Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Some Advice For Kate Gosselin from another Ballroom Dancer Mom

from thefastertimes.com:

By Tatiana Keegan

When Kate Gosselin steps onto the dance floor Monday night for the season premier of “Dancing With The Stars,” she will be lucky to have a great partner in Tony Dovolani. I know this because Tony and I used to compete on the professional ballroom circuit together.

It’s fun seeing Tony on the cover of People magazine this week. Because way before Kate, before Kathy Ireland, Melissa Rycroft, Susan Lucci, Marissa Jaret Winokur, Jane Seymour, Leeza Gibbons, Sara Evans, and Stacy Keibler—even before “Dancing With The Stars” started making everybody crazy for the rumba and cha-cha in 2005—Tony and I won lots of competitions together, including the International Latin Rising Star title at the United States Ballroom Championship in Miami.

Tony is a powerful dancer, with lots of charisma, and an excellent coach. Part of what makes him so good is that he’s open to suggestions from other dancers and coaches he trusts. When he was partnered with Susan Lucci in Season 7, he asked me to take a look at their mambo routine. (She was feeling stiff, so I told her, “The mambo is a sensual dance —you want to feel like ripping your clothes off!”) So I hope Tony doesn’t mind that I’ve accepted an invitation from The Faster Times to offer a bit of womanly advice to his current partner, who I am sure is a bundle of nerves as she tries to learn the Viennese Waltz knowing that millions of people will be watching her every reverse turn and natural turn.

Though I can’t imagine what it’s like to have eight children, I’m a mom myself (my daughter is almost three). It’s not easy balancing the demands of motherhood and the pressure of competitive ballroom dancing, but it can be done. (Follow me and my new partner, Werner Figar, on Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter. And here’s our web site, too.) Anyway, Kate, here are some tips:

1. Learn to Love High Heels. Dancing in high heels looks incredibly difficult—and it is—but once you learn how, you’ll actually find it liberating. At first, you can’t keep your balance. Your ankle, calf muscles, and lower back will hurt. But having so much weight on the front of your foot actually allows you to move your feet faster and spin more easily. Dancing in heels is actually easier for me than walking. Be patient and practice in your dance shoes as often as you can.

2. Keep Your Heart Open: The Viennese Waltz requires very fast footwork executed smoothly, so it’s a great technical challenge. But at some point you have to forget about technique and just dance. This is a very romantic, lyrical dance. As you practice, listen to the lyrics and try to open your heart to the meaning of the words and make them your own. Everyone seems to have an opinion about the choices you’ve made with your life. This is your chance to tell your own story through that song.

3. Exhale: Inhaling happens automatically, but we tend to hold our breath when we’re nervous. Shutting off oxygen can make you dizzy, lose your balance, and forget your steps. So focus on exhaling. And remember that most people watching will be supporting you. There’s something about being so open and vulnerable on the dance floor that makes people want to cheer you on. This actually may be the one area of your public life where people are not judging you and really want you to succeed.

4. Forget The Judges. We all want good marks, even when we say we don’t care. But try not to obsess about it. Judging in ballroom dancing is very subjective. The best way to forget about them is to stay focused on your partner. Let the music go through your blood and your muscles until you become an instrument of the song. Even if your technique is not good, the judges will forget about that because they get involved in the story you are telling. If you lose that connection to the music, the judges will get bored and start looking for technical problems. That’s when the trouble starts.

5. Ignore the Mommy Critics: When I decided to return to return to the competitive ballroom circuit this season, of course I worried about whether I’d have enough time for my daughter. But when people ask me what is more important—my career or my child—I say, “That’s like asking me to choose between eating or sleeping.” Why must women always answer that question, but not men? You will make the time for your children and be a great inspiration to them, especially your daughters. They will be proud of you for trying something extremely difficult and opening yourself up to exciting new experiences that will enrich their lives when you bring all that home.

Oh, and one last thing: Watch out for Tony’s flailing arms. He once smacked me right in the nose during a cha-cha in the finals of the USBC. I thought it was his elbow, he said it was his shoulder. I saw sparkles and tears ran down my cheeks. But we never stopped and ended up winning the national championship. So no matter what happens out on the floor, never stop. Keep dancing!

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