Inner Strength + Outer Support: An Interview with Briana Suakjian

I’m super excited to introduce today’s guest to you all because she has had a huge direct impact on my dance journey. Please welcome to the blog, Briana Suakjian! She is the wife and pro dance partner of Kris Suakjian (a.k.a. Teacher!), and together they own and manage the Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Laguna Hills, California. They took over their new studio literally weeks before the pandemic shut everything down. Despite possibly setting a record for worst timing ever (or perhaps the best, more on that later), Briana and Kris have successfully built a warm and welcoming dance home for their students. And yes, I may be just a bit biased.

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You Keep Falling Because You Don’t Believe You Can Fly

Way back in 2015, when The Girl with the Tree Tattoo blog was still in the Newcomer division, I wrote an article for another dance website about partnering. I listed trust as one of three key factors for a successful dance partnership. Trust is a funny thing. It is like a house of cards, built up slowly over time, but one wrong move can make the entire structure collapse. It’s very fragile, and at the same time, holds very strong influence over us. We are willing to give so much of ourselves to those we trust without question.

In ballroom dancing, you have to trust your partner. You have to trust in their ability to dance and lead or follow (depending on your role). On a more emotional level, you have to trust them to respect you as you allow them into your personal space. The physical contact required for ballroom dancing (another key factor) can make you feel extremely vulnerable. It takes trust to ease that feeling and make you feel comfortable enough to dance well.

Ballroom dancing also requires trust in yourself.

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Reflecting on the Year of WTF is Happening

I had the opportunity to apply some upgraded technique to my Open Waltz routine this week. Well, maybe I should say I learned that I needed to apply less. I have a tendency to do too much because I think I’m not doing enough. This week, I learned I was rotating way too much in a slip pivot, which then put me at the wrong angle for my heel pull, which then threw me off for the steps coming out of the heel pull. All that was corrected beautifully when I just stopped trying to do so much. Less was more.

Life continues to be really weird, so it was nice to have a moment when things actually made sense.

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Six Years Ago, I Thought My Competition Days Were Over

I don’t think I belong here.

That thought echoed in my head as I watched the pro-am American Rhythm session at the 2014 Holiday Dance Classic, held at the Tropicana in Las Vegas. It was my second competition as a pro-am ballroom student. I was there to dance American Smooth at the Bronze level. Smooth wasn’t until the next day, but Teacher was competing with other students in Rhythm and I wanted to show my support.

All morning, I watched ladies on the floor, dancing in rhinestones, feathers and fringe. During one of his breaks, Teacher pointed out students who seemed to be at almost every competition. I learned that some pro-am students were wealthy enough to fly themselves and their teachers around the country all year, dancing hundreds of entries at one competition after another.

And then there was me.

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After Seven Months, I’m Still Grieving

It’s been over seven months since the pandemic sent me home to work at my kitchen table until further notice. In addition to packing up my cubicle, I had to clear my schedule. The ballroom dance competition where I was going to debut in a new style, the wine-tasting trip that a close friend and I were taking to celebrate our birthdays, the cruise to Alaska with my mom — it was all wiped away by our unwelcome guest, SARS-CoV-2…

Continue reading on my Medium page.

Diving Deep: An Interview with Samantha Stout

I’d like you all to meet Samantha Stout! She is a professional ballroom dancer and teacher based in Utah. She is the owner of Love.Live.Dance, LLC and host of the podcast Ballroom Chat.

She invited me to be a guest on her podcast a few weeks ago. The episode aired last week (you can also watch it on YouTube). I returned the favor and asked her to share her story here. Samantha has experienced both the pro-am student and teacher sides of competitive ballroom dance, which gives her a unique perspective on our art/sport.

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Studio Solo Practice

I solo practiced at the studio yesterday! First time in 7 months. With talk of competing again in early 2021, 2021 being only three months away, AND only one lesson a week on the books for the foreseeable future, I thought it was time to get back into the solo practice habit.

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Interview with Rebecca Gentry, A Dancer of Many Talents

One of my favorite things about this blog continues to be the connections that I make with dancers and other creatives that would have never happened otherwise. Today’s interview is a result of one of those connections. Rebecca Gentry, professional ballroom dancer and owner of City Ballroom Dance Studio in Lancaster, PA, found The Girl with the Tree Tattoo on Instagram and reached out. We had a wonderful conversation a couple weeks ago and I’m happy to be able to share it with you today.

Please welcome to the blog, Rebecca Gentry!

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