So in the previous article, Preparing first choreography … What?!?, I describe the process of preparing for the first choreography to be performed at a dance competition as a solo. Well, my wonderful instructor and I did perform this luscious Tango and I do have to say that it was one of the most rewarding (and terrifying) experiences I have encountered in my life. Now you have to understand that it wasn’t the kind of thing that I could mentally prepare all day and then perform. No, this was smack-dab in the middle of all the other dances we were dancing in the competition. So after performing all of our smooth dances (Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot) as well as a good number of our rhythm dances, it was time.
I quickly retired to the changing room to put on my very fitted costume. The shirt was official competition style… buttons in the crotch and all. The pants were also competition style where they didn’t hide anything. So then I went back to the ballroom to wait for our time.
Once the time came, I took my position and my instructor took hers. I’ll be honest… once the music started, it’s really all a blur. I do know that I didn’t see any of the audience during it. I was so in character that and into the dance that I could help but have tunnel vision. It must have been good, though. The entire section from our studio were on their feet giving honest applause and recognition. One fellow dancer said that she actually cried. Now, for me it’s not about the awards or accolades. If I can actually move someone with my dancing then I know I’ve won. And now I’m hooked on performing choreography.
Shortly after the competition, I acquired more choreography (this time a Rumba).
Let’s see if I can pull that one off…
OK so it’s been a good while since I’ve been back in here. I promise to post more since there’s so much that’s going on in my world of ballroom dancing. For this post, though, I wanted to discuss a phenomenon that happens to gentlemen that engage in ballroom dancing. So we’ve discussed the social and personal benefits of ballroom dance: better self confidence, better cardiovascular strength, and the sharper mind.
What I’ve noticed over the past few months is another remarkable value with ballroom dance: a chistled male ballroom dancer’s body. You’ve all seen what I’ve talked about. It’s the slender body that has rock-hard muscle. And gentlemen, this body does make women go a bit nuts.
So why does ballroom dance create such a physique? Well, if you think about it, you use muscles you would never ever use otherwise. I’m talking about every aspect of the core. Since it’s your spine that drives moving in ballroom rhythm and it’s the strength and consistency of the frame that drives ballroom smooth, a man’s body starts to strengthen these certain areas and the physique is born.
Then you go one step further. Especially in rhythm dancing, you start to isolate hip action, core and rib action, all while keeping your top line straight. This again works all of those muscles from the 6 pack to the obliques to every muscle in your back.
So gentlemen… as if you didn’t have enough reasons to get into ballroom dance… it will make you look fantastically sexy… and the ladies love that!
That’s right folks. I am preparing to do a solo with my crazy awesome instructor to choreography that we had developed for us by one of the Arthur Murray professional dancers. If you have been following this blog for any amount of time whatsoever, you will recognize that this is nothing short of a miracle. When I think of the fear I had when this dance journey began, it’s amazing the progress I’ve made and the self-confidence I have built to even be able to approach this as a possibility.
So how does this choreography thing, work, anyhow you may be asking. Well, the studio invites the pros in for coaching sessions and you can use that time for whatever you choose. Some use it for technique critique, others use it to fine tune choreography they’re currently working on, but by and large people use this time to craft new choreography for future solos. This is exactly what I used this time for (my wife did as well and got an amazing Rumba routine). My poison was a dramatic Tango. My instructor found some great music from Cirque du Soleil. Cirque du Soleil is a great place to start when you’re looking for music selection because this music is made for movement and has some very nice hard beats.
Since we had the music selected, the pro worked through her process, listening to the music and really getting the feel for what would look great within my abilities (ok, we stretched those abilities considerably but nothing I can’t handle). So, yes there’s a good amount of what I’ve learned already with a bit of pazazz thrown in, but there’s also a lot of what I term “true dancing” or at least steps that make me feel like a “true dancer”. There are moves that you would see on any dance show that graces our primetime television experience. So, effectively, taking this step is really the start to some hyperbolic growth.
As of now, we have made it about halfway through the choreography (45 seconds worth) and I have mixed feelings about the progress. Certain areas are going really well and others I’m struggling with. My instructor tells me to trust the process and she’s pleased with the progress. All-in-all, I’m very excited about this new part in the journey.
Something pretty remarkable has happened with my dancing.
A little back story first.
I have been so freaked out by remembering routines, flubbing up technique, and just generally needing to become a better dancer that I have made it a point to go into the dance studio when classes/lessons aren’t in session and using the space for practicing. I have also bumped up my private lessons and group lesson attendance. All of this extra effort has caused me to gain a reputation around the studio as that dedicated student. It also has made me a better dancer, apparently. I know this because there is one student that has started to look up to me as an example of how to get better as a male dancer.
This is pretty amazing. This person in question has the same dance instructor as me and she told me that my progress is causing him to work harder/try harder. If you are an avid reader of this blog, you will know that this is definitely a milestone for me. It’s also a crazy responsibility. I’ve made a point to take this guy under my wing, impart whatever knowledge I have, and generally give him as much support as I can offer.
An interesting side effect is also that I am now trying harder because of all this. Effectively, I don’t want to prove him wrong. I want him to continue to look to me as a model and example of what progress looks like. So I think that the two of us are going to work off of each other and just get better in the process.
I’ve said it before, but the social dynamics of ballroom dance is deep and complex. This is a new wrinkle in that dynamic. I am no longer the newbie that is just trying to get my steps right to music, but I am now an intermediate level dancer that is not only getting the attention of female dancers, but also new male dancers as well. This is all unfolding as I prepare for my next competition in October.
Let’s see the impact it makes…
So I guess I took the summer off from posting, but I am now back in full force. The past 3 months have seen amazing growth in my dancing. In that time, I have solidly positioned myself as one of the better male dancers in the studio. I know. If you’ve been following this blog at all, you will know that my dancing is riddled with anxiety and baggage from my past. There’s something about competing (and having a rock star solid instructor) that moves you past the anxiety and into a place of pride and conviction.
Over the summer, I participated in a friendly competition with another studio. Now, I’ve done this before, but I was only competing with my wife. There’s a comfort with that. Even though you are more exposed by dancing with a fellow amateur, there also isn’t the perceived judgment. I say perceived because after going through the experience, not only was there no expressed judgment, but going through something like that makes your dance relationship much stronger.
So I dance the majors (Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot, Rumba, Cha Cha, and Swing) twice (once with my wife and once with my instructor). Then I danced a West Coast Swing and a Salsa with my instructor. Those last 2 I had never danced before.
So the last time I finished one of these Team Matches as they call them, I was energized. I told my instructor my ambition of wanting to be the best male dancer in the studio. This time around, I was even more energized. I told my instructor that in addition to those goals, I see a long exciting dance future with her whatever shape that takes. I think she was excited about that. I know I am. I guess at this point all this crazy stuff is becoming a true passion of mine. Crazy.
So, yes, what a summer! We’re preparing for a new Showcase in October so stay tuned for those updates.