Sooo…it’s Week 3. The halfway point of the fall 2020 One Room Challenge. And since it is, in fact, still 2020, I should have expected things to go sideways. Because they have.
Last week I met with the A/V people, who are lovely, and also very busy. They stated that it would be about a week to turn around a design plan and recommendations for the technology needed in the dance and Kung fu studio we are creating…and then several weeks after that before they can start working on the implementation. And if there are two words you absolutely don’t want to hear someone say during the ORC, they are definitely ‘several weeks.’
We are truly at a standstill until the speaker and TV locations are finalized, and any additional wiring is completed – the plasterers are on standby to put up the walls, but can’t start until the electrical rough-in is complete.
So…it appears that my ORC may be coming to a premature conclusion. Or delay, depending on how you look at it. It’s obviously going to happen. I am dying to get my practice space back – my dancing is definitely suffering! But I’m going to have to wait a bit longer now. Does anyone else besides me appreciate the irony that my movement studio is going nowhere fast? 🙂
In lieu of any exciting construction updates, I thought I’d back up a bit and share a little about how I got into dance in the first place, and what I’m doing right now during COVID times. I always get a lot of questions about these two topics.
The seed of inspiration was planted at my cousin’s wedding in Southern California in January 2019. She and her now husband actually met at a ballroom dance studio (not unlike how my parents met at a bowling alley…but that’s another story for another day…I am such a Western New Yorker…). So you can imagine that between them they have a lot of dance friends. And those dance friends were absolutely burning the floor at the wedding reception. I was in awe. I was intimidated (I am never shy to dance at a wedding). And I guess I was a little intrigued, too.
Flash forward to April of last year, in those halcyon pre-pandemic days, I randomly dropped into an adult Latin dance class at a local studio. I had been looking for a dance-y group exercise class (like Zumba or Bolly-X) to do once or twice a week, as I felt it was time to get back out there, since my kids were a little older and I had lined up limited evening childcare. But when I looked at the schedule, I noticed the adult Latin dance class, and remembered the wedding. Maybe I should try that! Wouldn’t that be so fun!? How hard could it be…I took nine years of ballet, tap and jazz as a little girl…I was sure I could pick it up quickly.
Well, I was right about a couple of things. It was so fun! But it was also not at all easy. I felt, and still do feel, like I am relearning how to walk. I just got completely addicted to the self-improvement aspect to it – I wanted to keep coming back to get a little bit better each time. I started doing two classes a week, then three, then five. But I was just in it for fun and fitness – I had no designs on performing, competing, or anything like the other people in my classes were doing.
Then in June I added private lessons – once a week, then twice. This was getting serious! I became curious about the competitions. That summer I went to a couple of local competitions to watch my teacher compete with his students from my classes. It was eye opening! What a scene – the dresses, the rhinestones, the hair and makeup, the lighting, the music; and dancers of all ages and experience levels. I had been to dance competitions in my childhood, but this was a whole other ballgame.
Something clicked in my mind at that point. I’ve always been a competitive person. I played allll the sports, including two in college (volleyball and softball). While I had no interest in competitive athletics at this season of my life, I still had that spirit and urge inside me, hibernating. I realized that by participating in these competitions, maybe I could combine my rediscovered passion for dance with my innate competitive drive and really give myself something to continually motivate and push me to work toward personal goals. I never knew I was missing that in my life until then. So I started working on it, even more seriously!
In October – so, about a year ago, I participated in my first competition. It was terrifying, exhilarating, joyous, and pretty much any other emotion I can think of. I had forgotten what it was like to perform, and how you get so much energy from the audience that you just can’t replicate in the studio. I was hooked.
I did a number of local competitions, and one ‘away’ comp in Las Vegas in the months that followed. It was exciting to notice the small improvements you could achieve at each one (and humbling to realize how long it would take for all of those little refinements to add up to something that resembles ‘very good’ dancing!)
The last in-person competition I did was in February. Actually, we were at the Marriott Long Wharf Hotel in Boston, just one week before the infamous Biogen conference that basically launched coronavirus into Massachusetts and beyond.
Annd, shortly after that, everything went dark for a little while. At the beginning of quarantine, the dancing, along with the world, came to a screeching halt. By April, my teacher started offering classes and private lessons via Zoom. I know he didn’t think it was the best, but for me it was a lifeline. (By the way, it was around this time when I realized that I could have been practicing in our abandoned theater room all along!). I learned 10 new routines – 5 Latin at the next level up (Silver), and 5 Rhythm – and worked a lot on technique. It was great to be able to continue to be challenged and, of course, staying active and focused!
In July, I returned to the studio for private lessons (wearing a mask, of course), and started learning how to dance those 10 new routines with a partner. It felt so weird! And honestly it still does. I took on a lot of new information and it is taking a lot of time to process all of it. I figured I would be out of competitions for a very long time.
But then the industry started getting creative. At the end of August, I performed a showcase routine at a socially-distanced event that was livestreamed for all to watch on the Internet. The host studio brought people into the building in shifts, cleaned and sanitized in-between, and required everyone to wear masks both on and off the floor. You weren’t even allowed in until 10 minutes before your performance time – just enough time to take off your jacket and put on your dance shoes. I jokingly referred to it as a ‘drive-thru showcase.’
There have also been a couple of virtual competitions, including two happening this coming weekend. It won’t be the same kind of experience, of course, but I am incredibly grateful to just to have the opportunity to dance. And I will try anything once!
Some other FAQs I am asked often that I haven’t yet addressed 😉 …
Are you a professional dancer?
Ha ha – NO! I am a professional interior designer, silly. I am an amateur dancer. Big time.
Who is your partner? Does your husband dance with you?
No, my husband does not dance with me. And that’s honestly better for everyone! My partner is my teacher. In competitions, this is referred to as ‘Pro/Am.’ He being the professional and me being the amateur. Pro/Am dancing is pretty awesome because you’re learning while you do it, and the pros make you look good! This is the format that inspired Dancing With The Stars – they just took the concept to the next level by signing up celebrities to be the amateurs partnering up with professional ballroom dancers.
What’s the deal with the hair and makeup? Who does it for you?
I actually do my own makeup (it takes me FOREVER and I have a lot of room for improvement!), and my teacher does my hair. The post-competition showers are epically (and kind of blissfully) long and require multiple rounds of cleansing / washing / conditioning.
Is it hard dancing in a mask?
My feelings on masks are complicated. But more and more, I am so thankful to wear a mask, because it makes it possible for me to keep dancing, and gives me the ability to ‘do stuff.’ Wearing a face covering during cardio exercise can be difficult. but I’ve gotten pretty used to it…with a bit of trial and error to find the masks that work best for me.
What dances do you do?
I now dance two styles – International Latin and American Rhythm. The Latin dances are cha cha, rumba, samba, paso doble, and jive, and Rhythm are cha cha, rumba, swing, bolero and mambo. I’m actually competing in Rhythm for the first time ever this weekend!
You lost weight! It must be from all the dancing, right?
The answer to this question is a little complicated. Yes, I am about 25 pounds less (give or take a few quarantine pounds) than I was when I started last April. It took me about three months to lose it; subsequently I have been in maintenance mode. The start of my dance ‘career’ coincided with a renewed focus on my health and physical fitness. At the same time I began dancing, I also changed my diet and started working out in my basement in the mornings before my kids got up for school. Yes, I’m sure dancing contributed to my physical transformation. But I honestly think it was more a psychological factor than anything else. It has provided me with the ongoing motivation to stay on my plan and maintain my focus on my personal goals.
I’d like to try ballroom dancing! How do I get started?
By starting! Try a class. There are tons of online/Zoom classes you can join, as well as in-person classes in many states, currently. If you are local, you should check out a class with my teacher, Jani. He’s the best! I’ll be there, too 🙂
Well, it’s certainly not the post I was expecting to write today, but it is one that feels good to write. It reminds me why I am doing this project in the first place. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter whether or not it is completed for a Week 6 ORC reveal (even though I will feel like I have failed – I have done this seven times now, and I’ve never been late – never!). I am more than happy to answer other questions you might have!
I’ll be back with a Week 4 update next Thursday. I’m not exactly sure what it will entail, but we will just have to cross that bridge when we get to it. In the meantime, head on over to see how the other guest and featured designers are coming along with their projects. Hopefully they are faring better than I!
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