TriState and Lesson 3: BREATHE.

Hello dancers,

So last weekend was the TriState Dancesport Championships. Anyone go? A good friend of mine was dancing, so I decided I had to go, if not to cheer her on, also to just re-expose myself to all of it. Competition has always been one of my goals and I used to learn a lot going to watch them. It’s also just fun to watch and scream your face off.

I arrived probably half an hour before she went on. They were actually running 25 minutes ahead of time, so I was sitting in the ballroom hiding behind a magazine (there were people I hadn’t seen in years and I felt extremely awkward being there alone), texting her like crazy that she needed to get downstairs before she missed her heats. She walked into the ballroom, hugged me, took her pro’s hand, and walked onto the dance floor.

This friend of mine is something else altogether – she is one of the kindest and smartest people I know. She spent years at the same franchise studio I did, then decided the best thing for her was to continue her dance education elsewhere and is now dancing among incredible coaches with one of the top dancers in the country. I’m thrilled for her. Funnily, she’s the one who, when my current instructor went independent, thought I should dance with him. It took a long time, but it’s happened and she’s totally right! More on that later.

She kicked BUTT! She only did 16 entries and, if I recall correctly, got 16 first places. And I screamed my head off for her so I went to work that same night sounding quite…odd.

Unrelated: I ordered a pair of black Karinas for lessons/practice. I figure that way is more fiscally responsible in the long run; by the time I do a competition, I won’t have worn out my gorgeous tan ones. And maybe I’ll see my feet better in the studio.

I also saw a lot of people from my former franchise place. They all did really well. Especially one fabulous young lady who lost a few instructors in the beginning. After all that, she got one of the “uppers” as her teacher and I was slightly envious; she’s dancing amazing! I also realized why her partner is the ONE teacher I would dance with within that company: he dances like a MAN. His sheer presence and his execution of every nuance is just so masculine and so incredibly powerful. It feels weird saying that because he’s like my annoying older brother. But I also realized that’s why he and I always danced well together – I’m a total girl in life (OMG, chocolate), but I guess one could still call me an alpha female. The converging of masculine and feminine energies!

…well, it makes sense in my mind.

Moving on. The competition was fun; I wish I’d been able to see the pro events.

I spent this week thinking about and practicing what I’d learned last week, collecting my center to ground myself, and my varieties of swivels. Also did a lot more work on my left side in my cross training (way weaker, partner thinks it’s funny). Was stretching absentmindedly and didn’t realize my pro had arrived. Excitement! We exchanged pleasantries and when we moved past that part (I’m useless at small talk), he said, “I think I’m gonna have you dance Silver.” I was kind of floored. “…you can do that?” was my astute response. I haven’t danced in four years, so I didn’t think I could/would make that sort of jump. But he knows what he’s doing.

This time, we revisited our fundamentals from last week. I growled at him Helga Pataki style when he brought each one up, then grinned and did them anyway. “SOMEONE was practicing!” he said while I swiveled left and right. It felt awesome because he was barely leading me; I was doing most of it myself.

After I passed the quiz, we talked about internal action in order to make my movement better balanced and, above all, more fluid. I intend to practice all that ad nauseam. (I figure I’m Latina so I’m, by birth, supposed to have the craziest hip and body action.) He told me about using your internal action and using your range, when to stay low, when to go high. We did quick rumba walks, then he stopped me in the middle and had me lengthen, then collect myself, and continue. I did it once, did it twice. “YES, that was better!” he exclaimed. “Because I BREATHED!” I retorted, and it all clicked.

I’d heard when I was a teenager that your breathing should be part of your choreography and I always wondered how you used it. I’m not even sure how to explain it, but it’s something I can’t believe I wasn’t taught before, it’s so basic. One of those things, you know? It’s such a small thing, but it makes such an enormous difference!


I might just spray paint that memo on the studio walls.

Also, I thought it was hilarious that when Teach and I sat down after our lesson to write down my notes, I saw a teacher I knew back in the day at the franchise. I won’t gossip, but five years I’ve known him and he hasn’t changed at all. He was in a crazy outfit and then snapped his fingers at us and sashayed away. Typical. I shake my head.


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