Oops, I'm Weird…

I am the exact opposite of everyone else on the planet. I am so anal (usually anyway) about turning my cell phone to silent during a performance that I often actually forget to turn it back to ring when I leave. So, today, not feeling so well, I tried to take it easy all day to save my energy for my two-hour-long evening lesson. I managed to haul myself out the door, down the stairs, through the rain and on the crowded subway, to my studio, only to be told by the receptionist upon my arrival that my teacher had to cancel due to illness – -she’d left a message on my cell, she said, flustered and feeling badly. Of course she did, and of course I didn’t hear the blasted phone since it was on silent from when I saw ABT’s Works & Process at the Guggenheim last night

It turned out okay since I felt on the verge of passing out when I walked into the studio anyway and wasn’t sure how I’d make it through two whole hours of working on a fast-paced routine. Problem is, I’m now about 99.99% sure that I cannot do the performance on May 7th. It’s just too close, and with Luis only being able to be in the studio on Monday nights, that means I only have two more lessons until then, and I’m still extremely shaky on the choreography, which has changed numerous times now.

It’s also very hard for me, because — and this is another way in which I’m weird — I’ve learned that foxtrot, and all of Standard ballroom, is very difficult for me because of my odd tendency to walk toward the balls of my feet, never ever using my heels. I don’t know whether it was taking ballet as a very small child or all the Latin I’ve had, which is always always ALWAYS toe heel, and never heel toe, but I just can’t seem to get the basic walk right. Not that technique has to be perfect for a showcase, but if you don’t walk heel toe going forward and then walk through the entire foot going backward, completely lifting your whole foot except your heel at the end of your step, your partner can very easily trip over you.

My first ballroom teacher, the very sweet Linda Gammon, actually figured out that I was “weird” in this respect. Frustrated with what seemed to be a lack of understanding in class one day, she had me walk backwards around the room, “like normal.” Turned out, my toes never left the floor, and my heels hardly ever touched it. So, I basically looked like I was jogging backward in slow-motion (how you’d keep to the balls of your feet to gain momentum if you were doing such a thing). Anyway, I remember her saying, in her cute, jocular way, that I’d have to learn how to walk like a normal person before learning Standard ballroom. Anyway, since I focused on Latin, I never bothered to learn how to be “normal.” 🙂

I don’t know how clear these pictures are but I’ve tried to illustrate what I mean with them: first is the heel toe Standard way; second is toe heel the Latin way:

I mean, the Latin photo doesn’t look completely right because I should be wearing open-toed shoes for Latin; can’t get much of a pointed toe out of these. But, I don’t have a pedicure and I’m not photographing my feet right now in open-toed shoes, so hopefully the picture is still understandable!

Anyway, this failure to ever “learn to be normal” is a problem for me now with this routine since it’s been changed into a basic foxtrot. Originally, I’d taken the DVD of Baryshnikov and ballerina Elaine Kudo performing Twyla Tharp’s Sinatra Suite to my studio to ask teachers and coaches if I could do something similar for my student showcase.

By this I meant I wanted them to take one of the pieces in the suite (they’re all fundamentally ballet, but one of Tharp’s things is to combine popular dance with ballet and so she did that here by combining various standard ballroom dances with ballet, choreographing a tango-styled one, a waltz-styled one, and a foxtrot-styled one), and take out the most difficult things and maybe put in a few very basic standard ballroom steps (from waltz, foxtrot, etc.) and that would be my routine. We’d chosen the foxtrot because, to the original teacher, the music seemed the most fun, though he wanted to change the actual song, and to me, I liked the snazzy, sassy character of Tharp’s choreography (especially as acted by Marcelo 🙂 ). I knew, though, that that one was choreographically the hardest of all of the ‘suites,’ and expected a lot to be changed, but was still excited to work my hardest and really try.

Anyway, I’m not sure what happened, if it was all a misunderstanding or if, more likely, I was asking ballroom dancers to choreograph something for me that wasn’t at its heart ballroom and they just didn’t know how to do it, but I ended up with a very basic foxtrot routine with some fun steps and a couple of cool lifts, but that bears absolutely no similarity whatsoever to what I’d originally wanted. And I tell myself that that’s okay because I’m learning foxtrot, which I didn’t know before, and it is a cute routine, and somewhat Rita Hayworth and Fred Astaire-esque (although when I tried to emulate her I was told I was doing it wrong because I was too light and feathery and not bending my knees and going far enough into the ground, as should be done in foxtrot).

Anyway, I hate to be overly practical and money-obsessed, but it’s very very VERY expensive to me to participate in these showcases. I understand why they have to charge so much because there are a lot of people to pay in order to make the show happen… but, I’m sorry for sounding ridiculous but it’s just too expensive for me to do a basic foxtrot routine. I need to be doing things I really really want to learn that are so hard that they push me beyond my natural limits.

I’m going on for far too long, and being very boring, but I guess I’m just having such a conflict because I’m so not a quitter. And I hate the idea of quitting this routine, but I think I have to… because I’m not in love with it, because all I can see is dollar signs, because I can’t get a simple heel toe walk right, and because there’s just no time… Ugh, I just HATE being a quitter!!!!! I HATE it!!!

I’ll still of course buy a ticket and go watch all of my friends perform, but I know I’ll be so sad to not be part of the action myself…

Anyway, on a totally different note: I almost forgot since I was so under the weather today, but:

four weeks, just four more weeks, just four weeks!!!!!!!!!


  1. Tonya,

    For what they are worth (very little, no coubt) here are my thoughts on your “foxtrot” dilemma. What I have learned over the years is that if you begin a course of action and discover along the way that despite your best efforts it’s not working for you or you really don’t love what you are doing and you then proceed to change course, that is NOT “quitting” – rather, it’s what I would call WISDOM. Forget about the dollar factor or the time factor – those you could probably overcome. The significant factor for me is your statement that “I’m not in love with it.” There’s your answer. ‘nuf said. I’m sure you have to do a lot of things in your law career that you don’t love. That’s true for all of us, no matter what we do for a living. But don’t let that carry over into your “free” life of dance as well. You are a Latin dancer – that is your passion – stick with that and leave the foxtrot to others (the people who can never be the Latin dancer that YOU are).

  2. The cost of showcases at DTS prohibits you from actually learning to dance. The dollar-signs you see ticking by as you prepare for them means you sacrifice basic technique and foundation, in favor of pizzazz and performative flourish. Once you have a foundation in basics, you might be able to get by on a once-a-week rehearsal with a beloved teacher in preparation for a show, but right now, you can’t.

    I think the showcases there are for the wealthy and self-indulgent, not for the worker who is in love with dancing and wants to really learn. Many other studios offer opportunities to perform that do not cost more than a month’s rent. I encourage you to investigate.

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