The Gift of Movement

A wiggle. A waddle. A bob and weave. A hand stand. A walk in the park. A bike ride. A foxtrot. A cartwheel. It doesn’t matter how or where or when but we were made to move.

Dancing and yoga and walking in the city and biking down paths and country roads are the forms of movement I’m most into right now.

I am sarathlete! I’m on the move!

I’m so grateful for the ability to be able to move. I was inspired to write this post today by my mother-in-law. My mother-in-law can barely move. I had lunch with Pete’s side of the family today. My mother-in-law is in her early seventies. She’s so overweight she couldn’t walk from the booth to the front door of the restaurant today without being out of breath and having to sit down before she walked out to the car. Her back hurt. She was out of breath. Want to know why? Because she barely moves. She will tell you that she cannot move. She sits in a chair all day and chooses not to move. Instead of trying to to things for herself my mother-in-law chooses to order her husband around all day having him do simple tasks like getting her food or whatever.

I don’t feel sorry for my mother-in-law. I’m not taking pity or making a judgment of her. This is my observation of her.

Watching my mother-in-law today made me so grateful for the gift of movement. I don’t envy her choice not to move at all. I’m also grateful, as a friend once said, that I still have all of my original factory parts! My mother-in-law was such an inspiration to move that I came home and went on a fast 20 mile bike ride. I pushed myself harder on that ride than I ever have when I’ve ridden in the past. Why? Because I could.

I can move. You can move. The choice to move is up to the individual.

For me movement gives me freedom, provides a means of transportation, gives me a form of emotional and physical expression. Movement fulfills me and helps me sustain my life. Movement makes me joyous.

I hope you choose to move because movement makes like so beautiful and interesting, in my opinion! I love it!

If you choose to move then honor yourself and your movement by moving right now. Get up and do a happy dance. Do tree pose. Go jump in a lake. Make a joyful noise. Why? Because you can. You made your choice. Relish in that fact.

Life is a gift. Live it. Move it. Shake it up a bit! Get out of breath once in a while! We can’t choose to move when we die. So move now and celebrate the wonderfully fabulous gift of life!



Me after a glorious 4 mile walk in Chicago! So happy!


The Ballroom “Look”

I saw this video posted by a friend on Facebook this afternoon. I wanted to share both the video and my thoughts on the interview with you.

Toni Redpath, the woman interviewed in the video below, is a professional ballroom dance competitor and a ballroom dance competition judge. I’ve seen her perform at competitions in the past and her movement on the dance floor is both beautiful and breath-taking. Toni’s statements on how she judges female dancers at competitions based on their “look” instead of just their ability is a common calamity at any ballroom dance competition.

The interview starts off on a positive note. Toni explains what she’s looking for when she judges the Bronze, Silver and Gold syllabus levels. Toni also describes what she looks for when she judges the Open category, the most advanced level where you can link together syllabus steps of your choice in addition to making up your own choreography.

About 2/3rds of the way through the interview Toni reveals that she judges female dancers on their ballroom “look” rather than their dance ability. Toni clearly states that “the girl who has the better look” gets a better score when she’s judging two women with nearly the same ability.

Watch the interview below, and you’ll see what I mean.

Is presence or a “look” important? Yes. I agree with Toni that the appearance of the dancer is important because costumes, makeup and a clean hairstyle should compliment your dancing. Competitions and performances are special days to celebrate the hard work you’ve done. Celebration of hard work at ballroom dance competition is usually expressed by dressing up in a fancy costume, putting on makeup, getting your nails done and donning some sparkly accessories. Your costuming should accent your dancing. Your costuming should not be the only thing the judge notices.

To achieve the “look” that Toni refers to at a ballroom dance competition, you will need a spray tan to turn your skin orange (note–not brown) so you can be seen under the bright lights, fake finger nails, false eyelashes, heavy eye makeup up to your eyebrows and a clean hairstyle in which your hair needs to be either very long or very short and your hair color needs to be dyed either a very, dark brown or a blinding, platinum blonde. Your weight is also considered a definite factor in your “look”. I’ve had coaches in the past look at me during a coaching session and comment that losing 5 to 10 pounds would go a long way to helping my “look” on the dance floor. Comments about my weigt always crushed me. When I danced I wasn’t ever obese. I was healthy and strong but never skinny enough to meet my coaches’ expectations.

Additional requirements to achieve the “look” include the purchase of one or two dresses—either a ball gown and/or a Latin gown, depending on which style(s) of ballroom dance you’re competing in. These dresses are not cheap. If you buy a decent dress you can expect to pay upwards of $2,000.00 for a used dress or approximately $4,000.00 for a new dress. If owning a dress that will go out of style within 2 years requiring you to purchase another dress so you can keep improving your “look” is not the route you want to take, you also have the option of renting a dress for a minimum of $250.00 for one competition weekend. Either direction you choose, owning and constantly replacing your gown(s) or renting a new gown(s) each weekend you that you compete can add up fast. Tack on accessories like earrings, necklaces, rings, bracelets and/or gloves, and you can expect to pay $300.00-$500.00 for that alone. Suddenly your “look” has become an expensive investment. And remember—none of your investment has gone towards your dance coaching to help improve your ability.

Think of any other sport—triathlons, marathons, 5Ks, football, basketball, baseball etc. None of these sports place any emphasis on how you “look” when you perform. Your score is determined by you and/or your team’s ability to perform well. Yes, you spend money on uniforms and gear. Sometimes the more money you spend on gear can greatly benefit your ability. However, the way you “look” isn’t a determinant in these sports to be winner. In these sports, ability always outshines the “look” when you’re when you’re fighting to win.

If you struggle with similar concerns regarding your “look” at a ballroom dance competition, my recommendation is be true to yourself, proud of the hard work you’ve done and dance the best you can. If you feel that you’re clean and professional appearance on the dance floor isn’t winning you any medals, then keep on dancing harder. Don’t go out and purchase another costume. Costumes shouldn’t be judged. Your overall ability is what should shine through to the judges.


I Swore I’d Never Teach Again

That’s a big deal to me—to swear I’ll never do something again. It’s also a very closed off way to approach and deal with whatever it was that made me decide to swear off the something—in this case, teaching.

Despite my vow to myself that I’d never teach again I’ve come to realize that teaching is one of my strengths. Since I swore off teaching at the end of 2010, I’ve since trained a co-worker how to do my job at my workplace. We also now have a new employee that is starting in our department. It’s looking like the co-worker I trained is going to train the new employee we have at work. It’s very exciting when you see that little piece of yourself and the knowledge that you imparted upon someone else be passed on as they teach the skill you taught them to someone else.

When I said I’d sworn off teaching what I really meant to say was that I’d sworn off teaching ballroom dancing ever again. I wasn’t quite so detailed in my description. I’m a really good, patient teacher. I’m also a really good ballroom dancer. Both fit me and they are both things I really miss. However, what I really miss about ballroom dance is the movement. And what I really miss about teaching ballroom dance is teaching movement to people. What I do not miss was the excess garbage of things I had to deal with as a professional ballroom dance teacher. I’ve never had a thick skin and mean comments about my weight, my makeup, my clothing, and my lack of money to commit to more ballroom gowns, and the constant competition between myself and the owner of the studio, became things I no longer wanted to deal with. These are things that go with teaching ballroom dancing. This dancesport is not about the quality of movement or quality of teaching. It’s about what you look like, how much money you have, and how little you weigh. I couldn’t deal with the pressure anymore because it was making me paranoid and getting through my thin skin, and was contributing to depression and constant anxiety to the point where I said, “I’m done and will never teach again.”

Nearly 4 years later, I found myself sitting on the wood floor of the yoga studio at which I’d been practicing hot yoga intensely for about the past 6 months. I was at a teacher training meeting. I was only there because I wanted to deepen my practice of the different poses or asanas. The teacher trainer told us that if we ever wanted to teach to do the teaching practicum of the course. There was an option to just audit the class and not get the teaching certificate. I figured I would go for the teaching certificate because if I was going to go I wanted to go the whole way. This time the teaching option would be on my terms. If I want to teach I can and if I don’t then I won’t but at least I’ll have the knowledge.

I went home on Friday night March 7, 2014 with assurance that I wouldn’t ever be pitted up against another teacher, I wouldn’t be criticized for my weight or my looks, and most importantly that I wouldn’t need a particularly thick skin. These were my biggest fears and I asked my teacher trainer Catherine about these fears and she assured me that none of them would come to fruition.

Since that Friday night I have had time to really think and I came to realize that I needed to not bring into teaching yoga what made teaching ballroom dance so hard for me. My fears were a typical residual effect of ballroom dance. Those are things that almost every teacher in the ballroom dance industry face and it was my choice to give them up. Oddly the things I was never criticized for were my skill as a dancer and as a teacher. No one ever told me that I was a bad teacher and no one ever criticized me for my dancing. In fact it was quite the opposite. Those were the two things that I always got complimented on. I just couldn’t look past that and all I chose to see and still see today are the negatives. Ballroom dancing is something I would love to get back into somehow. However the glamor addiction fallout of the sport sends me reeling.

Looking forward, I decided to do the teacher training for yoga. I like yoga a lot but it’s not something I’m naturally good at like I was with dance, which I had been in since childhood. I’ve practiced yoga on and off here and there since I was in college. Yoga has always presented me with a way to calm myself down since I tend to be a person that gets hyped up about everything and anything. I’m hoping that by learning to teach the postures that I will learn more about the spiritual side of yoga and the connection of mind and body.

Going forward in my journey in life I hope I never say that I swear off anything again. Swearing anything off is a closed-minded way to be in my eyes. I hope I can fall in love with yoga the way I did with dance. I’m hoping to enter a less competitive world where glamor and money are not the most important thing on the playing field. Irsquo;m hoping my teaching skills and new knowledge of the postures are what will shine through for me on my journey of learning more and more about yoga. Who knows, maybe it will be a healthy way for me to rebuild my love of dance that I set into flames 4 years ago. I hope that I can rebuild bridges and become a stronger person in the outcome.

On Saturday March 15, 2014 I start my journey. I will be posting regularly on here as on my blog as form of journal-keeping so my readers can grow with me.