Monthly Archives: November 2012

Bring a friend.

Pierre Balmain working on a dress for Ruth Ford. I wish that this was the face I made when trying things on 100% of the time.

So you guys, here is some exciting news – I totally bought a dress! I was just sort of browsing and then I found an AWESOME and PERFECT and sort of WEIRD dress that I love. Added bonus? I got a great deal on it, and the designer is going to add a removable underskirt so it can work as a smooth OR a rhythm dress. Fabulous fabulous fabulous.

(Hey, wait! you say. Aren’t you having a dress made? What is up with that, Imelda Marcos Ballroom Dancer? To which I say, I am totally having a dress made, and it is going to be super awesome and amazing BUT it is my professional competitive dress which means that it is going to be not a lot of fabric? It is not really dancing-with-students appropriate, especially when you bear in mind that some of my students are like, eleven years old. Also a lot of people will change dresses between Rising Star and Open divisions, or even between semis and finals, and it would be nice to have that option. So in addition to my super serious professional amazing dress, I need kid-appropriate dresses that are still fun and awesome and could work on the pro floor too. That’s a high bar! But man, thanks for asking.)Yeah, so anyway, the dress-buying process made me think about all the bad choices you see on a regular basis in the ballroom world. It is unreal how many people wear clothes that do not fit or flatter them, or that do not highlight what they do well, or that emphasize the wrong thing, or that simply do not suit the choreography they are doing AT ALL. Like, on any given Sunday in a competition ballroom the bad choices outweigh the good choices by a landslide.

It also made me think about the amount of hot air that gets blown up your skirt…people will tell you that ALL KINDS OF HIDEOUS CRAP looks great, either because they are terrible at looking at things with their eyes, or because they don’t want to hurt your feelings, or because they would really like to sell you said hideous crap.

Oh my gosh, you look awesome! Wow! This ugly ass gray-green-brown is TOTALLY YOUR COLOR! You’re so pretty! (Give me two thousand dollars, please.)

Which brings me to my main point: my darlings, if you are trying to buy a costume, BRING A FRIEND. It is easy to get flustered or upsold or to think that something looks good when it does NOT.

But not just any friend. You need a very specific kind of friend. I am fabulously lucky in that my friend who is my dress buddy is a dancer, so she knows what will and won’t work on the floor, but she is also a brilliant visual artist, so she has just the best eye.

(Me: “Hey, is this the shape dress I am allowed to wear?” Her: “Dude, no, remember what we said about this shape skirt?” Me: “Ohhhhh right. It was yellow and sparkly, so I got confused.”)

Plus she’s been through the hassle of dealing with her own ballgowns and their associated bullshit, and we have worked on a fair number of dresses together, so we can figure out what dress modifications are and aren’t possible given our current level of dress-fu. (Nor is this her first rodeo; she is good at recognizing danger signs and pulling me out of the line of fire so that I do not, for example, drop four grand on a dress I do not really need.)

Another great thing about her is that she does not filter her reactions to dresses AT ALL. They are right there on the face. So I know if I have put on something wacky and awesome or something just wrong. (The moral of this story is that my friend is the greatest person ever and you are all sad that she is not your friend. I know! That sucks for you! She is a lot of fun!)

SO, when I was trying on dresses yesterday, the lady who reps the design house (who is also a friend of mine, and whom I’ve worked with on many occasions) was doing her job really well, which meant she was telling me how great I looked and how slammin’ my bod was and how every damn dress I put on was fabulous and looked amazing and could be altered to look even MORE amazing.

Which was confusing! I am easily confused by people saying nice things to me! Happily my dress buddy was there and could look over and go ‘eh’ or ‘oh, interesting,’ or ‘take that ridiculous fucking shit off right now’ with her face.

And when I put on the good dress, the dress selling lady was right in there telling me how awesome it was BUT THIS TIME my friend was like, oh, oh yes, this dress is a winner. And I believed my friend, because I knew that she was totally right and that she would not let me look stupid.

Thank you, Ballroom Fairy, and thank you, dress selling lady, but most of all, thank you to my dress buddy, who is the shit.

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Ask A Ballroom Dancer: The Unbearable Lameness of Partnering Edition

I am a Masters 2 Lady (meaning I’m over 50 ūüėČ ), married to a non-dancer¬† and¬† over the last 2 years have been trying to move up the ranks with relatively minor success, although I can dance, I think,¬†I have been having lessons with a proper dancesport coaches for 4 years now… In addtion to constantly training¬†new partners from beginner to¬†first and only¬†comp as so far they’ve all bailed¬†out on me,¬†I have been doing medals (up to¬†gold now in¬†all 3 styles – we also have¬†so called New¬†Vogue here [Ed: Australia], which is kind of¬†like smooth but¬†same choreo for all couples, dancing in a circle), so I can¬†dance with my coach and keep up the skill level.¬†I have done a few comps but not able to elevate cos have to go back to square 1 every time I find some guy that let’s me talk him into doing a comp – bahahaha!

Just wanted to check with you re: male dancers and their arogance/fragile ego syndrome – is it the same everwhere or is it only here where there are about 4 studios that train people for competitions and they all hate each others guts, which makes it hard for us dancers to find partners as you are considered to be unloyal, teachers constantly worry that you are going to take your money to the other guy…

Example –¬†yesterday whilst I was waiting for my lesson I was observing a male being coached – he was OK but nothing that spectacular. As he was¬†leaving¬†he said¬†good-bye and indicated that he might come in the next day for a group class – this is where my coach jumped in¬†with “Do you want me to tee you up someone?”… well he never “teed up” anyone for me,¬†all my partners so far although¬†not the best were¬†brought to the studio and the lessons by myself.¬† Getting cheesed off with this nonsense, I am quite a tough cookie myself but very bored with the same old routines that I have been doing with these dudes for 2 years now. I know that reasons is obvious – there isn’t that many dudes that want to do comps, however do the teachers need to encourage it and¬†let their heads grow so big just because they have a penis and at times no musicality or skill for that matter?

Despite my frustration I decided to take this current partner of mine (who cannot keep up the timing for shit) to the nationals in 2 weeks time, who cares, at least I will be able to dance!!

The other issue I am finding that¬†as a married person¬†my chances of finding someone who just wants to dance are even smaller¬†cos the dudes want the whole package most of the time, and only are prepared to dance what you want if you are into them…¬†The gay guys like to dance with each other, there are same sex comps here, there is only a couple of them¬†that I know that they dance with women in the usual dancesport comps. Would love to do coach and student or pro/am but nobody to dance with at my current studio, I think I need¬† to make some changes – again!

Just venting mainly but if you could reply that would be great ūüôā

– todanceornot

Yep. That is definitely some bullshit right there. First things first; change your frame of reference. As you know, BALLROOM IS NOT A MERITOCRACY. People make decisions about partnering for all kinds of emotional or irrational or stupid or just plain batshit crazy reasons that have zero, zip, nada to do with how well someone dances. So you basically have to accept that and decide to play the game anyway.

Is it the same everywhere? Yes. Sorry. The demographics of ballroom mean that you can be a super lousy dude and STILL have way more pull than a lady who is ten times better than you, whether you’re a teacher or a student. It’s some sexist bullshit.

So you basically have a couple issues going on:

  1. It’s really hard for you as an amateur dancer to find a good male partner.
  2. The studios in your town are fraught with petty infighting.
  3. You see men who are not as good as you being handed opportunities you would never get in a million years, and you are cheesed about that.
  4. The partnering issue is complicated by the fact that you don’t want to have to romantic involvement with any of the dudes, which means they either aren’t interested in dancing with you, or aren’t interested in dancing with ladies period.
  5. You feel that these dudebros are being special snowflakes and are way too fragile compared to your tough warrior princess-ness.

All of these suck in different ways. My short answer? This is why pro-am was invented.

Okay, long answer.

(1) It’s really hard for you as an amateur dancer to find a good amateur male partner. Yes. It’s hard for EVERY lady to find a partner, unless you are atypically beautiful or talented, and then you wander around saying dumbass things like, “I can’t understand why it’s so hard for you to find a partner!” which makes everybody want to punch you in the face. It’s even harder for amateurs because unless you are (a) under the age of 16, (b) in college, or (c) in possession of a spouse/girlfriend/boyfriend/whoever also wants to dance with you, you’re basically screwed. Sorry. I know it’s not kosher to say that, but it’s true. Is it possible that you will find a partner who really suits you as a regular amateur lady? Maybe! It is also possible that you will win the lottery or that my dressmaker will decide that my dress will be free this time because I’m so damn charming. Don’t bet on it.

(2) The studios in your town are fraught with petty infighting. Fuck these local bullshit studios; you need to jump up to the next level. Find the absolute best person(s) for what you want to dance (Ballroom, Latin, New Vogue, whatever) in Australia and figure out how to work with that person or people. Create and curate your own team. This is something that is workable if you are willing to put in the time and effort, and if you have the money to do it. You will probably need to travel, and you will certainly need to work with coaches who cost more. But if you are EVER going to find a decent partner, you need the best kind of dude available, and the best coaches out there are more likely to have a lead on that dude. If your coach does not support this, then you need to find someone who does. You should absolutely have a coaching team who encourages and pushes you to get the best instruction and opportunities that will help you meet your goals.

(3)¬†You see men who are not as good as you being handed opportunities you would never get in a million years, and you are cheesed about that. Yes. Yes yes yes yes yes. Do you know how goddamn much money I would make if I were a man in this business? It’s unreal. It is a contributing reason to why I am poor. I hear you. On the other hand, there is a lot to be said for making your own luck and remembering that you love to dance, rather than railing against the Dance Fates.

(4)¬†The partnering issue is complicated by the fact that you don’t want to have to romantic involvement with any of the dudes, which means they either aren’t interested in dancing with you, or aren’t interested in dancing with ladies period. Yeah…that’s one of the big challenge of amateur dancing. It can be difficult to find compatible partners at all, much less compatible partners who are looking for exactly what you are (just dancing, that’s it, thanks so much, go home by yourself at the end of the night). It might help you to be really clear about what your goals are exactly and what you will and won’t accept. By goals I don’t mean, “I want to find a dance partner,” but rather, “I want to place in the top three of my competitive age category at [some significant comp]” or “I want to practice at least three days a week with an acceptable human,” or “I want a warm body to attend coaching sessions with me.” Also, if you are really serious about dancing with a legit partner, prepare to get rejected. A lot. You are going to have to just ask people, cold-call style, “hey, so, you’re an awesome dancer, would you be interested in working with me? I am trying to [your goal].” A bunch of people will say no. Some will be dicks about it. But one of your gay guys out there is your best hope, Obi Wan Kenobi, and one of them may well say yes. But nobody is ever going to approach you and kneel at your feet and beg you to dance with them. Sorry! I wish that would happen, it would be really awesome.

(5)¬†You feel that these dudebros are being special snowflakes and are way too fragile compared to your tough warrior princess-ness. Yeah, well, maybe. Turns out that one of the sacrifices of partner dancing is the necessity of dancing with a goddamn partner. If your current partner can’t count, well, don’t just blow him off. You know the saying – don’t quit your job until you have a better one. Keep your off-time partner and figure out if you guys even have the same goals. You’ll both be happier if you’re clear about what you do and don’t want.

Here’s the reality of the situtation, honey bee: you have to deal with male dancers if you want to compete in straight competitions. They are a huge pain in the ass, they are sensitive as all get-out, the unfair advantage they enjoy has them all convinced that they’re God’s gift to dance, and that’s just how it goes. And hey, guess what? VIRTUALLY THE SAME IS TRUE OF THE WOMEN. You still need a boy. So either deal with the unfair yet constant realities of that situation and put up with some bullshit from an amateur boy, or pay a professional boy to dance with you. (He’ll have the same bullshit, but you won’t have to deal with it; that’s what you’re paying for.)

And don’t give up hope. There are some AWESOME amateur male dancers out there who are awesome solid cool dudes, and there are some great professionals who might work out as well. These dudes are real, and they are great. I’m sorry that the majority of dudes you’re dealing with are tools, but there are some excellent men floating around. You just need to find one. And you will! Start with the pros…they have websites, usually, so it’s easier.

I would recommend that you find a really good pro-am teacher and work with him to see if it’s even a sustainable option for you. There may not be one in your town, but I know that there are some in Australia, somewhere. (That’s specific.) Google that shit and look up the comps and see whose students are placing well. Talk to that dude. Pay him a shit ton of money to dance with you. Be happy that you are finally getting to focus on your own dancing instead of the other BS.

Good luck!

Have a question? Ask a ballroom dancer! Submit your questions in the comments or email to againstlineofdance@gmail.com. I can’t be much help on your taxes, legal problems, or math homework, but anything else should be cool.

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An open letter to the workers at my Whole Foods

 

Dear Employees of the Awesome Whole Foods That I Go To:

This Thanksgiving, I am grateful to you,¬†for being open on Thanksgiving Day from early morning to late afternoon. I feel terrible that you don’t have the whole day off, but I am so grateful that you’re there, because otherwise I would be bringing some very random food to Thanksgiving dinner. Like, it would literally be a tin of sardines and some mustard greens and a packet of pine nuts? Which are all perfectly fine on their own or in the correct context, but they don’t really have that down-home holiday feeling I remember from childhood. Come on, kids! Time to carve the Thanksgiving sardines!

Thank you for having random shit like quinoa flour and thank you for labeling the ever-loving crap out of everything so that even though I may spend two hours shopping for not very many things, I know exactly what I am getting.

I wish I didn’t pay you so much money, but, then, I wish it didn’t cost so goddamn much to eat the complicated shit I eat. That’s not really your issue, that’s just a general observation.

I look forward to seeing you on Thursday morning, and I will probably hug at least one of you, so don’t flip out. I just really love Thanksgiving and I am super happy that I am going to have the chance to cook, because this week…it is the shitshow. I have not had a day off in a really long time, and I appreciate that you are working on MY day off. It sucks, I know. You are the best.

Thank you, Whole Foods people – as someone who typically is at work while other people are having fun (because we often ARE other people’s fun), I appreciate it. I hope you are getting paid a whole messy pile of money. Lord knows I’ll be giving your corporate overlords enough of it in about thirty-six hours.

Love,

Against Line of Dance

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A prayer to the Ballroom Fairy

I just threw down a deposit on a dress…about what I make in a week. Please, Ballroom Fairy, let it not be ugly and please let me not look weird.

Will it blend?

So one of my new favorite things, which is thanks to a brilliant friend who knows all about everything, is the green smoothie. I was making these banana protein fruit jobs and they were pretty good, but let me tell you, friends…

KALE

It is the shit. No kidding.

So here’s what you’re gonna do if you want to be awesome and feel like it is sunshine inside your body all the time. You are gonna get a blender and you are gonna throw a bunch of fucking fruits and vegetables into that shit and make it into awesome. In fact I am going to make one of these bastards RIGHT NOW so you can see it happen in (sort of) real time.

(1) Buy a bunch of dark green leafy shit. You don’t have to know what it is. Just buy it. Also: ricemilk (or water, or regular milk, or really ANY KIND OF LIQUID…you could probably use vodka but that might defeat the point of this exercise a little bit), a banana, protein powder (totally optional, but I love this shit from Garden of Life – unflavored! the flavors are GROSS), and some frozen ass fruit.

Some kind of kale, Italian parsley, a banana, frozen mango & pineapple, ricemilk, and vegan protein powder. PLUS AWESOME.

(2) Get that leafy shit and shove it in the bottle. Do you need to cut it up? Fuck no. That is too much goddamn work. We are gonna blend this shit. Just shove it in. Then dump in some liquid. More than you think. If you don’t have enough liquid, it won’t blend for crap. I usually mess this up and end up having to take the bottle off and whack it on the counter a couple times to get the stupid green shit to fall down and commit seppuku on the blade. But whatever.

Probably should have used more. Oh well.

(3) Open that shit up and smell it. It smells like a fucking lawn that just got mowed. Why the hell are you going to drink that? Because it is fucking awesome, that’s why. Dump in your protein powder and break up a banana, then blend blend blend blend blend.

(4) Add more liquid because you fucked up the ratio the first time.

(5) Drink some of the smoothie because you want to add frozen fruit but there is not enough room in your fancy little bottle. Marvel at the ability of a banana to turn it from mowed-lawn-smell into fresh-amazing-deliciousness-smell. Bananas! They’re CRAZY.

(6) Dump in some frozen fruit and blend that shit again.

SOYLENT GREEN IS PEOPLE

(7) It’s so fucking green! Wow! That’s cool. Drink that shit. Or throw it in the fridge. I have been making one of these bastards in the morning and taking it with me to the studio. Sometimes, if I know that I am not going to get to eat properly, I will throw in two packets of protein powder and call it lunch/dinner. Other times I will save my green fabulousness till the end of the night and drink it between wrapping up teaching and starting practice, and it totally helps me focus and feel good and not be a huge bitch at 11:30 at night.

Anyway! Green smoothies. They look like green sludge and taste like sunshine. Yay!

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Ask a Ballroom Dancer

There is a saying that goes, ‚Äúdo the thing you love and you will never work a day in your life,‚ÄĚ and it makes me wonder how having made dancing your life‚Äôs work has affected how you feel about it, overall. Also, do you ever have a chance to just go out and boogie with someone who can keep up with you, and if you do, do you still really dig it? I‚Äôve often wondered how dancing all day long and putting up with the likes of me affects my beloved teachers.

– M. C.

(1) “Do the thing you love and you will never work a day in your life” = bullshit. Of course you will. Because even if you do the thing you love, you probably do not love all the stupid crap associated with it. Do I love teaching dance and making people happy? Totally! Know what I do not love? The shitty hours, the shitty money, the damage to my body, stupid administrative business foolishness that is necessary for the studio to run, the constant ridiculous petty drama with other dancers, etc etc etc etc. Is it worth it? Well, duh, of course it is, or I would leave and go do something else.

Also, I work super super hard. This is by far the hardest job I have ever had, emotionally or physically. I take exception to the idea that if you do something you are passionate about, it isn’t work. Of course it is. I work so much harder at this because I care about it. In fact, I was just having a conversation with my partner on this subject today.

He was like,¬†“You are so intense! I am used to being the super intense person in a partnership, but you totally care about this even more than I do, which is crazy, because I thought I was the most committed person, like, ever.”

And he’s right. I take it super seriously and I work really, really hard. Is it a silly glittery thing? Yes. But I am dead fucking serious about it sometimes. And where my students are concerned, I am as serious as a heart attack. You have to be, because you can damage people SO easily. Folks who are learning how to dance are often in a really vulnerable place and you have to respect that and not fuck it up.

So I think my version of this saying would be, “Do the thing you love and work your ass off doing it, and all the bullshit you have to put up with will be worth it.”

(2) I don’t go out social dancing, like, ever. I would say that I social dance probably once every two months or so, and it’s usually fun? but not fun enough to make me want to do it at the end of a day of work. But this is also down to the fact that I am actually an introvert and after a day of people the last thing I want to do is see more people. I want to sit in my house by myself and not have anybody need anything from me. I don’t think everybody is like that. I have some colleagues who never social dance because they don’t enjoy it and others who go out dancing all the time.

(2a) I do love dancing, though, whether it’s with my partner or with other professionals or with students. That is always fun. Social dancing just means putting up with the socializing bullshit and making of small talk with randoms, and that’s what can be blah about it at the end of the day. (Besides, sometimes it is nice to do something that doesn’t involve me changing my shoes.) But practicing, or social dancing with people I know and like already…that is super fun.

(2b) Plus there’s the issue of what a small world the dance community is and how much I do or don’t feel like dealing with the people I will inevitably encounter. There are a lot of assholes. I went out salsa dancing this one time and there was this douchebag who was running the event, like he taught the class beforehand and it was kind of his thing at this random bar. And he asks me to dance and I am like, eh, I guess? because he seemed like a tool. And he was, because there was this one mirror in the whole bar and he danced right in front of it the whole time and watched himself dance. When he asked me, he was like, yeah, so, have you ever done salsa before? And I was like, sure. And then he figured out I could actually dance. Idiot. So halfway through the song I deliberately overturned something and made it more awesome and then stopped and apologized.

“Oh my gosh,” I said, “I am SO sorry.”

“No, no, no!” he said, “That was cool! You didn’t do it wrong.”

“Oh, I know THAT,” I said. “I just feel terrible that you aren’t facing that mirror anymore. Let’s turn back so you can watch yourself dance for the rest of the song.”

He got kind of stammery and weird and kept facing away from the mirror and led a lot of basics. Douche.

Have a question? Ask a ballroom dancer! Submit your questions in the comments or email to againstlineofdance@gmail.com. I can’t be much help on your taxes, legal problems, or math homework, but anything else should be cool.

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It is INDEED magical.

 

Stolen shamelessly from Riot and Frolic, which is like the quinoa of blogs ūüôā

Seriously, you guys, quinoa is the SHIT. It is so amazing. I can’t say enough about it. Also, quinoa and brown rice pasta? WHAAAAAT. So good.

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