a whole year?

yeah, that’s right. It’s been pretty much a year since my last post. I don’t even know how that could have happened, except life got kinda crazy. (I also forgot to renew my domain name and now can’t seem to get it configured to my wordpress account … you know, techy stuff, blah.)

since this last post of mine, I’ve done 3 studio events and competed at Atlanta the Classic … in which I got my tushy pretty much kicked — but, I learned a whole lot. ūüôā

I feel very far behind on all my online ballroom friends … it’s gonna take a while to catch. nevertheless (don’t get to use that word very much), I am still dancing! Having coaching soon with sergei shapoval for some choreography. Maybe I’ll have something fascinating to share from that experience. Instead of going over the last year, I think I’ll just pick up with where I am now.

hope the village is doing well … catching up on your stories right now …

Recapping Hotlanta the Classic

It was a lovely weekend … with the usual ups and downs, of course. I was hoping to

first place in smooth 3-dance championship :)

first place in smooth 3-dance championship ūüôā

have more pictures to show of me dancing and such, but I haven’t been able to get them from the studio yet. So, I thought I’d go ahead and share what I have and give my thoughts.

Let’s get the good stuff out of the way … Took home my first medals!! So far, the comps I’ve gone to haven’t given out medals, so I was excited. I’m happy to say I got 1st place in both smooth and rhythm 3-dance championships! I got several 1st, 2nds, and 3rds in single dances,¬†and also¬†2nd in rhythm scholarships and 3rd in smooth scholarships. All that to say that I’m super pleased with my standings. ūüôā

Interestingly, I ranked higher against the same competitors when dancing silver and I think this has helped solidify for Teach that it’s time for me to switch over to silver completely. I’m not sad about this as I really enjoy the silver routines!

night before the comp  silliness

night before the comp silliness

Ok, about the comp. I got there later than I hoped to as the traffic in Atlanta was horrific. It literally took me 2 hours to go the last 10 miles. The rest of our group had gone to dinner, but I was able to catch up. Lots of fun and great food was experienced that evening.

 

 

 

Thursday evening I got to meet the organizer, Eddie Ares, who was gracious and fun-loving. Friday morning was smooth for me and I was up bright and early to watch fellow competitors and warm up a bit myself.  I wish I had some good action shots, but alas, here are some stills from the afternoon championships/scholarships.

little bit of vendors behind me ... this was right before my win!

little bit of vendors behind me … this was right before my win!

 

 

I have learned not to get my hopes up in the multi-dance events as there are so many points of view and unknowns. There are famous teachers and famous students and loyalties and whatnot, so you just have to go out there and dance your best … letting the results just be.¬† Some judges will love you and others will put you last for inexplicable reasons. ūüôā

When our number wasn’t called for 3rd for smooth championships¬†(my best hope guess) I¬†just assumed it was one of those moments, again. But called for 1st place just made my day. To win in smooth (not my forte) was a wonderful moment.

 

Friday night we watched Rising Star professionals and I always find these shows fun and exciting. On both evenings there were some special events and people rewarded. We met a¬†woman who was overcoming cancer, a young girl overcoming physical disabilities who did a lovely showcase with her teacher, an appeal to help an instructor building schools in Thailand (I think — my memory is a little fuzzy on that detail), and unfortunately, a … for lack of better words, a lap dance. It was inappropriate, but was the only negative I felt for the whole weekend.

Saturday was rhythm day for me and I don’t have any pictures of this day cause I haven’t been able to get my hands on any of them. ūüė¶ But, it was a great day for me. There was a male student¬†in my age group competing and we went back and forth with 1st and 2nd place, so it was a fun little rivalry. I fear good amateur male students aren’t as abundant, so when one comes along who is pretty good, he is NOT easy to beat. ūüôā haha

Saturday evening we watched the finals for cabaret– there were some absolutely fabulous ones … and professionals for all the dances — super fun!

I gotta say, Eddie Ares put on a wonderful event. The hotel was fun, the food was really good, the competition was great, and the professional events were as full, if not fuller, than other bigger comps I’ve gone to watch. There were plenty of vendors and a couple of spaces for couples to warm up off the floor.¬† If you’re planning on going to Hotlanta the Classic¬†in the future, I would definitely recommend … just make sure you leave plenty of time for traffic. ūüôā

just chilling before championship rounds on the fab white couches in the ballroom

just chilling before championship rounds on the fab white couches in the ballroom

I don’t know what’s next for me … just taking it one day at a time. But, I do have these great dance experiences and hope to create more!

 

I look forward to reading about your experiences too …

See you on the dance floor!

 

 

Throwing it out there …

Even though I haven’t been posting in a while, I haven’t stopped dancing! Far from it. Recently I did a foxtrot showcase with Teach to “Tainted Love.” This version:

Elouise: Tainted Love

on Sunday, I am having choreography from Taliat Tarsinov done for a show dance with Teach and my secondary instructor! To this song:

Sara Bareilles: She Used to be Mine

and my biggest news is that I will be competing in just four short weeks at Hotlanta the Classic!

So, I guess I’m wondering if any of my village peeps will be there, cause it would be super to meet up! Or, if you live near Atlanta you could drop in and give me a shout from the audience? ¬†ūüėÄ

see you on the dance floor…

how a good lesson can go bad …

Two lessons under my belt since last I posted. The first one was really good. It felt great to be back dancing and learning again. Then, the second lesson exploded on the scene. Not exactly sure what happened, but I can only give my side of the story.

We are working on an upcoming showcase number. The first few minutes were just fine … working out bugs, adding new moves, etc. And then … basically, the deterioration of a good lesson gone bad.

In theory, I can do the new choreography, but in practicality I was a mess. I don’t know … I felt weak. My teacher pushed me harder. I knew what was next, but my legs did not obey me. My teacher pushed me harder. I got anxious. I got fearful. I shouldn’t have … what’s the worst that could happen? I fall. I’ve done that several times on that floor. My teacher pushes more.

The more I struggled, the more I sensed my teacher’s angst and disapproval. So, I got more anxious and fearful and just started shutting down mentally and emotionally. You can imagine the effect that had on my ability to dance.

And thus the spiral down. I wasn’t able to stop it. At the end of my lesson time I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. I imagined I should probably just not ever go back. I am surprised at how beaten down I felt.

It’s taken me the weekend to admit that I was a big part of why it went so badly. I found myself wanting to blame my teacher for why it went so wrong. But, that would be disingenuous and not fair to him.

I couldn’t do the moves because I’m not physically at a point to do them. That is not his fault, but has a major effect on our dancing together.

And so begins the campaign for developing more strength and flexibility. That’s on me.

styling and freckles

Within the last three days I’ve seen the same girl twice in my new¬†little town. I don’t know her at all, but she really stood out. Since the second sighting today, it has made me think more about styling. I wouldn’t snag a pic of her on my phone without permission and I just usually don’t do that kind of thing. But, I did find¬†a photo of¬†this screen siren¬†and it is a very close comparison to the mystery lady.

audrey-hepburn-fashion-wallpaper[1]

Both times I saw her, she was wearing a straw hat and very sweet outfit (blue gingham romper and long, strapless¬†flower sundress respectively). And both times she made me think of Audrey Hepburn. When I call her mysterious, I don’t mean she had this aura about her that was off-putting … not at all. She looked like someone who would¬†be fun to know. What she did have was just simple confidence. I mean, not many people these days pair a hat with their outfit on a regular basis … (maybe we should bring this back?)

That gets me to what I believe¬†is important about your own look¬†… confidence.

About six months ago I had an experience in the dance world that¬†still makes¬†me laugh. There is a fellow dancer I know who has lots of money. When I say lots, I mean she can take as many lessons as she wants, buy whatever dresses she wants, go to as many comps as she would desire, etc.¬† So, she came up to me one time and we were¬†chatting briefly and she says, (in what I believe was a very sincere tone), “You know, there are products out there that can take care of those brown spots on your face?”

I looked at her in surprise, “You mean my freckles?”

She said, “Yes, you know they make products that will help those to fade and even go away.”

I thanked her for her comments but assured her that at present I was OK with having freckles on¬†my nose and cheeks and currently feel they help to make who I am.¬† I am distinctly of English/Scottish descent and freckles are just part of the territory. Blonde hair … blue eyes .. fair skin … it’s the way of things. They are a part of my story. I’ve included an au natural picture of my face so you can really¬†see the little offenders.¬†ūüôā

12039705_10153422566695376_7507079234223260897_n[1]

can you believe I posted a no-makeup picture on a ballroom blog? gasp

HA … no, seriously, I have no problem if other ladies (or men)¬†want to get rid of their freckles and lines and all the things they feel should go.

But, I still firmly believe that the best look — no¬†matter what — is a comfortable confidence.¬† I realize that looks and styling and flawlessness and an unnatural skin color¬†are very prevalent and “important” in the dance world. However, perhaps we should just start with some simple confidence.

On that note … I’m gonna go shopping for a summer¬†hat (probably not a¬†blue gingham romper, though) and I welcome the inevitable 10-20 new freckles that will join my journey this summer — it’s my style!

b3f676de62a336990f9ca72b6f447cc2[1]

kicking it to the curb …I love lucy

Just two more days … two whole days

OK, Teach, you can come back now! Seriously, I’m ready for you to come back … I need me some dance time.

If you didn’t read any of my recent posts, Teach is gone to Blackpool to watch and take in the sites with another of his students … and he won’t be back till Wednesday. So, being gone there and at a comp right before means that it’ll be a two-week break from our lessons. Most of the teachers were gone this last week as well … some on vacay and several went on the Blackpool trip.

However, WEDNESDAY night, I’ll have a lesson with Teach … can you tell I’m looking forward to it?

girl-hair-happiness-happy-joy-sun-Favim.com-42311[1]

yes, I am this happy about it! (that’s not me)

June is a tricky month for lessons … Teach has one or two more comps he’s going¬†to … I can’t remember … plus he’s taking a much needed week of vacation. That being said, my lessons with him for the month are a bit on the sketchy side. Although great for my pocketbook, hehe, not so great for everything else. Meaning … even my sister told me that she can tell the effects of my not having lessons and she’s looking forward to my getting back to them.

I think I’m so anxious to get back to learning and growing. I have been practicing on my own and studying and reading, but it’s not the same thing as one-on-one teaching. Plus, we have a pretty sweet little showcase we’re working on that I am really starting to dig.

Pretty sure one great way to keep an appreciation for something you really care about it is to experience some absence from it. I honestly feel like I have a better appreciation for how much I care about this dancing thing with these two weeks off. There have been breaks before, but I feel it keenly this time.

maleficent531f691c81fab1[1]

get to dancin’! (this isn’t me, either)

 

Sunday afternoon ruminations

This afternoon I had the lovely opportunity to kick back and enjoy an amazing cup of coffee at what I believe is the one of the best coffeehouses in the Southeast, and a leisurely lunch. To make it even nicer, I got to share this experience with one of my best friends. She and I met in grad school. We’ve weathered some tough times, stood up for each other when it was necessary, laughed and cried together … talked about just about any and everything. She’s one of those kind of friends you have for life. I feel very blessed that we’re back living in the same area again.

She’s very supportive of my many endeavors and often has just the right encouragement when I need it. Today, I was¬†sharing my current mental/emotional¬†struggles about my biz and selling my house (yeah, that’s kinda stressful.)¬† and she listened and we discussed. We got into a great convo about art and artists and commercialism and why create art. (She’s writing her dissertation right now and it’s pretty fascinating stuff.) We talked about Twyla Tharp and some of my experience reading her words lately … we talked about local artists we know and the art scene and hipsters and wanna-be hipsters … ha.

So we briefly touched on a couple we know who are both artists. He is a writer/actor and she is a potter. We’ve all known each other the same amount of time. And my friend makes this really interesting statement. She says, “you know they are even more successful in their fields because of each other. They are beyond generous … sacrificial. And in the end, they both win.” We got to talking about this supportive generosity and how important it is … it feels like sacrifice, but in the end, both of them are winners.

I got home from my relaxing afternoon and started to work on other things. In the back of my mind, I kept thinking about this generosity concept. Finally, I put down what I was doing and just sat to think …

Here’s what the dictionary says about generosity:

noun, plural generosities.

1. readiness or liberality in giving.
2. freedom from meanness or smallness of mind or character.
3. a generous act: We thanked him for his many generosities.
4. largeness or fullness; amplitude.
OK, I know, I know, you’re saying, what does this have to do with ballroom dancing?! How does generosity come into play here? I’ve come to¬†think it’s not only important in dancing, it’s vital.
 
13304955_10153948878690376_954754585862559069_o[1]

Teach and I at a studio event last month

I must be generous with my teacher/partner.

I must be generous with myself.

I must be generous with other dancers.

If I do this, I benefit. If I withhold instead of practicing generosity, I will come to think negatively about my teacher/partner, myself, and fellow dancers. When I withhold, I withdraw. I create distance. I can cause hurt, confusion, tension. When I withhold myself, I dance stiltedly, awkwardly, inwardly, closely, and create a great gulf between my art and those participating/watching. When I am generous I foster warmth, light, hope, excitement, inclusion, interest, etc.
I would really like to be a generous partner, student, performer, competitor and dance peer.
generous[1]

 

It just can’t be …

.. helped. I’m serious. It can’t. I even told myself to just stop … this is silly … it’s just a HOBBY.¬† Right? Just a hobby? Well, that’s what I keep telling myself and that’s what I tell other people, but this week I had a long hard chat with myself.¬† Let’s get honest here. It’s not “just a hobby.” It just isn’t.

A couple of months ago I was talked into joining¬†a little health spa … I don’t know what else to call it. It’s not really a workout place, although you can work out there. The median age is about 65, so it’s not really a hang out spot for me. I digress. It has a sauna. Well, three saunas to be exact that have different features from each other. I try to go six days a week. Hit up some machines and the sauna. This week I was alone in a couple of my sauna times and had lots of opportunity to think with no distractions present. Well, I thought this would be a great time to read a book … (it’s a dry sauna) and so I grabbed one off my shelf I’ve been meaning to get back to: “The Creative Habit” by Twyla Tharp. I didn’t get far till I had to put the book down. The questions she asked made me really start to evaluate my perspective on my dancing. The last half year or so I haven’t wanted to think about it much as it would cause me to face some tough choices. Why exactly am I so attached to ballroom dancing? I can go thru the whole list of things everyone talks about … you all have heard them. But I don’t think that’s exactly why.

I only read for 10 minutes and then stared at the bamboo wall for the final 20 minutes of my session. It was so hot. Sweltering hot. Sweat was running off my face so fast and I watched it drip on to the towel on the floor. It was almost so hot I couldn’t think very deeply. I just thought about being hot and sweating. And dance. Always back to the dancing.

Teach is at Blackpool right now. One of his super rich students took him. I had a lesson the night before he left. He actually went to a competition in Florida with another student and when he got back, he turned around and went to England. (What a life!) So, the night before he left for Florida I had a lesson … last one of the night. We are working on my next showcase routine (it’s a foxtrot of sorts). He worked me really hard and I was slightly overwhelmed. He was tired. I could see it in his face. More tired than usual. He has so many students and seems to always be going somewhere with one of them. We sat down after the lesson to¬†note the new choreography he changed for the routine and such. He finished writing and then we sat in a moment of silence. I think we were both very weary in our own ways … work is tiring. Pleasing people/customers is tiring.

And then he says, “I was thinking we should¬†do a competition this fall?” He outlines a timeline and which one he thought I should consider (he always¬†tries to suggest¬†the cheapest USDC comp for me) and how I’ll need to up my lessons and such.¬†We kind of left it hanging … something to discuss when he gets back from Blackpool. It gives me time to really think about dance. To think about what it would mean for me financially, emotionally, physically, etc.

And¬†in the hot steaming room¬†Twyla says to me, “It will cost money. Are your creative efforts worth it to you? Is it something you really want to do? If so, make it your priority. Work around it. Once your basic needs are taken care of, money is there to be used. What better investment than in yourself.”

I stare at the wooden slats … “Yes, but …”

She asks me to write my creative autobiography by answering her questions. The first question stops all the others:

  1. What is the first creative moment you remember?

My first creative moment. Oh, I remember it … even if it feels so far away. I was very young. Probably around 4-5 years old. Somehow I¬†had seen¬†ballerinas warming up … I don’t know where, probably on PBS. When I was by myself, I tried to replicate what they did using the railing that ran along the steps leading down to our basement. I remember dancing on my toes and being so proud. I guess my parents must have seen me and thought I really liked music and promptly set me up for violin lessons. (My dad later said they should have chosen dance.) And I sat there in the sweltering heat and relived that moment. I can see it very clearly. I remember how I felt.

“But seriously, Twyla, it’s just difficult with my new business and money and time and maybe I’m too old to ever be any good.”

And she says almost right away, “Venturing out of your comfort zone may be dangerous, yet you do it anyway because our ability to grow is directly proportional to an ability to entertain the uncomfortable.”

My conversation lasted off and on with Twyla for a couple days and really “ended” today in the sauna. Meaning, I haven’t finished the book, but I have come to a distinct milestone for me: Dancing is not just a hobby. It’s not something I do when I have some extra money or because I’m bored or I’m looking to make new friends or become a better social dancer. I don’t dance because it makes me feel cool or sounds good, gives me confidence,¬†or even because it’s good for you — physically and mentally. I don’t dance because I’m competitive and want to make a name for myself in the ballroom world. I don’t dance to make money or to impress anyone. I don’t dance because it’s my therapy.

I dance because I’m still that 4-year-old girl trying to move to the beat of the music. I need to create through dance.

As Twyla said¬†while elaborating on why she chose dance over becoming a visual artist, “But even then I knew myself well enough to realize that no matter how much I enjoyed making sketches, the painter’s life was not for me. I didn’t feel it in my bones. I would tell my “story” through movement. Gotta dance.”

Yeah, gotta dance. Some things will have to change.

13244216_10153923983140376_60945738372148453_o[1]

My teachers and I about a month ago at a studio event. (Teach is on my right. He’s my main partner and instructor.)