kuduro

That time I said I’d go on a diet

After his Gindungo festival, Teacher put together a dance squad of his most advanced Mtl students, and is training us to perform at local and regional events/festivals. It’s the next step in our growth as dancers. I’m part of the squad. Weeee!

At the first practice, Teacher looked us over, and suggested that we hit the gym, because:

Y’know, guys, dancers, we are supposed to be sexy. So let’s look sexy. All that “what’s sexy is what is on the inside?” No. Not for dancing, ok? Have a nice personality on the inside, but lets be sexy on the outside too, ok? The audience, they won’t know that you have sexy insides. And some of you guys, umm, maybe you could put on some muscle? You don’t want the audience to wonder if the girl would break you if she fell on you. And as for you ladies, you know what works really well? Starvation. I am serious! When I notice that I am getting a little too chubby, I just don’t eat. You get used to hunger, it really isn’t that bad. Try it. Starve yourselves a little bit. I do it all the time.

And Vanilla, yes, this includes you. I know you fitter than all the guys here, but you also a big girl, and I’m pretty sure all the bros here would really appreciate if you weighed 10-15lbs less on the lifts?

Ahem. Bro, find me a partner that isn’t wee then. Not my fault the average height of the males on the dance squad is 5’7”… 2 inches shorter than me!

Teacher has a way with words.


At practice on Tuesday, we learned a cool trick of kicking our legs high into the air, while our partner lifted us. Really, most of the momentum and effort is by the girl, but nevertheless, the guy has to be solid and support our weight for a fraction of a second. I felt bad for my partner, who reassured me that it really wasn’t that bad. I comforted him that usually I am lighter than this: I’ve put on 10lbs since Dubai because heavy workload at the job= stress-eating. I promised him I would shed the weight by our next show.

I meant it.

I can’t explain, therefore, why I have eaten TWO lunches EVERY day since Tuesday’s practice… #starvationalmost

Every time I try diet… Every single time.

Tonight, I’m going for deep-friend mac’n’cheese and drinks with DD. #mykindofstarvation

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That time I smiled

On Thursday I went for drinks with some coworkers. It was the first time I’d socialized with anyone from work since the 2015 Xmas party. Apparently, it’s just a “fluke” that these things get organized when I am out of town for work – of course I shouldn’t take it personally. Hmph. The result of these flukes is that I’ve socialized with my Parisian coworkers 400% more often than with my Mtl coworkers. 

I arrived at the bar 30 mins after my crew. They were deep into their first round of drinks. I searched for a waitress. Waited, and waited. After too many minutes without alcohol, I went to the bar to order my beers from the bartender. As I turned to rejoin my coworkers, the bar manager chatted me up. He apologized for my long wait, and offered me a drink on the house. I smiled.

My beers arrived a few minutes later. Chatty chat chat with ze coworkers. And then, like Moses parting the sea, my (male) coworkers made space for the pretty, busty, blond waitress: she presented me with a tumbler of Jameson, and smiled saucily at my confused coworkers.

Vanilla, how? That’s not free, is it? It is? What did you do?

I smiled.

40 minutes later, that same waitress presented me with a 2nd tumbler. 

40 minutes later, she presented me with a 3rd tumbler. My male coworkers were incensed.

Vanilla, stop kidding around. How did this happen? What do you mean, you smiled?!?

I mean I smiled. The last time I smiled, I got treated to the most ridiculously generous/excessive multi-course meal in Dubai. What can I say? Happiness is contagious.

On Saturday, I attended a dance event by myself, totally different crowd from my usual one, didn’t know anyone, NBD; can we acknowledge how far I’ve come since my Dubai meltdowns?! As I walked into the ball room, I smiled. I was immediately accosted by a charming out of town professional dancer who danced several successive songs with me, praising my musicality. I then danced with the event organizer (from France!) and every guest instructor present. I found myself smiling while dancing, and once or twice, I even laughed from the sheer joy of the dance. (Oh, how Energizer would be proud/amazed!)


When came time for the inevitable Afrohouse animation, three of the instructors took turns leading the crowd. Then the organizer pushed me to the front, and I danced while everyone followed, before he ended the animation in style. I was the only non-instructor to lead the pack. I smiled.


On both Thursday and Saturday, I was stuck in one of those oh-so-female IhatemybodyIlooksogrossEwwwwImfaaaaaaaat moods. To the point I modified my outfits (loose clothing), convinced people would notice my protruding food baby of a belly and judge me. I considered bailing on both events because what’s the point of socializing if everyone will find me repulsive?

Clearly, I am no closer to achieving body acceptance. But at a minimum, I am refusing to let my poisonous brain modify my behaviour or distract me from my quest for happiness.

That’s worth smiling about.

Back to reality

Here I am. Back at work, mentally and physically.

I spent all of last week, jet-lagged and sleep deprived, trying to get back into the beat of my life. It didn’t help that I attended another dance festival, this time in Montreal, hosted by Teacher. My feet are killing me. I estimate I did 50 hours of dancing in 10 days.

At Teacher’s Gindungo festival, one of the instructors from Paris (she is the woman with black hair, in jeans and a white t-shirt next to me in the video below) mistook me for an instructor from Vermont – huge compliment bc I deem the Vermont instructor to be one of the best dancers I’ve ever seen. Once Paris instructor realized her mistake, she pointed out that if such a misunderstanding was possible, perhaps I should stop being so shy when I dance and own my place during dance offs? I explained to her that no, I’m still a beginner, and the last thing I’d want to do is to embarrass Teacher at his festival in front of all of his international guests. She rolled her eyes, “You only have one life. Dance if you feel like dancing.

Behold a video of a Kuduro workshop at that same festival – I’m starting to exhibit my inner Pussycat Doll, because I’ve accepted my right to self-expression.

 

These were the most incredible 3 weeks.  This trip has shown how much I’ve grown, over the past few years. My struggles with mental health and unhappiness appear to be under control.

I’ve only one life, and I’ll dance, bc I do feel like dancing.


Recap of this trip – Paris:

Recap of this trip – Dubai:

Mirrors and space

So basically, I am a star. No, really.


“Oh”, you say, “another video of Vanilla’s Teacher dancing kuduro. So what?”

Ladies and gents, this isn’t merely another video of Teacher and his merry crew of dancers on Instagram. Yes, it is Teacher’s video, reposted on the band that produces/sings the song used in our choreography. Aka, the original artists so liked what they saw, they chose to put it on their own profile.

 

Vanilla dancing kuduro. Broadcast to a few thousand strangers. I sure hope I don’t hurt their record sales… #infamous


You know the people that remain seated at weddings/office Christmas parties, staring at the dance floor but refusing to dance?  The “No, I don’t dance, you should thank me, I look too ridiculous, don’t wanna embarrass myself/ruin the party” people. Most of us can relate, yeah? I definitely can. I was mortified when I started kizomba/salsa: I’m the physical embodiment of the stereotype of a White Girl trying and failing to dance sexy – everybody would laugh at me. Similarly, I refused to take adult ballet for years because I knew that I would be terrible: regardless of how much joy dancing ballet would bring me, it would be selfish – I shouldn’t inflict my terribleness on the Universe, or distort the beauty that is ballet by my incompetent moves. It never occurred to me that I was imposing a life with less joy on myself.

Teacher always films his students, and himself; in part because it is good promotional material on social media, but also so his students can watch themselves and improve. At first, I found that unbearable. I would avoid the camera, accidentally go to the washroom as he was about to start filming. I eventually resigned myself to being on camera, convincing myself that no one watched his silly videos anyhow. It took 2 months before I actually would look at any of them. When I did, I noticed I never looked at the camera: I danced looking at the floor. I was physically present, but unwilling to fully show myself while dancing – I still held back. It has taken me several months to be able to look at the camera, and even now, I struggle. But THE hardest hurdle has been to watch myself in the mirror. The first time I dared look at myself in the mirror was in January, after doing 4 months of ballet and kuduro. I blushed. I was so embarrassed because:

I did not believe I was allowed to occupy that space with my body. I was ashamed of my self-expression. It was not good enough.

I wonder how many other ppl suffer from such a deep shame of themselves? Specifically, as a woman, this makes me sad. I feel the scars of a lifetime of judgment about my appearance, and I wonder how many women feel similarly. Dancing is forcing me to get comfortable with my body occupying, owning space. I’m learning to accept imperfection with compassion: I see my mistakes, and use the mirror as a tool to get better, rather than as a source of shame. I am learning to accept that even though I need to improve, work on my technique, practice until I master the moves, I still must not block my unique self expression. I am learning this:

There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. … No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.― Martha Graham

The goal – to learn to express myself like these women do. Each one is unique. Each one is different and lovely and worth watching. Each woman is fully in the moment – nobody is staring at the floor. That is my goal.


Apparently, regardless of whether I dance kuduro or ballet, my style is that of a bird-woman (Cat-Woman is so passé). Well, I’ll have you know that three professional ballerinas liked my little Bird Ballet video on Instagram…

So basically, I am a star. No, really.

Kuduro cucumber

I’m PMSing, y’all. Because that is obviously a topic of general interest, I have detailed various symptoms about my PMSing here and here and here.

This past weekend was not a weekend of moderation. On Saturday, I worked out for the third time in 2017 (yay, traveling! So much fun, except so much jet lag, and bloating and delicious but unhealthy foods). Of course, one hour of intense exercise with Coach Dr. Booté warrants me eating ALL of the food ever, right? Recovery diet, and all that. Sunday: brunch with a friend, followed by supper at a resto with my Pops, and wine, and cider, and chocolate because TREAT YO’SELF ITS THE WEEKEND!

Yesterday, I woke up feeling bloated. I decided: New Monday, New Day, New Me. Imma go on a diet. All morning at work, this happened. Then, I had a business lunch with a key consultant, fancy stakehouse, and why not? Entrée, bigass meal, chocoholic dessert.

Y’all.

I was so bloated my nylons and underwear were cutting off circulation in my lower body. It was so uncomfortable, I considered going commando at the office, but I opted not to and suffer in almost-silence (I only updated my team about the status of my bloating every 15 minutes, including but not limited to such descriptions as “I’m as bloated as a cucumber!” “I’m never eating food again, I swear” “Being a woman suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucks”), not because I felt it was scandalous, but because I felt that was the ultimate sign of defeat. I had to learn to live with my poor life choices.

I googled “death by water retention”.

Imagine my horror when, at dance class, I realized that of ALL the days… yesterday I had packed a crop top as my dance outfit.

I considered going home. #piorities

I didn’t bail on dance class. But I did sweat scary amounts, and turned the dance floor into a swimming pool. #sexy

Today, did I learn from my mistakes and eat healthily? HAHAHAHAHAHA no. I woke up craving a grilled cheese sandwich, and waited impatiently till noon to go and buy one for myself, which I scarfed down in approximately 34 seconds, and here I am sitting at my desk, debating if eating an entire chocolate bar counts as a serving of protein. I’m not sure, the science is out, but I’m thinking the answer to that legit question is “obviously”.

#olderandwiser

#diabetesandhighbloodpressureruninmyfamilycanyoutell?

Never seen before footage of me dancing ballet

Graceful AF

In ballet today, we had to stand on one foot, eyes closed and trace out the alphabet in the air with our other leg. Then switch.

I never got past the letter A, arms flailing about, busting out some sort of weird windmill move to try keep my balance, ruining the concentrated silence of the classroom with not-so-quiet swearing, “motherfucking tabernacle de calisse! MERDE ALORS!”

My career can be summarized in the video below:

And let us not forget the most recent video of me dancing kuduro, with my very own move called the Drowning Chicken.

Kuduro ¥ AfroHouse | DRKIZOMBA.COM

A post shared by 🅳🆁 🅺🅸🆉🅾🅼🅱🅰 (@drkizomba) on

 

#africanchickendancehall

Conclusion: imma stick to my day job.

P.S. anyone in the Montreal area interested in joining Kuduro… gotta go with Teacher aka Dr. Kizomba over at Kizomba Canada. He is crazy, actually bonkers, but a lot of fun. One day I asked him if he had ever considered being a little more practical. He blinked at me, pulled out his phone, and asked Siri “what does ‘practical’ mean?“. Siri told him it means a bunch of stuff. He sent me Siri’s screenshot, because apparently that proves he read the definition, but I’ve yet to notice any change in his mind-boggling, hilarious ways. A true artiste.

Kuduro and ballet

Even after blowing out my knee at a young age, and spending decades as a cripple, my love for ballet remained true. As I wrote here,

But what truly rocks my world about ballet is how it is a form of communication that transcends language. Music does that, but when music makes you feel an emotion – how can you express and externalize what you are feeling? Words cannot do it justice, they are too small and limited. I have frequently felt an emotion that was bigger than words, that just filled me up and wished that I could somehow communicate what I was feeling by using all of me. Alas, because I am not a ballerina, I cannot, and so the emotions stay trapped inside of me. However, when I look at ballet, and the dancers who use all of themselves, from the arch of their neck to the tip of their pinky, part of those emotions trapped inside of me find expression, through the communion that happens between dancers and their audience.

Because those emotions stayed trapped in me, I’ve felt, for as long as I could remember, that a part of my soul had been severely maimed. The ballerina in me, paralyzed. I just assumed that was Life teaching me the lesson that one can’t have everything. I might love ballet, but to continuously pine and regret that I wasn’t a ballerina was an immaturity. It was never gonna happen. Move on, child. Become an accountant. I suppose that is why my recent decision to sign up at a prestigious ballet school in Quebec, in a program designed for adults wishing to learn ballet adapted to their physical constraints, feels like a breakthrough. It has taken me almost two decades to accept that my inability to execute the technique of ballet perfectly is not a good reason to muzzle a part of me that refuses to be silenced. No one else was stopping me from dancing all these years. I was my own road block.

Allie is taking ballet with me, and remarked that she thought it must get repetitive to take ballet several times a week, doing the same barre and floor exercises over and over. From that I understand that she does not feel we are dancing yet. It is true, we aren’t doing choreography. Yet, my body vibrates with joy with every plié we do over and over again. I would love to do ballet class for 2 hours a day, every day, like the pros, just working through the basics slowly and thoroughly. If anything, my struggle is keeping the frustration of not achieving competency (never mind perfection!) from drowning out the joy of the movements.

I believe that we learn by practice. Whether it means to learn to dance by practicing dancing or to learn to live by practicing living, the principles are the same. In each, it is the performance of a dedicated precise set of acts, physical or intellectual, from which comes shape of achievement, a sense of one’s being, a satisfaction of spirit. One becomes, in some area, an athlete of God. Practice means to perform, over and over again in the face of all obstacles, some act of vision, of faith, of desire. Practice is a means of inviting the perfection desired. – Martha Graham

Ballet class gives me that.


Through my blog, I’ve learned that I have a voice. Moreover, that I have a voice that craves expression. This blog has made me alive.

I don’t think it is a coincidence that I’ve quit boxing to take up so many forms of dancing. I think the ballerina/dancer part of me that was denied expression all these years watched me grow as a writer and waited till the perfect moment to me to the form of dance that allows for the expression I’ve been denying myself all my life.

There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. … No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.― Martha Graham

When I dance kuduro, I experience that life force and divine dissatisfaction. For the first time in my life, I feel whole.

(I’m that white blondie. 3rd time dancing kuduro, ever.)

Y’all. This might seem small – but I am finally accepting who I am. Who I’ve always been, but never acknowledged. A writer. A dancer. And a damned good accountant. The fact that all 3 of those identities are still in progress, and have not achieved anything significant is irrelevant. I know who I am now.

#joy