Monthly Archives: May 2012

Sometimes getting up early has its benefits.

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Eggs? Check. ISTD Latin books? Check. Coffee and free wifi? Check. Happy Wednesday!

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Team Crystal AB Alert!

Oh my gosh you guys, Swarovski has an INTERACTIVE COLOR WHEEL on their website that tells you what color rhinestones are compatible with each other. It’s like the greatest thing ever. In order, it now goes:

  1. Swarovski rhinestone color wheel thingy.
  2. Sliced bread.

Using this whatchamacallit, you get a main color, harmonious colors, contrast colors, and a pearl color.

So. If my main color is Peridot (which is BEAUTIFUL, I used it on another girl’s dress and I still am, har har har, GREEN with envy):

then apparently my harmonious colors are Lime, Olivine, and Khaki:

and my contrasting colors are Rose and Fuschia:

(Apparently my pearl color is Crystal Light Green Pearl, which is of zero interest to me. I say, who cares, buy a gross of AB and toss it on there. Peridot AB is pretty stunning.)

 This is a fun toy to play with – plan out your next stoning project!!

P. S. Note to other members of Team Crystal AB – I seem to recall a pink smooth dress that is pretty close to this color combination! Throw in some topaz and it looks like a big winner.

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FAQs on practicewear.

I recently ended up dropping about $400 in upscale practicewear for a showcase (a lady student and I need to wear the same thing in a two-couple Viennese waltz routine I’m choreographing), and I thought I would offer some thoughts on the subject (pictured below, Dance America’s D7 Short Draped Back Dress, available online through DanceShopper.com).

Q: So what the hell is practicewear?

It’s basically expensive-ass ladies’ clothing (because honestly, the men either wear their Latin pants or they don’t) designed for ballroom dancing, made out of the same expensive-ass materials ballroom costumes are made of. It tends to come in basic, solid colors (black, purple, red, blue, etc.) and is intended to stand up to long wear, travel, washing, getting shoved in the bottom of your dance bag, sweat, and still enhance the shit out of your movement when you wear it.

Q: I am a bronze 2/3/4/silver/open championship level/world ranked dancer. Do I need to buy practicewear?

Nope! You’re cool. You can totally practice in anything you want. When I don’t give a shit, or at the end of the day, my go-to practice outfit is a pair of stretch yoga pants from Old Navy and a tshirt from Target. Total cost something like $30.

Q: Okay. But couldn’t I just buy some flattering separates in black with some spandex or stretch in them at the mall and call it a day?

Sure! You look pretty. Do whatever. It really doesn’t matter.

Q: I still don’t get it. This is confusing.

That’s not really a question, but still. I hear you. Look, this is the situation: ‘practicewear’ is a stupid name. It should be called, “entry-level” or “basic ballroom costume wear”. Because you are not, unless you are absolutely built out of $100 bills, going to be wearing this stuff to practice in every day at the studio. You’re going to wear it (as a student) at a showcase, a fancy ball, a competition, a session with a coach. These are your ballroom church clothes.

Q: Ohhhh. Okay. That makes more sense. But why is it so expensive?

Well, the first issue is the material – most upscale decent practicewear is made out of four-way stretch lycra or poly/spandex or what one manufacturer (Chrisanne) calls ‘dancecrepe’ – basically a high-quality stretch material designed to stand up to the demands of pretty tough usage and still look fabulous. The second issue is the amount of material. If you are buying a short Latin/Rhythm dress, you may think that it’s not a lot of fabric, but odds are that the skirt is cut on the bias to make it twirl better. Check out that DanceAmerica dress on the left – it’s carefully draped, has a three-tiered ruffly skirt, and a cowl back. It’s a lot of fabric for the length dress it is. That fabric usage is only intensified when you get to long skirts for Standard or Smooth – often they are are eight or even twelve panels of fabric, with inset godets or flares. All of which is designed to make you look super cool when you turn (and it does!) but that’s a lot of fabric. You’re also paying for the construction – these garments are designed to not ride up or shift around or look bad the first time you start moving.

Q: Do I have to wear all black all the time?

No. You don’t. But I do. Because it looks nice. Don’t hate.

We all know that dancers wear black INCESSANTLY. There are a couple reasons for this. (1) It really does make you look thinner. It is not magical, okay? It will not somehow convince anybody that you are a size 2 if you are a size 22. But it helps you look your best at the size you are. (2) It unifies your lines. If you are colorblocked out (like you’re wearing a red shirt and black pants or something), that will cut your lines in half and make it tough to see what you’re doing. If you’re wearing all black (or all any color, but see #1) you will present a much more continuous picture and make it easier to focus on how the lines of your body look. (3) If all your clothes are already black (hi!) then you might as well stick with what works. Seriously, you guys, I am looking at my clean laundry, and it’s an entire basket of black. Well, black plus sheets. (4) If you wear all black, you can put any accents you want on top of that for easy changes. Tango? Toss a red flower in your hair. Samba? Get some neon bracelets. Waltz? Wear a floaty scarf. DONE. Practicewear! It is versatile. Do yourself a favor and buy shit that you can wear for multiple things and in multiple incarnations.

Q: I wear a size 16 or up. Can I wear any of this shit?

Maybe! It is a bullshit reality of the world of dancewear that much of it is designed around the body of a relatively small woman (probably in the 5’3″ – 5’6″ range, and between a size 0 to 4). Don’t take that personally. It sucks for tall girls, it sucks for really short girls, it sucks for bigger girls…. basically it sucks for pretty much everybody.

Nevertheless. Here’s the size chart from Dance America for the dress above:

 

I would say Dance America, because their sizes run a little big anyway, is probably is your best best for larger sizes. And bear in mind that all dancewear is incredibly stretchy. So there’s a lot of give there. But the flip side of stretchy is that, well, it might be stretched pretty tight against your body. So please please please wear correct foundation garments – either dance pants/dance trunks or something similar, and a supportive bra. It will make you look infinitely better and you’ll be able to focus on your movement and not whether your skirt is flipping up too much.

If an XL is too small, then there are some other options. eK clothing is a company that does casual dancewear; their line is aimed at salsa and club dancers, so it’s priced and constructed accordingly. I will say that I have bought pieces from them that are perfectly fine, and I like them – but I would not wear them to a session with a coach or out on the floor to perform. I would wear them for social dancing, which is what they’re intended to do. The super cool thing about eK clothing is that they do offer some of their dresses in plus sizes, up to 2X or 3X in some designs. They also tend to run large and have a lot of stretch. They also have a great returns policy, so the safest thing (because the sizing can be inconsistent) is just to order a whole shit ton of stuff and try it on, and send back what doesn’t work. I have this dress, and I love it. I wear it pretty frequently, and it’s stood up pretty well, although the fabric is quite thin.

Q: Well, shit. I don’t have $200 for practicewear. My lessons are expensive! Can’t I buy the same design on eBay from a shady operator in Hong Kong and save myself some money?

You can. But you’re an idiot if you do. There are a range of good, high-quality designers who retail here and in Europe, and most of them are readily available online. The shit you buy on eBay is half-assed and has no guarantee of quality – you might come out okay or you might come out with something completely horrendous. Not to mention the fact that the eBay retailers are ripping off designs and presenting them as their own. That sucks.

If you want to buy practicewear (and again, you don’t need to!) sink the money into a quality garment that will actually fucking last, flatter your body, enhance your movement, and make you feel like the special fucking snowflake that you are.

Q: Jesus, okay! Relax already. So can you tell me about these companies/designers you like? And how do they fit? I want to buy some practicewear, maybe, but I can’t try it on.

I’m relaxed. I’M RELAXED, GODDAMMIT. Anyway.

If you want to try stuff on, you have two options – order it online from someplace with a generous return policy and keep what fits, or wait until you are at a sizable competition (something along the lines of Emerald or USBC, or maybe even Desert Classic) and then go see the vendors.

Okay, companies – in no particular order, here are some observations on my experiences with major practicewear designers. Bear in mind that most of these companies (with the exception of Dance America, which I don’t think does real costumes, although I could be wrong) also design and sell actual costumes, so you’ll hear their names frequently.

  • Dance America: retails a wide range of practicewear (skirts, tops, dresses, and even a few pairs of pants) in solid colors. They change out their colors seasonally – this spring they have a tangerine that I absolutely love, and a few seasons ago they had a really stunning royal blue. Their line is pretty universally flattering. I have seen it on ladies of all sizes and shapes, and because it is heavy on the draping and the ruching, it generally looks pretty great on everybody. I myself own several pieces by Dance America, and I have been really happy with the quality and longevity of all of them. I wear my clothes hard, and I throw them in the wash on cold with Woolite Black and let them air dry, and they all look just as good as when I bought them. I will say that Dance America’s sizing tends to run big, in my experience – probably buy a size smaller than you normally would UNLESS you are buying a full-length dress, in which case stick to your normal size. They are cut a little short for my tall ladies, which sucks. I have, for example, the skirt at right in black (although I have a slightly older model of that skirt, I think – it used to be called the ‘Orchid skirt’ or something like that) and I am short (5’4″) without heels. If I wear it so that the ruching sits at my hips, the thing comes down right to the ankle (pretty much the same way it fits on the model). For a lady with longer legs or a longer torso, it would be a little short.
  • CHRISANNE: a couture ballroom design house from the UK, Chrisanne sells practicewear but their mainstays are costumes and dance fabrics. If you are ever making your own dress, you really cannot do better than ordering Chrisanne fabric. It is absolutely top end stuff. They have a ton of basics in a limited range of colors (mostly black, white, and purple), and have recently begun bringing in designers to do lines of themed practicewear that can be quite fun. They are a relatively conservative house, design-wise, but their pieces are classic and will never go out of style. Their fabrics are lighter than your standard dance fabrics – a thing they call ‘dancecrepe’ – but don’t let it fool you, that shit wears like IRON. I bought a practice skirt from Chrisanne as my very first ballroom thing, back in college in like 2002, and I still wear that skirt three or four days a week to teach in. It still looks fantastic, it’s lost none of its stretch, and the only issue I have is that Chrisanne doesn’t even make it anymore. But it’s a lot like this:

  • DSI London: Used to be called Hearn & Spencer, Ltd., but changed their name in 2000 to DanceSport International, Ltd. Another UK-based retailer, they do the full range of dance supplies (fabrics, shoes, trimming, accessories, CDs and DVDs, books, and of course practicewear for men and ladies). They do couture and custom costumes, and their practicewear line is not quite as extensive as that of Chrisanne or Dance America, but they do offer some designs that are less commonly found. I just ordered this skirt, which I think is beautiful, and I’ll let you know how it works on the floor. I also ordered it for my student, so I’ll pass along her feedback as well.

Q: Where can I buy all this stuff?

The best place is Danceshopper.com. I can’t say enough about their fantastic customer service! Just awesome. Do be careful to note the in stock availability of what you want, as well as shipping times – not everything is always ready to go all the time. But if you have any uncertainty, just email them and they will get right back to you asap. They offer free shipping on orders over $99 (which, honestly, all dancewear is) and a 30-day return policy. Yay Danceshopper!

Q: A lot of this dancewear looks the same.  And, Christ, it’s ALL BLACK. I know that’s a thing, but seriously. I feel like Morticia Addams. Where should I go if I want to stand out from the crowd a little more?

I would head to Espen Salberg or Santoria, two other design houses (in no way related) whose designs I like but from whom I have yet to buy anything. Espen Salberg’s collections tend to be more adventurous in their cut and construction, while Santoria’s push the envelope by showcasing a lot of bold prints (although, because it’s ballroom dancewear, everything is usually available in black as well). I will say that my impression is that both lines are not necessarily designed for every woman. Many of their pieces will probably work  well if you look like the model, but otherwise, perhaps not so much. A company like Dance America is definitely aimed at a broader demographic, whereas these guys (both in price point and in design) seem less interested in retailing to that wider market. But again, I haven’t worn any of their pieces myself, so this is pure conjecture.

I think that both of these pieces below (halter top by Espen Salberg, dress by Santoria) are super cool – I like that they look different!

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Doing all the jobs = bad idea

So, dudes, I haven’t written anything for like a week and a half, because I have been totally swamped at the studio. Our management team was gone for some managerial stuff out of town, which meant that running the studio was my job. In the week that they were gone, we had two major events, a visiting coach/judge, staff checkouts and exams, and student checkouts. It was INSANE.

I have learned that I can actually not do 100% of the jobs at the studio AT THE SAME TIME – in addition to running everything, I was in charge of making sure new students were being properly taken care of, shepherding our guest judge, taking a pretty intense round of professional exams for the next level of certifications, and, of course, teaching my own students and preparing them for their checkouts.

I have a bunch of things I want to talk about, but I’m on the road right now for family business and I have a crazy early flight. So I’ll just say this briefly: I am really excited because even though last week was a MESS, I think I have maybe got a mentor in the industry now. I need to set things up with this person a little more formally (and indicate that I will be more than willing to put my ass on a plane to come out and do coaching) but I think it’s a go. Yay!

Also: I am going to order these beauties from England and try them. I don’t know if they can live up to the super high standard of my beloved Ray Rose Blizzards, but I’m excited to try them. How stunning are they??! Ray Rose Drizzle, I ❤ you.

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Aleksandr Palmerovitch

An American solution with a Russian flavor!

I taught my first lesson this morning at 9 am and finished my last one at 11:30 pm. That is a LONG day of teaching, and my feet HURT and my patience is GONE. By the time I dragged my ass home all I could deal with was a hot shower, clean sheets, and a cold drink. But I haven’t gone shopping in forever for anything except produce (I am doing this whole clean eating thing, whatever) so I had to make do with what I had around the house.

Today was hot, and I like vodka, so that pretty much led me to invent the ALEKSANDR PALMEROVITCH, aka the SASHA PALMER (a lethal Arnold Palmer with enough vodka to satisfy a Russian and enough refreshing bullshit to satisfy an American).

Recipe!!!

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• One (1) plastic cup

• A whole bunch of Absolut Mandarin vodka (go ahead, a little more….)

• Crystal Light lemonade drink mix until you don’t mind how much alcohol you put in

• Unsweetened iced tea to fill up the rest of the glass

Seriously, you guys, this is fucking DELICIOUS. And it is going to knock you on your ass. But, on the upside, it’s citrusy and summery and not even that bad for you (thanks, Crystal Light powdered drink mix! Why have I not combined you with delicious vodka before now?!).

It’s like dinner, only made of adult beverage.

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TANSTAAFL

TANSTAAFL – There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch

I was talking to my personal trainer this morning at the gym and we were comparing notes like we often do: how many clients do you have this week, do you have any breaks to eat, are you working the weekend too, are any of your clients crazy right now, etc. He and I have similar structures in that we both work as employees of larger enterprises which we do not own (he’s at a big national chain of gyms, I’m at a studio) and we see a variety of clients mostly one-on-one. Both of us are paid a percentage (probably about 30% in his case, closer to 15% in mine) of what the client pays as his or her hourly rate, are expected to keep up with various certifications and professional qualifications, and are in what is essentially a service industry.

The big difference, as far as I can see, is the intense emotional component of teaching and participating in ballroom dance. Not to dismiss the fact that people get very attached to their fitness professionals – I am very fond of my trainer, and I was genuinely upset when the girl I worked with before him was promoted to another gym. But there is absolutely no comparison between that and the intense, visceral, and sometimes uncomfortably intimate situation produced in partner dance.

It is certainly the case that for most people who are not professional dancers, the level of personal contact and physical touch experienced through dance really only ever occurs with regularity in situations of sexual intimacy. It doesn’t help that most of the pretending we do in ballroom is about exactly those sorts of relationships – your brain is pretty much set up to get confused.

It shouldn’t be a surprise, then, that people feel betrayed when you ask them to pay money for that experience. It feels cold, and transactional, and like you’re getting hustled. (And sometimes you are. Please, please, please – ask so many questions and don’t EVER feel like you can’t say no in a given situation; see the brilliant deconstruction of The Spinning Dancer on this topic.)

I think we, as a profession, do a bad job of explaining what people are paying money for. And I think we do a bad job of educating our clients about how the business works. The sticker shock about the cost of ballroom is common – it’s a crazy expensive pursuit, no question about it. Private lessons aren’t cheap, and pro-am Dancesport competition (as an amateur) is, with the exception of really complicated scuba diving or high-level horse related things or yachting, probably the most expensive sport you can pursue.

I get that. I also get why people think it’s worth it. And let’s be SUPER clear – professionals don’t make much money. Yeah, competitions are expensive, but even top independent comps are hardly money factories, and certainly your teachers aren’t seeing that cash. The time away from the studio in teaching, the wear and tear on your body from dancing with a student, being ‘on call’ the whole time you’re there, the costumes, all that jazz – in a best case scenario, any additional money teachers make is from the extra lessons booked in the run up to a competition. I assure you that it is lo, many tens of dollars.

Stefanie, in a recent post about the cost of ballroom, asked the following:

By looking at the bill [for a competition], as a student, you may then wonder at the cost and ponder why, if you are paying so much, your instructor isn’t a millionaire, already? I mean, most professionals can’t demand $75 or more for less than an hour! That is significantly more than I make as a pharmacist!

Sure! I hear that, no question. But think about it this way – the studio may charge you $75/lesson but if the instructor is not teaching independently, then the studio pays him or her probably somewhere between $12-$20/lesson with the rest of that $75 going to overhead, paying for a receptionist, music licenses, insurance, etc etc etc. If a pro IS teaching independently, then of that $75, $10 or $15 goes to floor fees, more is eaten up in transportation (driving all over town to different studios to teach requires gas which is basically a thousand dollars a gallon these days), advertising (putting your name out there is not free) and the sunken time costs of teaching (editing music for wedding couples or showcases, lesson planning, continuing education under whatever syllabus you teach) that happen on your own time. At the end of the day, you probably aren’t netting a whole lot more than a studio staff teacher, plus you are responsible for generating 100% of your own client base. (Which is why I currently teach in a studio rather than independently; until I have a name, it’s a better deal for me by FAR.)

What totally blows about ballroom is that the price point is SO high and the barriers to entry are SO steep that only a small percentage of folks – those who are in possession of the disposable time and income such that they can pursue ballroom and not have to choose between that and, say, eating – can engage with that world. It sucks. I got into competitive dancing in college, when the entry costs were $30 a semester for as many group classes as I could attend, taught by a not-terrible independent teacher, and the chance to partner up with some other amateur college students and go compete. It cost me very little money, and I had a fabulous time, and I really enjoyed it. I had NO IDEA that the real world of ballroom did not function this way.

But the fundamental tension that pervades a lot of ballroom, in my observation, is the tension between the legitimate expenses of the pursuit and the emotional intimacy it generates. For various reasons, we think that associating meaningful and emotionally intimate experiences with money is transactional and tawdry – I’m not convinced that it is, actually, I just think that’s a cultural prejudice. The hard thing for a lot of people to work out in their heads is: what is this relationship that I have with this other person whose time I pay for, who touches me in a very personal way, who generates (on the floor) some pretty emotionally intense sensations? Are they a friend? A teacher? A paid escort?

We don’t have a great social category for this. I think maybe a combination of therapist + trainer + teacher is the best I can come up with. And there’s no question that good teachers feel great personal regard for their students and care about them deeply; honestly, it is not worth the terrible money if you don’t care about your students. But the relationship is always a little fraught. I think as long as both parties are aware of the potential complicating factors, and why it can sometimes feel a little weird, everything will be fine. (Again, a place where we as an industry need to do a better job of educating our students.)

But it is not always fine; sometimes it’s horrible. Another Emerald Ball story: I was meeting some friends for a drink at the bar, and we needed two seats. There was one open, and one with a lady’s bag in it. My friend goes, excuse me, can we take this seat? and an older lady who was clearly a few drinks into her evening told us very high-handedly that NO, another lady was sitting there and she is coming BACK (in the tone of, and you can go fuck yourself very much). This lady, obviously a pro-am student, was there with another student or two and their instructor, a nice guy who looked like he was maybe 28. He jumped in to manage the situation, pointing out gently that they could all move down a few seats and everything would be Totally. Fine. His tone was placating without being irritating, and I thought, this poor boy, he has been on duty all day and here he is still having to cater to these ladies, I bet he is TIRED.

So when they moved down, I looked over at him and he and I locked eyes and he knew that I knew the situation. I just smiled at him and tried to put a whole lot of, hang in there, tiger, you’re almost done for the day in my look and he soundlessly moved his lips and said, thank you and went back to his students.

Look, that’s not the typical experience of pro-am. But it happens. And for every wonderful student that you have (and there are a lot of them, and I am sure I am preaching to the choir because if you are reading this then you are NOT LIKE THAT HORRIBLE LADY) there are those who require higher maintenance and more managing. It is exhausting, for real. And it sure as shit is not worth the bullshit money you get paid.

All of which is to say: there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch, my friends, and I don’t care which side of the student/teacher fence you’re standing on. The question is, is what you’re getting out of it (in whatever form) worth what you’re paying (in whatever form)? If it is (and for me, right now, it is), you keep doing it. If it isn’t, or the bullshit threshold is too high, go do something else.

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Congratulations to me…

…on not buying a $3800 smooth gown even though it looked SO GOOD when I put it on. So, listen to this.

I was at Emerald over the weekend watching some friends dance and of course I was shopping. Now, a year or so ago I was at Emerald and I don’t really remember what I was wearing, it was random, I looked like a normal human. But I got the coldest fucking shoulder from everybody. Here’s one conversation that occurred when I was looking at costumes a co-worker had asked me to check on for her:

Russian Dress Vendor: Vat you are looking for?

Me: Oh, I’m just browsing.

RDV: Ya, zis dress, is too small for you. Much too small.

Me: I know that, I’m looking for a friend of mine.

RDV: Hmpf. Well, ve don’t have in your size.

Fuck you very much! By contrast, this year I rolled in with my ballroom hair and makeup and in I’m-not-competing-today-but-I-could-be evening wear, best defined as a combination of ballet-inspired clothing mixed with slutty accessories. (My boots were really working overtime in the slutty department.) I still got the obligatory look-up-and-down by most of the randoms who rolled by, but this time instead of blowing me off, the Russian girls gave me fake smiles and the dudes at least got out of my way. Which is ballroom for, you belong here.

The nuttiest thing, which actually made me feel a lot of different feelings, was that I was able to pull smooth gowns off the rack and try them on and they FIT. And fit pretty goddamn well, too. (One fit so well that I was on the verge of dropping four grand that I do not have to buy a dress I do not need for a style that I don’t really compete seriously in. Which should tell you how cool it looked.) I think it was more the sheer privilege of being able to try on costumes and not have the dressing room panic of, this will maybe not go over my ass or figuring out what lie I would tell the salesgirl about why I didn’t like the dress when in reality I was just too big to put it on. My feelings, in no particular order:

  1. Holy shit, I have to try on this dress.
  2. Oh wow, I can actually WEAR this dress.
  3. Wait, this dress is actually TOO BIG and that is why it looks a little weird!
  4. It is BULLSHIT that these dresses are so expensive.
  5. It is DOUBLE BULLSHIT that they come in such a small range of sizes.
  6. Oh my god, that little Latin dancer is literally half my size. Like, if you cut me in half in one of those magician’s boxes, one half would be equal to her in both height and mass.
  7. OMBRE OMBRE OMBRE OMBRE SILK IS SOOOOOOOOO PRETTY.
  8. ProTan is the shit, because I shellacked my skin like two weeks ago and I still look hella tan, and it’s faded really evenly.
  9. Should I buy this dress which will be worth more than any other possession I own, including my car? YES IT IS SO PRETTY.

And that’s the deal. Beware excessive fake tanner – it goes to the brain and may cause uncontrollable costume purchase. Thank God I had a buddy who was Rescue Ballroom trained, and she was able to pull me out of the vendors’ area in time and put a drink in my hand, which restored me to reality.

It was pretty much like this.

So I didn’t buy the dress, which is good, because I don’t have the money, but it did feel pretty cool to pull a dress and try it on, to be not blown off by the salespeople, and to have had the option. (The converse of that is, WHAT FUCKING BULLSHIT that I was ever blown off in the first place.)

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Rejection!

I just got turned down again by another prospective partner. This happens a lot. (Like, a lot a lot. Like, literally a total of zero people want to dance with me professionally. That feels pretty much like shit.*) It sucks every time. At least this time the dude was nice about it (to be fair to him; to be fair to me, he blew me off for like two weeks and then was nice about saying no, which is still an uncool way to go).

When life gives you lemons, draw an angry face on one because it will  totally make you laugh.

It’s better than the time a dude said, sure, let’s set up a tryout and then texted me the morning of said tryout, saying, sorry, but I just now bothered to look for a picture of you on the internets and now that I’ve found one, well, don’t bother driving over… 

Getting rejected is part of the business. You get turned down all the time. Students tell you no, prospective employers tell you no, people booking jobs tell you no. But also sometimes they say yes. I am really hoping that eventually someone in the partnering department will say yes.

At least I am getting better about putting my shit out there. I used to be a seventh grade girl about it, swanning around being hurt that nobody was asking me. Now I straight up proposition people. They still tell me no, but at least now I’m not wasting as much of my time.

Uggggggggghhh, it still feels like crap to be turned down, though.

It’s amazing how this job finds all the things I am super insecure about and then just slams me over the head with them again and again.

I guess it’s cheaper than therapy?

* It might be less than zero, because at least a few people have expressed a desire to NEVER dance with me, even in the case of, e.g., aliens attack the earth and transport me and said person to their alien spacecraft and then blow up the Earth and all its denizens, leaving us as literally the only two ballroom dancers in the universe. Even in that situation: um, yeah, I’m going to just see what my options are? Soooo, no.

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On the dangers of having a good eye.

Ugh, dudes, I am trying to write about a thing that happened without talking smack, and it’s REALLY HARD.

So screw it, no context for you, sorry, let’s get straight to the take-home point.

The hardest part about dance – about any art? maybe! – is that your eye gets good faster than your body does. Which means, you develop an ability to see, critique, and understand what is and is not good dancing sooner (much, much, much sooner) than you can produce it yourself. Which SUCKS because then you look at your own dancing and recognize its shortcomings.

Ira Glass, in talking about creative work, exactly summed it up for me when he said:

What nobody tells people who are beginners — and I really wish someone had told this to me . . . is that all of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, and it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not.

But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase. They quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work…

It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.

He’s so right. And it is just really hard to not be overly critical of your own work, but instead to accept and applaud and prize the improvements that make the thing you did this time better than what you did last time.

I am terrible at this.

In the aftermath of some recent events about which you HAVE NO CONTEXT (but it really doesn’t make any difference at all), I’d offer the following essential points:

Take home point number one: There is only so much you can do at any one time. Your dancing is not perfect, it’s not gonna be perfect. Duh. Some issues (like if you’re, e.g., falling over or something) are more egregiously problematic than others (like if you’re also, e.g., not pointing the toe properly or something) but all of us have shit in our dancing we need to fix. It is extremely unhelpful to focus on all of that at one time. It results in the feeling that everything is terrible and nothing is worthwhile and you might as well not bother. This is SO UNPRODUCTIVE.

Take home point number two: Whether you are teaching or watching someone else or just looking at your own dancing, you MUST say something positive. You just have to. I don’t care if what just went down on the floor was a steamy pile of dance garbage, find something that is true and positive and say it. Then you can go into your laundry list of what could be better. But if you never acknowledge the things you’re doing well, you will just feel like crap and that will translate into your movement. Again, SO UNPRODUCTIVE.

Take home point number three: Plan ahead. You cannot fix things that are in muscle memory two days before a competition. You just can’t. When you get out on the floor, you will do it the way you remember it and your body is sooooooooo dumb. Also, do not allow an opportunity for someone to point out all the perceived deficiencies in your technique two days before. That’s the time to fix icing on the cake stuff – look up, smile, be pretty! Not central technical stuff. It just won’t happen and you’ll have that in your head distracting you from selling it, which is what you need to be doing. (SO UNPRODUCTIVE!)

Take home point number four: People respond to emotion, not technique. Yay for you that your leg action is perfect. That is awesome for you! But I promise that nobody cares. I truly believe that you can’t lie about who you are when you dance – movement is one of the most painfully honest things we do. If you can put something real into your dancing, then your technique, your dress, the fact that you may well feel like shit about your body lots of days out of the week…NONE of that matters. Because what people respond to is the genuine emotion. The dancing is just a vessel for that, an imperfect container. It will always be imperfect. But there’s a reason that I almost always cry at some point when I watch my wedding couples learning to dance – it’s not because they are talented amazing dancers setting the world on fire with their technique. Mostly they are pretty terrible dancers, because they’ve had like three lessons. But that does not matter to the audience, and it doesn’t matter to me. I watch a ton of dancing, and I am moved EVERY GODDAMN TIME, because that’s what real emotion does. That’s why we dance, yo.

P.S. Watch Ira’s whole thing – it’s really awesome. And he talks about his own work from the past the way I talk about my dancing sometimes – he’s all, “what the hell IS this? It is terrible!” and he’s right, it is terrible, but it won’t always be terrible. Which is something, right?