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.


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