on your marks ….

Decided to check the Manhattan Dance website for updates and lo and behold!! Heat sheets have already been posted. This time out, The Icon has the four of us girls doing Rhythm, and all I can say is I’m really happy I didn’t have to figure out who was going to dance in which age group and what division. I’m only going for eight single dances, two of the ladies are dancing 10 heats each plus a scholarship, and one other is going for 20 heats plus a scholarship. I opted not to do scholarship because that would entail taking a room, and I wanted to keep expenses to a minimum.

There are four big comps that I usually try to do–New York Dance Festival in February, Tri-State Challenge in March, Manhattan Dancesport in July and Empire in August. The upside is that they’re pretty much in “the neighborhood,” the downside is that they’re almost back-to-back and that makes it very difficult to balance them budget-wise. In addition, I’ve been trying to juggle things so I can do the Constitution State Challenge in late September, and one more (City’s Challenge) in December. Pretty ambitious, but I find that doing  two or three sets of dances at different comps during the year works a little better for me than going for a gazillion dances at one or two comps.

I will say that for this comp, the ballroom gods are smiling on me–not sure what time I’m getting hair and make-up done, but I don’t have to be on the floor until 11:37 am Wednesday, so I can take the railroad in, get some coffee and spectate for a while.

My only worry is that my 8 heats are all in a row, which wouldn’t be a problem if I could dance them as if I was at the studio social, but seems The Icon won’t be happy unless I come out the gate smokin’ and literally boogie my bottom off .

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Not exactly sure as to how that’s going to play out, but I’ve been trying to get back into regular workouts and actually seem to be feeling better. I’m not quite at the point where I can say I totally trust myself to survive putting pedal to the metal for 8 heats (oh, that is just SO sad — LOL), but I’m up to giving it a shot … what was it The Little Engine said ??

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Role Reversal

Wednesday morning, getting ready to set out for the studio, I found myself getting seriously worked up (wish I could somehow manage to get myself going like that before a comp, but that’s for a different post). I was thinking about Manhattan Dancesport being only two weeks away and realized The Icon and I had done little, if anything, on any of my rhythm dances. This pretty much was because of the time I spent prepping for our studio’s showcase, plus taking advantage of an unexpected coaching opportunity.

 I’m OK with my core dances—with a couple of hours’ worth of reviewing the choreography and a few run-throughs, I can basically bang through them. Deciding to bring back several other dances I’ve put on the back burner is the sticking point.

We’ve assessed Hustle and Merengue and The Icon feels that those two dances are worthy enough to present to the general public, without suffering the wrath of the judges and being asked to leave the floor. Nothing fancy, but if we can keep to the basics, I should be able to survive. 

"The judges aren't too impressed!"
“The judges aren’t too impressed!”

My beautiful Samba is the sticking point. I haven’t dance it competitively in over 3 years—it can pass muster at the Friday night socials where everybody pretty much sticks to the Bronze syllabus, but it would need more than a week to take it into Silver. Plus, with the five other core dances and some more review of the deadly Hustle (my arms have officially been declared lethal weapons) and trippy Merengue (yes, I’ve managed to trip myself but like to push the blame onto the laces of my practice shoes), there’s no way I can put that much time into the Samba.

 Fast forward to my arriving at the studio. I’m sitting in the car, wondering how in hell this is going to shake out, because I’m dreading that The Icon is going to insist that “it’ll be fine”, and the one thing I’m sure of is “no it won’t”, and that’s when I realize I don’t want to be my usual cranky contrary self. I’ve been acting weird lately. Which is why instead of continuing to work myself into a serious attitude, I decide to go with the two simple words Patrick Swayze’s character offered his fellow bouncers in “Road House”: “be nice”.

 As usual, The Icon is sitting at the front desk. Sure, he and his wife own the studio, but unlike many others out there, this man has one hell of a work ethic. He’s hands-on and pro-active, double-checking and confirming appointments, answering early morning calls, returning calls, texting/messaging staff, besides organizing his own schedule, always decorating the studio (fresh flowers, beautifully scented candles, coming up with holiday and party themes).

 We bid each other good morning, and I go into the ballroom to set up. It’s at this point that I realize it’s not business as usual – The Icon is being uncharacteristically quiet, and I start wondering (dreading!) what’s coming.

 So as I finish brushing one shoe, the man himself comes striding into the ballroom. “Before we start, just let me collect for today.” Uhhh, oboy … something’s coming and he’s afraid Ms. Hyde is going to make an appearance, and he just wants to collect for the lesson before I storm out the door ??      reversal    

 And that’s when HE starts saying, “I was thinking about the comp — it’s only two weeks away and realized that we’ve really haven’t worked on any of your rhythm dances, but it’s the Samba that really has me concerned …. “

 And that’s when I held up my hand, yelled “STOP RIGHT THERE”, and started laughing so hard I nearly fell over.

 Long story short, here I was preparing to tell The Icon how completely unprepared I was feeling for the comp and that it might be a good idea to cut the three old dances, and there HE was, expecting me to fight tooth and nail and take HIS head off for his suggesting that I had bitten off more than I could chew. Of course, that just got me laughing all the harder.

 Poor man. No wonder he says I’m weird. I keep telling him to get a cat. Then maybe he’d understand me better.

 

it’s simple

OgreThe Icon     bast   Coach

Clarity.

That was the focus point of today’s — and previous — coaching.

It’s hard to accept that only one word is the key to dancing (or basically any artistic endeavor).

That’s all you need to know. How to be clear. Clear, precise, readable basics set the groundwork for everything. You can’t build a skyscraper on a faulty foundation.

Now I’m dancing rhythm in Manhattan Dancesport in three weeks—the usual five core dances, Cha, Rumba, Swing, Bolero and Mambo, and, thanks to some bizarre reasoning that escapes me now (a perverse streak, perhaps?), I’ve decided to resurrect Hustle, Merengue and Samba and re-introduce them to my competitive roster.

But there’s just one small hitch (isn’t there always ?? LOL).  I haven’t danced those dances in competition for over three years. I’m OK with them at the studio socials, but I’m not sure that’s going to cut it out there on the floor.

(Heads up, here’s where we start running the **** rant)

Anyway, got to the studio this morning and started off with the “what are we working on” conversation. The Icon wanted to go over “what we already have (meaning probably review Rumba AGAIN, maybe a little Cha, or just something to do with the core dances).

My suggestion was that, in light of the comp being a few heartbeats away, and seeing as we haven’t even touched on Samba (we did go over some Hustle and Merengue patterns last week), that maybe Samba would be a good choice.

The Icon counters with “we can warm up with RUMBA (again), then maybe move to Merengue and finish up with Samba”.

My mind  starts screaming, “no, No, NO, NO, NO” ….  I don’t know—I understand that if you can get all of the elements of your Rumba to look good, you’re going to be able to carry those elements to any of the other rhythm dances. But I’m just SO SICK of focusing on THAT ONE DANCE !!!! Just like when we’re working on smooth, and I hear The Icon say “let’s just warm up with BRONZE”. I GO BATSHIT. For real.

So it’s decided that we’re going to warm up with Rumba (see how far my hissy fits get me?!?!)  Right from the start, I don’t know why, but I was way off my game today, unable to do a simple rumba walk, sliding my feet, losing my balance, my spins weaving and wobbling like a drunken top. A sluggish body and muddy, confused mind don’t really lend themselves to a stellar presentation. I forgot my rumba routine, backslid into the old “social dancer” habits and instead of crisp and precise, the harder I tried get into the flow, the more things went off the tracks.  It seemed I couldn’t do anything right.

The oddest thing though—Coach didn’t let that distract her from the main issue: CLARITY.  Not rushing through the steps, taking the time to get on the foot, fully completing one step before moving on to the next. You’re doing a back rock? Fine. Take your weight ALL the way back, THEN bring it forward. There’s a start and a finish to each movement. Don’t rush right into the next step. Take the time–you have more than enough time (more than you think). Use the feet, the legs, the body. There’s no such thing as LAZY in ballroom!

I understand this because it’s one of Coach’s basic tenets, something that moves with us from session to session. I understand it in my head, but as I explained to her today, just because the head understands it, doesn’t mean that the body does. I can’t seem to figure out how to make the brain communicate the information to the body!!

But anyway, I was getting frustrated and stressing out and when that happens, I move into this “dead zone” – I get disoriented and my mind just turns off. And this just doesn’t happen in the studio. There have been times when “zombie brain” comes crashing down on me right in the middle of a competition. And, if that wasn’t bad enough, a healthy dose of The Icon’s sarcasm wasn’t helping matters either. He has this way of making me feel so bad and stupid and discouraged (not to mention embarrassing me in front of Coach). I may have mentioned before that ours is a “hate/love” relationship…there are times when I hate him and would absolutely love to give him two black eyes. That being said, I was on the verge of bursting into tears.

It was, of course, right at that point when we (he) decided to try a run through on the Rumba routine (RUMBA. AGAIN). Did things magically turn themselves around you ask? And did I get it all together and turn out a breathtaking routine? You’ve got to be kidding. This is reality. You know, the reality where things went so far South that they’re now floundering in the Atlantic somewhere off the coast of Brazil.

And here’s where I did something that took me by surprise. I looked at Coach and I looked at The Icon and I just said “I’m sorry, I’m just not with it this morning. I seem to be having a bad day.”

The Icon mumbled something along the lines of “business as usual”, but it was Coach who said, “no, not bad. Just a little difficult.”

From there we moved on to spend the remaining few minutes on Merengue (couldn’t remember the patterns here either, but what the hell).

On the way out, Coach was in the reception area. I thanked her for her patience and told her how much I appreciated being able to work with her.

She’s the most amazing woman. She answered with how much she appreciates working with me and told me that yes, things are a bit difficult, but that’s because I’m now dancing at a level  where every little element matters, and she’s been gradually introducing me to . the more intricate concepts of dance technique. And that at this level there is just so much more to keep track of when you’re on the floor. And that every session we have, she sees that I’ve absorbed that much more and I’m remembering to implement and make use of that much more. Talk about a positive ending!

(But we never did get to Samba!!!!)

 

i do (but i don’t)

I love competing, but I hate it.

I’m looking forward to an unanticipated coaching lesson on Thursday, but I dread it.

I’m excited that I’ll be back on the floor in a matter of weeks (3 to be exact), but wish I could just sit this one out.

I’m stoked that I’m bringing three “retired” dances (samba, hustle and merengue) back into my competitive repertoire, but wonder if I shouldn’t have left well enough alone and just elected to stay with my core rhythm (cha, rumba, swing, bolero and mambo).

I’m happy that we’re going to work on rhythm again, but want to pretend I’ve never heard the word “technique”.

I can’t wait to get my hair and make-up done, to get all gussied up in my flying fringe and dazzling Swarovski jewels, but then again, throwing on a bathing suit and flip-flops and heading for the ocean front has tremendous appeal.

I think by now you’ve guessed that I’ll be dancing rhythm in the Manhattan Dance Championships at the end of June. This is a fabulous comp—it runs over the July 4th holiday and the venue is amazing; the Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge.  It is one of the most perfect vantage points for watching the huge fireworks display over the East River, the Manhattan skyline so close you can almost touch it.

I want to say I’m going into this comp with no expectations, but I’d be lying. Of COURSE I’ve got expectations.

I want to do better than I did last time. I want to employ all the wonderful technique I’ve been working on. I want to feel that I’m giving it everything I have from the minute I walk into the ballroom. I want to be proud of the effort I put in on the floor. I want my dancing to shout out, “Look at me …. Look at what I’m able to do …. Look at how far I’ve come”.

And then there’s the part of me that wants to put a bag over my head and hide under a table.

I think now is the time for me to remind myself that when all’s said and done, I’m doing this because I absolutely love it and I’m so very lucky to have the opportunity to actually be doing what many people can only dream about. This is HUGE. And it’s OK to be scared.

I’ll be back with news on Thursday’s coaching, and (I’m sure) a few hysterical lines on how the “retirees” are going. Merengue and Samba may stand a chance. But Hustle? I swear, that dance is out to get me!!

Later !