Thursday, December 29, 2011

Dance Me to the End of Infinity

"You are perfect," my dance instructor told me like a wise parent about to give his child an advice. "...but, Rie, you are not dancing."

It was my last private lesson before a competition. I had 45 minutes to review 5 dances. Each minutes felt heavy and precious. “Right foot forward. Left foot back and slightly to side. Right foot...,” my mind analyzed each step like a computer. I felt my foot positions clean and my expression tense. Then my instructor stopped. He knew exactly what I was doing and so he said it out aloud, “You are thinking too much.” But what else can I do? I looked at him with questioning eyes. “You have to connect with the music,” he answered. “You have to listen to it-- even enjoy it. Forget about you. Forget about me. Forget about the judges. Connect with the music and be one with it.” Waltz played.

“Of course I do,” I grimaced. “Everybody does. How else are we supposed to dance?” But the precious minutes were ticking, and I had no time for discussions. So I tried to concentrate on the music. I listened to the music and took my dance position. I listened to its sweet melody and decided to let go of busy voices in my mind. Without meaning it, a smile blossomed on my face. With a cue from my partner, I stepped into our dance. I listened to the music and let it drive me. In a very freeing way, I felt calm and strong. I could sense my steps and stretch effortlessly bigger. I stumbled a few times but still felt great. Nothing got in my way. I was deeply happy to be in the music and dancing.

It was almost like a meditation in motion. By letting go of the criticizing, outcome-conscious mind, I was able to settle in a peaceful place deep inside. When I dropped my worries, more space opened up for me to expand and radiate. There was no need to search for techniques I should have gained over the years; they were already there offering themselves to me. I was more responsive to my partner. No such thing as a mistake or perfection. There was only a joy. Waltz played.

I connected with the music, and the music extended to the end of infinity.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Holiday Gifts

Strained calf was the verdict. A pain in the middle of my left lower leg hadn’t gone away for a week. “Things like this take a long time to heal,” the doctor said sympathetically. “What do you mean by ‘a long time’?” my voice shook. “3 to 6 months,” she paused to check for my reaction; I had already told her my plan. “3 months if you avoid aggravating activities.” The doctor really meant dancing.

“Not now…” I thought bitterly. No ballroom dancing for 3 months? Not now because I was to compete at the Yuletide Ball Championships in less than 3 weeks—my first event in such a scale. Also not now because I was starting a new showcase routine right after the competition. Of all dances, it was set to be a Jive.

Moreover, not now because this was very special time of the year. From the end of the year into the first days of the New Year, I felt a sense of magic. It was the time to clean up the surroundings and personal life, finish up undone works, neatly put things away, reflect, and send my gratitude. It was the time to make the room for the yet-to-come. When the last minute of the year ticks away, suddenly the world changes. A new year with no stains. A big, open book for me to write anything in. Freshness. Possibilities. But how would I find a magic if ballroom dance was taken away from me?

I left the doctor’s office with a heavy heart. Christmas songs played merrily outside. The New Year excited me, but Christmas was quite a different story. Living far away from my home country, this was one time in the year I felt awkward and alone. My heart sank heavier. Why now…?

Yet giving up was not my nature. No dancing for 3 months was simply unthinkable.

There must be another way. So I turned to my dance friends. With all trainings and experiences they had, somebody must have an answer for me. Some of them taught, performed, or competed extensively. They couldn’t just drop their dance. They must know what I could do, too.

In no time their concerns and supports poured upon me. They offered me advices and wisdom. They handed me remedies and names of doctors. They guided me in ways to continue my learning even if I was off the foot.

As their positive insights and well wishes lifted up my spirit, I felt less pain in my calf. I understood that the physical mechanism of my body had to take its own course to heal, but I also believed much of the ability to heal came from my mind. I diligently took care of my leg but was also determined to stay hopeful about the situation.

After all, 4 days of resting was all I needed before I was well enough to put my dance shoes back on. Was I misdiagnosed? Did the mind really heal the body? Or was it a magic of this special season?

Being able to dance again sure was a great gift, but there were much more. Before my injury, I was getting a pre-competition anxiety. I craved to dance with calmness of still water, but so many teachings from my instructor and coaches overwhelmed my head like rapping waves. It was so a delightful change that I was too happy to think too much when the leg pain went away. I was simply enjoying dancing, and it was such a sweet feeling.

Another gift was being reminded how much I have been blessed with truly caring and giving friends. So much love surrounds me, yet I was feeling alone in this time of togetherness. How blind I was. How easy to loose the sight of treasures in my own hands. Now the Holiday sparkles smile at me, and I feel warm and cozy inside.

They say everything happens for reasons. My strained-calf scare turned out to be gifts of pure joy of dancing and loving friends who are so much of my life in America. Yes, I do believe in magic!

Friday, December 23, 2011

My Pablo's lesson.

This year (2011) 3 local tangueros have departed in very early ages of their physical life. Leaving the Washington Tango Community totally in shock. I still could not overcome my grief about that so I guess I will write about it, maybe it will help to bring my positive mojo back.

Rosa Collantes and Ann-Sophie Ville were taken by cancer and Pablo Fontana by a car accident. All of them were loved, inspiring, motivating and live their lives intensely. Their lives were very meaningful and they will live forever in the hearts of their loved ones and also virtually on the internet. They will continue inspire others with their dancing and stories.
I will leave here a little anecdote about Pablo and how he did affected my life.

Pablito (that is how I still think of him, regardless of the great person that he was) was only 15 when we met. He was already an exciting Tango instructor with Carina Losano at Confiteria Ideal when I was just beginning to learn to dance Argentine Tango socially in 1996. I had 1 years of professional dance by them and was a Samba champion, leading the dance entertainment on board of Costa Crucciere. True is, I was really embarrassed because any gentleman in the milongas I visit in B.A. could dance better than me.
I was honored that Carina and Pablo attended my request and came to the ship cruise to teach me in private.
We all had a great time! They were also interested in learning different dances and suddenly we found ourselves exchanging Samba for Tango lessons on the theater of the ship.

I connect with Pablo and Carina right way and they quickly became friends.

I have some pictures of Pablo and Carina from those days and I think they should be public in memory of Pablo.

Pablito was certainly very exciting. He looked young but nobody would say he was 15 years old, his dance was certainly more disciplined and more mature than mine. He also learned really fast, modified a little and mixed with his Tango. It was unbelievable! I joked with him about his new Tango steps coming from Brazil. He helped me with some basic molinetes I was having trouble with.
Recently, I have just learned more about who I am thanks to him, his students and friends. He helped me to see how we, dance instructors,  can touch people’s heart with the joy of dance. It is a huge responsibility to teach dancing. It is very little about dance. It is mostly about people…who they are and who they want to be. It is about believing and supporting them. It is about giving, understanding, motivating, accepting. It is about finding the right way to connect and to communicate. It is about caring.
I think I was very fortunate to have crossed Pablo’s way twice (in Buenos Aires and in Washington, DC). I am sure we will meet again.:-)

La lección de Pablo para mí.
      (perdón por mi malo español)

Este año (2011) 3 tangueros locales se han ido en edades muy tempranas de su vida física. La Comunidad de Tango de Washington DC se puso en estado de shock. Yo, todavía no pudo superar mi dolor, por eso que voy a escribir y ojalá, me ayude a volver con mi vibra positiva.

Rosa Collantes y Ann-Sophie Ville fueron tomadas por el cáncer y Pablo Fontana por un accidente de coche. Todos ellos fueron queridos, inspiraran, motivaran y viviran la vida intensamente. Sus vidas son muy significativas y van a vivir para siempre en los corazones de sus seres queridos y también virtualmente en Internet. Seguirán inspirando a otros con sus bailes e historias.

Voy a dejar aquí una pequeña anécdota acerca de Pablo y cómo lo tiene afectado mi vida.
Pablito (que es como yo aún pienso en él, a pesar de la gran persona que es) tenía sólo 15 años cuando nos conocimos. Ya era un súper instructor de tango con Carina Losano en la Confitería Ideal, cuando yo estaba empezando a aprender a bailar tango argentino socialmente en 1996. Tenia un año de danza profesional y la suerte de ser campeón de Samba, llevaba el entretenimiento con danza a bordo del Costa Crucciere. Es verdad, me daba vergüenza, porque realmente cualquier caballero en las milongas que visite en Buenos Aires podría bailar mejor que yo.
Tuve el honor de que Carina y Pablo asistió a mi petición y llegó a lo  crucero que trabajaba para  me enseñar en privado.

¡A todos nos lo pasamos muy bien! También estaban interesados en el aprendizaje de diferentes danzas y de repente nos encontramos el intercambio de Samba para las clases de Tango en el teatro de la nave.
Me conecte con Pablo y Carina muy rápidamente y así se convirtieron en amigos.
Tengo algunas fotos de Pablo y Carina de los días y creo que deberían ser públicos en memoria de Pablo.

Pablito fue sin duda muy emocionante. Parecía joven, pero nadie diría que tenía 15 años de edad, su baile ya estaba más disciplinado y más maduro que el mio. También aprendía muy rápido, modificando un poco a su manera y mezclando con su Tango. ¡Era increíble! Yo bromeaba con él sobre sus pasos de tango que robaba de Brasil. Él me ayudó con algunos molinetes básicos que estaba teniendo problemas con.

Recientemente, he aprendido más acerca de lo que soy gracias a él, sus estudiantes y amigos. Él me ayudó a ver cómo nosotros, los profesores de baile, tocamos los corazones de la gente con la alegría de la danza. Es una gran responsabilidad de enseñar a bailar. Es muy poco acerca de la danza. Se trata principalmente de la gente... quiénes son y quiénes quieren ser. Se trata de creer y les prestar apoyo. Se trata de dar, la comprensión, la motivación, la aceptación. Se trata de encontrar la forma correcta de conectar y comunicar. Se trata de cuidar.
Creo que fui muy afortunado de haber cruzado lo camino de Pablo dos veces (en Buenos Aires y en Washington, DC. Estoy seguro de que volverán a reunirse. :-)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The gift that keeps on giving

Christmas is only 5 days away

As I sit here at the desk waiting for my private lesson student to arrive, I am reminded of the many dance-related blessings in my life. To be surrounded by sparkling holiday decorations in a pristinely clean studio, or be a part of a warm dance community- the intangible things in life that matter the most. The gifts under the tree in the back of the ballroom are begging to be opened- a new pair of dance shoes inside, perhaps? A gift certificate? Or simply the gift of love from friends and family around the holidays. Dance is a wonderful thing- it lets you discover new things, increase your daily physical activity, and even surprise yourself when you think, "Gee, that felt...really good!"

The thing I love most about dancing is the connection to the music. There's something special about correlating base rhythms in music to impulses you feel inside your body when a song you like comes on. To be able to physically express yourself while moving around the floor to music is an amazing feeling everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime. Here's a secret: I never listened to or even liked Latin music until I learned how to dance to it. Once I understood the instrumentation and basic steps, however, Salsa dancing became a fun social activity for my boyfriend and me. As we grew closer as a couple, our dancing improved and we began performing for various functions and teaching group classes as well as private lessons. We branched out into other areas of partner dancing, i.e., Ballroom, Argentine Tango, and, most recently, Theatre Arts. In short, dance has opened many doors for me-- the nerdy science girl who followed her passion for dancing.

Christmas comes only once a year- but dancing is forever!