Foray Into Silver

This past week I had a coaching lesson with one of the other studio managers. It was kind of weird because I still have I’m JUST beginning silver smooth Bambi legs. All the other coachings I’ve had I at least knew a bit of what I was doing before going into the coaching. It ended up fine, of course. They know how to teach and I’m way to hard on myself. Teach began by mentioning to this coach that I wasn’t sure I was ready for silver, and, funnily enough, she told me that some students are termed forever bronze and I wasn’t one of them! I thought I made up that term all by myself. Guess I’m not as clever as I thought.

We started with Foxtrot because that’s the only dance I’ve done any silver in at all. To be honest, I can’t even remember all the things she tweaked. What ended up staying with me is that I need to stay with my partner better. It’s interesting because I have a reputation as a good follow, but I’ve become so used to bronze syllabus and so in tune with Teach’s lead that I was only half heartedly following. I didn’t need to devote energy to it because I already knew what was coming. Now I have to think about it again. She talked about how I would be just a moment shy of late in my slow, but it’s not really late. To wait for teach to initiate the final movement. She announced me much improved by the end of Foxtrot. This was one of the times I actually felt the difference, so , YAY!

We moved on to Tango. I have not had the honor of being exposed to basic Silver Tango timing yet. That wasn’t too difficult to understand and it really makes it sharper and sexier. (I can’t believe I typed that) But the figures are ridiculous! Teach and coach were trying to figure out which figure they wanted to teach me and they all looked crazy difficult. Each figure takes an entire wall! (Feel free to laugh at my nieveity) I finally had to interject my opinion and they taught me the easiest of the figures. Basically it introduced me to a fallaway type of step with a ronde. Then I had to learn how to ronde correctly… You get the picture. More on Tango later in my non-coaching lesson.

Coach calls Viennese Waltz the Venomous Waltz. Seriously, I love this woman! She didn’t have much to say here, but she helped me spot better so that I wouldn’t get as dizzy. I used to be better at this and I don’t know what happened. Maybe it’s because VW is my least practiced Smooth dance. All good reminders though.

I really liked working with this coach. I’m not going to give her a name because I can’t think of one and I don’t know if I’ll ever work with her again. I will if I can though because she’s funny and very real. She has to be the only chunky dancer I know. After our coaching she went and bought a pizza to chow down on. I kid you not.

My lesson with teach followed the awesome coaching. We reviewed everything from the prior lesson and then he focused on the dreaded CBM – counter body movement. Where your upper body and lower body seem to be going in different directions. Where you look like a wringed out towel or a barber shop pole. Nice, huh? One of the big concepts of Silver. Tango is where he brought it in to. Let me tell you, there’s nothing like going straight, to the left, to the right and doing it pigeon-toed all at the same time. That’s all I can say about that. Let’s leave it at this being something that’s going to take a lot of time.

On to emotions and feelings. Yuck. I’m ok with being Silver now. I think I needed it. Look at how much I have to talk about now. But I’m struggling with being the baby fish again. It was nice to be a shining star at the top of bronze. Coachings were little tweaks to arm styling and fingers within that styling! Now it’s about figures and timing and steps again. I can’t even do them in proper frame. It’s a bit humbling. Teach tried to make me feel better by telling me that I’m one of only five students who dance at a silver level in that particular studio. It does help to know that this studio doesn’t graduate just anyone. If you don’t meet specific  technique minimums (I’m not sure what they are) then you don’t move up.

The other thing I’m struggling with is related to money, of course. First, my jealousy is getting the better of me again. I hate it when being jealous of others takes joy from my own dance journey. It’s not their fault, it’s mine. It seems that everyone can dance more than me. They take so many lessons. They progress quicker with all the coachings and lessons and competitions. I’m friends on Facebook with several and they’re always doing something. Travel, competing, etc. My green monster is in full swing. Second, I don’t think I’m going to have enough to compete this year. Several big bills have come my way and I’m not going to be able to save enough for dance. I’ll continue with my lessons, but no more. I have to let Teach know next lesson. I’m not too torn up about that, though. Team Match is in August. I will only have 12ish lessons under my belt in silver by that point. I’m not sure I’m going to feel comfortable enough to go out in front of people in that amount of time. Not if you include bumping up my Rhythm as well, which Teach says is a possibility. I’m not completely broken up about competing because of the lack of practice, but it is a bit upsetting because it’s good to have something to work toward. Well, it is if you have the time and money to make it happen.

Such is my life right now. Wishing everyone well.

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Dancing in February

I got more than I expected this month. Where do I even begin?

I started with an unexpected coaching lesson. Studio #1 was having a Team Match that weekend and they usually bring coaches to the studios for a bit of extra. Lady V happened to be free for the first of my two lessons so I snapped her up. Well, not really. Teach did that. I freaked out and danced an awful Rumba for her. What ended up happening was Lady V told me that I have talent and then gave me the book on dancing. You know, the “you dance a beautiful social rumba, now we have to fix everything for competing.” Seriously, it was a head to toe fix. I could work a lifetime on the things she taught me. But I’m going to break it down a bit so that I’m not overwhelmed. (Yeah, right.) Keep in mind, this was only for Rumba.

  1. Feet/legs/hips. I am to practice my box religiously using this: One-ball of foot/take step, Two – heel down, Three – push from other foot, Four – settle. Then repeat. Eventually I will be able to do this rhythmically.
  2. Take smaller steps. Side steps should not go larger than shoulders. Apparently I am tall and have now learned how difficult rhythm dances are for the tall, leggy people.
  3. Arms. I totally screwed up here. I told Lady V how I’m not a fan of touching myself. I forgot that someone needs to be touched, so now she made arm styling for me that has me all over Teach. (I exaggerate slightly, but it’s awkward nonetheless.) I can’t describe them here, but it involves grabbing Teach’s waist and having him turn me, etc.
  4. Oh yes, there’s more. Connection. This is something Teach hasn’t really enforced in Rhythm. I think it was going to come at some point, but he has different things he’s focusing on. No problem until the end of the lesson when Lady V said I was BACKLEADING!!!! Let me tell you I stewed on that for two weeks until my next lesson with Teach.

Continuation of the backleading comment. I couldn’t practice all week because my gut was burning about this. I do NOT want to back lead and I was a bit peeved that Teach hadn’t said something about it. I confronted him immediately about it and he put my mind at rest that he would never let me get away with that behavior. He said Lady V must have seen that I was a touch ahead of the music and assumed the backleading, but that it was really my nerves making me follow his lead quicker than should have. I guess this makes sense, but to tell you the truth, I’m still a bit upset.

The rest of the lesson consisted of a lot of awkward arm styling and violations of personal space.

Me: “Um, we’re really close, are you sure this is right?”

Teach: looking at me like I have seven heads “It’s a rumba.”

Okaaaay.

The heat in the studio was broken, so we danced a few Viennese Waltz rounds and a Swing and a Cha Cha to stay warm. It’s the first time I’ve danced in a sweater – that’s how cold it was. It seems like spring is coming now. Since that lesson we’ve even been up in the 60’s with no freezing nights in sight. All the snow that NYC got, we missed. We’ve had maybe an inch this whole winter. I’m a bit sad because there’s something almost warm about being insulated by snow, but I have to say it was nice not having to deal with the transit problems of getting to NYC for lessons during snow storms. Happy dancing all.

Fall Classic Was…

…a success! I had a wonderful time. Let me lay it all out for you guys.

Fall Classic is my dance studio’s competition among the 4 studios in the chain. This year it was 3 days long (a mistake, as far as I’m concerned). American Smooth on Friday afternoon, International on Saturday, American Rhythm on Sunday, plus sit down dinners, pro shows, etc. I could only afford to do a one night package with 24 heats, so I chose to do only American Smooth. It broke into 18 single dances, 1 3-dance Championship, and 1 4-dance Scholarship. For the Championship and the Scholarship I competed against my age group, but they mixed it up a bit during the single dances. Teach danced every heat – 180 heats that afternoon.

On Friday I drove down early for my hair and makeup appointment. I could fake the makeup, but I’m hopeless with hair.  Plus, a mini face lift isn’t a bad idea before going on the dance floor. 🙂 I buddied up with a nice lady from another studio. That’s how I cope with crowds, I find a safe person and just stick to them like glue.

I had enough time to go to the judges classes that I thought I wouldn’t have time for that morning. I’m really glad I made that session. I don’t know many famous dancers, so forgive me for forgetting the names of the judges. We learned about continuity of movement from one judge. Then one of the teachers taught us how to Kizomba. I’d never heard of it either. Let’s just say that it was a naughty dance and these white girl hips weren’t getting the movement just right. The last session was my favorite. He was an American Rhythm dancer who used to get injured all the time. He now coaches professionals on how to avoid injury. He had us test our balance and showed us how such small movement of the feet and ankle can have such large impact on our body and what our body tells our partner. It was fascinating. What made it even better was that Teach was there and as I was trying to figure it out Teach would explain to me – it was like getting another lesson.

On to the actual comp. I had all of your wise words in my head before I went on to my first heat. You didn’t steer me wrong. It was fine. I made mistakes and kept going. I listened to the music, smiled, and just danced. The nerves were minimal – there, but not overwhelming. The demons were burning in hell where they belong. I saw some judges smiling at me and I felt like I won right there. That’s the point, right? That you enjoy dancing and that others receive enjoyment from watching you.

Teach was dancing with 5 of us and we worked him hard with all those heats. He was a sweaty mess by the time the Championship rounds hit. Later on he told me he couldn’t even feel his legs the last few Championship rounds. The thing is, this made me step it up. At this point I knew he had to be hurting despite what he was telling me when I asked him. It made me realize that at these moments he’s more than my teacher, he’s my partner. This is a team sport and a team effort. If I could have carried him around the floor myself, I would have. Let me tell you, my frame was up and light and I was flying around that floor. I did everything in my power to make it easy for him. It worked. He remarked on it later.

Results. Do I even care? I learned and achieved so much. I see why these events are so important for amping up your dancing. But since you should know: I kicked booty. I placed 1st in all my single dances but two that I placed 2nd in. I won with firsts in all dances both the Championship and the Scholarship. I have no words, but I have two trophies that I have no idea what to do with. Where do I go from here? I’ll find out more tomorrow at my follow up lesson.

Ta, Ta fellow dancers!

What Did I Sign Up For?

As you are no doubt aware, I signed up for a competition. It’s on November 13th. I am officially more poor than I would like to be, but the papers are signed and the money has been handed over. I wish I were more excited. I’m just feeling a sense of blah, with a small dose of nerves, about the whole thing.

My lessons have been great. Teach is giving me tentative choreography for our dances. He gives short wall and long wall choreography and then just repeats. I guess this is fine. What do I know? He also prefers to use steps that are already in muscle memory so that there’s not too much thinking going on about steps – this leaves room for performance, and just having fun. Again, what do I know. Sounds fine to me.

Over the past few weeks he’s been choreographing for me. If there’s something I really want in the routine, he tries to add it. All four American Smooth dances are done. It’s not too complicated. We’ve practiced our entrances and how we’re going to start each dance. Next week I have the privilege of dancing our routines by myself. Oh, joy! (I hope you’re sensing the sarcasm – this sounds like hell to me.) I know this will improve my dancing; he can’t see what I’m doing when he’s dancing with me. I just need to be in a good mood so I can take the criticism without sending me into a funk.

On a good note, we videoed the routines so that I could review them. This could potentially be a very bad thing for me mentally. I don’t like to look at myself. Yet, I watched them and thought, “I’m not half bad.” We weren’t even full on dancing and I was pleased with what I saw! What a huge breakthrough for me. It may have been because of how Blah I’ve been feeling, but I’ll take it anyway.

I’m wondering why I’m not more excited. Maybe it’s because I see it so cynically. I know I’m not good enough to win anything. I also know I don’t spend enough money to make it so that I do win anything. Let’s be honest, they need to keep those big spenders happy. I know it’s not all about winning. I know that the experience is great and that it will spur me on in my dancing. I need to be adult enough to not expect a trophy for arriving (like spoiled kids do these days). It’s just that some part of me wants to be fantastic. I love dance so much that I want to out shine everyone and it doesn’t work that way. So we’ll see what ends up happening these next weeks. Maybe I’ll go into the comp very excited. Until then, I wish everyone happy dancing!

Stand Up Straight

When I first started dancing I was always complemented on my posture. It wasn’t surprising to me as all the pictures I have of myself playing the piano or doing other activities, I’m standing to make my mother proud. In this day and age this is a big deal. I feel that the humans in Wall-E are our future we don’t watch out, but I digress. My posture is not bad, but…

Today I had a lesson in ballroom straight. It really started with my head trying to spin around like something out of The Exorcist during the Viennese Waltz. My feet are going in the proper direction, by frame is great, my head is weird. One of the lady teachers (I’ll call her Dimples), suggested an exercise for us to try. I put my right arm up against Teach #1’s neck (cutting off his Carotid artery circulation) and the rest of me was in frame. This seemed to help me keep my head up, looking over my knuckles. Teach decided to add to this exercise by pulling my ponytail to adjust my head and then holding it there. How he did this while still leading is beyond me.

Back to posture. Dimples has the most beautiful frame I’ve ever seen. She is gorgeous (I’m saying this as a completely heterosexual woman.) She expanded our lesson from just my head to improving my “good posture” to ballroom posture. As you all know, this is not the same thing. Not even close. In the past when someone told me to stand up straighter I would go through a long list of things in my head to get my body to behave. Teach streamlined that to two. Teach taught me to pull my sternum (he jabbed his finger right above my cleavage, I don’t know where this would be on others) to the ceiling, and make my neck as long as possible. That’s it. In doing these two things you naturally engage your core, put your shoulders down, and do all the other things on the list. After he said that I went immediately into this beautiful ballroom frame. I love it when things click.

I’ll leave you with the fun banter that ended our lesson. All the teachers had gone to an amusement part the past weekend for team building exercises. I admitted to being a roller coaster junkie. I love them and I love to know who around me love them as well. Sometimes it’s not the people you think… So, at the end of our lesson Teach says to me, “I think I finally figured out why you love Viennese Waltz so much. It’s your own personal roller coaster.” I just blurted out, “You’re right. I just want to shout ‘Again’ every time you stop. I want it to keep going, and going, and going!!!” Cue realization, blushing, and backpedaling.

Enjoy your dance week!

Just Plugging Along

It’s been awhile ballroom friends. Sorry for the lag between posts. I’ve been very busy with work and life these past weeks. I’ve been taking my lessons regularly, but there hasn’t been any major breakthroughs mentally or technically. Ok, I lied. I did a Showcase. I was nervous, I went out there and loved it. Who would have guessed? I’m not known for my love of attention (good or bad), but I loved performing. It makes no logical sense, but there it is. I’m hopeful that I’ll get to do another soon.

My lessons have been on Viennese Waltz technique and maintaining my balance during Rhythm dance swivels. Boring to y’all, since you’ve all been dancing much longer than I.

I learned a bit of Bolero at Studio #2 during my showcase lessons. I didn’t need to use all my lesson time practicing my choreography because I knew it, so we had to do something. Bolero was it. So far I love it and hope to continue with it!

There was one moment last week when I was warming up with a Tango with Teach #1 and Mr. R had come in and I didn’t see him. Apparently I was working it because he and the lady studio manger starting whooping and hollering and whistling at me. Teach #1 just looked at me for a few moments and then said, “That was real good.” Praise like that comes once in a lifetime. I soaked it up.

I’m not looking for drama at next week’s lesson, but I’m hopeful I have something a little exciting to talk about. Till then, I’m here, not working my job so hard for the next month, and hoping for some good stories.

I Return 

My first lesson back didn’t go quite as planned, but ended up being just what I needed. I received a call from the studio after I was already in the Big City (2 hour train ride each direction). They had to send Main Teach to the doctor for suspected pink eye. They gave me the option to reschedule, but I was already in the area, so I took option number two, a lesson with one of the new instructors. There were three instructions free and willing to teach on standby. Who could pass that up? So off I went to meet Mr. R. Mr. R was a manager at another studio in the franchise and has now come to the Land of Endless Perky Bottoms. Since we’ve never danced together and he’s never seen me dance before, it was a typical review lesson with a few nuggets of input.

Since my limited funds only allow one private lesson a week, I learn only American Style, plus Quickstep. Rumba, Foxtrot, and Waltz were just review. I received positive feedback on my hip motion and frame. Tango he got me up to speed with a few more steps. That was encouraging.  He thought that despite my roughness I was ready for a Fan upgrade. Then we reviewed Viennese Waltz because I love it. By this time I was sweating profusely with cheeks the color of lobster. My stamina is in the toilet. I requested some Cha Cha, just to see how it would go. Heck, I’d already sweat through all my clothes and looked like a crazy, drunk Irish girl. Why not? Obviously, I was feeling pretty good with Mr. R, or I wouldn’t have asked. It went well. We got yelled at by lady manager for too much footwork on my first day back, which made me feel like a rebel. Me, a rebel. I love that feeling! We worked quite a bit on Argentine tango since I hadn’t danced it in a while prior to my injury. I tend to forget how much focus following takes during Argentine Tango. Mr. R didn’t lead anything crazy, but it takes so much brainwork. My nuggets of information came during this section on the lesson. He reminded me to stay chest to chest, not to the side like in smooth. This is so much more intimate, which is probably why I need to focus on it. He had me keep my knees together as much as possible and to follow first with my chest and then work my way down to my feet last. Interesting stuff to ponder. We ended with a bit more rumba. He threw some steps and combinations at me that I was unfamiliar with. When I mentioned to him that I had never encountered these particular figures, he told me knew that, but that he likes to see whether people are figure learners or dancers. I classified as the latter because I followed correctly even though I was unsure. Just the boost I needed and another thing to think about.
Maybe next week I’ll finally have a lesson with Teach #1. I miss him. First dance teachers always hold a special place in your heart.
Later in the week, at Studio #2, I made my song and dance selections for my first-ever showcase! Because I’m nuts, I chose to do a Quickstep to Dr. Wanna Do sung by Caro Emerald. The process of choreographing is interesting. Kind of frustrating for the student who is confused as heck as things change minute to minute. It’s going to be very cutesy, which is just my style.

There was a point where my insecurities made an appearance. Lifts. It was necessary to have “the talk” with Teach #2. There’s one brief moment where I have to give him part of my weight. He grabs my leg bends me backwards. I’m a heavy gal. Even when I’m not overweight, I’m a solid armful of woman. I have a fear of maiming someone with that lifting nonsense. Logically, I know men are strong, and that he wouldn’t put it into the routine if he couldn’t do it, but there’s an emotional aspect to this that screams, “Nooooooooooo”!!! So this brief lean is going to make or break me right at the start. We’ll see what other things happen to this routine as things get moving. I’m slightly apprehensive because he’s going to win any argument. It’s the way it goes. Happy dancing!