Life Updates

Quick life/dance/etc. update, in case you’re interested. ¬†If not, too bad ūüėõ

I’m currently last-minute preparing for the first competition of the season, Purdue, with a different partner (!). ¬†My normal partner couldn’t make it to this competition, so I asked a good friend if he was willing to dance with me, and it’s been pretty fun so far! Some last-minute choreography, some quick re-learning of old choreography, and good amount of oh-well-let’s-just-do-lead-follow. ¬†Fortunately, he’s good at picking up new choreography (unlike me), so that helps a lot. ¬†But because I’m not amazing at remembering choreography, I often depend on my partner to help me out on the floor in case I have a brain spasm. ¬†The tables have turned a bit and now I’m the one who might need to help him out on the floor, since I’m more familiar with the routines. ¬†We’ll see how it turns out! ¬†As I told him, when in doubt (during smooth), just do an explosion!

Another fun thing to navigate is that for the first time in years, I’m competing with a partner who is about my height and the same size as me. ¬†One of my first partners from like….6 or 7 years ago was about that build, but since then, I’ve been dancing with guys who are over 6 feet (I’m 5’5-ish and about 5’8 in heels).

One advantage of competing with someone you don’t normally compete with is the lack of expectations. ¬†We’re just going for fun and if we place well, great! and if not, oh well. ¬†No pressure of maintaining or bettering our placements from previous competitions. ¬†Cause there isn’t anything with which to compare. ¬†Also, I’m better than him at smooth/standard, but he’s better than me at rhythm/Latin. ¬†So, with our powers combined…who knows what will happen. ¬†We’re dancing gold standard, gold Latin, and novice/pre-champ smooth. ¬†Cause I’m not about to do open rhythm. ¬†The furthest I’ve ever gotten with rhythm is silver, and placed a handful of times in that.

In other news, I’ve been co-teaching the intermediate class for my college team, which has been pretty fun. ¬†It’s a step up from the beginner class, so we review the basic steps they have learned, add in some technique details, and give them a couple more bronze-ish moves to learn. ¬†I’m currently drafting a more detailed entry about teaching psychology and teaching dance, which will go up eventually. ¬†While the class size has shrunken a bit as the semester goes on – midterms galore, colder weather, and finding other clubs/activities all contributing to this – we have a pretty consistent group who comes weekly and who seems to be having fun and improving steadily (at least, I hope they are!). ¬†And a good number of our newbies will be going to their first competition this week. ¬†Good luck, everyone!

In non-dance life, I’ve been teaching an intro social psych class, doing research, and indoor rock climbing. ¬†That’s about it, I guess. ¬†Research is a tumultuous relationship as usual – studies not working, or maybe-kind-of-working-but-what-does-this-really-mean???, but that just comes with the territory. ¬†Rock climbing is going well. ¬†It’s nice to see steady improvement – I’m working on 5.8/5.9-ish routes right now, if that means anything to you. ¬†The accomplishment you feel after conquering a route that stymied you previously is fantastic. What else…I read¬†Gone Girl¬†a couple of weeks ago. ¬†Still undecided on how I feel about it, but it’s worth checking out.

Edited to add: I cut off all my hair into a short pixie style this summer and now I’m in the stage of “WTF do I do with it for ballroom?”. ¬†I’m incapable of doing finger waves and teasing does absolutely nothing. ¬†So….I think the current solution is to put some gel and spray it in to make sure it doesn’t move around, and then either add a headband or rhinestones in some sort of pattern. ¬†We’ll see what ends up happening.

Body Modification

Hadn’t really thought to write a post on the topic of body modifications in ballroom¬†until I recently got the upper part of my left ear cartilage (more specifically, the helix) pierced with a ring. ¬†(P.S. If you’re thinking of piercing anything, go to a reputable shop and get pierced under sterile conditions with a needle, NOT with a piercing gun at Claire’s and the like!) This is not extreme body modification by any means, since nowadays many women (and some men) are piercing parts of their ears other than their ear lobes, but it made me a little more conscious of such things. ¬†So, I’ll be talking about tattoos and more unusual piercings and how they fit in (or don’t) with the ballroom culture. ¬†First of all, ballroom is a very aesthetically-focused sport/endeavor, in which even having the wrong hair, makeup, or clothing can lead to disapproval. ¬†Thus it makes sense that there are some strong opinions and norms regarding body modification as well.

Let’s start with standard/smooth. ¬†Very classic, elegant, proper sorts of dances, since they have a more old school and traditional influence. ¬†I think competitors in these dances in particular are less likely to have visible tattoos and unconventional piercings. ¬†Perhaps in part because of personality (people who like the traditional dances more might also be more traditional themselves), but more often because it is generally frowned upon by judges and even other members of the ballroom community. ¬†It’s hard to really say for men, since they are covered up from neck to wrist to feet, but you never see visible neck/hand tattoos on gentlemen doing these dances. ¬†Who knows what they’re sporting underneath their tailsuits/smooth suits, though? (Ow ow!) I don’t think I’ve ever seen a male standard or smooth dancer with ear jewelry, either. ¬†Of course, that may mean that they wear such subtle jewelry that it’s hardly noticeable. ¬†Women, on the other hand, often wear dresses that reveal at least some part of their body – hands, arms, back, chest, legs for smooth dresses with high slits. ¬†Torso if they’re wearing a two-piece dress in smooth. ¬†Rarely do you see competitive dancers with visible tattoos in these revealed areas, right? ¬†Those who do have visible tattoos are often advised to cover them up with makeup. ¬†In fact, on a rather informal poll on Dance Forums, an overwhelming 81.7% of forum members who answered said that piercings and tattoos should not be seen on the competition floor. ¬†Some thought they were trashy, which is very counter to the desired image in ballroom. ¬†Many people mentioned that even if they don’t think of tattoos and such as a bad thing, they can be distracting, and make the audience pay more attention to that rather than someone’s dancing. ¬†Others were¬†concerned that judges might mark them worse for having such body modifications.

For Latin/rhythm, I think tattoos and piercings are a little more acceptable, but still uncommon, even when they might be revealed with skimpier shirts and dresses. ¬†I know that Slavik Kryklyvyy has a visible chest tattoo that shows with low-cut Latin shirts, but it’s hard to think of many examples of professional dancers who have really noticeable tattoos. ¬†Victor da Silva has a pretty large back tattoo, but does theatre arts/exhibition stuff, so a tattoo kind of fits with that I’m-so-manly-let-me-throw-a-woman-around-with-my-pinky vibe. ¬†Multiple piercings and belly button rings are also not surprising to see on female Latin/rhythm dancers, I think. ¬†Still, large visible tattoos on women aren’t really commonplace. ¬†I’ve seen a couple of tattoos on collegiate competitors, and they can be distracting if they are larger/more noticeable. ¬†I can also think of an example from Dancing with the Stars, in which makeup artists blinged up Melissa Rycroft’s lower back tattoo to match her costume and to make it a little more ballroom-appropriate. ¬†But you never see full sleeve tattoos and the like.

I’ve entertained the idea of a tattoo casually, but have kept in mind this limitation. ¬†I have to think, “Where could I even have one that wouldn’t show with ballroom dresses?” ¬†It’s interesting that tattoos and piercings have become more accepted in mainstream culture, but the ballroom culture lags behind. ¬†Then again, the ballroom culture does tend to trend older and more traditional, so maybe this isn’t a surprise at all. ¬†Men are leaders and women are followers, and there is the traditional etiquette aspect of the whole endeavor, so perhaps old-fashioned notions of what is acceptable on bodies also tracks these ideals.

I haven’t seen any relatively more unusual or extreme body modifications at ballroom events in recent memory, such as ear stretching (or gauging), sleeve tattoos (though of course those can be covered up by long sleeves), scarification, or many prominent facial piercings. ¬†Again, this could be due to the people ballroom attracts (probably not the most fringe-y, alternative types) or because they hesitate to do such things in fear that it will impact their dancing results in a negative way. ¬†One of my coaches has a labret piercing (meaning, right below the center of her lower lip), which is a bit more unusual, but it’s very subtle and tasteful.

Naturally, this is all subjective and dependent on the perceiver (as we often talk about in social psychology). ¬†Some coaches and judges might frown upon piercings and tattoos while others have no problem with it. ¬†Until the overall culture changes, however, it seems prudent¬†to take these norms into consideration when thinking about body modifications. ¬†Do you value fitting in with ballroom culture more, or care more about self-expression using jewelry and adornment on your body? ¬†Ultimately it’s a personal decision.