Monday

T is for Twirl

There are probably as many different ways to twirl as there are ways to move. Spin on one foot with your arms above your head like a ballerina. Spread your arms out wide and turn on both feet. Find a partner and lock arms. The possibilities are endless. I caution you. Twirling can result in dizziness, falling down, and giggling.

It is hard to be serious when you are in rotation. You can probably forget about disciplining when you are struggling to stay upright. Today, my daughter decided to try to run away once I got her poopy diaper off her. (She's 3 and almost a half....don't ask...) She plays this game a lot, but today was different because I managed to get one hand on her wrist before she got out of reach. She is small, but she is strong. So with her in one hand and wipes in the other, she started running in circles (while giggling hysterically), spinning me like a top while I tried to remain in control of the situation. There was no way I was going to let go because I figured if I held on, I could contain the poop. So around and around I went, hollering "stop" ineffectively. I got dizzier and dizzier, until finally, the giggles just started; and the harder I tried to convince myself and my child that this was not funny, the more the giggles took hold.

You might imagine that this did not end well. It usually doesn't when there are kids and poop and twirling involved. Let's just say, miraculously, nobody got hurt. But this is exactly how I came to think of my "T" post for the challenge.

T is for Twirl.


Sunday

S is for Shuffling

Think you don't have time to practice your dance skills? Think again. I carved out a whole hour of practice today by combining what is usually one of my least favorite chores with music and dancing. It turns out, mowing the lawn is the perfect vehicle for practicing the shuffle step. You've got the push bar for balancing. You get dibs on the iPod because you are the one mowing the lawn. And no one is going to interrupt you, because again, you are mowing the lawn. It's a win-win for all involved.

Dial it over to LMFAO, pop your ear buds in, and start your mower. Before you know it, you are party rocking your way across the lawn. Now put a little bounce in your step. Let your feet glide across the grass. Grass provides the perfect amount of slippage for practicing the shuffle step in your high-tops. Go ahead and get into it. What do you have to lose? It is socially acceptable to dance out loud with your iPod while you are mowing your lawn. (I don't really know if that's true, but so far no one has come by to ask me to stop.)

If you are unfamiliar with this type of shuffling, here are a couple of guys who seem to be pretty good at teaching the moves. (Well, as long as you don't read the comments on YouTube. Geez. Everyone's a critic.)


Wednesday

Q is for Quickie

Yes, I know that we are on letter 'P' for today, but I kind of got off track anyway. This is just a quick post to say thanks for all the comments and to those who have stopped by from the challenge. I'll be making my way over to your blog soon.

For everyone who is keeping up with the alphabet, hats off to you!

...and now, back to your regularly scheduled program......

Saturday

M is for Moms who dance the Merengue

I started this blog on the advice of my doctor. She said, "I think you should start a blog to help other moms." I took the "start a blog" part of that advice, and I figured I'd work out the "helping other moms" part eventually. I don't really know what I could write that would help other moms, but I do know that other moms help me all the time. I've read other moms' blogs that helped me to laugh at myself. I've read mom blogs that helped me realize that I am never alone. Sometimes people are freer to be honest with some level of anonymity. And some of the honest feelings and thoughts that moms have are not the feelings and thoughts we are generally encouraged to share.

But sometimes, we find others in our lives that share our secret passions, our hidden dreams, our muted voices. And sometimes those people are the moms standing next to us at Zumba.

I met Ramona last night. She brought in a little girl a year younger than mine to the gym day care. While we were waiting for class to start, I asked about her little girl. We started chatting and then she said: "This is what 'going out' is for me now. I get to shake my stuff and feel like I've still got it." I knew exactly what she meant, and told her it was the same thing for me. Zumba class is not a workout. (I mean, you get a workout.) Zumba is all of us moms on the dance floor with no inhibitions dancing the merengue with passion and zeal. We are not warming up to go out clubbing afterwards. The class is our party for the night, and we let it all hang out.

After class, Ramona and I chatted a bit more. I look forward to dancing with her again in another class. Dancing a mean merengue with other moms on a Friday night. Join the party!

Friday

L is for Leg warmers

I can remember my first pair of leg warmers like it was 30 years ago. (It was 30 years ago.) I wore the heck out of those rainbow striped calf mittens. But not for dance. No, just over the legs of my jeans...in Texas... where it is always warm. I was cool...but not in the sense that I was not warm.

I, for one, am excited that leg warmers are poised to make a comeback on the fashion scene. Leg warmers are practical for dancers, sure. But here are a few ways you can incorporate your favorite pair of leg warmers into your everyday attire:

Fashion Dos:
Enjoy!
(This is just a link to google images search on leg warmers because when it comes to leg warmers, I really don't think there could be any fashion "Don'ts".)

Thursday

K is for Kicks, and for Keeping House

Oh dear. With all the dancing and blogging about dancing I've been doing lately, my house is a shambles. Should Kim Woodburn and Aggie MacKenzie drop by with their cameras, they would have a field day with the dirt, grime, and clutter that I have allowed to accumulate these past few weeks. I am not proud of this. Really, I'm not. I've let things slide. It is time to tidy things up with a bit of house keeping.

If you still need your dance fix for today, I'm going to suggest doing some kicks, basically because everyone already knows how to kick. Just pretend you are 5 years old, you are on the school playground, and little Johnny threw sand in your face. Kick. (Go for the shins.) When you practice throwing kicks, make sure you have a good 5 foot radius clear of any people, pets, desks, furniture, walls, doors, beds, laundry baskets, or videographers. You can mix it up however you like: high kicks, low kicks, fast kicks, slow kicks, front kicks, back kicks, hitch kicks.....oh, you don't know what a hitch kick looks like. Perfect. Here's your 9 second lesson for today (which is about all I have time for):

(ps- This is not me. I don't know who this is. But I think she's awesome!)





Wednesday

J is for Julianne Hough

Never give up on your dreams.

As a 41 year old, stay at home mom whose former career was in the field of computer science and engineering, I thought the chances of me appearing on Dancing with the Stars were slim to none. However, thanks to the internet, youTube, and a complete lack of motivation for housework, I have landed a spot in the competition and I'm partnered up with Julianne Hough. We had a pretty intense training session yesterday, and of course, I broke down in tears several times. But Julianne said she will not give up on me. She's, like, the best partner ever!

Here is Julianne performing our daily warm-up for you. Enjoy!

Tuesday

I is for Improvisation

You may have the world's best choreographer at your disposal, but at some point in your pursuit of dance, you will be asked to improvise. Say, perhaps, you show up at a dance competition and realize you forgot your music. Or, you are out party rocking and the DJ decides to mix it up with some tunes from the 80's. Or, you are chasing a masked opponent through the streets of San Ricardo. You catch up to them, challenge them to a fight to the death, and it just so happens to be dance fight night.

In any of these situations, the key is not to panic. Relax and go with it. Start with a small gesture, something that comes easy and natural and requires no thought. How about a facepalm? Imagine a time when a facepalm was in order. Let's say you spent all morning searching for your car keys. Later you find them innocently hanging on a hook that is designated for your car keys. Palm to face. Cue the music. Now count to the beat. One, two, three and four.

On one, bring your right hand up to meet your face (or forehead).
On two, lower your right hand back down to your side.
On three, bring your left hand up to meet your face (or forehead).
On four, bring your left hand back down to your side.

And there you have it. You just improvised the facepalm move. Practice it a few times to the beat. Start to loosen up and add your own flair. Really make it your own. See where you can take it. Exaggerate the movements by bringing your head down to meet your palm in shame. When your hand returns to your side, look up as if nothing happened. Add some hip action. Step out and then back with your right foot, then your left. Have fun with it.
The Facepalm.
I just made this up.
I improvised.


I is for improvisation.


Monday

H is for Hula

This lesson will be short and sweet because the demonstration in the diagram below pretty much says it all.

The Hula Dance
First, stand with your back to the ocean and sunset, facing the beach and condos. Let your arms hang by your sides and put a slight bend in your knees.

Starting with your left foot, take a side step to the left. Bring your feet together with your right foot meeting your left. Then take another step to the side with your left foot. Bring your feet together with your right foot meeting your left.

So basically, it's step, together, step, together to the left.

Now you've done two side steps to the left and your feet are back together. Next you are going to do two side steps to the right. Right foot out. Feet together. Right foot out. Feet together. Now you've done two side steps to the right and your feet are back together. Can you guess what's next? Yep, back to the left.

Two side steps to the left, two side steps to the right, and repeat.

Practice that and then we will add the arms.

Ready? Okay, standing with your feet together, raise your arms straight out in front of you, like you are a zombie or a mummy or frankenstein. Bring your left arm out to your left side and bend your right elbow 90 degrees, bringing your right forearm to the left. Now loosen up both arms and shoulders while keeping your arms slightly raised and pointing to the left. Face your palms down. Each time you take a step out with your left foot, flex your fingers, when you bring your feet together, curl your fingers like you are strumming a ukulele. When you are stepping left, your arms are raised to the left, when you step right, your arms are raised to the right. Refer back to the diagram if you have questions at this point.

Ready to put it all together. Great. Get loose. Sway your hips back and forth naturally. When you get comfortable with the steps, exaggerate the hip motions a bit more. Don a grass skirt or a bath towel to give it some authenticity. Have fun!

H is for hula.


Saturday

G is for Group Classes

What better way to get your groove on than by taking a group class? It doesn't matter whether you have a partner or are going it alone; whether you are a social butterfly or a wallflower; whether you can tango or you can barely manage to tie your dance shoes. Group classes give you the opportunity to test the waters or to jump in with both feet.

Honestly, I was a little bit nervous to try my first group class at the gym. I showed up for a Zumba class not knowing anything about what to expect. It was fast and I couldn't follow most of it. I stood in the back and didn't talk to anyone while I tried to focus on just copying the steps without the arms, or the arms without the steps, or both. I sort of fumbled around tripping over my own two feet and flailing my arms sporadically. But there were others who were taking this same unorthodox approach to learning the moves, so I actually felt encouraged. I returned week after week, looking forward to each class. I started to try classes with other instructors. Each class had something different to offer. Each class had its own flavor.

Then, one day, I just needed to get out of the house and let loose. As a married, 41 year old mom of a preschooler, where am I going to go to let my freak flag fly? I ended up at a Zumba class at the local gym. The instructor was wearing a florescent pink fedora and lime green florescent cargo pants. The class was packed. The music started. The beat was hypnotic. And then, the instructor started dancing and everyone moved simultaneously, mimicking her gestures. I joined right in and was swept up in the moment, partying like it was 1999. After the class was over, we all filed out and I bounced back to my car. My passion for dancing temporarily satiated. I had found the group class to match my style of dance.

G is for group classes.

Friday

F is for Flashdance

If don't get the reference,
I'm leaving it up to you
to google it.
I don't have time to check all the other challengers' entries for F, but I'm betting no one else came up with Flashdance.

If you are like me, you may not have a whole lot of time to devote to your passion for dance. Not a problem. Today's quick lesson will have you dancing like a maniac in no time. All you need is 3 minutes. (Perhaps a bit longer if you need to improvise on the costume change.)

Here's what you will need:

  • One pair of leg warmers. (If you don't own any leg warmers, you can cut the feet off of a pair of knee-highs, or a pair of tube socks would do in a pinch, I suppose.)
  • Athletic tape. (You might find some in a first aid kit. If you can't find a first aid kit in your home, car, or office, now might be a good time to add "first aid kit" to your shopping list. Still, if you don't have athletic tape, you could substitute masking tape or painter's tape.)
  • Music. (Might I suggest something by Irene Cara or Michael Sembello.)
  • Two cups of water. (One to drink. One to splash on your face.)
Okay, once you have all your supplies together, go ahead and start the music. The costume change is part of the choreography. (A brilliant time-saver if I do say so myself.) Take off your shoes and socks. Roll up your pants above your knees. If you are wearing a skirt or, even better, a leotard, you are all set. Pull on your leg warmers (or footless knee-highs) and scrunch them up just so. Wrap the athletic tape around the balls of your feet a couple of times. Now wiggle your toes and point and flex your feet. Take one cup of water, close your eyes, and splash the water directly on your face. Don't towel off yet, just shake your hair out. The rest is pretty much freestyle. Run in place. Stretch. Whip your head around (but not too hard if you are a novice). When the music stops, your flashdance is done. Take a drink of water. Reassemble yourself, and get back to work.

Thursday

E is for Elevé


Today we are learning elevé. Now don't start panicking already. Elevé is easy. The key for today's lesson is: don't wear your pointe shoes. If you are wearing pointe shoes, you have raise to full pointe (tippy, tippy toes, I believe, is the technical jargon). We are trying to keep this lesson simple so there are NO EXCUSES today, right? Those of you who should be wearing your toe shoes for elevé, you know who you are (Amelia). Go ahead and put them on at this time.


Here we go step by step:
1. Stand facing the barre with your feet shoulder width apart. (If you don't have a standard ballet barre--in your living room, perhaps?--you could improvise by standing at the kitchen counter. If you are at work, you could try this at your desk, but that is probably too low to help you balance. I suggest trying the break room. There might be a counter top that is high enough. If you are enjoying free WiFi at McDonalds, Chic Fil-A, or Starbucks, I happen to know they have bar-seating at most of these fine establishments so you are not off the hook.)
2. Lifting your heels, raise up onto the balls of your feet. Demi-pointe. (Hint: stand on tiptoe.)
3. (Optional--only to be attempted if you are wearing pointe shoes.) Raise to full point. (a.k.a.: tippy tippy toes)
4. Lower your heels back to the ground.
You did it! Take a bow or a curtsey. I'm sending virtual applause your way.

Wednesday

D is for Dance

I chose dance to be my theme for the month because I am selfish. I really do want to learn more about dance, and I have. I had forgotten the versatility of the bunny hop. And yesterday I practiced the cha cha. 

There is a difference between learning about dance, learning how to dance, and dancing. I dance a lot in my head. That's good and it's bad. It's good because it's a pleasant diversion from the mundane rituals of a stay at home mom. But it's bad because in my head, I am a way better dancer than I actually am. But is that such a bad thing really? Am I harming anyone with my audacity to publicly bust a move. Okay, maybe shoving the 3 year old out of the way so I could dance with the Chic 'Fil-A cow mascot at the community egg hunt was taking it a bit too far. But in my defense, she was monopolizing the cow's time, and he was supposed to be there for everyone, right? Plus, the DJ was playing Party Rock. Party Rock?! You tell me how I was supposed to exercise any self-restraint under those circumstances?

Don't strike this pose
without a bright yellow
fedora. Otherwise, you might
look silly.
D is for dance.

Tuesday

C is for Cha Cha

Today we are learning the Cha Cha. This is just the basic steps. No fancy turns or advanced hip action, and I'm dropping the arms completely. It's Cha Cha for dummies.

Those foot charts make no sense to me what-so-ever. I am going to walk you through it the way that makes sense to me. Here we go:

First, get the rhythm in your head. It goes, "slow, slow, quick, quick, slow". Or you can count: "one, two, three-and-four". (Or if you know morse code: dah-dah-di-di-dah.) Run that over in your head a couple of times: slow-slow-quick-quick-slow, one two three-and-four, cha cha ch-ch-cha.  Can you feel it? Good.

Now, stand with your feet together.

This person is facing you,
so their left is your right.
Confused? Good.
On the first count (slow), step forward with your right foot. Take your weight off your left foot. Pop your right hip out.

On the next count (slow), shift your weight back to your left foot. Leave your right foot in place. Pop your left hip out.

On the next count (quick), step your right foot back to meet your left. Shift your weight to your right foot. Pop your right hip out.

And quick again: shift your weight to your left foot. Pop your left hip out.

And for the last count (slow), shift your weight back to your right foot. Pop your right hip out.


Great. That was your first count of four.

Again, person facing you...
their left = your right.
Now we count to four again, only this time instead of stepping forward with your right foot on the first count (slow), you step backwards with your left foot. Shift your weight to your left foot and pop your left hip out.




On the next count (slow), leave your left foot back, but shift your weight to your right foot and pop your right hip out.








On the next count (quick), bring your left foot back to meet your right. Shift your weight to your left foot. Pop your left hip out.

Quick again: shift your weight to your right foot. Pop your right hip out.


And for the last count (slow), shift your weight back to your left foot. Pop your left hip out.

That's it. Cha-cha-ch-ch-cha.

Monday

B is for Bunny Hop

Okay, I may have panicked. But keep in mind, it has been a very long time since I have had a deadline that isn't self imposed. I do feel this entry is entirely appropriate at this point in the challenge. I am ready to jump up from my seat and join the party on the dance floor. I was never one to linger at the table, finishing my punch or feeling too shy to strut my stuff. You are much more likely to hear me exclaim: "It's the bunny hop! I know this dance. I've got to get out there." And with probably with more enthusiasm now than I did when I was 8 years old.

There are so many posts to read, comments to follow up, new sites to join. I want to circulate, meet new people, visit old friends. So I'm just stopping by my table momentarily to quench my thirst so I can get back to doing what I love. Left, left, right, right, forward, backward, hop, hop, hop.

B is for Bunny Hop.
It's the bunny hop, people.
Shame on you.

Sunday

A is for Arabesque

In dance, it is always good to start out with a light warm-up so you don't strain anything. So I'm beginning this challenge with a simple arabesque. Nothing fancy or flamboyant. Just elegant. A brief pause, a classic pose. 

In the right hands, an arabesque is graceful, poetic, and ethereal. As a stay at home mom, I often find myself in the arabesque posture when recovering wet towels from the bathroom floor, delivering a Happy Meal to well-behaved and appreciative child, or hailing a taxi to the closest international airport. An arabesque is a fundamental staple in any dancer/mom's repertoire.

A is for arabesque.
Here I perform an arabesque
 while retrieving a box of Fruit Loops
 from the pantry.