wookiemonster: (Default)
I'm posting this entry "in the clear" so that it shows up on my Facebook feed. As I've mentioned here, I've been dealing with a lot of...unpleasant...memories this past week. Memories from middle and high school, when I was really young and stupid. Now that I am (much) older and at least know that I am stupid, I have to say I'm somewhat embarrassed by some of the actions, attitudes, and so on I had as a youth.

Hell, even in college, I was still pretty stupid. So, for the people who were not in my life from pretty much when I joined the dance team and began competitive ballroom dance, I am, essentially, completely different from how you may have known me. Now, no one from high school or even college has an on-line journal blog thing, so, this is just scratching the tip of the iceberg. In some ways, I feel badly for not giving this caveat to my friends from the before time, from high school, when I friended them on Facebook.

There have also been several people whom I considered friends back then who have refused friend invites, or who friended and then unfriended me, or whatever. In many ways, I figure this is just as well. If you still see me as some geeky, nerdy kid worthy of ridicule, rejection, or what have you, then I really don't need you in my life, be it in person or in the digital frontier of social media. Indeed, the only reason why I even bother is because I have changed so much that friending people from the before time is one of the few ways I have of reminding myself that I have a past that extends beyond when I started dancing. I mean, I've pretty much divided my life into "before dance" and "finally living."

I am still shy. Painfully, pathologically shy. Except for when it comes to cats or dance. As I mentioned before, dance gave me a dysfunctional crash course in How To Socialize With Other People, and my early days (years, actually) on the dance team were, in some cases, as painful and painfully awkward as my high school days were. Thankfully, I made friends, like Jon Anderson, Trey Smith, Kyle Buzzard, Doug "Danger" Manley, and several others, and I was fortunate to have a few dance partners who birthed me through a late-blooming socialness, namely, Ciela McDevitt and Holly Powers. Lastly, Pete Taylor and Lisa DeBevec, as my coaches and mentors, did much to teach me about professionalism and simply not taking any shit from nobody.

I look at what the world of Ballroom Dance has done for me, at the person I've grown into, and in some cases, maybe my head has gotten a little big. Then again, I'm allowed a certain degree of pride in what I've accomplished through dance.

Tonight, er, last night... Just a few hours ago, I was at a social dance at my new dance home, Take the Lead in Lantana. Because of financial sacrifices to keep my house out of foreclosure, and the power on and so on after my father's death and my mother's incredibly hard unemployment and underemployment, and then followed by further sacrifices I made for my four-legged kids, I can only afford to social dance at the moment. Once I sufficiently dig myself out of debt, I do plan to start taking private lessons again and competing. But social dancing still has plenty of rewards.

I dance with people of all levels and abilities. A few hours ago, I danced with someone who must have just started dancing. I had danced with her twice during the Fox Trot mixer, and I even asked her to dance for a Waltz a little while later. It wasn't rewarding for expressiveness or anything, but it was rewarding for making someone's night. Many times, when Crystal Ballroom was still around and when I worked as a DJ there, I often danced with new students, and if it was a night when the men and women were pretty evenly matched, I would often ask the one lady who was sitting by herself to dance. In some ways, I should thank the people who were often "too cool" for me and often excluded me from whatever, since having endured that hell, I tend to be sympathetic for those who may be feeling excluded and make them feel included. Thus, I've no problem dancing with newbies, since (1) it makes their night and (2) the only way anyone gets better is by doing. Even though I'm restricted to three or four basic steps, with someone who is still learning to hold their own frame, I am still rewarded with making them happy by giving them someone to dance with. And thanks to Lisa and Pete, I learned to lead well. I'm often told how clear my leads are and how easy they are to follow. Thus, the newbie gets the benefit of someone who knows what they're doing, who can keep time, and so on. They may be clomping on the floor, but they feel like they're dancing through a meadow with the wind blowing through their hair.

Tonight, though, I also had several moments of pure bliss while dancing. Fox Trot and Tango with Helena, a Bolero with Josie... Both are upper-level dancers, and so I can break out the more advanced figures and amalgamations as well as technique and styling. And since TTL had a good turnout tonight, there was even floorcraft. Floorcraft is where you have lots of people on the floor, and you manage to not collide with other couples or smack them in the face with your arms, and so on. Very important when competing, especially at Bronze and even Silver levels, where they cram 30-some couples on a floor at one time and you're trying to be seen by the judges without rudely running over the competition.

In particular, during the Bolero with Josie, the ghosts who have been haunting me the past week were given a thought. And in an instant, I thought of every show, every competition, every lesson I've taught, and I realized that the people who have chosen to absent themselves from my life are the ones missing out, not me. I realized that I have been blessed with not having the cookie-cutter life of go to college, get a job, get married, have kids, and then what? I have lived, and am still living, albeit on a reduced scale at the moment because of my current financial situation, which is, as they say on Avenue Q, "For now."

I went to England to dance in the 2001 Intercontinental Dance Festival. From the UD team, we had five guys and three girls. My partner was not among the women who went. So, I had a different partner every night. One night, I ended up dancing with a girl from France, who barely spoke any English. We survived three heats of Bronze Rhythm to make it to the semi-finals. Which means we were in the top 12 of about 100 couples. In fact, just about every night, I made it at least to the quarter-finals, if not the semi-finals or even placing.

Then there was the time a bunch of gymnasts from China ended up coming to the HESC 120 class at UD. Pete told me to go dance with one of the gymnasts, largely because he knew I could lead. Now, this poor girl knew absolutely no English, and to top it off, came from a significantly different culture. Naturally, I ended up dragging her through a Cha Cha. Well, not really dragging; she could at least hold herself up. One we got through the chasse step, it was all gravy.

Thankfully, dance has an intermediary language of music, which is universal. Hence, this is why I have the utmost respect for musicians. Well, for musicians who are any good, anyway.

I remember dancing at the American Star Ball with Holly... We were the only amateur couple in our age group, and so our heat was run concurrently with the pro-am (professional-amateur, where a professional dancer dances with one of his or her students against other professionals dancing with their students). Because there's a professional involved, and because of the costs involved, these other competitors have trained hard. So when my coach, Lisa, said that she was proud of us because she had to go looking for us, that it wasn't a cursory look at the floor and, "Oh, there they are," that meant a lot to me. We blended in quite well with professionals and amateurs who had, at the time, likely spent about twice as much time dancing as we did, and for twice as long.

Then there was the Arnold competition. Arnold Schwarzenegger started and continues to sponsor a long-weekend-long competition of athleticism, with events for body-building, cheerleading, gymnastics, martial arts, and so on. Several years ago, they added a ballroom competition to the list of events. Arnold was very interested in the ballroom component, largely because he had to learn some Tango for his role in True Lies. Normally, they had a special show for when he came around to see what was going on, largely involving kids barely a quarter of our age and with dance abilities they could mop the floor with us. (That's the one drawback of amateur, non-collegiate competitions: you see kids 10, 11, 12 years old who can outdance you in their sleep...) Anyway, the third year, when Arnold was still governor of California, there were some security concerns, and his schedule was changed at the last minute. So, he didn't see the show they'd prepared. Instead, he saw some of the actual competition. Which was the year Katherine and I started to get our feet wet with International Standard. Consequently, Katherine and I danced in the semi-finals for Bronze Quickstep, and I made eye contact with Arnold as he sat at the dais and watched us. Dancing in a competition can be nerve-wracking, and even more so while being stared at by the Terminator.

And thanks to Pete? There's only two degrees of separation between me and Marilyn Monroe. See, Pete was a close friend of hers, worked with her on several films. Come to think of it, there's only two degrees between me and Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, the casts of White Christmas and The King and I, and so on. One of the most humbling things for me was when one of my teammates asked Pete what Marilyn was like, and he looked at her and said, "She was a young girl just. Like. You."

And the first showcase we did... There was a large group number we did that was Rumba and Cha Cha, and we entered the stage doing Rumba walks from either side of the stage, in time, meeting at the middle, and so on. I was one of the people in the front. And Pete declared, "All right, you're all gonna watch David. When he moves, you move." Then he looks at me and says, "Don't fuck up." Consequently, whenever people are depending on me, or there's something serious going on to which failure is not an option, I remember Pete's sage instructions: "Don't fuck up."

Then there are the situations where you fuck up. Where I remember the many reminders that the audience, the judges, whomever, don't know your routine may not know you fucked up, and will continue to remain ignorant of any blunders unless you act like you made a boo-boo. And in dance, there's also the rule: If you are rhythmically right, then you're not wrong." As long as you're on time, you're fine. There have been times when I've screwed up a pattern, and will just walk in time to the music, then continue on. I've done this at competitions, during show routines, at social dances, and so on. It's kind of a variation of, "Fake it til you make it."

I miss Pete. Long story short, he needed to have both his hips replaced, and to afford it, he sold the studio. Hence, the end of Crystal Ballroom. Fortunately, there is Take the Lead.

More and more nowadays, I find myself losing myself in the music, in the dance, feeling free and alive, technique and steps coming naturally, grinning ear-to-ear, with this skill and feeling that no one can ever take away from me. And right now, I'm sure as hell. My knee and ankle are screaming, though surprisingly, I can walk, and without limping. The weather weakened both, but, they held up tonight. But my arms and back are feeling like they had a good workout, too. Weather-permitting, I'll be doing this again next weekend.

But tonight, I really needed it. One of the other regulars, Lydia, has described the weekly social dances as medicine. Medicine for the soul. And...she's right. Troubles at work, ghosts from the past... They vanish when I'm dancing. And tonight... Old ghosts were banished from my mind. The past went back to the past as I found what I needed to ground myself into the present. I'm not the person I was. I'm much better, much more interesting, than that.

One of these days, I'll use the digital transfer station at work and transfer my old videotapes of me and my partners competing to a digital format that I can upload to YouTube and show you all. As well as making new videos.

Posted at LiveJournal and Dreamwidth
◾ Tags:


wookiemonster: (Default)

January 2015


Page Summary

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags