Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Fork in the Road

"Don't adventures ever have an end? I suppose not. Someone else always has to continue on the story."   -Tolkien

You know that saying, "If you come to a fork in the road, take it!" Rather than take that as just a lame joke, I see it as a silly way of presenting the broader truth that sometimes life opens up doors to you, and forces you to confront yourself and your fears in a new way so that you can decide whether you are called to make a change. Rather than staying in the comfort zone, with what is familiar, known and loved, we are, if we are to grow, at times called say farewell to that which is dear to us. It can be terribly painful,  yet it comes with a conviction that things happen for a reason.

And this leads to me to what is, so far, the hardest post of all to write. I debated about whether I should even write one, and yet, in fairness to the story we have told here on this little blog, as a record of a dance partnership and everything it accomplished, I think it only right.

When we began this blog, Jeff and I had started dancing together only a few months before. We were excited about our dancing, talked a lot about everything we were going to accomplish as a competitive couple, examined the top pros together, critiqued dancing, went out social dancing, and schemed and plotted about how to be the best dancers we possibly could give our circumstances. We took lessons and learned about how our prep step was amazing and "so convincing," worked out in a stinky gym 5+ days a week, practiced for hours and days on end, and burnt up the floor a bit at some of the local social dances. Somehow, in the process, we ended up being instrumental in opening a new ballroom studio, of which Jeff is now part-owner, and enjoyed the process of introducing new dancers to that pastime we had come to love so much.

Somewhere along the line though, and I think more markedly in the past few months, our enthusiasm and orientation with our dancing started to diverge a bit. Largely and perhaps solely due to some personal circumstances, Jeff had not been able to put as much into our competitive training lately, to the point that we have not actually taken a lesson as a couple in over a year now. Recently too, we had taken a break from practice, since Jeff just needed some away time for a while and thought that it would be good for me too. All of this time, since December really, I have been waiting patiently for things to settle down again after the studio opened, for us to get back to where we were with our practice and training schedule. It was worth it to me, because I believed in our potential as a partnership and what we had accomplished so far. Yet recently, I began to sense that this was not going to happen anytime soon, if at all. Jeff is in far less of a "rush" than I am to make progress with our dancing, yet for my part I hear a carpe diem loud and clear. We had some talks about it, and it become more and more clear to me that we just don't have the same motivation anymore, at least right now. We want different things out of the dancing. While that was fine for a while, when we were both in a position where we could work hard and forge ahead, now that circumstances have changed, it's going to take a common goal and motivation to move us forward. That is what I felt we were missing.

So I was faced with a choice. Continue to practice sporadically and without direction with Jeff, in the hopes that at some point he will be able to take it to another level and pursue it more seriously as we had before, or to start taking lessons and practicing with another partner to prepare seriously for competition. You'd think it would be a simple choice, but it actually tore me apart. As I guess has become evident on this blog, I have something of an emotional attachment to dancing, and to the partnership that Jeff and I created surrounding it. Leaving all of that, my hopes and dreams for the future, most of what I associated with my joy in dancing, this, I felt, would hurt too much. Yet at the same time I had to remind myself that my decisions about my dancing should be made with regard to what will help my dancing the most, rather than what will make me feel comfortable right now. How could I live with myself later knowing that I had the chance to really go for it and never did? Naturally, I presented the choice that lay before me to Jeff, in the hopes that he was ready to take it to another level and continue on more seriously, because I so badly wanted to continue dancing with him and pursuing those goals we had shared. But unfortunately, it was not to be. Thus, I decided that my dancing should come first, and that I must not pass this opportunity by. It was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made. Perhaps it shouldn't have been, but it felt like I was taking an ax to something that meant a great deal to me and into which I had poured so much of myself.

So, all of this is to say that, since Jeff and I are no longer training together as dance partners, at least for the time being, the purpose of this blog has been fulfilled. Perhaps our paths will re-converge, in fact, that would be my hope, but I cannot know what the future will bring, and must only forge on ahead, working hard and taking every opportunity I can to become a better dancer. Maybe I will start a new blog in which to document my own musings as I go forward, but this blog was specific to Jeff and I, and so I want it to follow our story to the end.

Finally, I want to thank Jeff for the countless hours he dedicated to our partnership, for sharing his enthusiasm for dancing, for teaching me how to lift weights, for being a good driver, and for being such a good friend and not fighting all the time like everyone else does. I learned how to follow because of him, and for that I cannot ever thank him enough. He is an extraordinarily talented guy, and I am fully aware of just how lucky I was to call him my partner for the past year and half. Nobody dances Viennese Waltz quite like him. :)

And now for some photos from showcase:


Tango Promenade. Decently straight, and much less polite than it used to be! 
And let me just say that I am quite happy with how my red dress turned out.
    

This was Viennese Waltz. 
I think I was laughing because he had just finished inserting "patty cakes." 
That's Jeff for you.


The "Fascinating Dance Partners"

THE END





Friday, August 24, 2012

"All that we have to decide....

....is what to do with the time that is given to us."
                          ~J.R.R. Tolkien




Monday, August 20, 2012

Showcase!

Part: Follow
Dances: Waltz, Foxtrot, Tango, Viennese Waltz, Nightclub 2-step
Hovers: 1

Saturday was Aria Ballroom's first student showcase, and also was Jeff and I's first performance as dance partners. Amazing, after a year and half, but it really was the first time. Indulge me for a second while I add that it was also the debut of my new red dress that has been hanging so patiently on a satin padded hanger. Of course, since I wanted to save something for competition, I wore long blue gloves instead of floats and didn't wear the rhinestone jewelry that goes with the dress. Still, it was quite effective, and I believe the skirt is a win; it covers my bad footwork and shows off the movement wonderfully.

As for the dances, I kicked off the show with a waltz and foxtrot with one of the students from Aria's youth program, a tall young gentleman with a true dancer's build and good standard frame. And I mean tall as in over six feet tall, so just about the textbook height for me at just over 5'8". One time he made the "mistake" of complimenting the fact that I was "long and lean" and therefore a good standard dancer, and after being reprimanded by an older and wiser gentleman for his choice of compliment, we now tease each other a bit about being long and lean and how that's all that really matters, because of course it isn't. But he's going to go far in the dance world if he keeps up with it, I think, since he is really an excellent dancer and very driven and dedicated for one so young. We kind of were afraid our dances would crash and burn since the balance between us was a little unsteady since we were both a bit unused to a new height match up, but it actually went about the same in the show as in practice the week before, so that's good, and I reveled in my throwaway oversway and hover with develope, oh, and extended reverse wave, even though I know they weren't as good as they could have been.

And then I danced a tango with the Jeff-partner, which went surprisingly well considering that we hadn't danced it in probably a month. We danced this particular dance because they needed more couples to fill in the heat, so we obliged even though it's probably our worst dance of the five. The same thing happened with Viennese, only they ended up playing a slow American style song, and so halfway through Jeff was inspired to drop frame and go unapologetically into full out "patty cakes." That was fun though, and I am pleased to report that I followed whatever odd shenanigins he threw at me after that.

Then we danced a nightclub 2-step, which also went well, but I can't think of time when our nightclub 2-step hasn't worked out. It just flows quite naturally, I think. I also wore a sparkly dress for that and got glitter all over Jeff's vest. I know because I heard about it later.

Overall, I'd say our dancing was a success, especially considering we really didn't practice for it at all. Jeff looked great too in his long black vest and dance shirt and pants, and a dark red tie that matched my dress. The only hitch was that Jeff kept trying to lead me out onto the floor arm in arm on the wrong side. I kept trying to correct him before we went out by placing my left hand in his right but he just didn't get what I meant until I explained later when we weren't on the spot. I also almost didn't let him lead me off the floor  once because it looked like he was leaving without me so I just walked over to the side myself. I guess we just need to review a few details about how to present the whole thing.

Maybe I'll post a photo here if one materializes. In the mean time, I'm so happy to be able to write about our first performance, and I do hope there will be more to come, competitive or not.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Road Goes Ever On

Part: Follow
Dances: TBD
Hovers: 0

It's been about 3 weeks since I last posted, so I figured that this blog at least deserves some small word by way of an update. Certain things, I believe, are beyond the scope of this blog, perhaps a bit too personal in nature to bring too much to the fore, but suffice it to say that our partnership here has experienced one of the most difficult phases so far. Changing goals and priorities not shared by both parties understandably produce strain, and those new priorities and lack of common motivation have definitely impeded our heretofore practice and training routine.

While I don't think it fair of me to make a lot of public judgments about where my partner is with all of this, except as it relates directly to me, I think I ought to add that I have been continuing to practice on my own almost daily (somewhat half-heartedly, I admit). I also have taken a few lessons solo, which is a good thing for me to do anyways since I have a lot of problem areas to work on in my dancing that Jeff really shouldn't have to bother with. In any case, I am really ready to get back to serious practice, and while our busy schedules and perhaps more balanced lives will not allow for the much more generous commitment to practice and training that we had in the beginning, I believe that if we wish to continue dancing together and pursuing a common goal, we must do something consistently. Since I communicated my feelings about this to Jeff, he agreed that we ought to resume our practice sessions soon in some form, so tentatively we are planning to practice at least weekly starting the week after the Aria Ballroom student showcase. Jeff is busy preparing his own students for the showcase, or recital, as it were, and meanwhile I'm practicing our gold waltz routine with another student who is in the youth program at Aria but also is old enough now to compete in the adult category. This particular student is a better dancer than I, and a perfect height match for me at 6'1" tall, so we're having fun putting this together, throwing in a couple of open level figures just for fun. Oversways and developes just make me happy, and Jeff hasn't wanted to touch them with a ten foot pole yet, so I'm having fun playing around and probably looking ridiculous. My bad balance is definitely becoming more apparent, as I don't have Jeff's solidity to counter-balance my craziness here. It's good practice for me though.

There was talk of Jeff and I performing a social style dance for the showcase, lead and follow style, but I haven't been able to nail that one down. Nightclub 2-step or bolero would probably be the dance, if it ends up happening. I guess you'll just have to come to the showcase this Saturday to find out!