Somewhere along my entrepreneurship journey, wrapped up in hustle culture, I got it in my head that I needed a separate place for each piece of The Girl with the Tree Tattoo brand – the blog, the shop, the email list – they all needed their own home. Once I moved to Maine, as I continued to bask in the natural beauty of my own home and felt no need or desire to go anywhere else, I started to wonder why did The Girl need to be so spread out?
This week, I’m pleased to welcome Gabriele Baldocci to the blog! Read on to get a sneak peek into the life of a concert pianist. I love how his descriptions of practice and performance sound so similar to our journeys as competitive ballroom dancers.
Hi, I’m Gabriele Baldocci. As a concert pianist, I have been performing for over thirty years now all around the world. From Seoul to Berlin, from London to New York, I have been fortunate enough to share the stage with some of the greatest musicians in the world, such as my friend Martha Argerich. In between my concerts, I also manage the London Piano Centre, the Milton Keynes Music Academy and teach at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in Greenwich, so life can be quite hectic! Here’s a glimpse into what it’s like being a traveling musician.
Being a classical concert pianist is a wild ride. It’s full of ups and downs, twists and turns, and enough drama to rival a soap opera. But, through it all, the music is always there to guide me, to lift me up, and to remind me why I do what I do.
I didn’t dance much in the first month of 2023. Modern dance class was on a break, and I missed a couple Saturday Zumba classes. It starts to affect my mood when I don’t get my dancing on. Throwing on a 90s hip hop station on Pandora and doing a little kitchen dancing helps, but it’s not the same as going into the studio. I start to miss the challenge of class, testing myself with different exercises and routines. Dancing for fun is great and always a good mood booster, but in the long term, I need more for my dance soul to feel fulfilled.
I kicked off the last day of 2022 with my regular Saturday morning Zumba class. All of my new friends here have come from that studio, which makes it a special place for me. Like my ballroom studio in California, it feels like a home away from home. A place where I can go and let my dance freak flag fly without fear of judgment or rejection. The final Zumba class of 2022 was no exception. I left with a tired body and a full heart.
We just had our first snowstorm of the season this weekend. It only dropped about 3 inches here, but other parts of Maine and the rest of New England got more. In Maine terms, it was rather mild. Local businesses stayed open, despite warnings prior to the storm that they may close. The studio where I go for dance and fitness classes was no exception. I didn’t feel like braving the downhill slope of my snow-covered driveway though, so I signed up for the livestream of Saturday morning’s Zumba class.
Dance is often referred to as an art/sport because of the athleticism required to produce beautiful and inspiring performances. Dance is a full-body workout; we all know and have experienced that. It’s also a mental and emotional workout as we try to remember all of the choreography and technique required to move our bodies in beautiful ways while also adding on style and expression that will connect us with our audience. I’m a little tired just thinking about it.
The sport half of dance always came easier to me. It was more black-and-white and scientific. Technique had rights and wrongs. I could muscle my way through the movement, which made me feel strong instead of vulnerable. When teachers started talking about arm styling and suggesting I do what feels right, I balked. What felt right to me was doing nothing with my arms, but that’s not what they were trying to get me to do. They wanted me to feel the right way to launch my arm over my head or out to the side in a way that looked graceful and effortless, or in the case of tango, strong and confident.
Last month, I attended an online webinar titled “Racial Representation in Ballroom.” Ballroom dance is very much a white-dominated style of dance, but why? What is preventing everyone else from experiencing this art/sport that we adore? How do we bring greater diversity to the ballroom world?
It was these types of questions that the hosts of webinars wanted to explore. I was so impressed by the information provided and the open and honest discussion that took place, that I had to reach out to the people behind the webinar with a request to share their mission with my readers.
The ballroom dance floor is where I finally connected with my true self and found the courage to show that true self to others. I know many of you have had similar experiences. I hate to think anyone anywhere has been made to feel, intentionally or unintentionally, that they didn’t belong on that floor because of who they were.Which is why I believe this group’s mission is so important.
So without further ado, please welcome to the blog, The TIRED Movement!
Remember that ballroom dance lesson where I learned to lead? It was actually my last lesson. One of my boys needed minor surgery (he’s fine), but even minor surgery always comes with a major bill. So unless it had already been paid for, dance and fitness classes have been cut from my calendar until that vet bill is paid. This is far from the first time I’ve had to pause dance because funds had to be redirected. I’ve been blessed along my dance journey to have had generous dance teachers who would let me owe them for a few weeks so that my training wouldn’t be disrupted. But the kindness of strangers (and people I know well) can only go so far. Sometimes I just have to cut back.
As you’re probably aware, I also cut back on blogging and social media posting.
I did something different in this past week’s ballroom lesson: I learned to lead! Traditionally, men lead and women follow in the ballroom dances. However, it’s very common outside of the U.S. to see female couples competing in ballroom, especially in younger or more beginner levels, simply because there aren’t enough boys to act as partners. You see my soul sister Fran leading in group classes and on the competition floor in the classic movie Strictly Ballroom.
Why learn to lead?
First of all, it’s a fun challenge to reverse roles as a ballroom dancer! I’ve always had an interest in learning the leader role of ballroom dances because only learning the follower role meant I was only really learning half of the dance. Learning what your partner needs to do and what they need you to do creates a better understanding of the partnership as a whole, which can only lead to a better connection and more enjoyable dancing together. Understanding how to cue a lead can also help you recognize when someone else is trying to cue you as a follower.
For the first time in my adult life, I opted out of dance this past week. I did not go to ballet on Monday, 305 Fitness on Wednesday (or as I like to call it, Zumba turned up to an 11), or Zumba today. I did not have a ballroom lesson. And I feel better for it.