My First Coaching

I had a great Friday!  It actually started on Thursday.

I was at home after work. I had finished my pilates workout, courtesy of Blogilates, and was chilling on the couch watching some crime show (I think it was Castle). Then my phone rang. It was Teacher.

Anyone who has followed me for awhile may recall that Teacher doesn’t call, he texts. The very few times he has called, it’s bad news (like when he broke his wrist). So my first thought when I saw Teacher’s name on the screen of my phone was “what did you do now?!” But I am making a new effort to not assume the worst, so I took a deep breath and answered simply: “hello?”

My effort was not in vain. Teacher was actually calling with good news! I had the opportunity to take a coaching the next day!

For those of you unfamiliar, those known as coaches in ballroom are like the teachers’ teachers. They are at the top of their field and are well-known and well-respected in the ballroom world (and possibly the rest of the world if they worked on a show like Dancing with the Stars or So You Think You Can Dance). They judge competitions instead of entering them and coach other competing professionals. Yes, you can have the same person(s) coaching you and then judging you at a comp. Could be good or could be bad! Coaches will also work with teachers and their students. For students, coachings are meant to supplement your normal lessons. The coach can watch you dance with your teacher and see things that your teacher may not simply because they’re busy dancing with you! They also offer a different perspective, not to mention an incredible wealth of knowledge from years of experience not only as a dancer and teacher, but also as a judge.

In the three and a half years that I’ve been a ballroom student, I have never had a coaching, mainly because of the extra cost. Because the coaches are at the top of the ballroom field, you have to pay more for their time. While you might pay $80-90 for a private lesson with your regular teacher (at an independent studio), a coach will cost you closer to $150. And then you still have to pay your teacher.

Back to my phone call. Five different coaches were doing a day-long workshop at my studio on Saturday and offering private coachings on Friday. Teacher was calling to see if I wanted/could afford a coaching with one of them: Toni Redpath!

Normally I would have gotten a little sad and dismissed the idea because I couldn’t/shouldn’t spend the money. BUT I was feeling relatively stable financially between the new job, modest sales of my books and completing Life’s latest challenge. Plus it felt like an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. So I told Teacher “yeah, sounds great, let’s do it!” while thinking in my head “I’ll figure out the money later.”

The coaching was around lunchtime, so I would have to take a long lunch in the middle of the workday. Luckily, my new job is flexible. The cherry on top was I would be able to return to the studio after work to have a follow-up lesson with just Teacher, since Friday is one of my standing lesson days. That was the last piece I needed to convince myself to go for it. It would be awesome to get a coaching, but if I wasn’t able to absorb or digest the information because I had to switch my brain right back to work mode, then I wouldn’t be getting the full value. Being able to return to the studio after work for a follow-up discussion and more dancing was important.

So not only was I getting my first coaching on Friday, I was getting two dance lessons in one day!  Woohoo!

Both on the phone and in a text on Friday morning, Teacher instructed me to get to the studio early if I could to warm up and practice before the coaching started. I do this for regular lessons anyway, so the fact that he was bringing it up made me nervous! It felt like he was emphasizing it, almost like I needed to be sure I was ready to perform. Wait, was this a coaching or an audition?

I arrived at the studio about 20-25 minutes early. That didn’t help my nerves. Pros were also taking coachings. Teacher and his pro partner were taking a coaching with Toni right before mine! It was a little intimidating to think I would be dancing amidst all that talent. I wanted to escape into one of the side rooms, but they were being used. I knew I shouldn’t be so chicken and I should “own” my space out on the main floor. So after a little internal pep talk,  I warmed up a little and then went through the first wall of our waltz routine, per Teacher’s instructions.

When it was my turn with Toni, the nerves had quieted a little. I was remembering a lot of little pointers that Teacher had given me in the past and felt like I was applying them during my warmup. Ok, I can do this, I won’t make a fool of myself in front of the champion dancer. We started the coaching with Teacher and me dancing a waltz while Toni watched. He did not do the routine I had practiced! But I was happy because I just focused on my frame, connection and head stretch, and I was able to follow him.

My ego was boosted when Teacher told me I did really great and then Toni said she was super impressed!  Yay!  She wanted to focus on shadow because that was where she saw opportunity for improvement. I put my hands together and smiled, pleased because my shadow needs work! Every time I felt like I had it figured out, I would mess it up the next time I danced. It was a frustrating cycle so new input was most welcome!

We did a lot of drills that helped me feel how to use the sway of my hips and head to keep my rib cage connected to Teacher’s wrist in simple walks forward and backward (same connection you’re supposed to maintain in shadow). Toni observed that I was rotating my hips when I wasn’t supposed to. It was just a little rotation but made it difficult or impossible to maintain my rib connection. Ah ha!

We finished the lesson by actually dancing the shadow part of our waltz. She saw improvement! Yay!

I went back to work on a total high. Although it was a lot of money, the coaching was so fun and helpful. Hearing her positive feedback on my dancing did a lot to validate all of my hard work, and it just felt good! Of course, Teacher gives me positive feedback too, but to have another expert come in, who’s never worked with me before, and tell me she is impressed – that feels like a big deal. After all of the doubts I was dealing with, it was a nice change.

All smiles after my first coaching!

I was still buzzing when I returned to the studio after work for my regular lesson with Teacher. He told me again that I did really well and Toni was impressed. A little girl inside me was clapping her hands and hopping up and down. I had one follow-up question that I thought of back at the office, but then we moved on to tango. My brain was firing on all cylinders, it was great!

I wrote before about discovering new lines of communication between me and my body. Those lines were wide open on Friday. In both the coaching and my regular lesson, I was able to feel what I was doing and make appropriate adjustments.

We’ll see if I can keep it up with the next rhythm lesson!

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