Comp Prep & Lesson 14: Run-Through

Happy first day of Manhattan Dancesport, ballroom dancers!!!

As I’ve always planned…I will introduce myself soon!

So, comp prep. I’ve somehow gotten myself hair and makeup appointments with Boyko and Co! I’ve decided for future competitions, I’ll most likely do both myself, but at least for my first one, I want to see what the professionals do/use differently.

I’ve also taken care of my costume. I’ve rented a beautiful DorΓ© dress from Classic Ballroom Elegance. I will definitely write more about that soon and will also probably try different dress rental companies and tell you my experiences with each one.

That being said, for tanning, I decided to just lay out on my roof and I’ll be going to a tanning bed at Future Tan tomorrow. I’d have preferred to not have the UV exposure, but as I’m renting my costume, I’m too afraid of ruining the dress. Plus, my rental contract says no temporary tanning is allowed (which is reasonable).

For accessories, I’m having a set of bangle bracelets made by Ballroom Glitz by Nikki K! I would love to have a hair accessory as well, but maybe I’ll stop by the venue in the next day or two and check out the vendors and see if they’ve got anything like the aesthetic in my mind.

My dress arrived on Friday – gotta love two-day shipping! I’ll admit. I definitely was kind of afraid to touch it. I tried almost the same exact the dress at Manhattan Dancesport in 2012. The one I tried back then has an identical cut, it just has different appliques and decorations on it.

I tried it on and couldn’t stop smiling. I felt like a goddess in it! Then I decided to put my shoes on and practice a little bit, but kind of panicked when I saw a glass fringe on my floor. I’d heard of people not performing well because their costume didn’t feel good, but until I put the dress on, I couldn’t understand why that would happen to anybody. I also couldn’t get my mind off the cost of this dress – this particular one (and I know, like I said, because I’ve tried these dresses before) costs four thousand dollars.

The thought of that kind of paralyzes me.

So, Matt and I had a lesson (i.e. runthough) on Monday at Rogers Dance Center, so I brought the costume with me. I was happy to see his student there, Nanette, whose warmth I was quickly smitten with. She was so excited to hear I was going to be dancing this weekend and fawned over the dress when I unwrapped it, saying that it was gorgeous and I’d look beautiful in it and that she thinks I’ll do great.

Oddly, when I got to the studio, I was too shy to actually put the dress on, but Matt made me. “You need to get a feel for it and so do I,” he said.

I hid behind the garment bag when I put it on and came out of the bathroom. Obviously no one else was wearing a costume, so I felt like such a showoff! But Matt loved the dress and so did…well, basically everyone else. I got a lot of compliments.

Then it came time to dance in it. I immediately was so grateful Matt made me put it on, because if the first time I danced in it was at the comp, I would have been screwed. The dress is completely open on the left side and cut almost down to my ankle on my right – and it has a LOT of glass fringe on the skirt, so that adds a bit of weight. So I’m thanking my lucky stars (AKA my teacher) that I already know how the dress tends to slap around my leg. It’s a very strange sensation.

I made Matt stop dancing when I did a turn and the way I wrapped my arms pulled a fringe off. I started to panic and then he just was like, “It’s okay! It happens!”

Which is true – how many times has every one of us seen the floor clear after a competition round, leaving a boatload of rhinestones and feathers everywhere?

Something interesting that my teacher said: “The dress is long, so you need to dance long.” I didn’t know what he was talking about until he demonstrated. It meant I am going to have to really dance outΒ and stretch in all directions.

We danced our round, it felt like, at least ten times. Matt made small corrections here and there, but it was mostly “your posture and your feet”.

Like always. One of the times we were dancing our samba, he goes “Watch your shoulders” and I hollered, “You’ve been telling me that the past seven years!!!” He said bashfully, “It’s my job.” And then I almost felt bad for yelling at him.


Well, Matt and I are going to practice again on Friday!

And then we dance.

In honor, I leave you with two pieces of media.

One is this photo I took of Emmanuel and Liana the first time I ever went to Manhattan Dancesport, the first competition I ever attended, and the first dance couple I fell in love with!

Emmanuel Pierre-Antoine & Liana Churilova, Manhattan Dancesport 2012

And, because they are my biggest inspiration, here’s a video of them killing it in various competitions across the country!


Lesson 11: Run-Though, Lesson 12: BREAKTHROUGH, Lesson 13: Comp Burnout, and a visit to Miari

Hello, dancers!

Well, competition season is in full swing, huh? Yankee Classic and Colorado Star Ball last week, Millennium now week, Manhattan the week after! It’s exciting!

So let’s talk about these lessons. My teacher has been really persnickety with me lately. Not that I’m mad about it – I know that’s his job – but I feel like it’s worth noting because it’s important to learn the process. You know, road to competition and all that.

Lesson 11 was kind of a blur. I know I took down a ton of notes after it, mostly about the proper timing and styling of a Fan. He also made me practice jive kicks.

The juggernaut, however, was lesson twelve, which was this past Wednesday.

Oh, I feel like this is relevant. On my way to Port Authority, I got off my train at Penn Station and got myself a half dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts. In between there and arriving at Rogers Dance Center (a span of about an hour), I ate three of them.

I got to the studio right as my lesson was supposed to start, and ran in and saw Matt wrapping up a lesson with a student. I changed and did a quick few stretches, then as I was putting my beloved Aida Karinas on, Matt brought her over and introduced her to me.

“This is Nanette,” he said.

This lady’s face split into this huge smile that instantly gave me a warm feeling, like a hug from your favorite aunt. She shook my hand and said, “It’s nice to meet you, sweetie.”

I couldn’t deal. This goofy smile spread across my face and I said it was nice to meet her too. I loved her energy right away!

I went over to the barre to stretch for couple minutes while they wrapped up.Β Then Nanette sat down and Matt asked if I was ready. I peeled myself off the barre and went over to him.

Jumped right into the rumba routine and did a quick run-through of it.

“It’s good,” Matt said when we finished it. “Do it again.” So we danced the routine a second time.

I realized as she got up to leave and said goodbye to us both that Nanette had been watching us. “You’re just wonderful,” she said.

“Matt, she’s talking to you!” he was instructing me on something and didn’t hear her, so I hit him.

“I’m talking to you both!” she smiled. “Good night!”

My teacher was kind of delirious because he was getting really excited about all the upcoming events. He’d originally been stressed out until he realized everyone was ready for their respective upcoming events, so he was nearing the point of “giddy”.

We ran through all my routines a few times. He made small corrections here and there (FINICKY), and he said more than once “it’s good!”

This lesson was when I had my breakthrough – I had that “groundedness” again, that heaviness to my movements that’s such a huge part of Latin dance.

I’d started to get it before, back in April, but my teacher and I skipped a week, and I lost it completely. I’ve been afraid since then that I wouldn’t get it back before this competition, but miraculously, it’s reappeared!

Our most recent lesson was a couple days after the Yankee Classic. So, Teacher had danced with students all day Thursday and Friday, then danced Pro Rhythm with his new partner Nastia. They started in the quarter final, did the semis, made the final, and placed sixth!

Another thing is, I went to watch the Yankee Classic two years ago, so I know firsthand this competition runs very late.

So Teacher was acting funny. I very pointedly asked what was wrong with him and he told me “It’s the post-comp burnout.”

Me: “?”

He then explained to me that after a competition, it’s not unusual to be physically drained for a few days.


My competition is in nine days! I can’t wait. Matt and I are doing two lessons next week.

And then we dance.

I’m not even nervous at this point. I’m just excited! Of course, I’ll probably just end up freezing once I’m on deck…

Ah, I just wanted to give a quick shout out to Miari! They were having that two-day flash sale last week, and the dresses I was interested in were only in stock online in certain sizes. Even at just over $130, it’s still a lot of money! I just wanted to know the outfit would fit. So I found Miari’s Facebook and gave them a call. I got a call back pretty quickly and Susan, one of the owners, conferenced in Ariana, the owner we all know. We set up an appointment time for me to visit the showroom the next day.

So I hopped an L train and walked to the Green Desk building, where the showroom is located. Ariana came down to get me, introduced me to Klaudia, who works with her, and apologized for the state of the place, as they were getting ready to travel to Yankee the next day. It was adorable though; it was so nice to see racks upon racks filled with beautiful practicewear in different colors and finishes. Also, the Miari puppy was the cutest thing! I forgot her name.

Ariana was super helpful! She asked what I was interested in, pulled pieces for me, and then pulled the curtain so I could try it on right in there.

I tried on the black Carmen dress! I will say this. It was my first experience with “real” ballroom practicewear, and I was not prepared for how absolutely luxurious the fabric felt. The dress fit beautifully and I loved how snug it all was.

The only thing was, the dress I tried on wasn’t the dress I originally wanted to get, and I did mention to Ariana that I didn’t think the one I wanted was in stock. She actually sat at the computer and checked the inventory for me, just to make sure. What I really appreciated was that she gave me a few options, but there was zero pressure from her. That in itself made me want to come back and do business with her again!

I’ll end this with my biggest Latin inspiration…Anna Kovalova! Her performance with Justinas at the Emerald Ball last month was just outstanding. And I’m liking her new styling!

Blackpool, Lesson 10, and the Rediscovery of Breathing

Happy Tuesday, ballroom dancers! Did everyone have a beautiful Blackpool weekend?

How amazing were those finals?! We’ll talk about those in a second.

So, last week I had lesson ten with Matt. He’s mean and said he was going to do the following, but I was hoping he’d forgotten: we’d dance our round backwards. What that means is we’d start with jive, then dance rumba, then samba, then cha cha.

The only thing is, he perused our jive routine and marked it twice, adding some things along the way. THEN we danced it full-out three times.

My teacher has way too much energy. By the third time through the jive, I was pretty winded and my feet were killing me, which was only exacerbated by the rumba and the samba after.

The sad thing is, I’d always thought I was pretty decent in cha cha, but I’ve learned it’s my weakest dance; I kind of blur all the counts together so you can’t really tell what dance it is -_-

On the up hand, I’ve started running and although I hate it, I’ve learned something already: I’ve forgotten to breathe when I dance. I went through the DanceComp Review archives and happened to find this article: BREATHING in Ballroom Dance. It actually was really helpful – when I run, I find I actually have significantly better endurance when I breathe through my nose the whole time. I know when you’re out of breath, you tend to begin to pant and it definitely sounds counterintuitive to breathe through your nose, but it works.

So, Blackpool!

Riccardo and Yulia won Pro Latin!

Riccardo & Yulia, Blackpool 2017 Pro Latin Champions

Stefano and Dasha were runners-up. Dorin Frecautanu & Marina Sergeeva, in their debut as pros, came in third.

OOOOH, also, Riccardo and Yulia got married in Italy yesterday!

They look so happy! I hope they have a lifetime full of bliss together.

Pro Ballroom was one of my favorite moments ever. Victor Fung and Anastasia Muravyeva, my favorite ballroom couple, won it!

Victor & Anastasia, Blackpool 2017 Pro Ballroom Champions

It was a really beautiful moment to behold. Victor shot out onto the floor and then collapsed, and Anastasia ran out to him. He and Anastasia had a very private moment in front of all these people, and I feel kind of honored to have been able to see it.

Amateur Latin was also won by an American couple, Fernando Iannaccone & Yulia Musikhina, won this. What made this final even better, and I feel like I’m not alone in thinking this because there’s been a huge outpouring of love over this all around the internet, is that Austin Joson and Nino Dzneladze made this final – and not only that, they placed fifth! It’s amazing and well deserved – they are both incredibly talented and work very hard.

Okay, okay. I have a lesson tonight and have a couple things I need to get done before that. I leave you with this video of Justinas and Anna’s incredible rumba show at Blackpool:

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.

Lesson 2: Rubik’s cube and tell me: How about these kids?

Happy Monday, dancers!

I still can’t believe it’s already 2017 and that it’s already March. A lot of awesome competitions coming up, huh? Hopefully I can at least go watch some of them πŸ™‚

So, last week was a change of scene! For my lesson with Matt, I jumped on a bus and went out to Rogers Dance Center in Hackensack.

…in New Jersey.

I’ll be honest; as a born-and-bred New Yorker, I’ve spent my entire life talking a lot of smack about New Jersey and everything associated with it. It came back to bite me in the form of really gross water that I had no choice but to drink. That was totally my fault, though, I got distracted by a clothes store in Port Authority and forgot to buy a bottle.

Anyway, I hopped this bus. Matt was so nice, trying to make sure that I understood the travel directions. I mean, I just got on the bus, entered “Rogers Dance Center” on my phone, and stayed on it until Siri said I reached my destination. As it was a thirty-minute ride, it would have been very difficult to screw up.

So I got to this studio and couldn’t stop giggling. It was way bigger and much nicer than I expected. I got there almost an hour before my lesson was to begin, though, and I didn’t know he was already there, so at first I just sat in the waiting area and did some timid stretching. Then Matt said he was upstairs and I went to check. He was indeed upstairs in a lesson with someone else. I stuck my head in and said hello, then instead of going in there and practicing, I just spent the time in the upstairs reception area stretching for half an hour.

Okay, okay, it was probably counterproductive, but I didn’t want to interrupt!

I stayed outside and watched the last, like, three minutes of this lesson, while they danced salsa, and was marveling at how well this student followed him. LOVE IT.

Then I continued to stretch until I saw they were done. I went in the studio and Matt introduced us to each other. We all chatted for a second, then started our lesson.

“Any questions?”

Me: “What am I supposed to do during the progressive rock?”

My attempt at clarifying that one step turned into a complete dismantling and reassembling of my samba routine. My teacher picked the entire thing apart, so now every single step of it is completely clear.

I don’t know why this is, but the way Matt teaches samba, it’s way easier to understand (and do!) than anyone I’ve ever learned it from before. And I’ve done it with a good amount of people (eight, off the top of my head).

After samba was said and done, we hit rumba. We didn’t get through so much of that routine! We were ironing out some kinks with different ways to do back breaks and ways to style different figures. We did a Cuban rock and Matt nearly had to snap my spine in order for my back to move at all. I thought it was just because it had been months since I’d taken a stretch class, so I don’t have the same flexibility I used to. Nope.

“Sometimes you hold your center so tight it’s difficult for your body to move around it.”

I can’t even tell you how upset that made me! I never even had a center before and I’ve spent a lot of time trying to create one in preparation and now I don’t know what to do. I later complained to my best friend, who danced for most of her life, and she said, “I can see what he means. You alternate between being not centered and too centered. I can tell because your shoulder blades lock really tight.” Then she told me to think of it like a Rubik’s cube.

I’ll figure that out later.

A good portion of the rumba part of my lesson was spent finangling my back breaks. It was an assault on my hamstrings and the center of my back. It’s insane, though, how many different ways there are to do this most “basic” figure.

Well, my lesson last week was canceled due to that snowstorm. I didn’t even get an extra day off. Oh, well. Matt and I are going to be working together again Wednesday! I’m looking really forward to it.

On a more or less completely unrelated note, an old friend of mine just tagged me in this video.

I haven’t yet been able to embed it here, check that out. Here’s a picture, presumably from the same event:

Antonio & Maria Rosaria

Antonio & Maria Rosaria

I have mixed feelings about it. I know this is quite normal in the ballroom world, but then again, I didn’t grow up in the ballroom world so the little girl’s outfit (and probably the boy’s too), combined with her movement, puts me off a bit. On yet another hand, I’m impressed by her (their) spunk! I guess it’s a separate division from when the little girls wear the long-sleeved dresses and frilly socks under their shoes? What do you all think?

Also, is anyone watching Dancing With the Stars? I think my DVR is still set to it, but I still haven’t decided. There’s no Derek, no Mark, and no Karina. On the other hand, I love Sasha and Emma, both together and separately. Emma is a sweetheart and a total class act and Sasha is vastly underrated as a pro.

I’ll report back with what I end up doing.