Record Time

Wow —  I think I’ve just set a personal record for checkout prep time.

Two weeks ago, all 11 new Silver Pin checkout figures accounted for (Waltz = Hesitations Left and Right; Foxtrot = Grapevine; Tango = Fallaway to Fan; Mambo = double spin; Rumba = Snap Turn; Swing = Kick Ball Change, Shoulder Spin, Toe Heel Swivels, Lindy Variation, Promenade Walks, and Back to Back Swivel).

Last week: The Icon had me do a full run through of all 18 Rhythm figures.

This week: we covered all 18 Smooth figures, and The Icon says, “OK, you’re ready.” Next thing I know, he’s checking the schedule and has me in for Friday, December 4th, 2:00 pm … CHECK OUT !!!!

It only goes to show that hard work does pay off. I’ve been doing my homework so basically only needed The Icon’s eagle eye and insistence on perfection to bring everything to presentation ready format.

So I’ll be using this coming week for fine tuning; flashcards, music, technique, nerves, panic. You know the drill.

Anyway, moving on,The City’s Challenge is December 19th, and The Icon is chomping at the bit to get going on that front. I’ll be doing 10 single dances plus the Closed Silver Scholarship.altman-2

Although this is a small, one day competition, it’ll be a good venue just for getting my rhythm out on the floor again. Besides, it’s a fun venue — The Altman Building on 18th Street in NYC.The ballroom is on the ground floor, with these huge arced doors and windows opening directly out onto 18th Street. You can watch the passers-by stop and look in, awestruck at seeing an actual ballroom competition in full swing.altman-1

Not sure at this point exactly how I feel about going out for rhythm again, but I’m determined to face it with new attitude firmly in place. And truth be told, in spite of all my whining and bitching and complaining, I love being out there on the floor, done up to the nines, adrenaline pumping, skirts flying, feeding off The Icon’s knock ’em dead energy … what an absolute rush!altman-3I’m sure between now and then I’ll be running through every emotion in the book (and then some), but for right now, I’M ACTUALLY  LOOKING FORWARD TO THIS!!!!empire 2014

One …. Step …. At …. A …. Time

oh, those figures!

IMG_0340Seems a fellow blogger (D_Wall) and I have connected on the same astral plane in terms of the athleticism necessary for ballroom dance.

Rather than think of my weekly sessions at the studio as “lessons”, I now see them as training sessions. I know the steps, the basic fundamentals of dance, now comes the process of training the body, giving it the tools it needs — the strength and endurance, the stamina, the balance and the flexibility, the speed — giving it the freedom to fully indulge in the artistic element, as well as surviving whatever consecutive heats you might face up against in competition.

Wednesday’s session at the studio consisted of thoroughly reviewing the rhythm half of my upcoming checkout. I have to be able to present any one of 6 patterns in either Rumba, Mambo or Swing.

Rumba is down in terms of knowing the patterns, as are Mambo and Swing. But as the Icon and Madame keep trying to hammer home, American Rhythm is a down and dirty, dig your feet into the floor, no nonsense, commit to it with everything you’ve got style. Upper body is “still”, but you’ve got to get those feet and legs working like crazy.

I can actually hear The Icon’s voice in my head as I write this: “USE THOSE LEGS!! WORK THOSE FEET” !!

If you’re heart isn’t pumping at the end of a 10-second figure, you’re dogging it. There’s no getting around it. You want results, you’re going to have to literally work your tail off.

Yesterday (Saturday), I started my serious homework. I’ve memorized the names of the steps and can visualize them in my head. I’ve made up a set of “flash” cards, and I have my music cued up.

First, I name the figure I’m doing, get a mental fix on it, then I execute the figure as I count out loud. I’m checking out at Silver Pin level, which means that I have to present the figure as I would dance it on the competition floor, i.e., in dance position with full technique.

Now we’re ready to rumble. I pull a flash card from the deck, match a few songs to whatever figure came up, and Geronimo-o-o-o-o-o-o-o !!!!!!!!!!

Here’s where the athleticism comes in. It’s ever so easy to do some of these figures with the assist and support of a dance partner. But on one’s own ? Holy sweet dance shoes. This is where the physical shortcomings are blatantly apparent.

I’ve got two figures in Mambo, #2 – Crossovers and #6 – Double Spin, which are testing my resolve. Specifically, it’s the swivels in #2, and the actual double spin in #6.

I have NO problem with those swivels doing them off the barre or dancing them with The Icon, but on my own? To get on the foot fast enough from the cross over, actually have the strength to torque into the swivels, the balance to go back to cross over. I need to be Faster. Stronger. More agile.

And then the Double Spin. Spins in general are my bête noire (or at least ONE of them, LOL). Yes, I know that spotting is an absolutely necessary element. But I’m so into my head on trying to turn that anything outward is non-existent. Hence, I bobble like a top winding down, ending up totally dizzy, close to falling on my ass, and ready to strangle any and all ballerinas I see from hereon in whenever I see them executing those gorgeous, perfect, endless on-pointe pirouette turns.

OK, so my personal challenge between today and this coming Wednesday is getting those swivels and some element of that double spin in the bag. Also on Wednesday, The Icon and I will be reviewing the Smooth dances I’ll be doing for the check-out: Foxtrot, Waltz and Tango.

Looks like I’ve got my work cut out for me !

One …. Step …. At …. A …. Time ….


Riddle me this:

Dancing GETS you into shape, but you have to BE in shape to dance … something like the chicken and the egg. And NO, I do NOT stay up at night thinking these things up. They just come to me at odd moments.

So anyway, I’m in the studio tomorrow morning at 6:30am for my standing double, which is usually at 7am on Thursdays, but the Icon has been shuffling things about a bit with coaching, arranging check-outs for all of his girls and whatever else is in play at any given moment.

Trophy Ball/studio holiday party is in three weeks (Friday, December 11th), and asides from getting my 11 new figures, haven’t really done much more to get it together for my Silver Pin check-out, other than going over the patterns on my own. I suppose I’ll get my actual check-out appointment tomorrow …..

Oh, and in addition, there’s also the small matter of getting my overall rhythm up to speed for The City’s Challenge, which is the following week (Saturday, December 19th).

Fasten your seatbelts …. the ride is about to begin!!!

One …. Step …. At …. A …. Time



Making It Better

I had two days in the studio this week. Coaching with Madame on Tuesday, and a single with The Icon on Wednesday. The single was the second half of a make-up lesson for when The Icon was out of town, competing at the Grand Nationals in Florida.

We started Tuesday’s coaching by giving Madame a quick overview; we’ve got The City’s Challenge coming up fast (December 19th) and so The Icon suggested we get back into the “swing” of things and work on rhythm.

If I had to rank my rhythm dances, I’d say Bolero, Mambo and Samba are my strongest. Rumba is starting to edge up, with ChaCha and Swing bringing up the rear (figuratively and literally speaking … sorry, sometimes I just can’t help myself).

I also do Merengue and Hustle, on (very) rare occasions using them as “filler” when I compete, and Bachata, West Coast Swing and Salsa come in handy for clubbing and socials.

The Icon believes in offering his students every opportunity to better their dancing by bringing in some of the most amazing coaches ever. Personally, I’ve worked with Bonnie Diaz, Ed Simon, Peggy Heeney, Marianne Nicole, Tony Meredith and Amy Block (does picking up Jose Decamps from the train station count?).

For the last year, I’ve had the honor and privilege of working with Meryem Pearson, or, as I address her, Madame.

We clicked from the beginning and I have an amazing rapport with her. She’s warm, funny, and so very good at what she does. We work on both Rhythm and Smooth. She doesn’t teach you steps; she helps you understand how to use your body. Her knowledge and wisdom take my breath away. She talks about how you must understand the value of your movement, the quicks and the slows; how each step must have clarity, a start and a finish, how the body never stops moving, always filling out both the space and the music.

And she doesn’t take any bullshit.

Me:                  “I’m afraid                   (to do that turn, get my feet tangled, fall over, fill in the blank)”

Madame:        “What’s to be afraid of?”

Me:                  “I can’t                       

Madame         “You just did”

Me:                  “I look totally stupid” or, “that looks so bad”

Madame:        “There’s nothing you can do to look bad”

So, after “what shall we work on” is decided (Bolero and Mambo), we move on to “Let’s warm up with Rumba (of course). Now I’ve made it clear just what a bear this dance is for me. It really spotlights my overall rhythm issues: getting on the foot, not letting my weight fully drop into my hip (clarity), moving into the next step before fully finishing the one I’m on (value), not feeling the lead, and so on and so forth.

The music starts, I move into dance position and it only takes two steps to realize Something is Different. For the first time ever, I felt I HAD IT … a little choppy, yes, but strong, secure. OMG …

And the “WOW” I got from Madame? Holy cow … followed by “that’s the best I’ve seen you do so far” ???

I still can’t wrap my mind around it. Think I should actually take this in the light of maybe, Just Maybe, I might have what it takes ?!?!?!?!

OK, so then on to some serious work.

I think I have a pretty good handle on my Bolero, and The Icon and I run through our routine. Not too shabby, but nothing gets by Madame’s eye.

A few “little” things need tweaking; again, the common thread(s) across my dancing as a whole stand out; not giving full value to the step I’m on, leading myself into the next pattern, a little iffy with the choreography, TIMING and COUNTING – you get the picture. But those simple little tweaks make all the difference in the world. And that’s the thing …. Just those teeny tiny little changes can turn the most basic steps into something absolutely breathtaking.

And before you know it, the session is almost over. A few minutes on Mambo, then the next student walks in, and we’re done for now.


Yesterday was the single, and The Icon was all set and ready to do a quick review of our coaching session when I start flapping my book at him.

In addition to prepping for the December comp, I’m doing my Silver Pin check-out. I’ve got all the new syllabus figures with the exception of Figure 6 in Waltz – Hesitation A and B.

I won’t bore you with the details, but I do wish I had a video of me trying to understand that freaking pattern. making it better

Whaa ?? HUH ???? …. This goes where while that does what? Wait !!! Where are you going?
What comes first? I’m supposed to be starting BDC (backing diagonal center)? BDW (backing diagonal wall)? What’s the end? WHERE’s the end?  tantrumkidAll during which The Icon was having a field day needling me.

(Special Note to MY Gremlins & Demons: if you
need any tutoring in needling, just get in touch with The Icon).


 Well, that was yesterday. Thinking about it now, I can’t help but crack up. It really was a total comedy routine and funny as hell. A friend of mine describes these moments as “brain farts” …..  très à propos.

So that’s it for this week. Unless, of course, I decide to do the Dance of the Month Group tomorrow night. It’s Bolero. And the name of the game is Making It Better.

One … Step … At … A … Time ….thats all folks