I'm currently doing research on dance and how it has changed people's lives. Are you a dancer, professional or hobbyist, whose life has changed because of dance? The research I am doing is for a series about dance for the W Network.
If dance has made an impact on your life, I would love to hear about it! Please feel free to contact me at:
Location: Montreal, Quebec, Canada
I Was Shy!
I was painfully shy before I started dancing and competitions. I think anyone will overcome shyness and crowds when standing on a ballroom dance competition floor in the midst of thousands of people and half a dozen judges waiting to perform those first few dance steps! Also, the fact that I was part of a group taking lessons brought me 'out of my shell' so to speak. OK, I still can't speak in front of a crowd, but there are a number of things I can do in front of crowds, whether large or small, that I just froze at before. This is how dancing changed my life!
~ Heather ~
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Location: SF Bay Area
When I started out ballroom dancing 11 years ago, I had many expectations about it. Over the years, its been interesting to see how ballroom dancing has evolved. The technique has changed and the attitude about dancing has changed as well. I've had my ups and downs with dancing. Good and bad experiences with private instruction. I'm presently out of the circuit, due to financial constraints. But I hope before too long to get back into it. I've been having dreams about dancing so that must be an indication of my desire to return to it. I've been away from private lessons and competitions for 18 months. I miss not having dance schedule in my life. There has not been any contact with anyone since I've pulled out, which surprises me. One would think that if one had been in a particular hobby for awhile that fellow enthusiasts would at least inquire where someone has been. If anyone has suggestions how I can slowly integrate myself into dancing again, I'd love to hear about it. In the meantime, I'm trying to get a handle on finances so that I can return to dancing without worry about going into debt again.
Location: North America
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I've been dancing since I don't know when. Not in a studio but around the house, at school, in the store. In less then two weeks I'll be starting dance lessons in a studio, and I'm overwhelmed with excitement. I've wanted to do this for so long. I just want to be able to dance with people who understand that free feeling you get when your able to express yourself with something so fun. I eventually want to become a professional dancer, but for now I'll just settle for Hip Hop lessons on thursdays.
I've been a ballroom, salsa and social dance teacher for 6 years. I've danced all my life, taken many dance classes and loved it. At 49, on the heels of divorce, I started taking ballroom dance lessons. I competed with my teacher in Pro-Am events after 12 lessons, and was either winning first or placing in the top 3. The studio owner invited me to join the teacher training program after one year as a student. I passed my exams and began teaching after 6 months and have now been earning at least 50% of my income teaching dance.
To say that dancing changed my life is an understatement. I'm not young - I'm on the other side of mid-50, but I'm still strong and healthy, and very happy thanks to dance. I think I'm a good example of finding a vocation and real happiness after a bad life experience, and am living proof that it's never too late to do what you love.
Location: St. Paul, MN
How Dancing And Competing Has Affected My Life...
What can I say that hasn't been said? In July of 1996 I was recently divorced. It was difficult to get my former wife to do anything. In hind sight, it is good that we parted ways. In order to maintain my sanity and peace of mind I started taking ballroom dance lessons. I had envisioned dancing all my adult life. When I was in my early teens a family friend had taught me some basic steps. Her intent was to have a dance partner at a local community center. Ever since then I had wished that I had continued dancing.
Anyway, after the divorce I had decided to sign up for a short package at local dance studio to see if I liked it. The result, I was hooked. I decided to do one of my studios showcases scheduled for the following September. The choice was to master ChaCha for that event. I was as nervous as one could possibly be. I didn't even want to social dance because it was too nerve racking. I made more mistakes than I felt was acceptable. However, I had been bitten by the bug. I started planning and dreaming of competing with my instructor.
My first competition was slightly more than one year later. It was sponsored by the studio in which I was a member. I did beginner Bronze Waltz, Tango and Foxtrot plus ChaCha, Rhumba and Swing. As a related aside, I was a teacher of electronics, a working professional musician and Real Estate salesperson. I thought I was used to being in front of a crowd. Little did I know that I would get the worst case of "Cotton Mouth" and Butterflies I had ever experienced in my life.
No matter how much reassurance I received from other dancers or my instructor, it did little or no good. I was convinced that I was going to do poorly. I committed every competition taboo you could imagine. I walked out on the dance floor with my head down. My lips moved as I silently counted 1-2-3-4 &...T-A-N-G-O, I watched my feet, my frame fell apart. The list is endless. Then the awards portion came. I received two firsts and four seconds and thirds. In fact, when they announced First Place for Tango I yelled "What!" and did a double take. This couldn't be right!
In spite of the negative things I was telling myself, a louder voice said keep going! I was determined to become a better dancer. I performed at every showcase I could get involved with and entered as many competitions as time and money would allow. The motivation and success of each event spurred me on. Each showcase and competition inspired me to become a better dancer. Normally I am not an intensely competitive person. It soon became an issue of personal best. I did not care who I was competing against. However, I felt better after events where my categories were contested.
At a later point I felt I was ready for Silver. I moved into Pre-Silver, Intermediate and Full Silver categories. I now felt I could social dance without looking like a klutz. Being able to hold my own was a huge internal win. We all need these kinds of wins when our lives take unfortunate or unexpected turns.
I cannot express the gratitude I feel toward the dance community and especially the owners and instructors at my studio (The Dancer's Studio in Minnesota – Owned by Marcy and Shinya McHenry). It is almost overwhelming. It has been like nothing I have ever experienced or imagined. The instructors, the owners and the coaches are all supportive. I could not have felt more of a sense of family unless I was related to them.
During and after my divorce I was depressed. My self-esteem was literally in the toilet! I felt I could do no right. Then to be embraced by the dance community, no one laughed, made fun or tried to "one-up" anyone. Then I finally got it. Everyone had been where I was at. They understood. Even if I felt I had a poor performance the support was wonderful. They all said "Great Job", "You Looked Wonderful" --all positive support.
At this point in my life I cannot even imagine being deprived of the pleasure of dance. It makes one feel like they can accomplish anything. In addition to physical activity it sharpens the mind. The people in the dance world are some of the most "with it" people I know. I believe it is because of the concentration of effort in a fun and invigorating activity. You become aware of the world around you. You notice things you never noticed before. You see beauty in those once perceived as without beauty. You see joy of accomplishment, an increase in poise and confidence. Dancing and competing blesses all participants with charm and grace whether they are professional or amateur. It is a skill that is transferable from the competitive to the social world. If taught to a child, these skills can last a lifetime.
It remains that dance saved my life and attitude towards humanity. That, in short, is what dancing and competing has done for me.
With My Deepest Gratitude,
Gary S. Narducci
Location: Montreal, Quebec, Canada
I just wanted to thank Gary for that wonderful post that brings back fond memories of my first competition.
SO much so, that I wanted to share a short story I wrote about it awhile back:
"Ballroom Jitters - Souvenirs of a First Dance Competition"
There I was, knees quaking with anticipation, hardly noticing my partner, whose knees were equally quivering.
Just moments before, our category of the competition was called early; a well-planned surprise attack by the organizers, I'm sure. My partner, figuring he had a couple of hours before being called up onto the ballroom dance floor, had drifted out into the hallway of the classy hotel to drool over the concessionaires' many items for dance fanatics. "Novice Latin!" the announcer exclaimed. I whipped my head around to look at him in disbelief. Cold beads of perspiration dotted my forehead as I listened to the numbers of the couples being called up to the dance floor. "#143!" the announcer bellowed. In shock I sprang to my feet, my partner nowhere in site. Finally, after a few seconds which felt like centuries, my partner raced in to join me. I uttered a sigh of relief but that still didn't quell the flurry of butterfly wings in my stomach. I'm sure my eyes were as large as the taillights of the latest Alero! (as a matter-of-fact they were...shown in photos taken by a wandering photographer hoping to profit from the numerous couples dancing that day.)
And now, feeling like specimens beneath a magnifying glass under the scrutiny of the dance judges strategically positioned around the ballroom floor, here we were, about to embark upon our first ballroom dance competition experience, dazed and shocked at actually being on a competition floor. The myriad of watchful eyes surrounded us from the crowd of people consisting of family members of the competitors, friends, general public, the competitors themselves waiting to be called or just biding their time in hopes of a callback or a win.
"Cha Cha!" called the announcer. "Cha Cha? What's a Cha Cha???" the thought passed through my dazed brain. The beat of the Cha Cha permeated through the ballroom as my partner thankfully led me through the dance without a stumble or without me passing out from sheer terror. With cold, clammy hands we moved from one dance step to another, desperately scanning our memory banks for clues to the routines we had practiced for the last few months in preparation for our very first dance competition. "Oh God, please let this be over soon!" conveyed my subconscious. Finally, after about a minute and a half, the disk jockey ended the Cha Cha and the competitors scattered to find the perfect positioning on the ballroom floor for the next dance to be called.
"And now the Rumba - dancers please take your positions" bellowed the announcer. We waited tensely for that first beat; I glanced nervously around and couldn't help wondering if the other couples felt as stressed as we did. As my partner and I took our first Rumba step I had the strangest feeling come over me - a sense of pride at actually being a good-enough dancer to participate in a ballroom dance competition. We completed the Rumba and as we drifted off the dance floor to take our seats, my partner and I glanced at each other. In a fleeting moment I felt his elation; I knew that whether we won or not, we still had accomplished something that many dance couples never experience in their lifetimes, and from that moment on we would never again experience the fear of the unknown as we stepped out onto the competition dance floor.
Thanks for your time...have a *sunny* day,
~ Heather ~
Location: Charlotte, NC
I can't imagine my life without dancing! Most of my friends and I dance 5 days a week. I started dancing again as divorce therapy about 4 years ago. I met a whole new circle of friends who shared my passion for dancing. The first year I took group classes and went to parties and for the most part stayed away from private lessons. I competed with an amateur for about 6 months and once I started private lessons, I was hooked! For the last 3 years I have competed in International Standard and Latin, with several professional partners. I am currently blessed with a wonderful Professional partner and we are competing at the full Silver level in all 10 dances. I love it!
As the others who have posted, I decided to start taking dance lessons after I had gotten divorced. I too have always liked to dance but never had any real lessons since college. So to get out of the house and to meet new people I started taking salsa lessons. I had spent over 9 years in Panama and had seen everyone else dancing salsa and I wanted to learn. I was having so much fun, that I then signed up for all the ballroom lessons I could get my hands on. I live in North Carolina so I also have learned how to do the Carolina Shag. After about 6 months of group lessons I decided it was time to take it up a notch and started some private lessons. I am just absorbing everything. I am a school teacher and dancing helps me to destress after the school day. I have started going to workshops all over the USA. It is just great!! I will never stop!!
My son has never seen me so happy. In fact he maybe taking some dance lessons this summer. I plan on eventually competing but just don't know what to compete in. I love swing, ballroom, shag and salsa! Just too much to think about! I have lost a lot of weight and as mentioned before, my self-esteem has soared! I don't have a partner so that makes some things difficult but I am hoping to find one soon.
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