Dancing in general always looked fun to do but even more so to watch. I remember watching annual Ballroom competitions on PBS WTTW as a child and as a young teenager. Even though I didn’t like all the dances- at the time I just didn’t understand them; one stood out, the Samba. There was just something about it; the music was electric and energetic with a faster tempo, and the movement was mesmerizing. Even though liked watching it, I lacked the confidence and the coordination to any form of dance, I really didn’t think that I’d be able to do it…. Who knew?
My journey in Ballroom was supposed to be simple. I was supposed to “waltz” in, take a couple samba lessons over the Summer and be on my merry way, at least that was the thought. Little did I know what was aligned for me, and it makes me wonder if Ania had any idea to what challenges were aligning for her.
Meeting Ania was pure luck… searching for lessons on the google, she was the first to reply. Having zero dancing experience, I did raise my concerns about having two left feet, toddler-like balance, and zero coordination even going as far as to warning her to “please wear steel toe boots.” Ania’s responses were really comforting such that it eased a lot of the anxiety. By the way, the toe stepping counter is at four, I’ve kept track out of shame. It wasn’t till our first lesson together that I realized that this was going to be not only a continued hobby but Ania was going to be my teacher and unlikely so that no one else would be able to fill her dancing shoes. During our first lesson, she displayed what every great teacher should: charisma, passion for the subject, high level of knowledge, and the ability to craft a unique way of teaching for each individual student that provokes learning.
I never thought that Ballroom dancing would be easy but I also never thought it would be this challenging as well. From day one, it’s been work, work, and more work; or in Ania’s words, frame, frame, frame. We went step by step figuring out what I liked, like the Cha Cha Cha and Rumba and expanded from there. Those two dances really grew on me albeit each dance has unique elements that I do admire. For example, some dances are sharper while others are softer, some shift body weight easier others harder taking me off balance easier, some more technical than others. Reflecting back and now understanding a lot about the mechanics in dance, what in the world was I thinking when I told Ania that I wanted to learn to Samba. Who knew…that I would be learning an entire catalog of Ballroom dances, clearly Ania saw something that I haven’t all the while building and developing a dancers IQ in the process.
I’ve learned a lot and improved across many facets during this journey not only physically but also mentally. Initially, I was hoping to improve my posture, hands down that goal has been achieved. I found a new activity that’s easier on the joints than running and yet having a similar cardio effect. Chicago Summer’s and the polar opposite Winter’s can be difficult periods for outside activity. Balance is still being worked on, good progress has been made, ask me again in a year. From mental perspective, there’s definitely been an improvement in the brain to muscle connection. That’s quite challenging, to be thinking what to do next as you’re doing it- all the while in traffic on the dance floor. I also do feel less stressed and do feel a bit more energy throughout the day. Lastly, socially there’s been an exceptional difference as Ania and I are almost performing on a monthly cadence at the studio and are slated for Showcase number three … who knew… not I.
Honestly, I would have never thought that I would have made it this far with Ballroom Dancing… who knew. I couldn’t have done this without my ballroom partner in crime, Ania. I also have to give a shout out to Alex, as he’s helped a lot along the way as well. Thank you Lakeshore Dance Academy.