A while back I mentioned the movie The Greatest Showman and how it got me singing and dancing when I had been in a slump. I’ve had a nagging desire to write more about this extraordinary film since then - because I don’t understand why everyone isn’t talking about it - so I’m finally doing it. Ladies and Gentlemen - my first ever movie review:
The Greatest Showman is the Oscar nominated (and robbed, in my humble opinion) musical story of P.T. Barnum’s life. Don’t stop reading just because I said musical! I know most people hear the word and make (if I’m being honest) quite the unattractive face. But as one of the creators of this musical said, and I’m paraphrasing: with a good musical you leave the theater singing the songs. Boy, have we ever!
I saw it first with a friend on a random Tuesday night and after, we both went to our own homes and stayed up till way after midnight listening to the music. I started choreographing a dance routine to my favorite song from the soundtrack ("Never Enough")… at midnight... on a weekday. Even when I realized I should force myself to go to bed - I lied awake, heart pounding, looking forward to when I could hear that music again. My friend had the soundtrack downloaded before he got home from the theater and listened to it multiple times that night. And though I’ve never asked him, I don’t think he’d say he’s a “fan” of musicals.
The next morning, my kids were whining about, well- morning, and I put the soundtrack on. Immediate silence. Followed by questions. Followed by more intriguing questions. Ending with, “Can we hear that again?” Let me tell you, when I meet Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the songwriters - I’ll kiss them just for that. I’ve confessed before - I’m not a morning person. Anything that makes mornings easier has my undying gratitude.
Fast forward a week - my family knows almost all the words to every song in the soundtrack. Finally… we go see it together. My husband, one of the face makers when the word musical is thrown out, and our two kids: son, 7, daughter, 6. This time, I watch with the eagle eye of a trained dancer. Not just a pawn in their sightline game, I’m checking choreography, backup dancers, movement quality - and I fall even more in love!
Let me preface this with saying, when I was younger and saw the movie Chicago for the first time - I was blown away. When I saw it the second time, I felt like I had been cheated! The dances were mostly camera angles, quick cuts, lighting tricks - I was heartbroken. I half expected the same thing on this second viewing. Needless to say, I don't think I've ever been happier to be wrong. Though they use wonderful lighting, camera angles, etc - they give us real dancing! And it’s ever so uplifting. As is the message: create your world - don't let anyone else define you.
Now, if this is a true critique, I should mention the one thing I wish they had done differently. The secondary love story of Zendaya and Zac Efron left me wanting more. I wish the movie had taken the time to flesh out Zendaya's character. I love a forbidden love story as much as the next gal, but I need more than the fact it's forbidden. I need to know the characters I'm cheering for to cheer for them. Just give me a little more in the sequel;)
I said this was a quickie, so I’ll wrap my review up with this - some students went to see it upon my persistent recommendation and said “[we’ll] never doubt you again.” My daughter, product of the Frozen and Moana era, (both wonderful) walked out of the theater and said, “That was the most favorite movie I’ve ever seen.”:) My son said it was his second favorite: to Star Wars. Now we all, husband included, sing and dance around the house to this soundtrack… daily, if I’m being honest;) Treat yourself. Go see it on the big screen this weekend - it’s worth the price of admission. No, I don't get kickbacks for ticket purchases;) I just want you dancing and singing along with us!
My last blog, when questioning how we reconcile being grateful for what we have, yet striving for more, brought up a time management question. Since then, I’ve been writing down everything I do in a day and I realize I put in, on average, ten hour work days when you count dancing, writing, parenting, and household chores. Not bad for a working mother of two. I know many who put in a lot more hours. But it also explains why when 9pm comes, I’m all too ready to pour that glass of wine;)
That’s a good chunk of my day devoted to work/improvement in some way. Something to be proud of. I’m also proud I took the time to socialize this last week. I made it a point to spend time with friends, family, and my favorite person: my husband. I had a lot of quality time with people who make me smile - for which I will always be grateful:) I know a week is too short a time to study, which is why I will continue my research, but I believe this week was a pretty normal look at my life - so we’ll start with what we’ve got.
Additionally, this past week, I started listening to more podcasts while I cook or clean. Let me tell ya’ - I know why people love those now! Though while cooking, they may be dangerous:) How? Well, a friend recommended “Magic Lessons” by Elizabeth Gilbert which deals with the creative process. The first episode was an interview with a mom who felt guilty about wanting to be something more than a mother and I almost chopped my finger off - cause woman, can I relate?!
I do feel guilty for wanting more than a job I adore, two healthy children, and a husband that loves me. On paper, it seems I have it all! And I am grateful for each of those things every single day. However, I want more. Insert guilt here. My sister says guilt is “a call to change some behavior”. That infuriates me, honestly! (I just spoke with a friend who said, “Yes. The behavior you should change is to stop being racked with guilt:) It’s the same sister who, when asked to describe me in one word, (a silly practice anyway) said “mother”. As all-encompassing and wonderful as that word is - it attaches my value to something outside my body/control - which I think very dangerous indeed.
If all I am is a mother, who was I before I had children? A daughter? A wife? A sister? These are all parts of me, yes, but if they were all taken from me - who would I be then?? A dancer? That has been taken from me before. It wasn’t my best year, that’s for sure. But when that was taken from me, I got my first paycheck as a writer - which was pretty exciting. So, maybe I’m an artist? I’ve always hesitated to call myself that. For three reasons:
But for now, let me fight the cringe and say, “I’m an artist”. Huh… The freedom that comes from saying that out loud is surprising. No one can take that away from me... but me. Only if I let guilt stop me from saying what I need to say, will I not be an artist. By creating and expressing myself, won’t I be happier and more satisfied? And therefore a better mother, wife, daughter, etc? That consistently proves itself true. After choreographing a routine and hearing the joy the performance brought to people - I’m always on cloud 99! And by being true to who I want to be, I show my children they can do the same. I’d say that’s a pretty stellar example for any kid, wouldn’t you?
I recently heard Oprah say, “our job is to find the voice inside us and follow it.” I foolishly thought I already did that. Now I realize, as I became more things to more people, my voice became quieter and quieter. Or maybe not quieter… maybe it just got drown out. Which is perhaps why I find myself in wanting. When you consider the desire for more is merely a desire to follow that inner voice - you see there’s nothing to feel guilty about. It’s my job to make sure that voice doesn’t fade. Nay... that it thrives!
How does this relate to dancing? Obviously leads can find their own voice with the moves they do and the rhythm they decide to accentuate. But follows? Are we doomed to dance to someone else's beat? No! We have freedom within the frame. After all, creativity needs limits. We choose how we fill his frame. We choose what tone we bring to the conversation. We can let our voice be heard. Obviously we don't need to yell (the whole time;) but speak up ladies! See you on the hardwood:)
There are so many ways I could go with this, it’s almost overwhelming. I want to start with Fear not! I’m actually quite happy. Since posting my last blog I have been on the receiving end of many an outstretched hand - which makes a girl feel loved, but also intrigues me. Can we not be happy and still ponder this thing called life? In truth, I was over my “crisis” (you may have noticed I have a flare for the dramatic;) before I posted it. But I posted it to help others and hear what you had to say. Philosophy used to be a way of life for many, not just something you thought about for one semester in college. I think it’s fun to ask big questions. Which brings us back to: how do we keep our eye on the target? Target being: Make the world a better place.
Of course, this answer may be different for everyone. Sure we can agree on the obvious ones:
Donate your time or money to worthy causes.
Do work that’s important to you and others.
Be an example of love.
That last one is the hardest I think. And if I’m honest, to be a consistent example of love I think I need to slow down. As a society, we’ve gotten into the habit of being busy. We equate that to being important. I’m definitely guilty of it. But they aren't the same thing. And I think keeping yourself running ragged all the time is a disservice to just about everyone. I tell my students all the time: rushing never looks good. It’s as true on the dance floor as it is in life.
How do I know? I’m a lot less tolerant of “bad” driving when I’m running behind - though clearly the person in the car ahead of me isn’t the one making me late. I sh/could have left five minutes earlier. But I make excuses for myself and I lash out at them. And let me tell ya’, when your seven year old gets impatient with the line of cars in front of you when the light just turned green, you re-evaluate your behavior.
And speaking of kids, I’m much more patient with mine when I’m not multitasking. And they notice! Heck, at least half of bad behavior is because a child is crying out for attention. And what is so important about that text or email that I can’t respond later? ... while the kids are asleep... dreaming of the fun we had together that very evening. There’s that flare for the dramatic again;)
So does that mean stop multitasking? Is that even possible?? I do tell my students to give all of their attention to their partners - only then can we do our best listening and our best giving. I don’t know if you’ve experienced being fully present recently - but it’s blissful. Sometimes exhausting, it’s true, but also regenerating. Hmm… a paradox… maybe that’s what life is.
I remember when I was young I used to hate the word content. I used to say, “I never want to be content” (disdain dripping off that nasty word). “It means you’ve stopped trying to be better.” And there’s truth there. The definition of content reads, “satisfied with what one is or has; not wanting more or anything else”. Now, as an adult, I can tell you the moments I've been content are my favorite moments in this world.
Yet we’re constantly told to work harder, never settle, be the Best!, and all that jazz. Aren't we lazy if we're not improving? How do we reconcile the two? Time management, perhaps? Spend eight hours a day working our tokuses off and the other eight waking hours being present with our family, friends, and selves? I struggle to make that schedule a reality and I rarely sleep eight hours?! Now that I think about it like that - a simple hour allocation - what do I do with my time? Hmm… I may be on to something.
If you’ve succeeded in satisfactory time management, please tell me how! Otherwise, I may have to experiment and write a blog about it. Till then, if you’re still down with the winter blues, do what I did - go see “The Greatest Showman”. I know you’re laughing - and I’m laughing with you - but it’s true: it’s hard to be down about life when you’re singing and dancing!
See you on the hardwood!
Winter is tough. The lack of sunshine leaves a longing in your heart (even though we’ve got it better than most here in CO). The cold makes you want to stay curled up inside (especially if you’re not a traffic fighting ski buff since tearing your ACL in 2012). Less movement leads to stiff bodies. Our genetic makeup urges us to hold on to some “winter insulation” and comfort food is all too accessible. Add it all up and an existential crisis could be one gray day away.
Lately I’ve found myself wondering, “What’s it all for?”. I know more than a few people going through the same meh right now, so I thought I’d post some questions here in the hopes of helping people feel less isolated… and maybe even gain some outside perspective from some philosophically provocative comments:) So here goes nothin’ - firing squad style:
Why are we here? Is there a Supreme Creator somewhere out there who conceived each and every one of us? If so, does this Creator have a plan for every one of us? If yes, how do we find said plan? Pray for it? Seems too simple. And we’ve all heard the cult stories that started with God talking to someone and ended in a lot of God’s followers dying. Granted, that’s the extreme end of the spectrum, but I use it to illustrate the fact that we may never know what this Creator is trying to tell us.
If there’s no plan (or way of knowing it) and we’re free to choose - is this Supreme Creator merely a scientist who’s rubbing His or Her hands together as S/He hunches over this large petri dish we call Earth, watching the mayhem? If we’re an experiment, is the goal to see if we can manage not to exterminate our species? Seems dark, and a bit too simple... really though, depending on the day, it seems we’re better at killing than we should be:(
And now that we’ve mentioned Earth - with the Universe being soooo vast, why does anything we do even matter? We are but a speck of dust on a grain of sand on a never-ending beach. Why do we stress about how many Likes we get?!? Or what the scale said this morning?! (For the record, I don’t weigh myself - I think scales are evil;) but I have friends that obsess about it!) Why do we care?? Because we have to? Because the thought of everything being meaningless is too much for our egos to accept? The vacuousness would consume us. Best not to think on that too long, eh?
So, if our measly existence means something - what does it mean? Bringing me back to my original question: what’s it all for? Maybe we do have a purpose. Maybe it’s different for every person. One way or another, the only purpose grand enough to justify existence is really to make the world a better place. We could argue about how one does that, (politicians have done that for centuries) but at some point this will become a thesis instead of a blog and you probably don’t have that kind of time - so let’s skip to the end and say: with love. Loving someone, whether it’s a friend, a brother, a stranger (keep it clean - we’re talking serious stuff here;) a pet - makes the world a better place. I don’t know anyone that would dispute that, but that still doesn’t justify our existence.
If we’re just here to learn to love, why do people suffer long after they’ve achieved the goal? My mother-in-law was an extremely loving person, yet the last year and a half of her life was spent in a hospital bed, suffering. She prayed every day. Doesn’t seem like a nice plan from a Supreme Creator. I know some folks will say, “You’ll just have to ask Him when you get up there. Have faith.” But I want to know in what and why? (Which I know would not be "faith", but I can't have faith in something or someone cruel. It's just not where I'm at right now.)
Maybe there's a prize in the end if we succeed? Is there a Heaven? Is there a Hell? Some say we can create either on Earth. I’ve definitely been privy to moments that might qualify... for both ends. But surely we shouldn’t be working for a prize?! Life isn’t a contest, is it? It’s supposed to be about the journey, right? At least that’s what commercials tell me - and if you can’t believe an ad man…;)
So what if there is no prize? Just the here and now. Love makes it more pleasant - I get that - but why was I awarded this opportunity? Anyone can do that. And how do I best show love to my fellow man? With the rat race becoming intolerable, we’ve nearly forgotten common courtesy - yet alone a true act of selfless love. We’ve gotten our priorities so out of whack we can’t see the target anymore. It’s terrifying! The next (and last - Hooray!) question becomes: assuming a target exists, how do we keep our eyes on it? My friends, we’ll delve into that next time… but if life's a dance, right now I'm flailing around.
See you on the hardwood (where, thankfully, there are a lot less questions;)
and it was only 9:30am. I’ll spare you the details and just say - nothing was really going my way. I was driving home, channeling my inner Yosemite Sam, “Raz-a-fraz-a-ricka-fracka”, when I turned onto our road and saw my husband shoveling snow. An immediate calm spread over my body. A warm fuzzy, you might call it. There he was, shoveling the neighbor’s sidewalk (yes, he’s that nice) and he made my day.
I enjoyed the change of mood so much, I rolled my window down and stopped in the middle of our quiet street to revel in it a bit longer. He greeted me with his usual, “Hi, Gorgeous!” and I swooned a bit deeper into our moment of bliss. After some light banter, I pulled into the garage a different person than I had pulled out. I couldn’t help but be grateful for this man. Then I wondered if I had ever impacted someone like that. Had my mere presence softened their edge? The answer came all too quickly: Nope!
Before slipping down the rabbit hole of why I am how I am, I realized the reason I instantly relax when he’s around is because he loves me. Truly loves me - faults and all. And we all want to be loved - in life and on the dance floor. We’re not perfect partners. We’re not perfect dancers. We’re not perfect people. But we can be loved. We can be welcomed with open arms. And what that does for us - hell, what it could do for the world - is remarkable.
If you’ve danced long enough, you’ve hopefully experienced a partner that always seems genuinely happy to dance with you. You may not get to dance with him/her often, but you sure enjoy those dances. The pressure of expectation evaporates. Mistakes are merely laughed away. The two of you just have fun. Don’t you love that person? I sure do.
So I’m going to try to be that person for someone. I want to perfectly love someone imperfect today. Whether it’s on the dance floor or in the grocery store. Wish me luck. And thank you, Ty Johnson, for being my inspiration. I love you.
Granted! Ironically, while I write this I'm listening to "The Scientist" by Coldplay and the lyrics "Nobody said it was easy... No one ever said it would be this hard... Oh take me back to the start." are echoing in the background. Total serendipity - because today's blog is about letting yourself Suck when you're new...to anything - especially Dance.
Dance demands things of muscles in your body you didn't know you had. It requires focus you didn't know you were capable of - where time evaporates and life's other problems melt away (one of the perks of the dance floor, actually:). And if it's a partner dance you're doing - it pleads with you to be more vulnerable, more giving, and more honest than you ever thought possible. Then you put the music on and it demands all of these of you at high speeds!? You're going to stumble. Probably even fall. Guess what - everyone does!
Cut yourself a little slack. Even if you're accustomed to picking things up quickly. Even you - athlete, professional musician, superwoman... even you. I've said this over and over again to my students - usually right before I give them thirteen things to think about at once. Hey, I'm not perfect. I'm excitable. So if I give you a lot to think about, it's because you're doing really well!
By now, we've all heard it takes 10,000 hours to master your craft. I know we're not all trying to be masters, but let's give ourselves a minimum of 1,000 hours (conservatively:) to be good - shall we? And when we get stuck - as we inevitably will - go back to the start: the basics.
Life truly is a dance. I need to remember this more in the Parenting arena. It's a tricky one to negotiate at times and I get sooooo disappointed with myself when I handle a tough situation poorly. Most recently, it involved my three year old, a pair of wet pants, and a carpet stain. But that's why they're called Accidents! I should have just shrugged it off and went about our now deodorized evening. But I didn't. I suck. And I hate that I suck.
I want to be an amazing mom! I do my homework. I read parenting books, books on communicating, books about expressing love, parenting blogs, and anything else I can fit into my schedule. But when a "song comes on" I don't like - I flail through space and time lost in my own ineptitude. And I'm over 25,000 hours into my son's life. Talk about Slow Learner. But they're right... "no one ever said it would be this hard". I need to go back to the basics. Which, with kids, is Love.
I'm not saying you have to like sucking. I'm saying: expect you will...totally suck... when you're new. Allow yourself some stumbles. Some bruised knees (and Egos). Most importantly, allow yourself time to get better.
See you on the hardwood!
...and not in the good way! Two things really bother me on the dance floor. The first is a pushy lead. I don't like being manhandled (nor do I know anyone who does). I'd much rather be invited. The second, and one I have been lucky enough to avoid for some time, is Ego. I absolutely want to punch some guys in the face...ok, that may be a little violent (and not the right way to start the new year) - so I'll settle for telling them, "It's not about you. Really."
Don't misunderstand. I'm not saying it's about me. The reason I social dance is because it's about US. Two people creating together... something funny, something sexy, it doesn't matter what, as long as both opinions matter in the conversation (dance being a conversation you have without the words). Why would you talk to someone if you don't care what they say, anyway?!
Granted, I did ask this man to dance. But, Wow!, do I wish now he would have said, "No, thanks", b/c he didn't seem to care about my being there at all. I knew his style was flamboyant, but it was a Bachata, so I assumed he would be a tad more chill. Wrong!
His movement was loud and disjointed. His fingertips pressed into my back (Hate it!). His conviction that he was the superior dancer dripped from every scoff he gave if I missed a lead - which happened a grand total of two times toward the beginning of the song while I was still trying to decipher the lead through the yelling his body was doing.
It was basically the total opposite of what dancing should be! And for a split, very sad, second, I understood why women, (people, really - b/c I've heard horror stories about female partners, too) give up social dancing. If I ran into people like this often, I'd pursue another career!
Why do I tell you all this? Why not just vent in my journal like a normal person? So you can be - scratch that - so WE can all be better partners - both in life and dancing! If you engage in conversation with someone, whether with the body or otherwise, make it a conversation you both enjoy. It's not that hard to do. Just make them feel like their being there matters to you. ... Then you might get them hot and bothered in the right way;)
See you on the hardwood!
I need to start this post with a confession: (those who know me will not be surprised) I get excited pretty easily. Glass bottle Coke, the air before a storm, a favorite "Oldie" on the radio...they all do it. "It" being eliciting a random manifestation of my lack of supreme self-control (usually jumping up and down spontaneously or, as one lucky student found out when he did an exceptionally great job, hitting like an eight year old girl)... basically, I get a little carried away;)
And tonight, on yet another wonderful Tuesday social dance class, I let myself get too excited! I apologize. I apologize because when instructors get excited they teach too much or they teach moves that are too difficult. I am guilty of this, usually rookie, mistake tonight.
Hustle has such a natural flow to it that it's sometimes hard to slow down in the class setting. But I forgot it might not be natural to everyone at first!? I should have spent more time on the basic. I'm sorry. Sometimes I get caught up trying to please the advanced students - it is the challenge of an all level class: pleasing everyone - but I've been teaching long enough to know you keep the moves simple, yet interesting, and you give the advanced students technique to improve upon.
The reason I write this is two-fold. One, to tell people I'm not perfect. I'm still working on the art of teaching and dancing. And two, to say if you've ever felt overwhelmed in a dance class now you know it might not have been about you. It may be the instructor had a glass bottle Coke before class;) Or you're doing so well she thinks you've got it and want more - forgetting even the best meals need time to digest. Maybe you're one of two beginners in the class and other people have been dancing for years, so the teacher moves faster to please the majority. Whatever the case, my hope is you don't get discouraged and give up dancing! Remember, everything is most challenging when it's new. It will get easier with time and effort.
We all make mistakes on the dance floor... despite that, it's still tons of fun! So, you keep dancing and I'll try to stay a tad more controlled while I teach. I make no promises about the social dance afterward though;) See you on the hardwood!
I'm sitting here with an ice pack on my knee and a big, goofy smile on my face. It's 11:15pm and I recently got home from Riverside where I taught a lesson in East Coast Swing, then we danced the night away! One of the owners of the venue suggested I dance less - take it easy - to protect my knee. What he doesn't fully comprehend is that I'd trade dancing for pain any night of the week! So the saying must be true...
Now, I'm not being ridiculous about my injury. I am trying to push myself in a controlled, intelligent way - which reminds me of a blog request I had some weeks ago. Laura, this one's for you:) The question posed was, what (besides dancing) should dancers do to get/stay in shape and maximize their potential on the floor (i.e. be able to dance all night)?
I truly believe the best exercise for dancers (besides dancing:) is Pilates. The core strength you learn in that discipline directly translates to the dance floor. The more engaged your center, the more relaxed - yet connected - your arms can be. The lengthening you learn in Pilates improves your lines on the dance floor. And as a bonus, Pilates also helps you slim down. Our endurance in any activity increases when we're in good shape.
Weight lifting or some kind of muscle building activity also brings the dancer closer to his/her desired fitness levels. One of my favorite coaches is an avid rock climber - and a Beast on the dance floor:). Dancing and Pilates will help you slim down, but the stronger our muscles are, the more dynamic we can be on the floor. You don't want your Waltz to look the same as your Cha Cha Cha. Dancing has explosions of energy and sustained stretching - you need strong muscles to provide that light and shade.
The last thing I recommend is to do other sports... (just not on Tuesday nights b/c that's when you should all be in Social Dance Class;). Hiking, biking, tennis, golf - whatever your hobby, do it. And notice the similarities between it and dancing. You can't be a great tennis player if you don't get your feet in the right place. If you let the ball crowd you due to lazy feet, you'll never crush it! Good dancing comes from the feet. You have to feel the floor, push into it, and really move your feet - instead of just taking steps.
I could do this with any sport. The point is: there are truths to movement. And when you discover one in one facet of life, you'll be able to translate it to another. Then learning new dances or moves will start to click in ways they hadn't before, which will build your confidence - which, in turn, will get you out on the dance floor more... which will get you into better shape and you'll enjoy dancing all night!
I love it when it comes full circle;) Now, my ice pack is but a soppy shadow of what it once was, soSee you on the hardwood!
leads to another. Last night was the first social dance party at Riverside in Boulder. I teach a lesson from 7:30-8:30pm, then we dance until 10. And did we dance…! The plan is to spend two weeks on each dance, then progress to a different style so that during the dance party (and every social event you attend from now to the end of your days), when the music ranges from Tango to Hustle - you’ll be able to have fun to whatever is playing! And describing last night as “fun” is the understatement of the month!
Most people enjoy a wide range of music - which is why I find it hilarious when they say they only do One type of dance!? Why limit yourself? That’s like eating only one type of food. Ludicrous! Some people claim they can’t learn multiple dances at once. That is simply not true. There are truths to movement that transfer not only to other dances, but other activities in life. My students range from ski instructors to horse back riders to piano teachers. Every time I get the same response: “That’s just like ____” - “skiing… riding a horse… playing piano” - the list goes on. It boils down to: the more you challenge your body and mind - the better you get.
You may get confused with which pattern goes to which dance, but guess what? A lot of the dances borrow from each other! You can do the same moves in Foxtrot that you do in Waltz. The same moves in Waltz that you use in Rumba. Your “go to” moves in Salsa can become your “go to” moves in West Coast Swing. I could go on – but I think you get the picture.
Especially where partner dancing is concerned – it behooves you to know multiple dances. There are principles to leading and following that transfer to ANY partner dance you do. It’s helpful to learn these if you want to be a great dance partner! So, if this doesn’t convince you to bust open that shell you're hiding undrer
and come cut a rug with us on Tuesday nights – watch “So You Think Can Dance” or “Dancing with the Stars” and find out how cool ALL the dances are!
See you on the hardwood:)
Allison loves to write almost as much as she loves to dance, so no one had to twist her arm to get her to write about dancing!