Lesson 9: Posture (again). And American Style at Blackpool!

Happy Tuesday, ballroom dancers!

Hope everyone had a great Memorial Day weekend! I ate a lot. Since Manhattan Dancesport is in just over a month, I’ve been trying to cut back on snacking so much. That kind of got shot this weekend, but now I’m back on it!

Well, I have a lesson tonight, and I’m trying to get a few more things done around here in the meantime before I get ready to go.

So in my last lesson, I thought we were just going to do run-throughs. Which did happen. Except I somehow ended up with three pages of notes on three dances. Mostly on cha cha, I think. Matt’s noticed that when I dance cha cha and rumba, they almost look identical. That’s led us to focusing on the counts in those two dances.

However, I am having a lot of trouble remembering what happens when. Now I understand why kids are so on the 2/3 count all the time.

Then we did samba. I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this, but I’ve always been told samba is “my dance”. I’m trying to make it dirtier, because every time I hear certain samba beats (especially in a reggaeton song, for instance), I remember that samba is ugly and what makes it look good is the positioning of the feet.

Except then what? Matt hits me with “POSTURE!” When I responded with a very confused expression, he told me to do rumba walks. I took barely two steps before he yelled “NOT ENOUGH, YOUR POSTURE’S FLAT! Come back here.”

So he illustrated. Now I’m having to pull my shoulder blades together in ways I haven’t done since I was pole dancing all the time. Kind of like Karina here.

Karina Smirnoff

I didn’t think I was doing it right until Matt said “it should feel like your arms are always behind you”. Even then, I still thought I was wrong. “My back automatically overarches,” I told him. “That’s normal. When you watch the ladies dance, you know you always see them dancing the back and silhouetting.”

Actually, when I did a class at Dance With Me with the crown prince of ballroom dance, Mark Ballas, he said the same thing. He said it’s great to be super animated in the face, but it’s extremely important to really dance your back, because when your back is to the judges, obviously they won’t be able to see your face. I think he actually said you can use your back to emote.

I should try to check on that.

So real quick, let’s talk about American style results at Blackpool!

American Smooth Results, Blackpool 2017

1. Nick Cheremukhin & Viktoriya
2. Travis & Jaimee Tuft
3. Max Sinitsa & Tatiana Seliverstova
4. Kyle & Allie Spinder
5. Genya Malko & Anna Shahbazyan
6. Mariusz Zakrzewski & Lynnsay Ray

I know it’s really nothing new, but I’m pretty happy with this result because Travis and Jaimee Tuft are hands-down my favorite Smooth couple.

American Rhythm Results, Blackpool 2017

1. Andre & Natalie Paramonov
2. Dmitry & Olena Nikishkin
3. Dmytro Gurkov & Snow Urbin
4. Aaron & Iryna DeSoto
5. Riccardo Papi & Sabrina Moretti
6. Shandor Shtefil & Alexandra Barsukova

I’m not as emotionally invested as when Emmanuel and Liana were around, but I’m cool with these results, too. I really like Dmitry and Olena and Aaron and Iryna. But I have to wonder why Nazar and Irina, Shane and Shannon Jensen, and Vard Margaryan weren’t there.

Also, the Professional Rising Star Latin is worth mentioning. Pasha and Daniella won it again (!!) and Alexey and Vlada Karaulov (now dancing for Canada) came in runners-up. Nikita Malakhov and Nadezda Vlasova placed sixth (AMAZING), and Sasha Altukhov and Cheyenne Murillo came in 7th. Oh, and Vitaliy Proskurin & Natalia Barantseva rounded out the top 12.

It’s all so exciting! Nikita was a friend and I remember when I first met him at the Dance With Me’s first ever interstudio comp, back when they only had SoHo, New Jersey, and Long Island. I thought he was so charismatic and talented! And look at him now! Pasha and Daniella were also always one of my favorite couples, since I first saw them as ten dancers at Manhattan Dancesport in 2011 (when they placed third in both styles!). I knew they’d kick butt whenever they turned pro, and I’m so glad it’s working out for them!

Well, dancers, I’ll get back to you. Gotta get ready for Matt now! So excited!


Lessons 7 & 8: Jive & Cleaning

Hi there, ballroom dancers!

I’ve just realized that I didn’t hear anything at all about Dance Legends this year. The web site says it’s “on sabbatical” for 2017. Wonder why!

Well, two lessons ago, Matt and I were both a little loopy. He’d just spent the weekend at Wisconsin Dancesport, and I didn’t get much sleep myself. The lesson consisted of us babbling things that didn’t make much sense and asking each other questions that neither of us knew the answers to.

I finished stretching and then he choreographed my jive routine! He and I hate all the same syllabus figures, which added to the laughs. He put one of the figures we hate into the routine, though. I’m pretty sure we both dance it wondering why it even exists.

Riccardo & Yulia jive, Disney 2015 (c) Marius Mutin

Riccardo & Yulia jive, Disney 2015 (c) Marius Mutin

“You’re done with all your routines! Congratulations!” he high-fived me.

The lesson after that consisted of cleaning my cha cha and rumba. Apparently my cha cha and rumba look kind of the same because I’m missing the precision. So that’s one more thing to keep in mind – I need to know where to hit the accents.

I’ve also been working out first thing every day for the past two months. I used to pole dance to cross train for ballroom, but for the past year, my free time has been limited. Now I can’t pole dance at all. So I’ve been doing old-fashioned crunches and pushups (almost) every morning. Originally I started with 20 crunches and 10 pushups. Now I’m up to 110 crunches and 40 pushups. I’m wondering if I should take up running too, in order to build my stamina.

Anyway, I guess what I’m doing is working! First of all, I’m not getting back pain anymore. Second – and this is the important one – Mario Battista, a very experienced dancer and instructor instructor, was in the studio with us, giving a lesson to a couple. On our way out, Matt turned and yelled “MARIO! CIAO, BELLO!” Mario (who was a national top 3 professional 10 dancer) called back, “Good night, Matt! By the way, she looks good!”

Matt, ever the clown, responded with, “I know, I’m trying to catch up to her!”

The door shut behind us and I hit Matt about 15 times. “HE SAID I LOOK GOOD! I’M MAKING PROGRESS!” I squealed. “You are, and you’re only gonna get better!” he said.

Except, I’ll admit…I still have trouble remembering my routines. I only remember my samba routine the way I should. I don’t know why that is. I’ve always had the same problem – I can remember choreography extremely well until about 2/3 of the way through. Although, I can remember the ends of my routines better when I’m dancing them with Matt.

But what if he forgets?! Shouldn’t I be the one to have his back? This is a partnership, after all. I need to get on that. Know all four of my routines like I know my samba.

Off topic: Rashad Jennings and Emma Slater won Dancing With the Stars! I am THRILLED. I didn’t even watch this season and I threw them all my votes.

I’ve got a lesson with Matt later today! We didn’t get to do one last week, so I’m really excited. It’s always the best part of my week.

I’ll tell you all about it!

Lessons 3-6: Connection & now….drills

Happy Monday, dancers!

Yeah, it’s been a while. I’ve had a very busy few weeks. I was going to post this before my last…four…lessons…but I’ve had a lot of really packed days and forgot to *facepalm*

Is anyone actually watching Dancing With the Stars? I haven’t seen any of it at all. Since season 15, the show just feels so engineered and I can’t deal with it. But I hear Lindsay, Emma, and Sasha all have great partners, so that makes me happy because all three of them are class acts and vastly underappreciated.

Let me discuss very quickly the last four lessons.

The first, at Rogers Dance Center, mainly consisted of polishing and drilling the crap out of our samba routine. It was exhausting. Matt was deciding to do one of this figure instead of three, figuring out how much rotation was in this three-point turn, how much we’re traveling on that reverse turn. SO MUCH. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say we danced the samba routine forty times. I was mostly upset because I broke a sweat, so my hair got messed up.

The next lesson was mostly rumba-focused. Oh, OH! Let me tell you THIS story.

This lesson, we did one Friday morning at Stepping Out in Manhattan. I’d been there exactly once before, probably two years ago.

This time, I found Matt outside and decided to go in and change as he went to grab something to eat. The second I got off the elevator, I saw Nino Langella in the window behind the front desk. I nearly had a heart attack. Almost immediately after, there was Allan Tornsberg. Then I went in the bathroom to change and found myself standing next to Andra Vaidilaite. Right as she left, Vibeke Toft ran in. THEN when I went to the floor to start stretching, Emmanuel Pierre-Antoine was on the floor.

I sat on the floor and stretched, trying to disappear into the walls. Matt strolled in and I go, “Come here!” He did so and bent down to hear me, waving to some people in the meantime. I told him everyone I saw and ended the story with “I don’t want to do my lesson anymore.”

Matt’s response?

“Haha! Get up.”


I also mentioned to him that I’d just realized that Manhattan Dancesport, the competition we are aiming for and that I’ve been wanting to dance in for seven years, was only three months away. So now I’m nervous. All Matt said to that was, “My job is to make sure you’re ready.”

Anyway, this lesson was even more painful than the one before. This was going through the routine step by step by step. And rumba, as you likely know, consists of using a LOT of muscle groups at once. I was extremely sore the next day.

Salvo Sinardi and Viktoriya Kharchenko

I’m learning more and more about the importance of connection and Matt’s personal philosophy on it. For example, on a fan, I’ve started to kind of throw my weight away from him, which is exactly what he wants. This picture of Salvo and Viktoriya is a pretty good illustration. I’m learning how we’re supposed to use each other when we dance. The only bad part is that it’s very difficult to practice this without him.

Anyway, the happiest moment was when Matt took a second to say hello to Emmanuel (who I guess he’s known a long time because they’ve been competing against each other for so long). They hugged happily, then Emmanuel practically flung Matt aside and threw his arms out to me. “Come get the love!” he exclaimed. It was very sweet. Moments like those are one of the reasons I love ballroom dance – the closeness of the community.

Then our next lesson was back at Rogers Dance Center. I got there super early and watched the group classes. All these middle-aged people have way more active social lives than I do. (Like I said…reasons I love ballroom.) I also saw an older woman, probably in her late fifties/early sixties, practicing some routines, which looked FANTASTIC. And her legs! Gorgeous. It’s the kind of thing that makes you smile when you see it.

Anyway, as I was sitting there, I got a little starstruck when I saw Anna Demidova walk in. She is breathtakingly beautiful in person. I just grabbed my book and tried not to stare at her over top of it.

So when Matt arrived, we went through the three routines. He’s being more and more finicky lately, which makes sense, even if it causes me a lot of physical anguish (for example, leg and foot soreness because I’m working my feet so much). Like he said…it’s his job to make sure I’m ready.

This was the day he FINALLY recorded our routines. I’d been asking him to do this forever, mostly because I know I’ve always had trouble remembering the ends of routines. Anyway, we finally did it this time, then we watched them back. I didn’t want to see them, but Matt made me and I actually don’t dance as terribly as I thought.

Here’s what made me regret this.

When my last lesson came, I thought the day came when we’d finally hit jive. Except what Matt did was basically make me exercise for half an hour before running through routines. (It probably wasn’t half an hour at all, but it felt like longer.) He stood behind me, held a band across my collarbone, and pulled it back towards him while telling me to walk forward. And as he is a lot stronger than I thought, all it took was two or three steps before I started sweating. But it showed me the tone I need to have in my lower body in order to create power.

THEN he gave me all these paso exercises to strengthen me. I already have a lower back prone to aches and shaky ankles, so paso posture is infernal for me. There are two upsides, though. First is that I’ve been working out so I’m barely getting back pain anymore. The other is that the more that I do these exercises, I’m actually able to hold the posture longer every time I do it, and my ankles are shaking significantly less.

Oh, also, the lesson when we recorded our routines was the first time I’d worn my tan Aida Karinas since my black practice pair arrived two years ago. The tan ones, I’ve only worn maybe four or five times. I discovered very quickly they are most definitely NOT broken in. So I’ll most likely be doing my lessons in those up until Manhattan.

My next lesson is today! And apparently we ARE finally doing jive this time. Hopefully it won’t take me another four weeks to write that entry…

UPDATE: I was going to post this before I left for my lesson today. But I forgot. Again.