My dance history started with my dream of taking ballet classes and becoming a ballerina when I was about five or six years old. I never did have the opportunity to pursue that dream, but I did receive classical piano training for ten years, up until I graduated from high school. That training has served me in good stead in my recent dance pursuits. It is for that reason that metronomic practice makes so much sense to me. Just as I was finishing my senior year of high school Impulse Ballroom offered a special social ballroom six week dance class session for our large home school group. My sister and I took this class and had a blast, though I remember being slow to pick things up at first, but had no problem once any movement or step pattern clicked with me. Towards the end of the session, Simeon and Kora (now our coaches) did a short demo performance for our class, a waltz and a tango, I believe. I was blown away, and I was also entirely intimidated by them…they were such good dancers they were almost unreal to me. Kora also sported really intense eye makeup and hair color at the time. That was my introduction to ballroom.
Then I whisked myself off to Virginia for my college studies at Christendom College, a very small liberal arts college, and there joined other dance enthusiasts in the swing dance and contra dance clubs. There we had no lessons or classes, just dances where you learned by doing. Every once and a while a waltz or tango was played, and I would remember the basics I learned in that high school class and wish I could do more.
When I graduated, I moved back to Washington, became gainfully employed, and decided to look into ballroom dancing again. I started up with the intro social ballroom class at Impulse, and haven’t looked back since. At some point along the line I started taking lessons with Simeon, and after a little over a year he mentioned that I could consider doing a pro-am competition with him. I thought that was impossible, my dancing was horrid I knew, and only good dancers compete. Shows how little I knew. Somehow I was convinced, and danced my first competition at Seattle Star Ball last summer, a silver syllabus scholarship event. We placed second out of eight couples, and considering it was my first competition and I did not feel at all ready, I was pretty happy with that. Throughout this time I had been looking for a dance partner and practiced sporadically with various leads at the studio, but none were really a good fit for various reasons. I decided that I would do a few more pro-am competitions here and there as I could afford it to get the experience that would serve me well once I found a partner with whom I could compete. In the next year I danced a few more competitions, and after that first competition, Simeon and I were actually really and truly undefeated for the next three competitions we danced. Of course, I feel that dancing with someone of his caliber is practically cheating or stacking the deck, especially as a follow. The competitive experience though has been great practice for me, and besides, I can’t deny that I just wanted a chance to wear one of those dresses!
Speaking of dresses, that is another of my hobbies. I like to design and sew clothes, particularly dresses, and I have a couple of wedding gowns, a ball gown, and several articles of evening wear to add to my portfolio. The unfortunate part of this is that I don’t actually enjoy sewing, it’s mostly just the creative and design process that I find so intriguing, but I also appreciate saving money, and ballroom costumes is one place where you will save massively by sewing yourself.
Back to the dancing; this spring Jeff and I realized that we were both at about the same place in our dancing, wanting to take more lessons, practice a lot and consistently, and eventually compete. Jeff’s partner had just found out that she needed to move, and it just seemed to make sense for us to pursue this thing as a team. I have had a harder time than Jeff finding a partner, partly because of my gender (too many of us want to dance), and also largely because of my height. Apparently I’m too tall for most dancing guys at a whopping 5’8,” and Jeff even had his doubts about dancing with a giantess. I try to pull the “my sister is 6’ tall” line to draw the curve more in my favor, but no, I can’t convince Jeff or many guys that 5’8” is not really that tall. So far, our partnership has worked out pretty well; our personalities are very different in terms of introversion/extroversion, yet we generally approach things similarly, so we tend to be productive when working out problems or issues and yet are good foils for each other personality wise.
These days, my life outside of dance consists of working full time, working out (which is kind of dance related and hardly counts), sewing sometimes, singing in my church choir, playing piano (though much more rarely than I would like) and trying to keep up with family and friends on the weekends.
For me, dancing combines several of the things I find most fulfilling in one activity, since it integrates musical expression, athleticism, the interaction between two people…working together to achieve something beautiful, artistry, perfectionism, competition, and hard work. As a musician, I always felt this sort of subconscious desire to be the music, rather than simply make it. Somehow with dance, I feel like I can…because that’s what dancers are in the poetry of their movement; they are the physical embodiment of music. Finally, I believe that dancers in a sense are training their bodies to listen to their minds and souls, and in this way dance can help me and anyone who pursues it to become more fully integrated as a person. And I could go on and on, but that is only the beginning of why I dance….