom floor. I don’t want to put myself through this anymore. I must change dramatically. Period. It takes a lot of energy, strength, and confidence, to really dance, and I just couldn’t muster it about myself on Thursday, especially when I was so aware of my large belly and arms. I mean, I felt like I kept myself under control in a pretty good to neutral energy, but my lack of confidence gnawed at the back of my mind. I was aware of it on some level and when I saw a picture my husband took of me from the back, I looked as large as a male trucker. Yuck! I’m over it.

It is too hard to have so much shame about how I look, to not feel feminine or pretty, and to get out on a dance floor and pretend like I’m the greatest thing since sliced bread. I’m not, and a I can’t fake it. Frankly, I find it off-putting when people think they are too cool for school so I have reservations about being or acting like that. You know, I feel like my authenticity and emotionality are some of my greatest strengths as well as weaknesses. It is why people can “feel” me when I am dancing, and why, I think, they connect with me. So when I’m feeling good and strong, it is really great. But it also means I can’t fool anybody when I’m feeling down about myself and my body. There is no question in my mind that how I feel about my body affects how I show up in dancing…and in life. And it is not my best. So I’m waiting to hear the verdict from Ivan because I know he mentally stockpiled a bunch of feedback for me about the competition and we have a lesson tomorrow. Also, I’m contemplating not doing another competition for a while, though the next one on my radar is Galaxy here locally and local comps are harder to say no to. It is in September so I think I will wait and see how I’m feeling about it at the end of August and make a decision at that time. Because it isn’t okay with me just to go through the motions and to dance just because….it is important to me to have purpose and meaning in my dancing and I wasn’t able to generate that as strongly as I did for previous competitions. I attribute this to my lack of consistent, significant progress toward my weight loss goals and the subsequent feelings of lower self-esteem thus created.

So anyways, more to come about what’s next, but Thursday was kinda blah. Friday was a day to rest, regather myself, and recuperate. My husband was along for the trip and we joined Ivan and Marieta for a little jaunt up to the top of a nearby mountain, 9000 feet high, where the temperature was a lovely 62 degrees. We got there by riding in an air tram that spun 360 degrees while traveling upwards on steel cables for 10 minutes. It was a fun and delightful day.

Saturday was Rhythm. There was more competition in terms of number of couples in my division in Latin than in American Rhythm, but I think there was maybe more chaos in the ballroom because there were tv crews filming for two separate shows in the ballroom. It is going to be very interesting to watch both shows as I personally know some of the people they are following for the one to be on TLC, and I have come to meet some of the people to be featured on the other show, I think for the A & E channel. I had to sign a release because they had me in one of the frames dancing in the background while they were filming one of their main protagonists so you may also see me on tv some time soon ha ha ha!

In any case, I did much better in American Rhythm, basically placing first in most heats and winning the scholarship round from a 7 couple final (no semi final). Also, and more importantly, Ivan felt my energy was better and I felt stronger as well. We were not pushing and pulling too much through the frame and I was more on my own feet. Well, this was after we had a bit of a come-to-Jesus meeting after he had let go of me, releasing me completely from the frame, multiple times on the floor, in front of the judges, so I would get the point about hanging on him, pushing to hard, relying on him for my balance, and all that, but also so that I could have easily fallen on my ass. Don’t get me wrong, it’s FANTASTIC kinestetic feedback. I’d welcome it on a lesson. But please don’t let me get away with things on lessons repeatedly and then do this on the floor when it counts!?! I was miffed! Anyways, we worked through it, which is the most important thing, I suppose, and I ended up with fantastic results. As Felipe Telona Jr. jibed me, “You should have brought a broom!” and, “I’m glad you are leaving now so the rest of us have a chance!”


When I got off the floor and my husband took this picture he was like, “And you won an…..envelope?!” It contained a check, silly! Double what I got for People’s Choice, which was very nice – the equivalent of a few more lessons, because, yeah, all money gets converted to the equivalent number of dance lessons in my brain. ūüôā

So I still managed to make it into the top 20 students, which surprised me with as few heats as I did, and so did Ivan’s other student, plus he was 7th place top teacher with the 2 of us, and he and Marieta placed 3rd in Pro Open Am Rhythm, second only to Emannuel and Liana and Yuki Haraguchi and her new partner.

Best of all, no injuries, I’m not exhausted, and I had the energy today to go to ballet class after work plus I went to the grocery store to replace all my perishables and pulled out the items I’d prepared last week from the freezer, which is to say that I’m baaaaaack! Back to my eating plan, and getting my fitness plan in gear, and right back into my normal activities. I didn’t run myself into the ground this time so I won’t need a week to recuperate like I did after People’s Choice.

Alright – gotta get to bed! TTFN!


My Toes Are Numb! People’s Choice Recap

Oh me, oh my.  Another competition in the books.


And yes, my toes are numb.¬† From dancing 80 heats in heels.¬† Ballroom isn’t all glamour¬†behind the scenes you know….it is sweat and hard work, and smelly fake tans, and struggle, and pain, and awesome and worth it!¬† lol.¬† But seriously….I do NOT know how some of these pro/am couples do it….there were at least 3 or 4 students who did over 400 heats at People’s Choice!¬† My body is banged up doing a fraction of that.¬† It is pretty impressive they are still standing!!!

Me, with my 80 heats,¬†I’m physically exhausted.¬† But satisfied.¬† It has been a good few days.

Wednesday night after work I made the 15 minute trek to the hotel and competition venue here in Phoenix.¬† I was certain I’d have an early morning Thursday as I generally dance early in the day and this means early appointments for hair and make up.¬† Even though the competition was local, I still find it chaotic and stressful to rush to the location, scramble to find a space in the woman’s dressing area or a public bathroom, and so I opted to stay at the hotel for two nights of the competition.¬† It turned out that I didn’t start dancing on Thursday until noon, but I was still glad with my choice to spend the previous night.¬† It gave me time to sleep in a bit, have a nice breakfast and feel collected and centered before I began dancing.

So you guys all know I hired the nutritionist and I spoke with her about how to eat during a competition.¬† Basically, I made my best effort to eat clean and fuel my body with good foods.¬† I brought protein shakes and cheese sticks and chicken mini loaves and oatmeal and fruit and almond milk and a cooler with ice.¬† I have to tell you, though, with all the chaos and stress, and physical effort, it was such a challenge to eat anything!¬† I give myself a free pass for this week and will get back on track ASAP.¬† And the thing is, it’s not that I ate poorly, or bad foods or anything like that, it was that I couldn’t eat enough!¬† I was full and nauseated and it was just hard to get any food down, even without the horrible nerves like I had last year at Desert Classic.¬† Don’t get me wrong, I still get nervous right before I go on the dance floor – standing there at the “on deck” area I always feel like I need to pee and vomit and have a bout of diarrhea all at once…but then I get out there and start dancing and all I can focus on is the dancing.¬† But the nerves were short-term and didn’t last long, just in those few moments before the heats.¬† Anyways, I shoved almonds and mango slices and cherries and NoGii bars down my gullet as much as possible, but I’m telling you it was nowhere near enough.¬† And even after the dancing I had like zero appetite.¬† Ah well, I made it, and did the best I could, and shortly I will be back on plan 100%. I just have to continue to figure out what is going to work for me during competitions, especially when travelling!

Anyways, can I just take a pause here and say how much I adore and appreciate my instructor Ivan as well as his gorgeous wife and partner Marieta.¬† I¬†mean, I think¬†you readers already know this, but it bears repeating, especially after this¬†competition.¬† It was kind of special being the only student for People’s Choice.¬† I honestly don’t mind to have other students along, too, and it can be fun,¬†but this time was really neat flying solo.¬† I owe so much to Ivan, he has helped me and encouraged me so much during the¬†past two years, and he believed in me from the beginning, over 50 pounds ago.¬† I am so incredibly proud to be his student, and so proud of how he and Marieta did last night, placing first in the American Rhythm division.¬† I just hope for him to be as proud of me as his student, and I very much think that at this competition I did.¬† I was happy with how I showed up at the competition and happy that¬†his exemplary work as a teacher¬†was recognized through me.

And they are just good people, Ivan and Marieta.¬† It is a testament to the excellent human beings they are this little anecdote I’m going to share with you.¬† You see, one of the ladies who was running the on deck area asked Ivan for his card.¬† He didn’t have one on him, as per usual, so I made a mental note and when I saw her in the bathroom I asked her if she’d gotten one yet.¬† She didn’t so I gave her one and she told me that as someone who runs the on deck area she sees a lot…a lot.¬† Things you’d be surprised to see – how pros treat students and the like.¬† And she observed how Ivan treats his students on and off the the floor.¬† She could see what a decent and kind and fun and funny and ridiculous person he is, but yeah, she wanted to maybe dance with him, not someone else.¬† I’m like the luckiest student ever and happy Ivan is getting noticed and possibly will have more business…though I¬† must say, I do think he has been the best kept secret, you know!

You see, there is always a lot that goes on during these things.¬† And before them, too.¬† Ivan has been the one who has believed in me before I believed in myself, and more than I believed in myself.¬†¬† He has pulled out the performer in me.¬† He has helped mold me into the dancer I am today.¬† So when I get compliments like I did at this competition, it is a reflection upon both me and Ivan.¬† I just don’t seem to be able to put into words properly the full extent of my gratitude.¬†¬†¬† All I have ever wanted was to be a dancer, and this man, this crazy adorable Bulgarian, is helping me become that like no kidding.

And based on results, we did well.¬† I placed mostly first in single dances, with a few seconds, and got second in closed latin bronze scholarship, losing out only to my friend Colette who is the Emerald Ball champion!!!¬† Not too shabby, if I do say¬†so myself – especially for my second scholarship ever.¬† And I won in the American Rhythm division.¬† Plus many people, even some judges, and Bree Watson (National American Rhythm champion with Decho¬†Kraev!!! OMG!!!)¬†gave me lovely compliments on my dancing.¬† It was astounding and I’m humbled and grateful.

The best part is that Thursday I was struggling so very badly.¬† My asthma has been out of control and even with steroids on board I was having a hell of a time.¬† My inhaler wasn’t working at all so I was dancing and couldn’t breathe.¬† At a certain point I told Ivan I might have to withdraw from some heats, and I am not the type of person to do that.¬† But I had zero energy.¬† Ivan could see it in my eyes – the lights were on but no one was home.¬† I had nothing left to give but still moved as best I could.¬† He and I both knew we were not dancing our best….but I still placed well.¬† People still had no idea how badly I was struggling.¬† It is a great place to be to know that I was perceived as performing well when inside both Ivan and I know there is so much more to show.

Friday went better after 40 more milligrams of prednisone and 3 breathing treatments on my nebulizer which I brought with me to the hotel and coughing up mucous for hours during the night.  I was extremely worried about 19 heats in a row but it turned out that the ballroom was split into two floors for many of them, and not everyone knew where they were supposed to be, so there ended up being a lot of little breaks where the announcer would have to call out the couples who should be in ballroom A and ballroom B and this saved me, plus I could breathe better.

At the end of the day we did a few open dances and Ivan even said…”Finally we are actually dancing!¬† We can never just do five heats, you and me!”¬† Because it took so long for us to “warm up,” even though I attribute part of that to being at battle with my lungs and body the first day.¬† So we completed all of our dances around 2pm on Friday¬†except for the American Rhythm scholarship round which was scheduled for 10pm Friday night!¬† What?!¬† That was pretty brutal…to be exhausted and sore and have numb toes and a rash between my thighs from the fishnets¬†and just wanting to be done but to have to show up 6 hours later and dance your very best.¬† Well, Marieta was a doll and touched up my hair and make up and Ivan and¬†I¬†killed it.¬† Happily there wasn’t a semifinal – just a final, so I only had to dance Cha Cha, Rumba, and¬†Swing once.


So participating in competitions is always an experience. And part of that is meeting new people.¬† And you know there were a lot of funny moments along the way.¬† For instance, at one point they announced the next dance would be Merengue.¬† I knew we had no Merengue heats but Ivan apparently didn’t hear the announcement so he rushed over to¬†a table at the edge of the ballroom, poured out this pink drink on the floor to wet his shoes to make them sticker – the floor was pretty slippery – and another of the pros, this Hungarian guy Chaba, was like “Hey!¬† Ivan!¬† That’s my cocktail!”¬† And we weren’t even dancing in the heat!¬† Then that same pro, Chaba, was out there in his own little world, couple 106 dancing to himself and then announcer said, “We have an extra couple on the floor.”¬† There was a¬†pause and he continued, announcing the numbers of the couples in the heat which didn’t include couple 106.¬† Then he even said, “Couple 106 you do not need to be on the floor right now.”¬† And Chaba¬†was still grooving, oblivious.¬† So Ivan yells, “Chaba!!!”¬† And it was too funny.

Well, it also turned out that Ryan Seacrest¬†productions is creating a reality show about pro/am ballroom dancing and they were filming during the competition.¬† One of the pros they are following happens to be Bulgarian.¬† His name is Rumen, like Roman with a “u.”¬† When I originally heard his name I thought it was¬†“Ruben.” Anyways, while Ivan and I were enjoying some food and sparkling water Thursday night after our dancing he came to say hello to Ivan.¬† I impressed him with my inappropriate Bulgarian sayings and ended up lending him my phone charger.¬† Ivan says he is totally a crazy guy but he likes him because he is very social.¬† In any case, it will be so interesting to see this show whenever it comes out.¬† There were a few pro/am couples they filmed, but honestly they danced very little.¬† And it appeared to me that a lot of the “drama” was staged….the pros had conversations with their am partners as well as with each other that looked like they were planned, and I overheard producers saying stuff like, “when you come off the dance floor I will have so-and-so meet you,” and when I was arranging to get my charger back from Ruman¬†he was all like, “Well in 10 minutes we are filming a pool scene.”¬† We both laughed out loud at the ridiculousness¬†of it.¬†¬†I even walked in front of a camera at one point so hopefully they will edit out my head from the frame but anyways, know that the Biggest Girl was at People’s Choice and so were these soon-to-be reality stars.¬† I have to say, though, that they all sat at a table, and the film crew recorded them cheering for some dancers….and one of the dancers was me!¬† I was doing a Cha Cha and we did the splits right in front of them.¬† I heard a lot of cheering and all but I figured it was played up for the tv show, you know.¬† And they weren’t filming me so much, just the reaction of the dancers on the show.¬† Anyways, I didn’t give it much credence but then as I was walking around the hotel later one of the other pros on the show was walking with a person on the film crew (not being recorded or anything, just talking) and he stopped me, have me the ballroom kiss kiss on the each cheek and told me what a great dancer I was and that they had been cheering for me!¬† Woot!¬† That was pretty dang cool if you ask me!

people's choice

Well, anyways, after I was complete with my dancing, I went to go watch, support, and cheer for my friends who were still dancing.  Then it was time for evening show and pro heats.  Of course Artem and Inna won Standard ballroom and not surprisingly the Grand Slam as well, (their 5th time winning!)  Everyone in the Phoenix ballroom community was present, it seemed, which is always fun.  Local competitions are nice because of the friendly faces and extra support.

I feel like People’s Choice was a very good experience for me.¬† Smaller competitions are nice because there is more of a chance to be noticed, I think, and then judges will recognize you perhaps if you show up to larger comps.¬† I don’t think I’ll do any massive comps for a while just yet, but I do want to continue to work, to improve my technique, performance, cardio capacity, and body figure.¬† I want to continue to progress and show an improvement the next time I dance.¬† Honestly, this is my focus for the next two months before Desert Classic.¬† I want to see how far I can get in this time and be a better dancer than I am today.¬† I just want to continue to dance my best, like Ivan and I felt after our American Rhythm scholarship round and then no matter how I’m placed, I will feel good about what I’m doing, how I’m showing up on the dancefloor.¬† I’m excited for the coming year, my focus and energy.¬† I’m pleased with how I am and where I am and looking forward to the future as well.¬† I’m going to enjoy and savor this experience even as I prepare to forge ahead.

I think I’m finally beginning to show that I just may be a force to be reckoned with.¬† I may not be at my full potential just yet but Ivan and I and even other people can see it my light beginning to shine.¬† I have a fire burning in my belly and I’m going to go for this with all that I am.¬† It has taken time to muster my resources and it will take time to heal and condition my body, and that is great.¬† I’m up for the journey.¬† People’s Choice was a wonderful milestone and also just the beginning.

te adoro

The Results Are In!


I’m so excited!

I got an email from Nichelle at Dance Advantage that the results of the Top Dance Blogs of 2013 contest were in.  It said:

Congrats, Stefanie!

The Results are up: http://www.danceadvantage.net/2013/02/02/top-dance-blogs-2013/

Attached are your badges!

Excuse me?  Badges?  As in plural!?!?!?!?!?!

YEP!¬† That’s right!¬† My silly ole blog earned #3 overall top blog AND, Editor’s Choice!¬† Honestly, I secretly wanted the Editor’s Choice very badly, maybe even more than winning!¬† So I couldn’t be more thrilled.


It has been an amazing experience participating in the contest.  It brought a lot of exposure to my blog and increased my followers.  I appreciate everyone who supported me and everyone who voted for Dancing With Stefanie (AKA The Biggest Girl In The Ballroom).  I honestly would have felt like a winner no matter what the outcome because of how fun it was to play and because just choosing to participate was a victory.

A special thank you to Colettio¬†Spaghettio for all her help promoting voting!¬† I couldn’t have done it without you!