Last night, I put performances in my 5th showcase with Dance Austin Studio to bed. After our showcase in November, I said I was coming for you, Love Hangover, and that’s exactly what happened.
In the fall, my life took a turn when my dad was diagnosed with brain cancer. When I found out, we were in the thick of rehearsals and I remember just how difficult it was to retain choreography. But with lots of practice and support from fellow dancers, I did it.
This time around was similar. My dad passed away on February 3rd, and although it’s still very difficult for me to talk about publicly, I will say that my dance family has been incredibly supportive this month.
So many of my fellow dancers and instructors, and even the owner of the studio, reached out to me to offer their condolences and support. I got so many hugs before rehearsals, and even last night, dancers I don’t see often made sure I was okay to go on stage. I am so, so thankful for that.
Before my dad passed, I signed up to perform in two pieces at the showcase: broadway jazz and lyrical hip hop. The two pieces were some of the more difficult routines I’ve ever learned – continuing with my goal to keep pushing myself each time the opportunity arises.
I had to miss one rehearsal to attend my dad’s memorial, and even though I got total support and love from my choreographer/instructor, I returned ready to NAIL. THIS. I needed the distraction and I knew more than ever that it’s simply my time to live my life.
I’ve felt like my mind, heart, and all of myself had been taken over by my dad’s disease and all of the trappings that accompany a heartbroken family. Sure, I am grieving, and will continue to do so. But after six months of finding very little that brought me out of my funk, I was ready to just DO this, and do it with all I had.
So, I did. I spent hours reviewing videos from class, dancing in my kitchen, listening to the music in my car, getting help from other dancers, and scouring multiple Goodwills for the perfect costumes.
There were times I wondered if I’d made a giant mistake; if I’d picked pieces that were too difficult for me. But that’s the thing about growth – it’s not easy, sometimes it hurts, but you come out a better person because of it.
And you know what? I got to dance beside people that I’ve looked up to since showcase #1. I’m talking to you, Kim and Charlene. I will NEVER forget when I saw Kim perform a unique routine to a Backstreet Boys’ song – I immediately wondered, “Who is that girl?!” I wanted to know her, and I’m so glad I got to rehearse with her and perform on stage beside her.
Charlene is a beautiful dancer in class, on stage, wherever, and she has this amazing ability to put everything on stage no matter what she may be feeling on the inside. I know I am not alone when I say that my eyes are often drawn to her no matter how many people are performing.
There’s also Chase and Mendy – I saw you guys freaking ROCK the last lyrical hip hop performance, and I thought, “That’s it, I’m taking that class.” And I did – and then we were all in rehearsal together and I remain so inspired by both of you – you have a performance quality that is so amazing.
Naturally, what would our performance be without our choreographer and instructor, Caitlin? I’m so lucky to be able to take her classes and learn from her – technique, style, performance WOW – she’s got it all and she’s so approachable and funny to boot.
I have been thinking so much lately about dance, and how many times I’ve prepped for shows, performances, and competitions in my life. Over the last six months, various memories have bubbled to the surface and I remembered specific instances from being on my high school dance squad.
The summer before my junior year, we went to a UDA Dance Camp for the first time. It was at a state college, we got to stay in the dorms (so cool), and we were going to learn all sorts of new routines that we could perform during basketball season.
Little did we know that UDA Dance Camp was, like, a THING, and other squads were incredibly serious, technically great, and focused. All of the other teams showed up in matching workout gear for each day of camp, including hair bows and the like, and we… well we brought sleep boxers and loose t-shirts.
Our assistant coach, who accompanied us to camp, did not back down. She encouraged us to go, go do our best, we deserved the ribbons and routines just as much as anyone else. She recorded us in our various practices and when we went back to the dorms each night, she helped us drill the routines until we had them.
And we got first place ribbons – mismatched outfits and all. Because dance is universal – it doesn’t matter how much money you have, what you’re wearing, where you come from – it’s about a willingness to try.
That same year, our head coach unexpectedly passed away mid-season. To this day, I still can’t believe it happened, and I can’t really calculate how we got through it, other than to say that we had each other and we had dance. I still remember performing a dedication to her on that basketball court. It felt like our whole city was mourning with us.
At the end of last night’s show, Chi Chi – the owner of Dance Austin Studio – said she’d experienced loss in the last week, and it’s often in those times we realize how importance it is to just move the mental road block and live our lives, no matter what that means to you. Dance is healing.
That’s the truth! I’m so thankful I have a place to help me heal, a place to go when times are good, and when they’re bad. It wouldn’t be that way without the people there, and know that you all mean so much to me.
Another Monday is upon us and I’m still reeling from the “Love Hangover” – the showcase for the dance studio I’ve been taking classes at, Dance Austin Studio. It was the 10th showcase, and included some fantastic pieces, to say the least.
After I performed at the last showcase, “The Aftermath”, I had a lot of reflection about my life in dance and how it affects me daily (you can read all about it, here). And as my time at Dance Austin continues to grow, and the more showcases I get under my belt (last night was #3), the more dance means to me, and the more I feel like I’m becoming a part of “the group”.
I’ve met so many awesome people at the studio in this year and a half (time flies), people I look forward to seeing every day, and I hope they feel the same about me when we end up in class next to each other.
On Saturday, a day before the performance, we had a dress rehearsal. Although it went really well, I was exhausted afterward, and thinking back about previous performances, I definitely feel like this is the most advanced one I’ve tried.
Last showcase, I tested myself and performed an entire routine in stiletto heels. I did it and somehow didn’t fall and break my neck, so I did it again this time. The dance was fast, lively, and a little advanced for me with spins and jumps. But, it was very fun. I don’t know if it was technically more difficult than the ones I’ve done before, or perhaps I’m more emotionally invested, and really just want to help my “team” look the best we can.
If you don’t mind, I’ll go ahead and say my group kicked stiletto booty and I was happy to hear cheers and claps throughout our performance. We sure worked hard for it!
But by far, my favorite part about any showcase is simply seeing my classmates and our instructors truly shine. Last night, I saw a few ladies that I’ve danced beside in class totally kill it in ways I never expected. I don’t know what it’s like to have kids, but I would imagine the sense of pride I felt for these women was similar. I was happy for them, and also just in-awe of what we’re all capable of.
I said it after last showcase, and I’ll say it again today – we are all LIVING. Most of us are not dancers by trade. We work full-time jobs; have friends, families, and hobbies to tend to, but we’re in the studio day in and day out, and we put everything we have on that stage.
Sure, there’s a little fear. But it’s not enough to keep us from doing what we were somehow called to do. Frankly, I started getting a little emotional last night watching some of the pieces, because we are all in this awesome dance family, and we’re out there, in the public, expressing ourselves in a time when messaging is shut down.
Dance is a powerful thing.
I tried to tell all of my classmates how great they did last night, but if you’re reading this, and we’ve shared a dance class together, and you were on that stage last night, please know that you inspire me more than you could ever understand.
I came home last night on a dancer’s high after putting in 10 hours at the venue. My showtime was maybe 4 minutes, but my feet were blistering and I could feel the soreness in my muscles setting in. I had glitter in my hair and a pound of stage makeup, and I didn’t hop into bed until after midnight.
But that is what dreams are made of.
Whether you’re a dancer or not, it’s time you #LiveYourLife – in whatever way that means to you. No holding back, and no regrets.
Ready? 5, 6, 7, 8…
I mentioned on Monday that I spent my weekend dancing. The dance studio I attend, Dance Austin, put on its 9th studio showcase on Sunday, and I was performing in both showtimes.
I know I’ve talked about my love for dance on here before, but being a part of this showcase (my second) made me think about it a lot more. Let me explain.
I started dancing in 6th or 7th grade; taking a small jazz class where I learned basic turns and leaps, and also performed for our families at a local gym. In 8th grade, I joined my middle school’s dance team, where we performed during pre-game or halftime of the basketball games.
I also did this in high-school, where it became a much bigger part of my life. Dance wasn’t just something I did – it was a huge stress relief for me, an escape, and it was where I made a lot of my friends. It gave me goals and confidence; it shaped another way for me to express myself.
In high school, I dreamt of being a choreographer. I wanted to put together dances for music videos and huge productions, that is, until I did a project for school and discovered the harsh truth about that side of the entertainment industry – it didn’t pay much, and it wouldn’t be a job for long – my body would probably be too beat up to be a choreographer in my older years.
And so, when I moved away for college, I left dance behind. I knew I wasn’t talented enough to be on a collegiate team or to go pro.
But when I moved to Texas, I wanted to see if there was a place for adults of any kind to dance. I took to Google, and found Dance Austin, a studio with a variety of classes for anyone, and they did performances! I hadn’t taken dance in 12 years. So, I was nervous for my first few classes.
At the very least, though, I was burning calories, and dancing in a room full of people I didn’t know. I had everything to gain.
Since then – it’s been a little more than a year now of going to class four times a week – I’ve gotten to know several of the people who dance beside me. They are diverse in age, culture, background, and experience. Some of them are engineers, video gamers, or salespeople. Some of them are dancers who audition for paid gigs or choreographers. Some are school teachers or vet techs, and some are retired.
But we all love to dance for one reason or another; and we don’t just love it. We do it. We all have lives outside of the studio, but we do whatever we have to and make it to class, day after day, week after week, and we get to perform our work in front of loving crowds.
At the showcase on Sunday, the hostess (who is fabulous and teaches “Twerk and Burn” at the studio) asked the audience to applaud for the performers because they are LIVING life. At first I clapped and nodded, but she’s right.
Yes, I dreamt of making it as a dancer. I have dreamed of being one of those who goes on tour with someone as a dancer, or performs with a professional team at halftime. But that’s not how my cards were dealt, and that doesn’t mean I can’t still dance. I can still do it; wherever I am – and not just in my living room. I can still perform for crowds, and rehearse in a studio, and rejoice silently when I wakeup sore the next morning.
Dance is a daily challenge for me. I test my brain to learn choreo quickly and work it through my body to do the moves I want. I work to keep up with my instructors, and with my fellow students, who may be more fit or more skilled than I am.
And hey, I don’t know any of us who don’t get nervous before getting on stage. In fact, before February, I’d never performed on a stage in that capacity, ever. And I did it – I performed a dance for 200 strangers. And it was pretty awesome.
And Sunday? I had set a challenge for myself: perform a stiletto routine (meaning, an entire dance wearing heels), and perform it. And I did! There were even stairs involved, and turns, and a stage, and nothing bad happened! It was awesome!
The following day, sure, my legs hurt, and my back was sore, but it was all worth it. At our next showcase, in February, I’ll set another goal for myself, and I’ll walk away (or dance away) feeling more confident than I do today.
If Saturday was the official “Love Hangover”, then Sunday was a performance hangover. Let me back this train up and explain.
You may or may not recall that I’m making a big effort to step outside of my comfort zone and do more things alone because, well because I don’t know anyone, and I’m not going to know anyone if I sit in my apartment all the time (but don’t worry, I’m not ditching that either).
So, last weekend, I went to a Saturday brunch at my apartment complex. While I currently kind of hate my apartment complex (the parking is terrible and the trash fee is $30/month, but whatever), they do have a pretty robust social calendar, and although I’m not a huge fan of getting to know thy neighbor, you’ve got to start somewhere.
Around the holidays, I went to a gift wrapping party they had and it was pretty fun, so I figured the brunch would be okay. So, I took a little walk to the clubhouse and found that it was a legit, homemade brunch and it was pretty yummy. About 20 residents showed up and I was sitting next to a woman named Linda.
She was older, and we started chatting about where we lived within the complex and which model we had (because what else would we talk about?). While we don’t live near each other, we live in the same apartment style, and she said she’d moved into the apartment, which is a little more than 600 square feet, after downsizing from a 1400 square foot apartment.
Eventually, we got to talking about where we’re from. Turns out, Linda is from New Orleans. We missed each other’s paths by a few years, as she relocated to Austin after Hurricane Katrina. In our short talk, you could tell she misses New Orleans (doesn’t everyone?), and we agreed, no one does brunch like NOLA, baby.
Since she’s lived in Austin for a little over 10 years, I asked her where to eat, where to go, that sort of thing. We also talked a lot about writing, because Linda loves stories and has been journaling since she was a child. But, I’ll be honest with you, as Linda sat and tried to convince herself that she’d go to the gym after brunch, I wondered if I was looking at my future.
Would that be me at 68, living alone, renting a crappy-esque apartment, trying to convince myself to hit the gym on a Saturday afternoon post-free brunch? That’s not meant to be a jab at Linda, or an attempt to say she hasn’t lived an epic life, after all, we only talked for 30 minutes. But it did give me a little kick in the ass.
Meanwhile, I’ve been spending the last six weeks practicing for Dance Austin Studio’s Annual Love Hangover Showcase, which happened on Saturday night.
We had some late night practices, often putting me home at 11pm during the week. Our group, the Video Vixens, were closing the show with, what our instructors called, a huge finale. So we had to BRING IT.
Friday night, show eve, we practiced at the studio until 10, and I went home, showered, and packed my things for the next day. I wanted to get a good night’s sleep.
On Saturday, our tech rehearsal was at 1:45 pm, at the venue, and it was pretty much understood we’d be there until showtime (my performance was around 9:15). So on Saturday morning, I was basically running around like a maniac trying to figure out and pack every single thing I could possibly need for tech rehearsal, the performance, and just in general hanging out for 7 hours pre-performance.
One of my fellow dance girls asked me to lunch, so we met early (at Flyrite Chicken and it was so fresh and yummy) and got a bite to eat. It was awesome to relax before our busy day, and get to know each other! I joined the dance studio to have an outlet, but also to burn some calories and meet people, so it’s a win!
We headed to the venue close to 1pm, to get parking secured and prep for tech rehearsal. Since I got there early, I got a chance to see some of the other acts that were planned for the night, and I was impressed. During our turn for tech, it was the time to actually practice on stage, and walk through the audience for our entrance.
After that? I spent close to two hours slapping on my stage makeup! I was talking to my mom on the phone while doing this, and laughed, realizing that so much of my cosmetic stash is meant for performing. See, I have this dream of my life being a musical, which is why I love anything glitzy, I love glitter and sequins, and anything over-the-top. So, my Caboodle (yes, a real Caboodle) was packed with false lashes, glitter eyeliner and glitter hairspray, and multiple eye shadow palettes. I love it!
While it has been YEARS since I have performed (high school, senior year, 2003), the day brought back so many of those feelings I had pre-performance as a teenager. Of course I was nervous, but I was excited to show what my group had worked so hard for. I was also really excited to see what the other dancers had in-store. The entire studio, plus a few bonus performers, had all come together to make the entire night a special one.
But there was a huge difference in Saturday night’s performance: there was no one in the audience I knew. In high school, I never wanted my parents to sit within an eye’s view of me, because it would make me nervous. Why? Possibly because the very first time I ever danced for a crowd, I made a small mistake, and my dad sat in the audience and was loudly laughing at me. Go figure.
In a way, knowing no one I knew would see the performance was a load off my back, but of course, I wanted to hold up for my team, and put on the show these people paid for. But, it was painful to check my phone and see that not a single person wished me good luck that night (not counting my mom, because she told me on the phone).
Since I was performing in the second show of the night, I got to relax and watch the entire first show. And, I was blown away. There were great performances by the other group classes, but the instructors also performed, and it was fabulous! There was also a silks dancer and a pole dancer, who really showed out.
The owner of the studio, who choreographed my routine, reminded the audience that Dance Austin is a place for everyone: professional dancers, amateur dancers, people who’ve been dancers, and people who want to be dancers, no matter the age. She created the studio so everyone could have that outlet, and without completely realizing it, that entire concept is really uplifting, and I’m happy that I somehow found it.
During the intermission of the second show, that’s when we all went backstage to change into our costumes (combat boots, black leggings, sleeveless oxford, cuffs, and a bow tie, complete with a cane) and any final touches to makeup and hair before lining up.
Our group was divided into two: the “chick-n-dales” and the “Magic Michelles”. It was a stripper battle for history. So, the Magic Michelles are on stage, just planning for their next show or whatever, and the Chick-n-dales show up to break up the part, kick them off stage and show them how it’s done. Then the Michelles kick us off, show off a little, and then we both get on the stage and perform together. The audience loved it!
And sure, I wish I had more pictures and video to show you, but it wasn’t allowed, and I was also just trying to stay focused and not be on my phone the whole time. I will keep my eye out for any pictures or videos though, and I’ll post them as I see them.
It was a fantastic night, and I’m really excited to go back to the studio tonight and work toward perfecting my skills for the next showcase in October. Who knows, maybe I’ll try something new next time!
On Friday, one of my coworkers asked me what I was doing over the weekend (because that’s what everyone asks on Friday) and I mentioned the showcase.
“Wow, you’re life is so full,” she said.
“Mine?” I was confused.
“Yes, you’ve got your blog, all of your dance classes… you stay busy,” she said.
Yeah, I guess I do! There are definitely times I feel like all I do is clock hours at work and then be a giant sloth in front of my TV (not saying that’s a bad thing). But, I really do work hard to create a big life for myself – it may not be glamorous, but it’s real, and I’ve got to say, it’s pretty fun!
[Stage makeup look: Eminence Bright Skin Moisturizer, Eminence Bright Skin Licorice Root Booster-Serum, IPKN New York Radiant Primer, Color Mates concealer, Maybelline New York Dream Wonder foundation, Sei Bella pressed powder by Melaleuca, Aph Orism brow shadow and gel, MAKE Skin Illuminator, LOC Shadow Stick, e.l.f Everyday Eyeshadow Book, pop beauty Bright Up Your Life eye shadow palette, e.l.f liquid eyeliner in black, e.l.f liquid eyeliner in stardust, L.A. Colors false lashes, Younique 3D Mascara, stila Extreme Lash Mascara in black, e.l.f blush in Pink Passion, the Balm Bronzer in Desert, Wet n Wild illuminating palette in Catwalk Pink, Sei Bella Definition lip pencil in nude]