Dance As if No-one is Looking!

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With the number of times I mentioned my upcoming ballroom dance competition throughout the summer, now that it’s over I thought some of you might be interested in the outcome.

In our dance studio, we are frequently told to “dance as if no one is looking”.  I tried to keep that in mind each time I walked onto the dance floor and it must have worked because this was one of my best performances to date.  I entered 32 heats (number of times danced), and finished in first place 28 times and the other 4 entries I came in 2nd place.   The results were beyond my wildest expectations.  Needless to say I am over-the-moon happy with how I did.

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I was away for four days, and when I got home I was so tired I could have slept for another four days, but that was not to be, so gradually I’m regaining my much needed sleep and energy that I poured into the dancing.  There are so many emotions that go through you at a time like that, it is hard to describe exactly what it was like, but I was certainly exhausted when it was over.

Just a little background information for you:   in American-style ballroom there are two categories of dance,   Smooth and Rhythm.  Smooth dances consist of waltz, foxtrot, tango, and Viennese waltz.   When dancing smooth,  long “ball gowns” are the required attire for women with closed toe shoes.  One whole day is devoted to smooth dances.  The rhythm category includes swing, rumba, cha-cha, mambo, Paso Doblé, samba, bolero, and hustle.   These dances require the woman to wear a short costume that has a lot of movement along with open-toe shoes.  The judges really want to see all that hip action, don’t you know!!  Another whole day and evening is devoted to rhythm dances.

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In addition to the costumes, extreme hair styling takes place as well.  At our dance studio we are fortunate to have someone who is very talented at hair styling for competition and is available to “do” our hair for us.   I wouldn’t want you to think I go around with my hair looking like this all the time.  All though there are times when I have a “bad hair day”, it’s never quite  like this.  On both days that I danced I needed to be in the ballroom by 7:30am with gown and makeup on ready to have my hair done.  My first dances were around 8:30am.

The photos that I have included here show me dancing with my instructor in the smooth dances.  I hope you enjoy seeing them.  I am still waiting for my photos from the rhythm section of the competition.  When they arrive I will post a few to give you another view of what I wore and what that was like.

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What Dance Teachers Say

 

Ballroom dance lessons are a unique and wonderful experience.  They involve growth as a person as you develop a new skill.  They keep you “on you toes” both literally and figuratively.  Dancing is a super form of exercise and it requires you to be mentally sharp.  It is also a “close contact” sport.

Dance instructors and coaches have a unique challenge of giving information in a way that is clear and that you can relate to and remember.   The desire to get the point across can bring out the emotions and creativity of the teacher along with the information.  Sometimes what they say is priceless.

For your amusement, I have included below, some actual quotes from my teacher.  He can be very funny, unintentionally so.  That is just one of the reasons I have continued to dance with him for almost 10 years.  There are some days when it seems like I do more laughing than dancing, but that’s okay.  Laughter is a good tension breaker, and that’s what we need sometimes.

“Always keep your feet under you, and you must decide what leg your head is on”.

“Always keep in a straight line,  let me draw you a straight line, now let me see you walk in a straight line.  Hmmm, okay, now let’s dance in a straight line.”     I don’t drink and dance, honestly.

“Stretch, stretch, stretch.   Yes, that’s good.    Does it hurt?   If it hurts, you’re doing it right.   Keep stretching!!”

“I need to come inside you, then outside you..”

“Feel me, use my body,  wait for me, don’t finish before me”  Then he says,  “You seem distracted.  What are you thinking about.”

“Left, LEFT!  More LEFT!  Stretch your head left.  HEAD LEFT!  Stay to my right side.  Give me your right side.  HEAD left!   More left!   GO!! LEFT!!”

“Your other left”    At times like this, I’m not sure which is my right or my left.

“Where’s your boobs?  I don’t see them.  I need to see your boobs at all times.  You understand why this is important, don’t you?”

“I want you right THERE…. between my legs!”

“I want you to do an arm kick right there!”

“Use your front leg, then your hind leg”

“As you start turning, screw yourself into the floor.”

” You pulled out!   I told you NOT to pull out!”

“If you’re going to fall, do it gracefully.  You must be graceful and feminine at all times, and RELAX.”

“Don’t dance where your feet are, dance where your head is.”

My teacher is awesome, such a talented and graceful dancer, and so much fun to work with.  The operative word here is work!!

Just three more weeks until the competition.  YIKES!

 

 

 

Status Update and Time Out

Wow, you guys,  I can’t believe we are at the middle of August.  Where has this summer gone so suddenly?  Everywhere you look there’s talk of ” back to school”,  and I’m just now ready for some vacation and summertime fun.  You know why—I’ve been preparing myself for a Ballroom dance competition and it’s been a lot of work.    Well it’s over!!!  The competition was held this past weekend and  today I’m doing the “happy dance”.  I  did quite well over all with enough first-place awards to satisfy me and the rest of my entries were high placements that indicated an improvement in my performance over previous competitions.

This is me and my partner.

This is me and my partner.

It was a combination of lots of fun, nervous tension, and little sleep, but well worth it.  It’s always rewarding to compete and see the difference–improvement–in yourself over time.

Another shot of us.

Another shot of us.

This was the biggest competition ever held in this region;  over 3000 entries (not number of folks dancing, but number of times they went onto the dance floor to compete in a heat.)   Of that number I danced 25 times, all in one day, Saturday.  And I danced all smooth dances i.e.., waltz, foxtrot, tango, and Viennese waltz.  Even though these are slow(er) dances than rhythm dances, they are more strenuous to dance because they require muscle strength and control.  So I have been conditioning myself since this spring.

Below are some photos of dancers on the floor to give you some idea of what a competition looks like.  The theme for this competition was “Once Upon a Fairy Tale”, thus the “Magic Kingdom” backdrop behind the judges.  Each heat lasts about 1 1/2 – 2 minutes, and in that time the judges make a determination for placements from first to sixth.  As those dancers are leaving the floor the next group of dancers are walking onto the floor for the next heat; so you see, events move along quickly.  On Saturday we began dancing at 9:00am and the heats continued non-stop until 6:00pm.  Then a banquet and dancing follows that includes a wonderful performance by a professional couple.  The weekend flies by and when it’s over you are exhausted but ready to sign up to do it again.  MAYBE!

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Oh, the potted plants in the middle of the floor?  They were used to divide the floor into Ballroom”A” and Ballroom “B”, to accommodate more dancers–all dancing to the same music,  but in different categories, i.e.,  beginner, advanced, etc.  So while you were dancing you needed to careful that you didn’t fall into a planter.  Just another challenge thrown into the mix!!

Now that it’s all over I will be spending some time with my family who are visiting here from North Carolina for a week.   While I am thus occupied the blog will continue with posts that I have prepared in advance to run in my absence.  A week with house guests will require some cooking on my part so I expect to have some goodies to share with you all when I get back on track.

In the meantime, have a great week, and I’ll be back at my keyboard real soon.

Ballroom Dancing and Brownies

A few dancers on the floor.

I need to start getting myself geared up and thinking like a competitor. November is not so far away, when I will be out there on the dance floor dancing my heart out for the judges. That’s pretty much why I’m following my current diet plan. Besides that, I need to get totally immersed in ballroom dancing, and step up to the training that’s involved when I compete. When I’m not thinking about foods and cooking (and writing about it), I’m involved with my dance lessons. I take two private lessons and attend group classes –as many as I can manage–in a week. But that’s my usual routine. I will be increasing my lessons to 3/week and trying to get in as much dancing as I can to increase my tolerance and stamina. It’s a matter of really ramping up my activity level, working hard and keeping focused. Ballroom dancing is like any sport, needing strong muscles, balance, rhythm, and being aware of every part of your body as well as being in top physical condition. If you watched any of the Olympic athletes, I’m sure you have an appreciation for that.

The ladies’ gowns are so beautiful.

Well this past weekend I took some time out to attend a local, regional competition just to watch the dancers and to attend the banquet at the end of it all. There’s nothing like a competition to get you in the mood for competing. It’s a friendly environment with all the dancers supporting each other and people like me cheering them on. One thing I know about dancing is that it makes you hungry, and snacks as a source of energy, for those who are dancing, are always welcome. So I baked some brownies to bring along.

I’m not sure if my idea for these brownies is original or if I perhaps read about using pretzels with brownies in one of the many blogs I read, or some other source, but I did not have a recipe. What I did have was a package of peanut butter filled pretzels, so I decided to incorporate them into a nice fudgey brownie, ice the brownies with chocolate peanut butter ganache and put more pretzels on top. More is always better with me, as in: “you can never have too much of a good thing”. And when it comes to anything chocolate usually peanut butter is a good companion. I must confess that in this instance I took a shortcut and used a boxed brownie mix. Ghirardelli Brownie Mix is absolutely the best!

Another view of the dance floor.

PEANUT BUTTER PRETZEL BROWNIES

SERVINGS: 30

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease the bottom of a 13″ x 9″ pan.

Prepare the brownie mix as the package directs for fudge brownies.

Crush about 1 cup of peanut butter filled pretzel bites, keeping some of the pieces large. ( mine were Clancy’s brand ) The easiest way to do this is put the pretzels in a zip-lock bag and pound lightly with a meat tenderizer, or rolling pin.

Pour half the brownie batter in the pan, sprinkle on the cup of pretzels, cover with the remaining brownie batter. Bake as directed on the package.

Let brownies cool completely in the pan. Ice with chocolate peanut butter ganache. Cut the brownies into squares ( 5 across by 6 down), and place one whole pretzel on top of each one.

CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER GANACHE

2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 & 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream

1/4 cup creamy peanut butter

pinch salt

1. Place chocolate chips in a heat proof bowl.

2. Combine cream, peanut butter and salt over low heat. Stir until smooth. Increase heat to medium-low and, stirring constantly, heat until bubbles form along the edges of the pan.

3. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate chips and let sit for 5 minutes. The chips will become all melty like. Gently whisk the chocolate chips until the mixture is shiny and combined. Stop mixing when the mixture is combined or it will become kind of grainy. Let the ganache sit to thicken up a bit to spreading consistency. You can put it in the refrigerator, or place over a bowl of ice to speed this up if you are in a hurry.

4. Spread the ganache with an off-set spatula. Hide any left over ganache in the back of the refrigerator, because you will want to eat it with a spoon!