Lesson One(?): Look There!

Hello, ballroom dancers!

Look who is risen from the dead. (Hint: me!)

Yes, it has been a long time. I went through a pretty crazy year in 2016. If I’m completely honest, it was a year of complete upheaval and chaos. Nothing horrible happened. It just happened to be a time of a lot of ups and downs, not to mention complete instability, but at the same time, unbelievable happiness.

So due to that, I took another very long break from dancing. I practiced here and there. Unfortunately, I’ve forgotten almost the entire Latin syllabus.

I contacted Matt, my magnificent teacher, a couple weeks ago, and said, let’s dance together. He called me and we talked…so he asked about Manhattan.

As in Manhattan Dancesport.

“Want to aim for that?” he asked.

I answered in a very measured fashion: “Manhattan! Are you INSANE?! YES!!!

I’ve been wanting to do Manhattan Dancesport since 2011. I just started dancing, taking mostly group classes, in 2010, and the Manhattan Dancesport Championships was the first real competition I’d ever been to. That was where I first saw the likes of Riccardo and Yulia and Emmanuel and Liana. Both were couples I instantly fell in love with. So you can imagine…finally dancing in this competition would mean I’ve reached a level I’ve been dreaming of for years.

Anyway, a couple weeks passed because it was difficult to coordinate our schedules, but we finally were able to schedule a lesson!

I confess, I didn’t practice at all beforehand. I didn’t go through the iPhone notes where I had my routines written down. I didn’t even stretch before he arrived.

Even worse, I lost my dance notebook. The one I’ve been keeping for six years where I had notes from lessons with Val and Dasha and workshops with Riccardo and Yulia, Maurizio Vescovo, and even Mark Ballas, to start. I’ll be upset with myself for that for a long time.

My teacher is evil (not even a little bit), so for some reason he started me off with rumba. Like, why would you do that? My body was so unaccustomed to the strains of rumba that I started pouring sweat literally after doing the first three steps of my routine, which, incidentally, happened to be unnecessarily long, so he chopped a lot of it.

He then exclaimed, “Okay. Samba!” and went through our samba routine, which made me feel not as stupid. I put on “Piensas” by Pitbull and Gente De Zona because my muscle memory is SET to that song. See, samba was fun. Rumba hurt my ego significantly.

There wasn’t a lot to write about in this particular lesson, just getting reacquainted, except for this one thing.

Matt told me he spent a lot of last year judging and, during this time, he noticed that there were some dancers that had terrible technique, but their dancing actually was brought up a few levels because they had focus. He was telling me what to do when I was dancing (“Look there! KEEP IT! Now at me!”), but I didn’t quite get it until he demonstrated by samba-ing around me. Then it made sense.

Stefano Di Filippo and Dasha Chesnokova

Stefano Di Filippo and Dasha Chesnokova

DIRECTIONALITY! Knowing where you’re going. Having the points you’re looking at. And guess what happened when I did that.


Look, I don’t know what it is. I don’t know if I naturally have terrible balance, or if I have weak ankles, or whatever else, but I just tend to fall around a lot when doing rumba. I stopped falling. It was life-changing. At least for me.

So, I also hit the New York Dance Festival a week later. I went super late, so I only caught the finals of the Pro Smooth and Latin, but it was so worth it. I’d never been to NYDF and the energy was simply incredible. Having multiple viewing levels in the ballroom didn’t hurt, either.

Pro Smooth was a lot of fun, but I personally have a really hard time watching any couple that isn’t Travis and Jaimee Tuft. I absolutely adore them.

Travis and Jaimee Tuft, 3rd place at the 2017 New York Dance Festival Pro Smooth

Pro Latin was a real treat, in part because I remember Pasha Pashkov & Daniella Karagach and Anastasiya Danilova when they were amateur dancers. In fact, I first saw Pasha and Daniella at Manhattan Dancesport! (They placed third in both Latin and Ballroom in the Amateur divisions that year.) Nastia, I actually met when she was a teacher at Dance With Me! I’m in awe when I watch her dance – she has the strongest core I’ve ever seen. In addition, I instantly took to Mikhaylo Bilopukhov and Anastasiya Shchypilina when they first started dancing in the US. They’re so fun and charismatic.

2017 New York Dance Festival Pro Latin Finalists

2017 New York Dance Festival Pro Latin Finalists

Okay, okay. Must be off! I’m actually just on my way to this week’s lesson with Matt!

Also, Slavik Kryklyvyy was judging Pro Smooth. I can prove it, I took pictures.


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