I love dancing. If you know me, you probably know this fact already.
I often get asked about why and how I started to dance almost 30 years ago. Why I never only committed to one style of dance. And what it is that makes me spend days and nights dancing, bringing my body to the limits and sometimes almost without sleeping. It´s addictive. Because it could be magic.
HOW iT STARTED
It´s such a cliché. But it`s the truth. When I was 11 years old, “Dirty Dancing” was in the cinemas. At that age, I wasn´t going to the movies very often. My parents have been very strict with my media consumption and going to the movies was a once-a-year thing.
This movie was in the theatres for more than a year. And about one year after the premier, my best friend told me about it. She was so excited and immediately bought the soundtrack. I listened to the music cassette and thought it`s nice, but kind of old fashioned. Sure it was, as the movie played in the 1960s. After listening to my friend who told me over and over again about the funny “watermelon scene” and how beautiful the dancing is, I was curious and finally convinced my parents to allow me watching it. My friend joined me and watched it for the 3rd time, I think.
And what can I say… it really touched me. The whole story, Patrick Swayzes back muscles, the dancing,…and in the context of the story, also the “old fashioned” music found its way to my heart. At the age of about 13, I was sitting in the cinema and thought how amazing this must feel to dance like this with another person in complete harmony. Let me precise this: it wasn`t like I was only impressed by the beautiful dancing. It was more that I immediately felt like this is something for me. I wanted to feel as free as them and I wanted to feel this harmony of movement with another person meeting in music. I knew I could do it.
My friend and I started to dance in the attic of our house and as soon as the video was released we started to learn the original steps of the final dance, playing the video back and forth. Including the lift! I was smaller than my friend at that time, so I was “Baby” and she was “Johnny”.
At about the same time, we had a sports teacher in school, who was teaching jazz dance classes. Together with a music teacher she brought whole musicals on school stage. I joined and enjoyed it a lot. After my beginner class I stayed to watch the advanced class. In the first musical, I was part of, the teacher even chose me for a little solo part. I was the only one of the beginner group! She gave me the music and asked me to think about possible movements- my first choreography. It was short and basically about walking and a few turns in the character of the role I played, but i was so proud. On stage, I was nervous and shaking, but I loved it. After this, I was invited to join the advanced group and after a while the teacher also asked me about my choreography ideas for parts of the next musical.
Looking back to this time, I am so thankful for how she saw my passion and encouraged me!
But still, it was solo dancing. And I wanted to experience partner dancing as well. So, I tried to join the Rock`n Roll classes offered from school. After learning the basic steps, the older leaders loved to practice all the lifts and acrobatics with me because I was a light weight. Once, one partner dropped me and I got really hurt, when I fell against the corner of a bench. I had a deep hole in my shinbone. You can still see the scar. And I got a bit scared. Also, I felt like jumping around with Rock`n Roll will probably not be my way to feel the harmony of partner dancing.
Being educated “neutral”, the sport my parents chose for me was athletics. I learned to jump high and far, to sprint 100 meters and even to shot put. And it was fun. Only the 800 meters and Saturday morning trainings weren`t for me. I even joined contests and won a lot of medals and trophies. It was never a thought of my parents to put me into a ballet class, because they didn`t want the typical “girl thing” for me. And then, just when I was asked to join the preparation for the German championships, I asked my parents to find a partner dancing class for me.
They cringed a bit, but they tried. They were taking dance classes and even met each other at a social dance. But at that time, the dance school in our town only allowed teenagers from the age of 16 and up to join the traditional partner dance classes with a prom at the end. I was only 15 and got rejected. So I ended up in a youth partner dancing class of a dance and competition club with one of my class mates, who I convinced to join.
After a few months they organized a small competition at the end of the course. My partner backed out last minute, but I found a new partner and was very happy. We became close friends and it was a lot of fun to dance with him. We made 1st place in Standards. The Standard coach seemed to be impressed and encouraged us to join the competition class as a preparation for the Bavarian Championship a couple of months later. I learned so much during that time and got a glimpse of how dancing could feel like.
Only the whole dressing up and make up thing for the competition I didn`t like at all. My 17year old me had the feeling that I wouldn`t be able to still be myself when dressed up like a doll. In my daily life, I wasn`t into styling and fashion at all. I was more the jeans and t-shirt kind of girl. Also, coming from athletics I thought it`s so unnatural and stupid to wear all these expensive outfits and tons of make up to cover my real face for a sport that is about expressing myself. I had discussions with my coach over and over again, I cried but finally I gave in as I realized that this is part of the rules of the sport. It was a hard time, as I also had to decide between athletics and dancing- because of time and money reasons. Dancing is an expensive sport, so my parents wanted to be sure about my true commitment before buying an expensive dress and paying for the lessons.
Finally, I mastered all these challenges and danced at the Bavarian Championship with my awesome partner and we placed 7th out of more than 50 couples! I wasn`t happy with that outcome because I knew we could do it better and was ambitious to practice more. Unfortunately, my dance partner had health problems. He told me right after our first competition that he needs to stop dancing because of serious problems with his knees and his spine. He didn`t want to let me down before our first comp, so he took some strong painkillers to be able to go through all our practices and the competition. And he didn`t tell me about it! He wanted to “hover” with me, how he called it, at the Bavarian Championships and enjoy this feeling at least once. And he didn`t want to disappoint me. So sweet! And I was so focused on practicing and getting better, that I didn`t even have an idea of what he was going through. Shame on me!!! I was so sad and depressed as I couldn`t imagine any better dance partner and friend!
After a while, my coach found a new partner for me. It wasn`t the same, because we`ve been very different personalities, but we worked well together. He was already in a higher class and I accepted the challenge to learn fast and keep up with him. We´ve been very successful but it was never the same. But learning a lot kept my wish for a partner, who I could “hover” with, small. We danced well together, but we never connected that deep. I always wanted to do Latin as well, but he wasn`t interested.
BECOMiNG A DANCE TEACHER
We´ve been dancing together for about 3 years and I just finished school, when a big dance school in Munich offered me to educate me as a dance teacher and to work for them. I accepted. I actually never had the desire to teach, but I saw my chance to learn a lot more, especially Latin dancing. At a dance teacher convention, I was lucky to meet one of my dance idols. By accident we happened to dance together in a lecture and he seemed to enjoy it. I did a lot. But each time he was dancing with me I was nervous and shaking and so afraid of not being good enough for him and making mistakes. But he asked me over and over again and over the years I became more relaxed. Even now, years later, when we meet, we still enjoy dancing together and became close friends. I am very thankful for having met him, as he was one of my most important mentors in my life as a teacher and a dancer. He was able to give me back the feeling of “hovering”.
During the time of my education, I continued the partnership with my dance partner for a while, but then he got married and his wife wanted him to stop. It was a shame and I was really sad and disappointed, that he let me down just when we needed only 3 more points to move up to the highest amateur class.
For a couple of weeks, I tried another partnership. We connected very well and became good friends, but our work schedules made everything too complicated and we agreed to stop competitions. Instead he started teaching with me at another dance school and we tried Argentine Tango together, choreographed some shows for us as well as for our students and just enjoyed dancing.
DiSCOVERiNG OTHER STYLES
At about the same time, I didn`t only discover Argentine Tango and Salsa, but also Videoclip dancing. Yes, it was the time of Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears …. I had a lot of fun learning and teaching these choreographies.
I was coaching a wonderful group of girls who even made German and European Champions! It was an awesome time coaching them and travelling all over Europe with them. What I loved about the competitions was, that most of the people competing were wearing normal clothes. Sports pants and a top. No freaky hairdos, fixed with tons of hairspray, hard as a brick, but Baseball caps. No extreme make-up, like it was at the competitions I knew until then.
The best part about that time is that we`re still in contact and with some of them I became close friends. It was such a special group! With them I was able to feel the harmony and togetherness, I was always searching for in partner dancing. Although a lot younger than me, they taught me that people with totally different personalities are able to melt into a team, when they are able to open themselves completely for the dance and the music. That it´s possible to feel each other and to become one in dance and music, even with a solo dance, without touching.
Also because of my boyfriend I had at that time, who was very good at that, I got more and more into Hip Hop dancing. At least this didn`t necessarily require a partner to dance and feel the music in my body. We spent nights in the dance school, I studied his body movements and was asking him questions over questions. This opened again a whole new field to experience music, my body and how the body flow works. My focus was on solo dancing and the only time I spent with partner dancing was while teaching at the dance school my boyfriend and I opened. But the love for partner dancing never stopped.
LOVE AT FiRST SiGHT
Time went by, and I spent my time teaching solo dance as well as partner dancing. First, at the dance school of my boyfriend and, after we broke up, self-employed in different regions of Germany. Each year I went to Dance Festivals, because my hunger to learn more also never stopped. And 2013, attending Euro Dance Festival, the biggest Festival in Europe, I discovered West Coast Swing. I immediately felt this is for me! I felt like this dance would be able to feed my desire of connecting with a partner and getting lost in the music! Because a lack of time, it took me another year to get into it and take classes, but it definitely was love at first sight. I was lucky to meet a fantastic teacher and mentor at my very beginning, who immediately saw the “dance fire” that burns within me, taught me and encouraged me.
What can I say? It´s true. This dance offers everything I was always searching for. I still love to dance all the other styles, but WCS is my favorite. I still need to learn a lot and whenever I get the chance to I attend classes and go for social dances. Some dances are better than others, but then there are some that are pure magic and I feel free!