I started ballroom dancing in 2000. I took lessons and competed through 2008 and in 2007 I also started teaching. I taught ages 5 through adult and my largest, longest running class was a class for teenagers. I taught them how to be kind, how to take responsibility for themselves, how to get along with people they didn’t like (yes, you have to dance with her, no, you don’t have to like her at all to do so. Someday you will have a job where you personally cant stand the other guy working on the project with you but you still have to work with him to get the project done. Yes, really). I taught them these things through ballroom dance.
After teaching this group for a couple of years, we went to Emerald Ball in Los Angeles so they could see the “other side” of ballroom dance- the competition side. The kids enjoyed it a lot and some of them wanted to commute more to competing the following year, so we out together a team and went for it. My kids placed well and one couple danced against established adult dancers in the open Amateur Three Dance, both in rhythm and smooth. It was an huge deal for them to have that opportunity.
Two of my students. She was a ballerina and a very hard to lead. He was a brooding 14 year old who thought he was the bee’s knees. So I put them together. His job was to lead this unleadable young lady and her job was to let him. They clashed, they argued, and finally, they worked out a partnership that endured even dancing the Tango.
Two of my students went on to major in ballroom dance at the Orange County School of Performing Arts.
One of my young men who suffered from severe ADHD, found that in ballroom dance, he could remain present and aware and he was the student who reached the highest dance level and scored highest on his dance tests.
When I was a competitor, I had good competitions where I swept all 1st place trophies and bad competitions where I could not manage to get above 3rd place even when I was in a division by myself, but my teacher was good at turning those bad competitions into teaching moments and turning the God competitions into celebrations as well as bar-raising moments, but he never raised the bar so high that the goal was unattainable and we never saw competitions as competing against others. We were there to see how we did against us compared to how we did in our last competition. “Victory” can mean taking home a gold medal. “Victory” can also mean finally getting that stupid step that we had been working on for months or facing the fear of wearing that rhythm dress in public or just successfully being able to relax.
Photo: 2006 Las Vegas Dance-O-Rama, solo Foxtrot routine with my instructor, Thad Schatz. We danced to Paul Anka’s remake of Lionel Richie’s ghastly song, “Hello”. I edited out all the words.
I am very excited about dancing in the Dancing with the Community Stars event and my partner is incredible. This 23 year old kid is all in. He’s very willing and very open to my sometimes quirky ideas. It is interesting that he treats me like I’m a wise, old dance sage. He let’s me say things like, ” why didn’t that lead work”. He thinks about it, he tries again and he works through it. I feel like Yoda to my partner’s Luke sometimes, but I’m enjoying every moment. It is a blessing to get to dance again, especially after the crisis witnessed and the unique kind of stress all of us at Care and Share face daily.
We are doing West Coast Swing, which is probably my all-time favorite dance. My partner has limited experience with the dance but he had his Sugar Push down and knows where his “1” is. We will do just fine.