Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Odometer is About to get Half Way to 70...

... or so my Dad was kind enough to remind me earlier last week. :-)

My girls Salsa and ChaCha are ready to party!
So, my birthday is kind of a big deal. Not for anyone except me. My birthday is a unique experience to me, and I think your birthday should be a unique experience for you too! Even if you don't like to mark the day with a big public celebration, you should take the time out to do something you love, or be around the people you love, or try something new. Heck, do all three!

It's rare that I really promote Dr. Seuss, but in this occasion the man is spot on: "Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You." That should be true every day, but none so much as when your birthday rolls around.

So why, you may ask, do I make a big deal of my birthday? Well there are quite a few reasons actually...

First, is because it wasn't that long ago that I couldn't really see myself having many more birthdays. I really didn't have an eye on the future and one of the struggles I had as I hit my teens and twenties was depression. So I was almost surprised every year when my birthday would come around and I would feel like Whew! Made it another year! How the heck did that happen? For some reason depression has this big taboo around it as far as topics one might discuss, more so than just about any other topic. You know what though? Depression is a thing, it happens to some people, it happens a lot more often than you think it does because no one ever wants to talk about it. Since I have been maybe 27 or 28 I have become really good at recognizing when I'm in Depression's grasp and I manage to deal with it pretty okay, but that was not always the case. So now, I like to celebrate out loud that I'm here and I'm not going anywhere!

An Ornament from a family friend "Celebrating Adoption"
Another is because I am adopted. I am a proud, wear it on my sleeve, fly the flag if there is one, adopted kid. Don't get my description mixed up, the family I've been with since I was 5 days old is my family. I couldn't imagine feeling the same way about them for anyone else. I love the fact that fate landed me in the family it did, and my life is all that much more rich because of how and where I grew up. There is however a larger than small piece of me that needs to celebrate me. I am part of this wonderful rich family tree, but I'm not genetically tied to it. I need to take time out to recognize and be proud of myself because when it comes down to it... I am the foundation of my own family tree, or as I like to put it my family tree starts with me! 

Now this always brings the one question to everyone's mind.... "Did you or do you ever want to find your biological family?" My answer to that has always been that I am here if they want to find me, but I am not going to make any great strides to find them. Now, there was an opportunity that I kind of fell into (the details of which are too long and sorted to explain here) just after I turned 28 where I was one person removed from having a phone conversation with a biological relative. The goal was to see if I could glean any medical history about my biological family. This person, called a woman who would technically be my biological maternal grandmother and asked if my birth date means anything to them, and if it did, would they be willing to share any medical history information. The response was clear, "No the birth date means nothing to us, but there is no medical history to share, tell her that we do not want to be contacted." 

That was the message I received from this intermediary of sorts. Well hmmm.... It took a minute for me to absorb that. Basically I interpret that as being a flat out denial of my existence, and quite frankly that makes me angry. I am a strong, powerful, independent spirit and to be told that I don't exist really sticks in my craw. I wanted to yell it from the rooftops that "I EXIST DAMMIT!" So I make sure that on the date that I know at least one biological relative thinks of me, that I am off somewhere living it up doing something that makes me happy and feel alive.

My Tattoo Celebrates my Roots
A few years later, I was in the small town in Wyoming where I was born, with my Dad, visiting the doctor that delivered me and subsequently set up my adoption. We also spent time with this very kind lady who was the intermediary for that fateful message. I asked after that phone conversation from a few years prior and learned that the woman who might be a biological relative had since passed away. Thus ending any chance I will ever have in my life of ever being able to seek out any biological family. (long story, but trust me the lead is dead.) I'm not all that broken up about it, I just have even more reason to celebrate the person I've become.

Generally I insist on having a dance lesson ON my birthday, at least I did during the years of dancing because it is what really makes me feel alive and as previously stated many times it feeds my spirit. THIS year since my birthday is on a weekend and I have not even checked with Steve to see if Get On The Floor is open on that day, it seems I'm getting something even better! I don't know all the details, because some of my friends have taken it upon themselves to plan a soiree for me, but I know there will be dancing! I am continually honored and humbled by how good the people in my life are to me, I am indebted to them for the rest of my life.

The last big reason I make a HUGE point to celebrate my birthday is because it is the time that I attack what would normally be called "New Year's Resolutions". Only that always seems forced to me, and far be it from me to do anything the same way as anyone else! I take the time around my birthday to take stock in what I want to keep in my life, and what I'd like to change. I then attempt to outline a plan for how to make those changes.

Does anyone else celebrate their birthday in a similar manner?

This year a big thing for me is to work on Time Management, and to be extremely mindful of my eating habits (which generally means that I need to EAT, as I am not overweight because of over eating, but rather from lack of consuming enough calories and my metabolism is in a constant flux with starvation). In addition to making sure that I am mindful of my eating habits (I refuse to use the word "diet" because I think it comes with ugly meanings and nasty memories) I will start to make and reach goals in physical fitness, whether it be weight loss, or increasing my stamina, or both. I will see an improvement there.

If you made or are making promises to change in this coming year, what are yours?

Would you like to work on them together?

Next week I will write about the bits of dancing that have happened, I didn't have a lesson the previous week so there wasn't much to miss. And of course you'll hear about my birthday celebration. :-)

What is your favorite way to celebrate life? I'd love to hear it!

Don't forget, if you're in Chicago you can find me at Get On The Floor Dance Company, I'd love for you to come on by and join me in the Ballroom fun!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Fear and Loathing in Weight Loss

So I write about my loves and I write about my loathes and I write about my fears... always managing to hang on to one or two grains of me for myself. One can't possibly truly go all in right? Well...

So who out there is ready to lose weight in 2014? Anyone know what that really means for themselves? I'm not even really sure I know what that all means for me and this is my second time around on the weight loss mission.

When I think about this path that I'm back on, and how excited I am to be back on it. How I am grateful beyond words that not only did I manage to find my true love of Ballroom again, but it's managed to find me right back, I still have some reservations...

There is a lot of fear that comes with losing weight. Do you know what I mean?

There is a fear of not being able to be my same self, don't get me wrong here... I rather like who I am... I'm just not a fan of what I look like. There is a fear of not having the same people in my life. There is a huge fear of not being treated the same way.

Have you ever felt that way when you made a big change?

Here's what's funny about it, the way a fat girl is treated in public isn't nice. It seems the way a tall fat girl is treated can be a bit rougher than my petite counterparts. Although my theory is that I get treated the way I do more because of my shape than my actual size. I am not built with an hour glass figure, I can't wear an empire waist without looking totally pregnant, and if I wear a baseball cap in public someone will address me as sir at some point during the day. I usually describe myself as either "coming from good Polish peasant stock" or as an "NFL football player w/ a rack." In all fairness my size actually intimidates some people from treating me poorly, nothing like clamming up the idiots that may shout things at me at the mall because their dumb asses are actually afraid I might really sit on them.

But that's what I know... it's what I'm comfortable with, I don't know what it would be like to have that perception change. Ever since 7th grade I'm hesitant about hugging someone I don't know super well because I was constantly informed that it is disgusting to touch a fat person. (Remember, if you hear something enough... you start to believe it.) So what would it be like to be different? Admittedly Ballroom dancing helped me change that perception about myself while in the studio and amongst people I know, but this girl still doesn't get asked to dance much by unknown partners if she goes out to dance. It doesn't even offend me anymore, it seems perfectly logical to me that I wouldn't get asked to dance when there are so many other seemingly more attractive options. My head is on a constant swivel any time I go anywhere there is seating because I currently exceed the weight limit posted on some items like, outdoor furniture, plastic furniture, and anything that is inflatable, and even some folding chairs. What would it be like to not have to do that? I get paranoid anytime I share a two person bench with someone because I already weigh as much as two people, well I definitely did... and I definitely do weigh as much as two petite people now. Don't even know what it would be like to not have to worry about it.

I can't possibly be the only one that thinks this way right?

Hell... I've even broken my bed before... (I sat on one corner too often when changing clothes, but still...what do you think that does to a person's head?) .... Like how I explained that one out for you? I couldn't possibly have you think that I laid down in bed one night and the whole thing just fell through.. which has happened to people I know.

The rational side of me knows that a lot of what I feel is perceived is all in my head. On a logical level I know that, but that doesn't mean I can rationalize it out. Yet.

Does this make sense to you?

Much like Stockholm Syndrome a person becomes very used to the way things are, the way they perceive themselves in the world around them. With  something such as being obese, which is prejudiced against in a similar way to race, or sexual identities, or anything perceived as different, an obese person can actually change their situation. Well not everyone can, but some can and many have chosen to. But what happens to the way the person perceives themselves when the world around them begins to perceive them differently? I think there is a lot of catching up that has to happen.

What would it be like to go into a department store and have the sales people want to help me? The only place that happens now is in the stores that are designed around "people like me," or the establishments where I have set myself up as a regular customer.

I fear change, well not all change, I've actually worked at interpreting change to mean adventure and I really think those two words should be next to each other in the Thesaurus if they're not already. The change that comes with deciding to lose weight, or as I prefer to think of it, be more fit, and guarantee that my life is going to be different... forever... Yeah that ranks right up there with my fear of heights, and jellyfish.

I'm better prepared this time than last, I have more knowledge about my own body, more knowledge on nutrition, and even more knowledge on anatomy and physiology. I have an increased understanding of why people think the way they do and why I think the way I do. I had no idea what to expect the last time around, and I think I have a better team around me to help me out if I stumble, or lose my way. 

Having a team around you is key. Life changes can very rarely be successfully done all on your own.

If you're looking for a team, I'd be happy to join you in your big grand adventure. :-)

What scares you about change? What excites you about it?

I think I'm probably most excited about the things I'll be able to do as I get more fit. Like an hour long cardio work out, I'd like to do the splits again, I'd like to ride horses again at some point as well. I'd also like to be able to dance and wear my pro instructor out.... and not because he has to do most of the work. :-)

So... I'm scared, I loathe being scared, but I'm excited too... and blissfully most days the excitement trumps the fear. I want to be able to tell you that I'm just going to suck it up and move forward, and I will as much as I can....but there are going to be days that aren't that easy. Would you like to come along so we can cheer on each other?

Don't forget... if you'd like to join me in this big adventure and you're in Chicago you can find me, dancing with Steve, Franny, and the Get On The Floor team at Http://

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Video of the Week! Same Sex Ballroom Dancing!

Hello Readers!
So every now and again I feel like I'm a little ahead of my time... at least for my corner of the world. In October of 2009 I wrote about Same Sex Ballroom Dancing (SSBR) mostly because I had seen a couple audition for So You Think You Can Dance and I was slightly offended that the judges weren't more open to it. Quite honestly I can see how it may take a minute for the average audience member to take in the idea of two people of the same gender dancing ballroom, but for dance professionals it shouldn't be any big surprise that Rumba was dang good.

The first time I saw to men dancing Waltz together was back when I started ballroom. Two of the male pros from the studio I attended were practicing their following skills, because every professional should be good at both. I hope to one day be good at both as well, because it is a true mark or an accomplished Ballroom dancer in my opinion. Shortly after that I had a gay couple who wanted to take a guest lesson for me at that same studio, they told me to ask the owners if it was okay. (I thought it was silly to have to ask, who wouldn't want to have a shot at new students?) I asked and was informed that my friends would only be allowed to come in on Saturday when next to no one would be around, because a gay couple dancing may offend some of the more conservative clientele. Had I been older, or wiser, or bolder, or the person I am now... I would have held my ground against this level of discrimination. I was also informed that the pros would not be allowed to dance in same gender practices during open hours any longer for the same reason. I personally find this completely ridiculous.

Now in 2014 I am pleased to say that Get On The Floor Dance Company is one of the first, if not THE first Ballroom Dance company in Chicago to openly and proudly welcome couples of the LGBTQ community! I LOVE this about them! (I love this organization for more reasons than I can count, but this is one of the biggies!) I don't think it's at all right to deny any individual the joy of dancing, much less because they happen to love someone of the same gender.

There are lots of reasons why I actually really like to watch SSBR, the choreography is really interesting because the partnership can change leading and following roles and often do so very seamlessly. There have been many times I have gone down a You Tube rabbit hole of SSBR to study the lead/follow transitions. (Yep... I'm a total geek like that) If you go back to the original post on SSBR I'm also in love with some of the costume designs... yes, that is a man in an orange tail suit with floats. ;-)

Video 1 this week is from the World Championship Latin A Final Round of the worldOutgames that took place in Antwerp this past year. This couple is from the Czech Republic and took 2nd place. There was a couple from the US and they took 3rd. :-)

Not to be outdone, the ladies got their chance to dance as well! This is the International (formerly known as Standard) C Final (the letters refer to the age of the dancers competing) No lead/follow switching here, but still fun to watch.

So, if you're in Chicago, coming to visit, and want to dance... Get On The Floor Dance Company is the place to do it! Also.. I should mention that there is a SALE going on lesson packages RIGHT NOW through Jan 5th... The already affordable private lessons are now EVEN MORE AFFORDABLE! How can you NOT want to try Ballroom Dancing in Chicago now?? Click above, call Steve, 773-540-5901 tell him Kat made you do it. ;-)
Happy Dancing into this New Year!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!

2013 wasn't a bad year. Not really, I accomplished quite a few things, just not a lot of what I had set out to do... but then that's the way of things when one allows themselves to leave their authentic selves isn't it?

365 days ago I was a year removed from ballroom, but it was constantly at the forefront of my mind. I was still holding on to hope that I could be self employed without the aide of a real team. I was thinking about starting school. I was thinking about moving away from Chicago... to a small city that doesn't have a stitch of Ballroom dancing anywhere near it.

2013 saw me start and excel in College. It saw me become more knowledgeable about Nutrition than I ever thought was imaginable. I made it a full year without stitches or other major injury of some sort. (If I have a "great crash/fall/incident of 2013" that I'm missing, please remind me...because I can't remember a single one.) I joined a gym. I got to know myself probably better than I ever had before. It saw me begin new adventures, fall flat on my face, I got a few rugs pulled out from under me... but you know what? I live to tell the tales. I recognized that I CAN NOT live life without passion, and that I was meant to use my skills and knowledge to help others.

I didn't lose touch with many friends, even reconnected with a few old acquaintances and made a few new friends.

New Year's Eve marks the start of My Month... I don't have resolutions yet, because to start anything on New Year's Day feels very forced to me. I still have 12 days before my own personal New Year begins... :-)

However, one of my favorite things about being on this third rock from the Sun is when the world stops to celebrate. New Year's Eve and Day is one of those rare times when hope springs eternal and the world takes pause to celebrate the possible. Even though most resolutions are broken before they begin, the intention is there and for those that can hold on to it... they can transform themselves for the better.

I feel compelled to share my favorite modern day poem. It's one of those things I read often to put perceived chaos into perspective. The layout is my choice, the words were written by the forward thinkers at Holstee:
This is YOUR LIFE. 
Do what you love, and do it often.
If you don't like something, change it. 
If you don't like your job, quit.
If you don't have enough time, stop watching TV.
If you are looking for the love of your life, stop; they will be waiting for you when you START DOING THE THINGS YOU LOVE. 
Stop over analyzing, life is simple. 
All emotions are beautiful. 
When you eat, appreciate every last bite. 
Open your mind, arms and heart to new things and people, we are united in our differences. 
Ask the next person you see what their passion is and share your inspiring dream with them. 
TRAVEL OFTEN; Getting lost will help you find yourself.
Some opportunities only come once, seize them. 
Life is about the people you meet, and the things you create with them so GO OUT AND START CREATING. 

Making a fundemental change is not an overnight process, but it can be done. Take the journey with me... let's be inspired together. 

May your 2014 bring you everything you need, most of what you want, and allow you to be inspired for at least part of every single day!

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Get On The Floor Dance Event! How great can a dance company get?

Hey gang! Happy New Year!

New Student Rep with Franny and Steve
This past Saturday I was able to participate with Get On The Floor Dance Company in one of their events. Yep, that's right... this dance company is really revolutionary in it's offerings. They do events! What more could a social ballroom dancer such as myself, ask for? Not much else!

A Get On The Dance Floor event includes performances, DJ, a group class or two hosted by a professional, and there are sometimes some of us Get On The Floor students (known as New Student Representatives) that filter throughout to help get people "on the floor" and into this new to them experience.

This event was really special for Steve because it was his family reunion, so there was the addition of some video pieces and even a couple student performances! Personally I can think of no better way to spend my time than in a ballroom with 100+ people celebrating, and in most cases, introducing them to ballroom dance!

Some things that exceeded my expectations- how welcome we felt by Steve's family. I don't know that had it been my family, we would have had such eager participants. The talent of the Get On The Floor DJ... I was really impressed by some of his cross-fades and song choices! How smoothly everything ran - family reunion or no, once again Get On The Floor exuded professionalism and friendliness that I have come to expect from this organization. Also the venue we were at was nothing short of professional and the staff really enjoyed peeking in and watching our showcases!

I spent a lot of my time doing something that is ingrained in me, flying around the room and making sure all the "little things" were in place, in addition to dancing during the general dancing. I spent almost 18 years in theater and most of that was spent backstage running props, or stage managing and sometimes I just don't know what to do in a social setting if I'm not making sure the people I'm with are taken care of and having a good time.

Get on the Floor "army" for the Reunion!
My fellow Get On The Floor students had awesome performances, so proud of them! Steve and Franny performed their fusion number from a few weeks ago (and I got to see it this time! It is a LOT of fun and very creative!). To a crowd that was in complete awe. The energy in the room was excellent all night! Evenly spaced between performances Steve led Rumba and Jitterbug group classes and general dancing, and I was reminded why Steve does what he does... he's damn good at it!

After the show was over we had a couple hours of general dancing that was open to the public, I had invited some of my dance friends because this venue was probably the most geographically desirable to where we all live, one friend showed up, and we both enjoyed the general dancing. This particular friend is very knowledgeable in both Ballroom and Line dancing and towards the end of the night even led a group in a line dance I had no idea existed! I really felt like my following skills and stamina were at an all time high.  I was also pleased that my floor craft (I'll be writing more about floor craft and following later) was pretty good, I managed to avoid major collisions with all of my dance partners for the evening. :-)

The event ended just after midnight and I was so pleased to overhear a lot of the compliments Steve's extended family had for him, Franny, and the other performers. I received several compliments on behalf of the Get On The Floor team from the venue staff. You know it's a good event and great group of entertainers when even the venue STAFF, who does this kind of thing all the time, stops to pay the group your with several compliments.

So if you're in the area and looking for a new and innovative way to make your party special, let me know ( or contact Get On The Floor and make your event really a night to remember!

Woo hoo! New pic with the new Pro! (and we both look good after HOURS of dancing!)
As a side note... I got the one thing most dance students want for all their social media needs... A picture with my new dance Pro! If you troll around Facebook or twitter, you know who all the ballroom students are because nine times out of ten their profile pictures include dancing or their dance instructors (commonly referred to as "their Pro") I haven't danced enough to have a dancing pic yet.... I'm sure it's coming.:-)

Next up... what the New Year means for me, and in the meantime I wish you all the very best New Year's Eve!

Last lesson of 2013 - A little of this, a little of that, and the Big Ass Fox Trot Box

This past week had my last lesson of 2013 (I can't imagine I'll be able to squeeze another one in by January 1st at this point). There had been some good natured joking on my Facebook Page about what Steve could have in store for this lesson. Well after a really long drive (The Chicago Blackhawks were playing, which messes with traffic) I needed some time to chill before my lesson. I didn't realize I was tense about traffic until I arrived to the studio and all my muscles started twitching. (I don't like to run late and I was cutting it pretty close!) Steve was wrapping up his lesson and practice with one of the student performers for the upcoming Get on the Floor event.

After catching up with Steve and Franny for a few minutes and changing my shoes, away Steve and I went to the music machine where I was informed that I now have a binder. You may or may not remember that I don't care for my previous binder, I have never liked the binder. I don't even remember why exactly, just that any time the binder came out it meant a frustrating lesson. A binder also means that I'm officially at student with Get On The Floor... makes it harder to escape the reality I guess. (Don't ask me what that's all about... I sort of live my life by "I wouldn't want to be a part of any organization that would have me as a member.")

So Steve says that we are going to warm up with an East Coast Swing... Katy Perry comes on and we Swing away... no idea if I was doing the same things we talked about the previous week, and you know what... don't care... I was too busy having entirely too much fun! I think we made it nearly a full song and a half before my quads were over it (I know official dancers actually use their core a lot to lift their legs, my core doesn't usually cooperate and my quads end up doing all the work). I was actually really pleased with that level of stamina. It seems my old skills are coming back faster than I had first learned them. I read a lot about how former athletes can get back into shape faster largely because of muscle memory. While I have never been, nor will likely ever be considered an athlete, I can attest to feeling better faster than I did the first time I learned how to dance.

Next up... Fox Trot technique, and something Steve calls the "Big Ass Box". This is an exercise that largely focuses on American Smooth technique- 8 steps forward 8 steps to the side with rise and fall, 8 steps back, and 8 steps to the opposite side with rise and fall again. Hence, we've made a really large box. While working on this we discussed a lot about spine position and weight shifting. Which is where one really gets to learn about how dancing is not like walking, and how dancing looks really pretty and a casual observer may think it could be natural, however the actual proper way to execute steps are anything but organic to daily life. Also since I have a largely American Rhythm training I have to re-program some of the habits I use in Rumba, Salsa, Swing, Cha Cha, because American Smooth is a completely different animal.

Here's what I really liked about this technique, because I've been through it before, I remembered a lot of the answers to some of the questions Steve posed, and I've also learned to think about some of these things in a different way. My body doesn't remember how to apply all this knowledge in my head, but it'll get there. Unlike technique lessons of the past, it felt more like an almost peer to peer discussion. (Brave words I have to actually attempt to compare my dance knowledge to that of my pro yeah?) I think it's because with the technique discussion #1 Steve talks TO me about it and not at me or down to me, #2 I have done this before and I have been through many many group classes that discussed all of these things, so I actually may have something to contribute, I just can't execute what I'm discussing real well yet. My body and particularly my balance still needs to come back. You'd never imagine how difficult it actually is to dance a Fox Trot forwards or backwards in an actual straight line unless you've practiced... a lot.

While discussing the Fox Trot and working side by side on the Big Ass Box we also did some open position (facing each other holding hands) boxes. I don't know why but it is such a huge mental relief to have a dance partner in front of me. Maybe because I prefer to think that my instructor is not analyzing my foot position or the position of every other part of my body while I'm doing this. Just another one of those things that no one would ever think they have to overcome, until they start to dance!

Since the side steps were there we also discussed the difference between Fox Trot and Waltz, they both contain rise and fall, but even between the dances they are executed differently. Main things to remember when stepping forward and back is to push off from the weighted foot and keep the heel too the floor when stepping forward (known as a heel lead), lead with the ball of the foot on the non weighted foot on the floor when stepping back.

I have ALWAYS from the beginning of time had an issue with taking my feet out from under me. To have split weight when both my feet are beyond the center of my body is one of the hardest things for me to overcome because I do not want to fall. Even at my current weight (and this girl has dropped 10 lbs in 2 weeks) if I go down... I'm likely down for the count because my weight will work against me if I crash to the floor.

Speaking of... yep... in two weeks I've lost 10 lbs! You know what that means right? Yep... 40lbs per square inch have been taken off my knees! If you didn't know, and Steve had not heard this little factoid, for every pound a person looses 4lbs per square inch of pressure is taken off that individual's knees. My knees still hate stairs... but they are starting to love dancing again! I could already tell even while executing the Big Ass Fox Trot Box that my knees were markedly improved since my last lesson.

Once I received some pretty decent compliments on my forward steps in particular.... Steve said we were going to work on Rumba... to which I may or may not have made a snide comment regarding spending all the time trying to break my feet of their American Rhythm habits, only to work on an American Rhythm dance!!!

Now I have never claimed to be very good at Rumba, but for whatever reason I can't seem to pick it back up! It is NOT coming back as fast as the other dances and I have no idea why. It makes no sense considering how much time I had spent on it before. It's starting to really irritate me, there are some basic figures that my brain is reading as some other kind of lead and just not changing. I read a side step as a swivel or a open break as a turn... it's like we're not even speaking the same dance language. Anger... rising! I must work on this more, I have a sneaking suspicion it has to do with the Rumba Syllabus being the most noticeably different from the Syllabus we are currently working with. I did try to maintain eye contact during the appropriate spots, and during one basic step just Rumba box I almost started cracking up because Steve's Cuban motion (the way one is to move their hips during most Rhythm dances) was appearing in the lowest portion of my bottom peripheral vision.... it had been SO LONG since that has happened! It generally only happens when dancing with pros, as the amateurs don't have a pronounced Cuban motion for a long time. I decided to be a grown up about it and not actually start laughing... I'm really making an effort to not burn too much lesson time on hysterics. At one point it did start to feel a bit more like Rumba and I'm told my hips showed up to the party, but if they did, it was of their own doing... I certainly wasn't trying to make it happen.

We finished the Rumba and I thought the lesson was over, somewhat sadly resigned to the fact that I wouldn't get a Salsa due to lack of time. When Steve said I wanted to Salsa....

"Of course I want to Salsa! I ALWAYS want to Salsa!" Which is really totally true...

I asked for not a crack speed Salsa, and then Steve went and blew my mind... he chose a Taylor Swift song to Salsa to!
I'm kicking myself that I can't remember which one it was... but as soon as I heard it and ran a Salsa beat in my head in tandem to it... OMG IT TOTALLY IS A SALSA! I don't think I've ever danced Salsa to a non-latin artist before... Mind... Blown... and Salsa was danced! Steve has asked me a few times if I liked one artist over another and in my personal life for the car, workouts, cleaning, yeah I have favorites... for dancing... I don't really care. If it has a good beat and clean lyrics (or no lyrics is fine too) then I am happy to dance. Once the dancing really gets going it's more about the beats then the song anyway.

So as we're dancing and Steve is pulling out moves from places I didn't think he would remember, and I'm following things I never used to follow as easily... free spins, one of those under arm turns where I have to duck my head... Steve pulls out swivels...which I HATE! The only good thing about Swivels is that they are the best way I know how of getting my core to wake up and get with what the rest of me is doing... but there are oh so many reasons why I hate them! 1- can't do them without significant support from my partner. 2- swivels cause my midsection to jiggle and if it's one thing a girl with a mid section does not want to do it's jiggle! (yeah, you know... like jell-o shots... jiggle...ick). 3- my brain goes into an immediate war between keeping time and trying to not rely on my partner which makes that measure a lot less fun than all the rest. 4- sometimes my breathing becomes more irregular during swivels and it makes me tire out faster.

But... still trying to be an adult about it... I used to actually yell when swivels started... (just wait til we get to a left and right turning crossover break in Cha Cha.. I'm going to lose my mind... again)... I actually just try my best to execute and keep the comments to a minimum. There is definitely something different about the way I behave during these lessons... maybe I now truly understand the value of everything I'm learning and I'm really trying to push past the insecurities of before... I certainly don't want to keep hanging on to them!

Lesson ended with what was a really nice Salsa... I can't wait til we get to some of the more advanced steps I may still have buried in muscle memory somewhere.

So far... a few lessons in... and a whole new world... I am already more comfortable with Steve as an instructor and pro partner than I have been with any of my other previous pros... which I think is amazing and a real asset to what Get On The Floor Dance Company is trying to bring to the world of Ballroom.

Happy Last day of 2013 people! I'm going to be coming at you New Year's Day with TWO new posts! 1- about and event with the GTF crew and 2- about what this first part of 2014 means to me...

Keep your eyes peeled and your comments coming!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

I hope all that see this message have a wonderful Holiday Week, Merry Christmas to those who celebrate!

The Holidays for me are a time of great reflection and time with family. As 2013 winds down we should all look forward to what new and exciting adventures await in 2014!

I urge you all to schedule in time to find your passion, reconnect with your spirit and refresh your soul. I of course think the best way to do this is with Ballroom Dancing, or partner dancing in general really.

I wish all my dance family a peaceful and joyful celebration of love and friendship.

I know I'm making time this week to keep my spirit singing and you'll see me at Get On The Floor this week and at an event over the weekend.

I hope you all can find time to Get On The Floor this Holiday!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Inspiration From Random Places - "Life is a Banquet and Most Poor Suckers are Starving to Death!"

Hey there!
Welcome to the first in an ongoing series "Inspiration From Random Places" Where I will be posting about something that inspires me, past and present. Hopefully it will inspire you as you start your week to get on the floor, or even seek out what inspires you most!

So you know how hindsight is 20/20 right? How sometimes it isn't until you get through something that you truly find it's meaning. I actually have a lot of those things in my life and I'm willing to bet you have quite a few in yours too.

Since my last lesson I've had the quote "Life is a Banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!" running through my head. This quote is from the musical "Mame" and it is probably one of the most inspirational to me.

Back when I was 21, I was enrolled in a Chicago area community college and I had the best academic adviser. His name is Andy and while we never really talked about it, we were kind of kindred spirits. Now that I think on it Steve reminds me a bit of Andy, never made that connection before this moment. Anyway, during the year I worked with Andy and we stood firmly planted in each other's corners. (I as much as I could as a student) I had been inspired and motivated enough to land on a list of academic achievement. Which, even for as brilliant as I can sometimes be, is a very difficult task. To date, I have yet to get my grades quite as high as they were that year.

Anyway there was a little luncheon that was given for those of us that made that list and a surprise for me was that Andy was asked to give a speech about me and my progress. This speech now hangs on my wall and I try to read it as often as possible. (Well a copy of it does, I lost the original in the fire).

This first in the series of Inspiration From Random Places may be a little self serving, because I want to post it here now, but I want to let you know that chances are you inspire someone in your life the way Andy and I seemed to inspire each other. Sadly the semester after this Andy went to another school and was not brave enough to say goodbye before he left and I have never found him. I really felt abandoned for a while after he left because there was no closure, but he left me with this gift and one of my fondest memories:

"One of my all time favorite fictional characters is a character by the name of Auntie Mame. Auntie Mame's most famous line is "Life is a Banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death." Kat truly lives life as if it were a banquet. Her sense of humor brightens my day each time I see her. She knows how to enjoy life's rewards and challenges (even when it comes to taking a Math class). She enthusiastically approaches obstacles as a new challenge for her to prove to herself and others that she can succeed. When she creates these successes, she doesn't forget to celebrate. Lately, I have seen Kat celebrate more and more because she is creating these successes more and more. One thing I find most impressive about Kat is that she knows that it is okay to laugh and it is okay to cry. "

[Insert comments here Andy received from my instructors at the time. and a mention of my dream to be a theatrical director.]

"I recently asked Kat what she was most proud of. After a bit of humorous sarcasm, she got serious and replied, "I'm proud of myself for sticking to what I believe in, regarding anything, and never letting someone else change my mind." I believe Kat was saying that she holds her beliefs values and dreams like a rope and doesn't let go. This rope gives Kat her personal courage to push through fear and take chances. She knows that the wind can sometimes make the rope unsteady. When her beliefs values and dreams are challenged she holds on to this rope even tighter. She also knows that sometimes we all need help in overcoming these challenges, and she isn't afraid to ask for that help."

"Kat doesn't know this, but one of my heroes is William Shakespeare (I had gone to London that year and brought Andy a small souvenir from The Globe Theater, Shakespeare is one of my favorites too.) He is a hero of mine not because of his writing, but because, like Kat, he too stuck to his beliefs and never let anyone else change his mind. I would like to give this book of plays from William Shakespeare to you, Kat, and say "hold on to your rope and never let it go."

So that's it.... what I consider to be some of the greatest things ever said about me, to my face, IN PUBLIC and I was a mere 21 years old.

I did loose my rope for a while, and I wasn't living life as if it were a banquet. I let my spirit starve and my soul get lost. Until I found Ballroom Dancing, there have been days when I have read that speech and mumbled out loud "I remember being that girl, I don't know where she went, but she's not here."

Taking some of the best dance lessons ever helped me feed my spirit and find my soul very quickly and it made me realize that there are SO MANY other people who need to nourish their spirits and re-discover what makes them happy.

Now I read this speech, and aside from still getting a little teary at the end, I'm ready to grab my boa (Auntie Mame reference) and live life for the banquet it was always meant to be.

Will you do me the honor of coming along to be inspired with me?

Comments below and e-mail is off to the left, it would be one of the greatest honors in my life to help you to know what it is to sit at life's banquet and feast. You can also contact Steve yourself if you'd like, his phone number is listed right here.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Second Lesson... My First Love in Ballroom and Then There Was Tango....

....but not in that order... (it just sounded better for a title!)
Hey guys...another longer post here... and I think the lesson posts are going to end up being longer... (they were before as well, there is just SO MUCH that happens!) I'm working on a few series for shorter posts, and there are some VERY EXCITING things coming up in the next few months!

So tonight I had my second lesson with Steve at Get On The Floor Dance Company. I was really anxious about this one, not sure why. Perhaps because everything has been happening so quickly in this Ballroom world of mine. I still wrestle with all the good fortune that has come my way over the last several weeks (in general, not only with dancing).

I also brought a friend with me, not so much to dance, but so that I could reconnect her and Steve because she used to be his student many moons ago and from what I'd been able to gather both would enjoy catching up a little. Turns out I was right! So my friend visited with Franny and got an eye full of my lesson. I did my best to pretend they weren't there.

Steve opened by telling me he wanted to split my lessons 50/50 between American Smooth and American Rhythm. Well that's different! You know what else is different? I didn't fight him on it! I have a long sorted history of dictating what I work on, mostly because with my first few instructors American Rhythm was what they really loved to do, and since I always felt like it wasn't important for me to practice rounds as if I were competing and I always wanted my instructors to like working with me, I focused on what they wanted to focus on...which then made me much more proficient in American Rhythm vs any other style. I'd say I probably spent 20% of my time on the American Smooth dances, and least of all dances EVER worked on was Tango.

Not this Tango, This is one of my cats... Tango. ;-)
"Let's start with Tango." Steve states. Of course, Mr. Smooth dancer is going to pick that one... oy! "How do you count Tango?" He asks (now would be a good time for me to interject that I never really focused on the counts... I just feel them, I can pick out what can be danced to what piece of music, but I can't really put words to it anymore.)

"I can't count it, I can only spell it." (When newer students learn Tango they often learn it by spelling it in the tempo it's danced....T-A-N-G-O for Slow - Slow -  Quick - Quick - Slow. Funny how that works out isn't it?)

We briefly went over Tango and it wasn't a super close Tango hold, in Tango the partners are pretty much connected from the top of the frame down to their hips, and when the frame and hold is proper it can sometimes give a newer person the impression of almost riding their partner's leg, which can take a while to get used to. I know I had a BIG problem with it when I first started ages ago, but as long as I know my partner is more experienced it's not an issue. I am still in some respects a new student again, so the frame was kept a little more informal. (At least that was my perception, we didn't discuss it.)

Once around the floor so Steve could get an idea of where I was with Tango, and he broke it down further. We talked again about the promenade and how it's different from a Fox Trot promenade. More staccato, (sharper). Keeping my balance over the left leg as I come into and out of steps. It was a fairly decent round of Tango for me.

I would like to take this moment to highlight how exceptionally stupid I feel when I'm asked if I know how to count a dance, and it's not because I'm made to feel that way... it's all in my head. I studied piano for 9 years... so you'd think I'd know the answers to a lot of the musicality questions...but the catch there is I learned mostly by ear so I never really learned all the technical in's and out's. You might say that my talent was never honed into a skill. As long as I could feel my way through a piece of music my teacher never drilled me on the vocabulary around it. As I started to learn to dance, I fell into the same trap. (To this day I can't play a new piece of music without hearing it once first.)

We finished up the Tango portion of today's lesson with some fan step work. This studio has some narrow poles on the floor that are structurally part of the building. Steve wanted me to work with the pole for support... I don't know what it is... but when I'm asked to do a step on my own my mind goes completely blank. Like even the English language abandons me. This has always been the case, it did get reasonably better in my later years of dancing , but I probably panic about doing the steps on my own as I did when my apartment burned up. (Yes, it's irrational, but yes it's that intense.) To say all of that to an instructor when you have a limited time to work is not always appropriate so I usually attempt to walk though something with a lot of coaching and attempt to improve even more when in frame.

I'm pretty sure we settled that I was showing some small bits of improvement... I know Steve said I do actually move fairly well... which is something I hold very important. Steve also mentioned that he could feel when I was panicking during some spots in Tango... and I agreed wholeheartedly that yes there are some tense moments when I can't remember or feel what I'm supposed to do next, or I'm at war with anticipating the move vs following the move. (I'll have to tell you all about the difference another time).

I am also always concerned with supporting my own self and not being a heavy follow.  In short, while two individuals in a partner dance like Ballroom Tango appear to be relying on each other for support to stay vertical they are actually supporting their own weight and moving across the floor in sync. When I start to panic I start to lean a little on my lead and that can be difficult for him (or her, I've followed some female pros in Tango and it's the same feeling). It was interesting that when I mentioned this to Steve he said he honestly didn't think I was all that heavy of a lead, and it certainly didn't have anything to do with the fact that I am a heavier person. When I panic though I do tend to lean a little more. Huh... interesting. I know that the physical weight of a follow has no bearing on how "heavy" they dance with their leads... I just don't think it's ever been put in to words like that for me before.

The Smooth portion of the lesson over (it actually felt like it went REALLY fast!) Steve decided on East Coast Swing. Now East Coast Swing was my first ballroom love. Way before I knew Salsa was more than just a chip dip, East Coast Swing and I were best buds. My Mom used to jitterbug with me when I was a kid, and my Dad used to literally throw me around the dance floor to swing music during wedding receptions when I was little. When I learned East Coast Swing, it reminded me of all that (and who doesn't love a good Benny Goodman Big Band number?).

I can almost hear Benny Goodman coming out of this pic!
Once again Steve remarked how much more alive I seemed, and I reminded him that I have studied mostly Rhythm. So they come to me without hesitation, it's easier for me to "get into" the spirit of the dance on the faster Rhythm dances as well...They don't require as much muscle control for me at this point. After a nice little swing we talked about technique and I was once again asked to count it... All I could remember was the one instructor from years before describing the foot placement in the triple step as "little little big" and immediately I knew that I wasn't executing that.  I picked it back up again fairly quickly though. We also discussed the pendulum motion that the hips are supposed to do during the basic step and Steve noticed that when my steps got smaller my pendulum action improved. HA! I'll take it!!! What I didn't say, but thought kind of loudly, is that because I am a bigger gal it takes a lot more accentuation for most of the hip movements to look right on my frame. But hey, Steve was happy with the pendulum motion... I wasn't going to try and talk him out of it. (Especially since we'd done a couple of East Coast Swings at this point and I was getting a little winded.)

 At one point we were working on the under arm turn and how to execute it and Steve said that he noticed I really exaggerated the step before the turn and that it wasn't the correct way to do it.

"Oh yeah, I know..." I responded, "It's an old habit, I literally wind up to throw my weight around to complete the turn on time."

Steve then said he wasn't aware of that, mostly because he's always been a thinner guy, (mad props for admitting that he didn't know what it's like to carry extra weight...that's another first for me!) So I explained that I didn't think it felt different until the point where I start to feel tired, then I start to throw my weight around more for turning in order to execute the step. In reality I don't know what it feels like to be a thinner person either, because I've always had extra weight on one level or another. What I do know (and mentioned to Steve) is that I had gotten really good at executing turns, and I could stop on a dime at one point, but I never did it properly. Instead of relying on core strength I'd always used my feet and legs to stop. (Which actually may account for some of the ankle damage now that I think about it.)
I had some other really good learning moments though. I don't know if I've ever seen anyone else do what I do when I'm learning in frame...but then I've never spent a ton of time watching other people take lessons.

I'm very easily distracted by visuals... another person walking across the floor, the reflection in the mirror, other couples on the floor, the fact that my friend was on the sidelines, sometimes it's like the classic joke about ADHD which... oh look! A Squirrel!! I happen to have ADHD. :-)

So when I'm learning in frame I sometimes shut off my vision... I don't close my eyes, but that's a good learning technique for some. (One of this blog's most popular posts is about dancing with my eyes closed in 2007.) What I do is I cast my vision to the floor and I listen to what my instructor is saying, or maybe listening to the music, and I focus very intently on what everything feels like, from the lead to my foot placement and especially on what I'm being told to focus on.  When I do this I know I'm really learning... on an almost muscle memory level. I've been told I look angry...but I'm not focusing on emoting during this process either so my "thinking face" could be interpreted as "angry face" I guess. I caught myself doing it at one point, and I waited to hear something about it from Steve, other instructors have told me to stop, or asked what was going on, it felt like he noticed, but he didn't say anything so I just kept absorbing what we were working on. Personally I feel that I progress much faster when I do this... it's another one of those things that just happens and I don't really control it actively. So much about dancing, as you move past the basics, starts to come from an instinctual place. I'm pretty sure it's the part of the brain that doesn't get exercised in regular daily life.

Shortly after that great new/old learning feeling... the thing I like least happened... the one thing that sometimes happens when I dance an old step with a new partner... memory overload. Steve was leading a step that consists of walking back 3-4 steps in a cuddle hold, turning to face each other for some toe taps and then in the span of two beats of music this is what went flying through my head....

I remember this one, after the toe taps, RT wanted no flick, but I liked the flick, Largo wanted, nay demanded a flick, was that right or left foot? Right, it's in place of the rock step, wait...what? How did that go? Which one does Steve want? Okay wait, rock step or flick? What's it going to be? CRAP it's too late! 

Old dance memories that somehow had tied themselves in with the muscle memory of the East Coast Swing just flooded in like a tidal wave.

Nothing like being able to sensory overload yourself.  

I will work on figuring out where that all happens and see if I can't purge them all before my next lesson because they really wreck with my head.

After the 4 steps back pattern, we moved on to making my turn more sharp, which involved the war of anticipating vs being lead. I think my issue here was that largely any dancing I have done since the last time I had a swing lesson has been with fellow students of the art of Ballroom, and while some of them are quite proficient leads, the requirements aren't nearly as specific as when one might dace with their instructors or a more skilled partner. I know even I felt the improvement on that one.

Major bonus... some of that East Coast Swing... actually felt like DANCING... not sure if Steve thought the same thing, (it is very possible for this to feel very one sided especially when the partners are at such different skill levels) but I swear in there somewhere was some - not really having to think about it, just get into the beat and enjoy the connection between lead/follow, the music, and the dance...  Oh how my spirit sings when that happens!!! It's not anything that can be forced, you can't plan on it (at least I can't), and it's pretty rare.... in this case it maybe only lasted for a couple measures of music...if that... but it is something every single dancer should strive for. Yes all the technique can be overwhelming and all the practice can get tiresome...but it is so worth it when it all just becomes Dancing!!!

So, yeah... major ups and downs in this one... but strange stuff is going to happen. And awesome powerful things are going to happen too!

We were about to wrap up and I was thinking about Salsa, but the East Coast Swing had me pretty beat so I decided to let it slide... this time... Steve had made some references to how he doesn't let certain things get past him with students... ummmm... yeah... he hasn't met me in a more advanced lesson yet. ;-) While there are some things I am trying to change, like my level of complaining about dances I haven't really worked on. (I want to be an all around dancer this time through, instead of nearly exclusively Rhythm).

Then Steve said "Let's finish with 10 squats."
"Nope, can't do them."
"Come on..10 squats."
"Yep, nope, seriously can't do them, I can't bring myself back up once my knees have hit a certain angle."
"Okay..." he walks over to a pole "....4 - count ankle presses then."
"That I can get on board with, my ankles do need a lot of work."

So there we stood on two sides of a pole working on ankle presses... no idea how many we did not a full set... you know what sucks? I can already feel where my ankles are weakest. Adding those to my warm up or cool down at the gym.

Once finished, I went to the side of the floor and chatted with my friend for a second before Steve and I changed back into street clothes and we chatted for a bit. On the way home, my friend complimented me given how long it had been since I'd danced. Then she said something really funny:

"I got to see your legs! You never have your legs out!"

I couldn't believe that her biggest comment was about my legs (I had been wearing my Bonnie's Practice Skirt again.) "Why would I have my 'legs out' normally? They're so much narrower than the rest of me, I don't think it looks right."

I don't recall her response, and the way she said the above statement didn't exactly lead to a positive or negative connotation... Perhaps it was their highly reflective quality since I don't think I've worn shorts or a short skirt in a really long time so the legs are mighty pale. HA!

Either way, the lesson was good and challenging in ways I remember lessons being, I'm still at war with what I remember dancing like and I really need to work on stopping that if I want to progress forward. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Get On The Floor Debuts at Sterba's Holiday Showcase 2013!

Hey Everyone!
What an exciting weekend! Saturday had me all in a tizzy over my finals. Since I left Ballroom I have enrolled in college (affectionately referred to as "College...Round 2") online. I'm majoring in Medical Office Management, and this semester was rough! I had to finish by Saturday at 5:30 so I could be in the car to start work at 6:30. Well I spent HOURS laboring over Anatomy and Physiology II and Algebra I finals. I was exhausted by the time I got to work! I also tried to keep in touch with the excitement brewing at Get On The Floor because Sunday would be their debut at the 14th Annual Christmas Showcase hosted by Sterba's DanceSport. Work finished around 12:30am (ah Holiday Retail) and I rushed home to finish up some contact stuff before trying to sleep hard and fast to get to this new event, in a new to me location.

Steve and Franny our Get On The Floor Pros!
Most of you know me as a Ballroom Competition "Professional Spectator." A quick count has me attending over 50 ballroom competitions between local chain regionals and larger national stages like St. Louis Star Ball, Wisconsin State Dancesport Championship and even one trip out to Ohio Star Ball. Not to even mention the smaller independent competitions in the more immediate area like Indiana Dance Challenge, Chicago Harvest Moon, Windy City Open  and Chicago Crystal Ball just to name a few! Whew! This from a girl who has never set foot on the dance floor in a competition! I am a ballroom competition fan like some people are fans of sports teams. I love them because they remind me of Elizabethan Theater on crack... (excuse the term) Back in the day of Shakespeare people went to theater to see and to be seen and that is exactly what ballroom competitions are like.

Now I had NEVER been to a Showcase before! I had heard about them, and I certainly know what a showcase dance is. It's a routine performed by any combination of pro/am/student pairing or group. Generally much more theatrical in nature than a competition or DanceSport routine. They can involve props and be choreographed to music and they are largely a lot of fun! This was an event that was entirely comprised of Showcase routines, no competition, no judges, and as I would find out... very little whooping and hollering.

Prior to my arrival I made sure I was prepared as if I were going to an all day competition... I brought my snacks, a first aid kit, my make-up, safety pins, a change of clothes for the semi-formal evening, and my dance shoes of course! (There is always general dancing at some point). I know Get On The Floor had done some Showcase events in the past, but I never really talked to anyone about what to expect or what they did there.. so... I planned as best I could for every scenario.

I arrived at the destination a little late because my brain was wrecked from finals and work, but thankfully I didn't miss any of my new studio's routines. That would have made me feel really bad. Bonus of having a tall teacher, as long as he's standing... I can probably find him in just about any room! As I rushed to the table in my daytime outfit (competitions are generally casual during the day) I noticed that I was surrounded by folks already dressed in their semi-formal attire! Whoops.... oh well, I'll keep that in mind for next time.

Steve made quick introductions at our table and I sat for a few minutes trying to get the lay of the land. Our table was nicely located right next to the spot on the floor where all the couples were entering. That happens to be my favorite spot, because you get to see everyone as the come on and off the floor, and we were also close to the bar for later (my other favorite spot in the ballroom). There were a LOT of people there!!! I've seen competitions that had fewer attendees for sure! I spoke to Franny (Manager/Instructor of Get On The Floor) and we decided to head out to the changing room to work on some makeup. We had a bunch of time before anyone at our table was up.

While in the changing room, which was an actual room, with tables, coat racks, a mirror and water bottles and everything...(this event was top notch) and Franny and are discussing some things I hear one of the girls say "Everyone wants a Brittney Bump, no one can do a hair bump like Brittney." I knew immediately who they were talking about.... I look around and behind me is TNT!!! (aka Brittney Bartler) I chimed in, "Well there's only one Brittney I know that's known for her bump, hey Brittney!" We chatted for a quick second and we then both went back to our tasks...  Somehow that made everything feel more normal... I've had several discussions with pros while everyone is in various states of hair and makeup.

Back in the ballroom I find two of my friends that can only be described as members of my original (and still existing) dance family. I stopped by to say hi, they both dance with Brittney and were with her group for the day. I then went back to the Get On The Floor table because I'm in the process of establishing my relationship with them. For the longest time I was known as the student from Buffalo Grove, even if people didn't know my name wherever I went...they were likely to remember the studio I was aligned with... I now need to change that part of my reputation.

Steve and Franny put together a class act let me tell you. They had photo holiday cards, with favors for each participant at the table and Steve set up his tablet to display some of the photos and adverts he's been using to promote the studio. The event organizers also had favors for each guest. I was ridiculously impressed! Both my new studio and the event organizers know how to make each person feel valued for their attendance and participation. The Get On The Floor staff also provided some "cheer supplies" in black and white pom poms that I'm sure you'll see every time we're out now. It was tough to know when to use them though because the room was really very quiet. Of course one wouldn't really cheer during a Showcase as one would during a comp, but even in between dances it was tough to know if we were being the most enthusiastic or if we were dangerously close to the obnoxious line. Being that we are all helping to make a name for Get On The Floor we picked and chose our times to use them. I little later in the day the Owner of Sterba's (who was also dancing with students) noticed and encouraged us to use them... way to go folks! That's just the kind of noticing we want to go on!

I must practice dancing again, and I must practice taking photos of dancers too.
Our more seasoned amateur couple was first up for our group, they performed a really fun Rumba/Cha Cha, they have been dancing with Steve as their instructor since before he started this studio, in fact they had started out as a wedding couple (learning a dance for their wedding reception) and just kept it going. Which I think is AWESOME and they are dang good! As I got to talking to them it seems we have a lot in common with our general dance industry experience. I look forward to chatting with them more, and I definitely look forward to seeing them dance again!

Next up for our group was Steve with another of his more established students. They did a Viennese Waltz and it was lovely! This particular student has arm styling I really envy, and she moves very well, Viennese Waltz is not easy at all and they did a great job and making it look like it should... effortless. She clearly enjoyed herself and it will be fun to see where she takes her dancing!

This picture does not do this dance justice!
Our final amateur couple, was probably one of my favorites. They're newer and I LOVE new to ballroom people! They did a routine with both Steve and Franny where they started out pro/am the gentleman with Franny and the lady with Steve in what started out as a Fox Trot, but then as the couples switched partners the gentleman and lady together alongside Steve and Franny it became a sweet East Coast Swing. I loved it! I loved even more that THEY loved it! I had the opportunity to speak with the very kind lady a little later in the day and I was so pleased to hear she and her husband enjoyed themselves. I look forward to sharing the floor with them in the future as well!
The happy Fox Trotting East Coast Swingers!

Somewhere about Act 9 one of my original ballroom family had an Argentine Tango routine with Brittney, and boy did they smoke it! I can tell you that I have been dancing with and sharing the dance floor with this friend for quite a while and in the last year or so he has become a really good dancer and as I learned as he asked me to dance both a Bachata/Rumba and a little East Coast Swing a really fun lead!! I'm so proud of him! He's also the friend I flaked out on when we went line dancing, so happy to know my piss poor Hustle didn't keep him from asking me to dance again! (I unfortunately forgot to take pictures...I was too busy watching)

In between our studio's numbers were several other numbers... 11 acts of 10 or so dances each. Here is what is truly remarkable about the organizers. Over 100 of those entries were added in the last week before show date. This happens a lot in competitions and from a spectator stand point you're on your own as far as food and beverage goes, and it's kind of rough, which is why I always bring sacks and a couple bucks for water if I need it. Not with this Holiday Showcase! The organizer went above and beyond, in my opinion, to work with the venue to add butler style appetizers a few times throughout the day to make sure the attendees didn't get hungry... and they probably had to open the bar early too (not sure but generally the bar at these things don't open until close to dinner time). Class act through and through both from Get On The Floor and the event host Sterba's. EXACTLY what I'm hoping to continue to find as I re-enter the world of ballroom.

Get On The Floor students and staff (Yes, Steve's hair did change color!)
Towards the end of the day I ran off to change so I could be appropriate for dinner and came back just in time for salad. We all chatted for a bit about the day and how pleased we all were with how it went and it was nice.... I somehow got the spot next to Steve.. (again odd for me as the professionals in the past always sat at different tables from the students, perhaps to avoid playing favorites..but still, it was odd for me). Then Steve spoke a little about his teaching style and it's always nice to hear how an instructor/pro sees his or her job. Then, (I swear I didn't do it, I very rarely talk about this blog outside my original dance family) Steve brought up this blog.... yikes! He said some very lovely things about myself and this little (okay huge) running memoir. Then he turned it over to me, but I was really enjoying hearing what he thought of it... because that never happens in a public setting. I've only talked about this blog with the professionals in private settings and occasionally behind closed doors. So I said a little about why it started and where it went and why it and I are back. Then, as has happened in the past when people find out I write, there were some comments about monitoring what one is to say around me because it will end up in the blog... Have no fear friends, it won't end up here... it will end up in the book.*wink*

As dinner ended it was time for the pro show... I love to watch the professionals dance... (ahem... 50 competitions, all professional) Steve and Franny had some creative participation ideas for their dance from us, which I wasn't too sure about to begin with... but after showing up as such a class act all day I shouldn't be worried... but then there were red glow sticks involved. Hmmm... Then Steve started talking about the lights.... This was a standard event ballroom no different than any other and there were no custom theatrical lights.... but Steve kept talking about dimming the lights. As I was trying to figure out how that might happen I was suddenly tasked with the job of making it happen. I was informed that it was verified with the venue that the lights could be lowered for one routine... so off to the bartender I went to find a venue manager who could educate me on the lights. (Always be kind to your bartenders people!)

Turns out, the ballroom was actually two ballrooms with two massive light switch areas, one on each side that had about 9 dimmer switches each. Huh... okay I was going to need help or we were going to have to scrap it... I ran to find Steve just to verify because I was not about to ask one of the students that danced today to help me, it would mean that they would miss out on a good portion of Steve and Franny's routine... I found Steve, apprised him of the situation and he asked me to make it work... so off I went.

Have I mentioned how awesome my friends are? I quickly checked the program to make sure that my two friends wouldn't miss their pro dance and quietly asked if one of them would help. My twice dance partner for the evening volunteered and we went over with the venue manager how to dim the lights. I gave my friend the cue and we stood in our corners to wait. I can't tell you what the pro routines looked like because I just became the lighting director for "Silent Night/Light 'Em Up". (I'm told there will be a reprise in a couple weeks, I hope I get to see that one!) The Get On The Floor students and some of our table guests all had their glow sticks at the ready and when "Light 'Em Up" started I systematically started lowering each dimmer by about 50% keeping an eye on the other side of the room to ensure that my friend was doing the same. Steve and Franny had some light up accessories they really wanted to pop for this number! It was a fun idea! The students at our table gladly played their part and stood with glow sticks waving! As soon as I assured the video tech the lights would be coming back up at the end of the number it was time to bring them back up to full. One last pro routine number and the night had three more social dances in it before it was over.

I heard some very nice feedback from some of the attendees and I think Get On The Floor made a great first impression at this pretty sizeable event....I look forward to more!

(And thanks for sticking with me on this post... as I get back into writing I promise I'll get more detail in fewer paragraphs) :-)

Monday, December 16, 2013

Gym Time... Fitness Assessment! Dun Dun Dun..... The scary numbers are in... and published!

Hey there everyone! I just had a fabulous Sunday at my first Holiday Showcase! I am going to tell you all about it I promise! I just have a lot of information to process and I never did tell you about my Fitness Assessment which is just as important to this life as getting back on the floor is.....

So for those of you that are new here, a big part of what Ballroom Dancing does for me, and part of what I write about, is that Dancing allows me to put into perspective other things in my life that I generally tend to avoid... like... the gym, or really pushing myself during a workout, or maybe it's a fear of going to the clothing store to try stuff on because I know I'll hate what I look like. Or maybe I'll not approach someone I need to talk to. Since I had started Ballroom Dancing all of that became easier. When I stopped Ballroom Dancing...after a all got harder again.

So back to the gym... I belong to a gym...which I have dutifully been attending 3x a week. It's a very nice gym and as far as gyms go I really like it a lot. As a new member of this facility they offer a free Fitness Assessment that has to be taken within the first 3 months of membership... well my third month just started and I hadn't scheduled my Fitness Assessment yet. Why you ask? Because I didn't want to face the ugly truth of the real numbers!

A Fitness Assessment includes: Height, Weight, BMI, Flexibility, Hip to Waist measurement and ratio, Blood Pressure, Strength, and a Cardiovascular fitness test. Yeah...pffft... I hadn't really been on the scale since I joined the gym and THAT number was enough to keep me going to the gym, and pretend the scales weren't there. I was really close to my pre-dancing weight. I have some people in my life who like to occasionally remind me that they think my heart is going to give out on me at any moment (if you hear something enough you start to believe it) and I've done enough research in diet and nutrition to know that the rest of my numbers are not going to be good. Who wants to face that? DENIAL is oh so much more than a river in Egypt!

The same week I had my lesson with Steve, you know... last week. ;-) I got an e-mail from Z at my gym, he's a Personal Trainer and holds degrees in the things that really fit fitness minded people get when they want to do this type of work for a living. Anyway... he e-mailed to let me know that my time was running out and did I want to schedule. No, I didn't, but since I was back in the ballroom and Steve and I have agreed to get me back on the better path I thought better of it and scheduled.

I met Z at 9:45 in the morning... I... am... not...a...morning....person. And he was a cute little fresh out of college looking guy, this didn't improve my morning persona or my nerves because now... I felt old. My main concern when working with a personal trainer is that I be treated like a human and not like a fat human. Believe you me there is a certain way that overweight people get treated sometimes that would really just blow your mind. Z was very awesome about treating me like a human, who was there for her fitness assessment. :-)

We started with BP... high side of the normal range, but then I was nervous and I did talk through part of it. Then on to waist to hip ratio... I was brave, I told him he could tell me the numbers so I could keep track, I have been measured for things in the past and never once looked at the numbers. Well by default (because most people don't want to see them) he didn't show them to me.

I was really nervous... I kept talking, and then yelling at myself not to talk...and occasionally my inner monologue became my outer monologue (It's never good when that happens). Somehow through the course of it all I found out that his parents made him take Ballroom lessons for 2 years when he was in high school... the world needs more parents like his! :-) 

Next up height and weight... now I've been the same 5'10.25" since I was 16 at least... so I lined up against the wall, I tried to channel my inner dancer person and stand up straight. I was in stocking feet, and I made Z measure me twice.... because he had me logged at a full on 5'11"!!! Grrrrr.... tall girls have it kind of rough, and tall fat girls have it even rougher.... I do NOT want to be taller!! On the up side I'm pretty sure that it was the Ballroom that helped my posture which accounts for the height.

Next up... weight... now I was a little nervous.... although I know I'd lost weight... all of my jeans and pants had been falling off of me for weeks (once literally while I was coming up the outside stairs of my apartment and yes, there were neighbors to witness it!) and over the last month or so, anyone that didn't see me on a daily basis was commenting that I looked like I'd lost some weight. One never does really know if that's politeness or actual observation. So I got on the fancy pants scale and waited...

Here's what I'll tell you (and after having my weight printed in a national magazine once, and before that being on OPRAH with my Mom talking about sex, what I share now isn't quite as big a deal for me as it might be for you to see it) At my highest point this year I was hovering around 360lbs.... yep... well over the size of two people... I'm aware. When I started at the gym I was around 340lbs which is pretty much my start weight in 2006 when I started dancing the first time. I figured (because my pants falling off in public wasn't a big enough clue) that I was about the same, maybe maybe I was 330lbs. I have a terrible time, as do most women, losing weight around my middle... and that also happens to be where I carry most of my weight, so unless I see a big change there, I disregard the fact that my butt has gone completely missing as a sign of weight loss. So anyway... I'm waiting for this number and I'm prepared for anything he has to say... he asked me what my top weight was... I told him... he said (because I couldn't see the screen) "Well you're not there does 312 sound?"

I was off that scale and reading that screen faster than lightning... I'm not even sure how I got there... "No way! Are you serious? How accurate is this thing? Am I really two hard weeks away from the 200's? I mean don't get me wrong, that number sucks, but are you serious?"

So apparently I was 15-25lbs lighter than I ever thought (and Z was a little overwhelmed by my reaction).... huh... work and working out must agree with me right now. But I wouldn't be standing in this room with Z if I didn't know weight loss and overall fitness makes me a better dancer. You may think it's a terrible number, that you can't imagine what weighing this much would be like. You may even look at me next time you see me after reading this and not feel the same way towards me because you know this seemingly private thing about me...

It's a freaking number...get over it. A person weighs what they weigh until they decide to change it or it is changed for them via surgery or illness. That's all it is.

Next up in the Fitness Test was flexibility... no worries there I did the Sit and Reach in Junior High just like every body else... meh. I am good at increasing my flexibility. Then we did the strength test, I literally scored off the charts for my category... apparently I have sound reason for worrying about breaking things because I don't know my own strength. (Not really, the test chart has ridiculously low expectations.)

BMI was a good 20 points higher than I would like it to be at least.... but that part I knew already.

Cardiovascular Fitness... Me, a stationary bike, a heart monitor, and Z doing my BP every 2 minutes. The task was to keep my RPM's within a certain range as the resistance on the bike increased... also to tell Z how difficult I thought it was using some arbitrary scale on the wall. This was the easiest cardio fitness test EVER. Well I never got above a 3 in the scale on the wall (it was EASY). Basically my cardiovascular health is really sound (Z had to do the calculations twice because he didn't really believe it.) My VO2 level or rate is 50 (VO2 is a measurement of how efficient your body is at using the oxygen you breath in) he tells me 52 is considered excellent. Woo hoo!

Bottom line... because I asked him to break it down for me. My knees and whatever other joint issues I might have, are the only things keeping me from doing anything I want. And AND... just what every inherently lazy person like myself loves to hear.... "Wow, yeah Kat if you really want to see changes you're going to have to push yourself hard." Meaning... if I don't push myself in my workouts then I won't see much improvement because I'm already in decent shape.

Guess who hasn't been pushing herself in her workouts, and asked her new dance teacher to take it super easy in their first lesson... yeah... that'd be me.

Oy! This is going to HURT... I'm ready... I think... nervous as hell about sustaining an injury... another injury that is... the last one took almost a full year to really properly heal.

We'll see... while I will not be signing up with Z for training sessions... no room in the budget... he did say he was going to start looking for me more often in the gym...

Great... and that extra 3/4" with the bright red hair... yeah..that'll help me blend in for sure. *eye roll* 

This is when the inner monologue really helps... I don't want to go to the gym, but I do want to be better at ballroom, I want to be better at ballroom a whole lot MORE than I don't want to go to the gym... okay... I'm on my way to the gym.

That inner monologue right there is what got me to negotiate myself down 100lbs a few years ago.

Speaking of which.... time for bed for me...because I have to get to the gym... :-)

Next post up as soon as I can... Holiday Showcase 2013 - My Return to the Spectating Arena.