Saturday, January 24, 2015

And the Winner Is . . . .

It's been a great week!  Full of work -- I don't talk about it often, but I love my job.  I love the people and the puzzles, and helping people dream big.  Of course, when not at work, I love to dream big myself, mostly in ways related to my degree -- that being An English Degree, and also related to my upbringing in a very musical family, who exposed me to theatre early, when my sister played Amaryllis in The Music Man.  

So, this week, I got to go with two lovely friends to Dallas Theater Center's production of The Book Club.  It was so wonderful!  Great appeal to modern audience of readers and -dare I say it - nonreaders of all levels, it explored what we read and why, and who gets to talk about that with us (or drink and eat with us, if they haven't read the book, and do they belong or not??).  I'd read almost all the books discussed and I think had every single one of the conversations -- except the twist of the unhidden camera for a documentary that caught some rather funny things.  Humans are so surprising.  I loved it!!

Of course, I read. I enjoyed my family.  I worked more.  I watched one TV show (yes, Downton Abbey).  One night, I worked with the actresses who have been cast in 5 Women Wearing the Same Dress, and that was so wonderful.  They really took me places.  
On another very wonderful night this week,  I went  with my girlfriends for a girl's night out treat of seeing these charming puppets at Paris Community Theatre's side splitting production of Avenue Q.  (If you aren't easily offended and love to laugh at our humanness, don't miss this!!)

I worked more, enjoyed my husband and father, son and daughter.  It's been a busy and wonderful week.  I even got to write during the holiday.

And now today, I get to participate in National Readathon Day. Hubby asked me last night -- so what are you doing tomorrow?  HAHA!  I'm reading!  I'm reading! 

I decided not to fundraise because I've so vocally fundraised for PCT's building fund
-- (We have raised aprox. $68,000.00 of $70,000.00 dollars to date!!!!  Thank you Paris!!).  So I donated through Books on a Nightstand -- a blog and much more about books and bookish thoughts.  Then, I raised awareness in Paris by starting the fun #parisreads hashtag -- all names and books of thosewho participated were put in a vase that was full this morning.

Just in time for me to draw the lucky winner of this great book -- "Station Eleven" by Emily St. John Mandel.  Even better, the book is signed.

 Congrats Jeannie Plummer -- enjoy your book!  (Hey, if you ever get rid of it, I get first dibs).  Thank you to all who participated, we'll do it again soon.  I'll put a list here of the books you were  reading, in case you need a suggestion for what to read.  Here they are:

The Husband's Secret
The Invention of Wings (multiple times)
To Kill a Mockingbird
Big Little Lies (multiple)
Interrupted: When Jesus Wrecks Your Comfortable Christianity
One Word That Will Change Your Life
The Rosie Effect
Fifty Shades of Grey
Talking from 9 to 5
Astronaut Wives' Club
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
Well Played Life
Seige and Storm
The Tuesday Morning Club
E. Aster Bunymund and the Warrior Eggs at the Earth's Core
Killing Patton
Brown Girl Dreaming
My Farm Animals
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Above the East China Sea
Invisible Thread
X vs. Y
To Rise Again at a Decent Hour

Pretty Decent List, I'd say!  Can't wait to do it again, I'll announce the next prize soon.  Remember, you can put it on any social media that I'm on -- Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, Google+ or even respond here (you have to be a Google+ member for security purposes). - I'm not sure if it works on Goodreads, but I'd be willing to try and figure that one out, such as by me starting a #ParisReads listmania that we can all access.   And because this is a small enough place, and many of you tell me, if you tell me I'll put yours down for you.  But I've decided that if you put it down yourself it will be worth two entries.  Better yet, if you share a picture of your book (any picture will do if you are listening or using an ebook) with the #parisreads hashtag,  that will be worth three entries.

Anyone can take advantage of this list - which I have already found helpful as I have recently been in a real dreadful lull.  Just search with #parisreads, and you might find something you enjoy.

Also, yes, I did include those of you who are connected in some way, have lived here or are a part of the bookish social media presence spurring on the knowledge that yes, even without a book store, even in the middle of one of the famed No Man's Land, even by the edge of one of the borders of Texas, even two hours away from anywhere, Paris does indeed Read.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Great Torture 2014 -- *Spoiler Alert* The Paying Guests

The Paying GuestsThe Paying Guests by Sarah Waters
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

[BTW already a number of people have entries in #parisreads, and are going to participate in National Readathon Day.  Yay!!  Click Here to Learn More]

Via Audio  -  This may be worthy of my 2014 Best Book I Hated, because that is how I felt 75% of the way through, but in the end I didn't hate it, I was just tortured by it. So I guess it gets the Great 2014 Pure Chinese Torture Award.
It's very well written, and just about gave me a heart attack.  It typically doesn't take me but about 3 or 4 days to read a book like this,  but this one,  about a quarter in,  I didn't want to read but couldn't stop. I almost quit reading about 30 times I'm sure, but in the end I kept having to return.  Curiosity Killed the Cat indeed!  I know it would have been less torture to read by book than by audio, because the narrator did a far superior job of telling the story that I every could have in my mind.  

I can't tell you anymore without spoilers so stop here if you don't want anything revealed.


I picked this up because it made it through several rounds of Goodreads Best Book awards, which is always a great indication for a common reading fanatic. It was in the general lit category, otherwise I wouldn't have read it.   In a way, I feel betrayed by that and place the blame on the publisher label.  Yes it is well written,  so deserving of the lit title, but isn't it also a thriller? Close to an erotic thriller?  Shouldn't the general public have been fairly warned?  I thought I was getting a Downton Abbeyish, Atonement, Brideshead Revisited type book. Instead, I got a torrid love affair -not quite 50 Shades but still- and Crime and Punishment.

The set up is easy: Frances and her mother have fallen on hard times after the War, so they take on lodgers they call "Paying Guests" in order to soften the blow of their slide from the middle class.  The lodgers, both of them, are clearly going to shake up Frances' life by some love interest or other.  You know it could go any old way.

Here is the spoiler - Frances and Lilian fall into each other's arms with a passion that rivals the pain of Helen and Paris, and I say that because it ends up being devastating to all who surround them - and as with those two, you never know if they are truly in love, or just in blinding, selfish lust.  There are several references to Anna Karrinina, and -this being a literary book- you know that no word is wasted so you keep that in the back of your mind the entire length of the book.

An earthquake of an event happens and that is where the book becomes Crime and Punishment.  I won't tell you what happens, that is enough of a spoiler.   It is an incredible rendition of a C&P twist - with its mental gymnastics and mind boggling questions and doubts.  It was devastating and exhausting to me,  I just hate that torment. I'm probably more sensitive to it than most. I know it is because of the life I have.  I choose to not watch it on TV, I'm not numbed to it, I can never be.  So it was torment.  But such well written torment!  So if you can stand all that, it's a real page turner.  And if you haven't read C&P, this will be an excellent mod primer for you.

What is the moral of the story?   Know what you are getting, because if you get vested in this you need to just prepare everyone in your life that you are reading this book that you are going to have to talk about and put down and pick up, ad nauseum, until you either finish it or get therapy over it.

View all my reviews

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Putting Jan 24 on the Calendar - #parisreads

The January Paris Life is out, it just keeps getting better and better!  I loved so much of it, (including the closet confidential and the beard grooming tips).   

Here is my book column from December's Paris Life, which sparked a conversation with many of you that January's column answered.  (Go buy your copy or internet access to see that and find out about #parisreads , style, and how to groom that beard).  

I'm wondering if any of you gave or got books for Christmas, and what you are reading?  In the January column, I asked you to let me know what you are reading, with the hashtag #parisreads.  You can do that here (you  have to be on googleplus to be able to comment, to protect us from spam), or on twitter @sydsavvy, or on my Facebook page.  Anything works!  

To thank you for your answers, I'm going to give away a SIGNED copy of this book I love.   

(This is painful, I want to keep it, but I specifically bought it at BookPeople in Austin just for you, so I'm going to stick to my resolve.)  

You can comment through January 24.

Why that day?  

Because that is National Readathon Day, and I am participating!  It is a day when I vow to take time to read from noon to four. 

Permission to READ!!  From noon to four! Yay!

I've already made my donation to the National Book Foundation, but I would like to make a donation to a local book or reading oriented cause or organization.  Does anyone want to sponsor me to read? Anyone want to suggest who I (or we) should donate our funds to?   

Anyone want to join me?  Will you please take #taketimetoread ? And till then, let me know what #parisreads .  I know you do because you tell me you do.  Let's show the world we do.  Give me lots of people to draw from for the very fun, award winning Station Eleven.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Don't Miss This Book! Don't Miss These Immigrants! These Americans!

My rating: 5 of 5 stars -- Via audio.

It's that time of year that book readers start grabbing friends and strangers by the shoulders and saying -- Read this Book! Don't Miss This Book!! We start worrying that the really good books, the important books, are going to get washed away by the tide of terrible or even just standard books.  

This is the Don't Miss This!!  book for me. 
I wasn't expecting much from this book, especially not a trip down memory lane.  I love that it helped remind me of stories from my past, stories I'll soon share. It helped me remember why I have such a heart for immigrants.  It humanized the current politics and taught me things I didn't know. It was interesting to me that the setting was not Texas.  I kept being surprised that Delaware was the location but I think that was a good thing as it gives a fresh look.

It was hard for me to read, because I kept waiting for the axe to drop, but in the end I couldn't put it down.  The sweetest story to me was that of Alma and Arturo, the couple that moves in order to help their daughter get better from a brain injury.  Theirs is just an unadulterated pure love for each other and for their daughter.  There are other stories mixed in,  and I actually liked this, it gave me a break from the story that I knew was going to be difficult every step of the way.  The name of the book comes from one of those stories and by the time it is delivered, you know how true it is.

Confession -- After reading this, I sat there and cried.  It's the first time I've actually wept at the end of a book in a long, long time.  I love my country but we are so screwed up.  Don't worry, I think it was just a self reaction -- remember, when you read you bring your whole self into it.  You probably won't have that reaction.   But maybe you'll carry it in your heart.  I hope you'll carry it in your heart.  I hope you'll think about caring about these people, about immigrants.  

One favorite quote, from Arturo: "I'll tell them what I love about this country."

Here are a few more: 
“We're the unknown Americans, the ones no one even wants to know, because they've been told they're supposed to be scared of us and because maybe if they did take the time to get to know us, they might realize that we're not that bad, maybe even that we're a lot like them. And who would they hate then?”
― Cristina HenriquezThe Book of Unknown Americans

“I felt the way I often felt in this country - simultaneously conspicuous and invisible, like an oddity whom everyone noticed but chose to ignore”
― Cristina HenriquezThe Book of Unknown Americans

Hilary Mantel can Write Anything!

The Assassination of Margaret ThatcherThe Assassination of Margaret Thatcher by Hilary Mantel
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I hate short stories.  I'm just a long story person.  I want to be given a chance to care about every aspect of the story.  I want something to think about.  I want a chance to laugh, cry, be curious, be surprised, and be swept away. I want something profound.

But I loved this offering of short stories.  I found all of those things I want in it. How does she do it?  I was completely swept up in these stories in all of the above ways.  I want to study them and figured out their myriad meanings. I want to study Mantel's writing techniques.  I want a bit of her brilliant zanyness.

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Tourette's, Strenth Training, and a Librarian

The World's Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette's, Faith, Strength, and the Power of Family    Love, love, loved this book.  "The World's Strongest Librarian" -- and here is a new quote, and video about it.  I loved it because it told me about several somethings I didn't know much about (Tourette Syndrome, the Mormon faith, and super strength training), while it talked discussed life and books.  Can't get much better!

“I'll never know everything about anything, but I'll know something about almost everything and that's how I like to live.” 

Confessions of a Book Snob -- November -- On Atticus and Ducks

People always ask me what I’m reading. I usually enjoy answering, but recently I had to stammer. It was just too surreal to admit to Atticus Miller I was in the midst of being enthralled by “The Mockingbird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee” by Marja Mills. But he quickly confessed that “To Kill a Mockingbird” was one of his mother’s favorite books, and that he’d heard the podcast of Mills’ interview with Lee.

So off we went, talking Mockingbird and other favorite books the way most people dissect favorite TV shows.
Harper Lee’s novel still has that effect on most of us. Add that to the fact she never wrote another book, except to help Truman Capote redefine the true crime genre, and eventually withdrew from the press and the public, and you have a deep mystery that many hope is answered by Marja Mills’ recent release.
The book falls short of that, but I’m still glad I read it.
I learned a great deal about Lee and her family I didn’t know before, and for that reason alone the book was worthwhile, even though Mills’ writing was not compelling.

Perhaps my expectations were too high. But when reading a book about Harper Lee, one feels entitled to deep thoughts. Here, I just felt guilty for wondering why Mills spent so much time on ducks or “and then we” or “Nell laughed that laugh” or “Alice had that look on her face that meant” and so on. The minute humdrum did not fit the bill.

Don’t get me wrong. There are interesting stories in the book. Some of my favorites are about the friendship between Lee and Gregory Peck, stories on Lee’s father (the inspiration for Atticus Finch), stories on Truman Capote — even if I’m not sure that I believe all of them, and just a real sense of what kind of women Lee and her elder lawyer sister were. Also the 
“One Book One City” program has my mind spinning with possibilities for Paris.

Still, I can’t help but wonder, if the Lee sisters truly encouraged this book, why did it take Mills so long to write it? Why wait to publish it until they were unable to respond? Does Mills protest too much that her own health problems slowed her down? Also, wasn’t it a bit too convenient the way the neighborhood move developed? On the other hand, if the book was not written by permission, wouldn’t it be more of an expose than a mundane memoir?

Perhaps that is the key, after all. The woman who cared so much about wild ducks was observant enough to have penned the quintessential story of the South, with all of our manners, crimes, injustices, villains and small town heroes. She did so at the moment it mattered, so that it caught the attention of our nation and still holds it. Perhaps we would do better to slow down and do the same.

Friday, December 5, 2014

The More Things Change . . . you know the rest

The Miniaturist

*Spoiler Alert*   Review Dated Sept. 13 2014, Just now having time to post!

Interesting book, especially for the fact that the more things change, the more they stay the same. 

Who is the Miniaturist? Why did Petronella stay and help this family? How do we ever learn compassion as a human race? Have we really gotten anywhere? [Based on the bullying that I've personally encountered this fall along the same lines as one of the conflicts in this book, it sure doesn't seem like it.] Why was this book written? Why did I read it at this particular moment? Can I make any sense of it? What is this book telling me? 

In order to tell you about the book, I guess I have to give a spoiler, though I'm not sure why this was hidden as it wasn't a surprise once the book got going. 

Set in Amsterdam in 1686, this historical fiction novel, according to the author: "focuses on two women’s very different journeys to find a slice of freedom in a repressive, judgmental society. There’s a trial, a hidden love, a miniaturist who predicts the fate of her customers, a parakeet called Peebo and a plan to escape to the sea."

*Spolier Alert*

The kicker is that young Nella's husband is homosexual, which at that time and place was a crime worthy of the death penalty. Nella's home and country are full of contradictions. I think that is quite true of life. What I'm not sure of is how Nella was so worthy to navigate them with such grace, when everyone else around her was much more naturally humanly flawed. Also, unanswered is really who or how is the Miniaturist? Why name the book after her? 

I just happen to like books that don't answer the questions for me. I also love the chase of the human contradiction. So even though for the life of me I can't figure this book out, I'm glad I read it, at this particular time. I'm glad the book showed me that, yes, we have made some progress.

What you don't know about Ulysses. Even if you know nothing!

Have you read Ulysses?  Touted as the best book of the 20th Century?  I have to confess that I haven't either.  But I'm getting closer to doing it.  [Insert Virgian Wolfian Sigh.]  
The Most Dangerous Book: The Battle for James Joyce's Ulysses
In place of reading it, I read this book that I'm afraid many people missed this year.  It was very interesting, as it is mostly a study on the evolution of American publishing rights and the First Amendment vs. pornographic vs. literature standards and the way the Ulysses trials changed so much of that. But I truly had no idea. None! That the Roaring Twenties really were so roaring, or that Joyce had so many protectors. This was eye opening in many ways.  Now I look at every book with new eyes, and wonder whether it went through a ponography trial.  Or not.

Anyway, it was a fast read, I couldn't put it down.

Confessions of a Book Snob -- October

Although I have been too busy to post, I have still be reading, as well as reviewing books on Goodreads and with the Paris News.  In case you missed it, here is the Book Review in Paris Life for October.  Clearly, I was still thinking about dancing!  Click the link to read with the pictures and online at The Paris News.

Confessions of a DANCING Book Snob

It probably surprises no one that while competing in this year’s Dancing With the Stars (raising money for Lamar County Crime Stoppers), I read books on ballroom / performance dancing.
Low and behold, I was surprised by how much I liked them.
My husband calls me a book snob, probably for good reason. I’ve always turned my nose up at books that are by celebrities but are actually written by “ghost writers.” Why? It is just something about the publishing industry that drives me crazy. Don’t put your name on a book if you didn’t actually write it.

But the truth is, these books wouldn’t get written without ghost writers and they do serve a purpose, as my experience shows.

I read a newly published book by dancer elite Derek Hough titled: “Taking the Lead: Lessons from a Life in Motion.” I liked it so much, I also read Cheryl Burke’s “Dancing Lessons: How I found Passion and Potential on the Dance Floor and in Life.”

Honestly, participating in this dance contest, where the attendants actually vote on you based on 60 seconds of your best, humble efforts, was one of the most nerve wracking things I’ve ever done. My friends and acquaintances were surprised at this, because they know I love being in front of a crowd. But performing for purely artistic reasons and performing for votes, even if it is all for a good cause, are very different things. Also, I didn’t know how to “perform” ballroom dance and really wanted performance to be a part of my dances. Basically, I needed some help facing my fears.

The books were formatted differently.

Burke chose a particular dance for each chapter, and fit it into her life, as well as telling stories from her DWTS experiences, weaving all of that into inspiration.

Hough’s book followed the more traditional memoir life chapters, but made sure to wrap each chapter up with a “leading lesson” and a reflection. He also tied in the lessons with some of his mirror ball winning partners’ dance struggles (which strangely mirrored mine), and then gave inside information and tips on ballroom dances. The chapters were short, to the point, and easy to digest. Hough isn’t going to win any literary awards for his ghost written book, but I’ll always remember it.

What did I learn?

Anyone can dance. Everyone has something to overcome. The only disability you have is in your head. Figure out your passion and everything else will fall into place. “Fear is a great motivator... Go ahead and be scared. Get out of your comfort zone. Align yourself with your fear and use it to propel you to progress. Look your demons in the eye and kick ‘em to the curve... Life is a dance but it’s much more than mastering your steps. It’s pushing your boundaries, shattering your limits and exploding in a breathtaking burst of light.”

I learned that I need to not be such a book snob about celebrity ghost written books.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

On Dancing . . . more of the story

I'll be honest with you, I'd rather be dancing than blogging.  But the event is over, I'm looking at my treadmill with freshly jaded eyes, so many of you have said how you've been inspired to dance, and I've got some awesome pictures and a story to share, so here is more of the story for you.  Here is one of my favorites:

Viennese Waltz to James Brown's It's a Man's, Man's, Man's World 

Last time I left you with us meeting our dancers.  (Click that link) After that it was a fast and furious whirlwind.  

First we chose music, before we'd even met each other.   Here is a screenshot of how long it took us:

It was so easy for us that I took it as a good sign. We actually nailed down the James Brown song ( It's a Man's World) first, and then decided on Sway and El Tango de Roxanne within the first 5 minutes of our first lesson.  That went pretty much like this:

"Hello, Sydney!"

[Hug, as is done in performance arts world]

"Hello Rangel, is that right? The Tango is on my bucket list.  Can we do that dance?"

"Pronounce it any way you want and Yes, we can do the Tango."

"Oh!  Well, I think you should tell people how you want your name pronounced.  It's your name and it drives me crazy that Americans don't try, but WOW Really?  Don't you need to see if I can do it first?"

"No.  Let's do it.  We can do it. Let's go for it."

"Wow! Ok.  Well, I want to dance the Tango to El Tango de Roxanne."

"I've actually done the Tango in a contest to that before."


"It is not a good song for the Tango, it does not have a musical beat to keep time to at first."

"Can't we just splice it up as we need it?  I really want it to be to that."

"We'll do it."


FYI,  Rangel likes things to be his way.  And I like things to be his way -- he's the pro, his way is the best way.  So the way he made El Tango de Roxanne his way was to get a good recording with the actual voice over from the movie, so that we had the voice as beats to move off of.  LOVED IT.  And by your reaction, you did, too!  Every time we actually performed it (all three or four times, ha!) there comes a point or three in the dance that you can feel the audience / viewers gasp.  Very cool.  

Anyway, the first conversation continued:

 "Are we learning the Tango today? "

"No, today we are learning the Viennese Waltz so turn your head, don't look at me."

Not so easy to do, but that's another issue.

And five double dance sessions into it:

"So, are we learning the Tango today?"

"No, next time.  Because, while you learn fast, you don't remember anything I've told you and I have to keep helping you remember that it goes one, two, three cha cha, not one two, cha cha cha."

-- For the record, I blame the evil mom on Hairspray, because in my mind she chants:  "One two, cha cha cha."  Also for the record, Rangel isn't really into excuses, so I didn't bother to explain on that one.  

That's also the dance that I actually said:  "So help me remember -- does the turn happen on one or three?" 

"Neither, it happens on two!"

Did I tell you that I eventually began saying:  "I've died and gone to Tango heaven and Cha Cha hell!"  I would get nervous and sluff into cha cha when it wasn't time and hear that I was off with the music and go into a tail spin.  So I eventually learned every "pop" step with the music it actually happened on.  That way, if I got off, I knew exactly when  to pop back in.  Came in handy, because on a big turn I dropped the cha cha, but easily found my way back in for the fun attitude flashing my ring move.  Besides the BIG mistake [Note to self, if the really slippery floor makes you off balance after the big turn, don't do the kick!!  You'll end up making your worst fear come true and your partner will look at you with really sad eyes after his head has been kicked!!  And despite both of your best efforts, it will not make it into the really cool newly invented dance moves book!!], that's the only mistake I made on the Cha Cha from Hell.  Not to say that I did it technically correct, that's a whole different ball game.

Anyway,  I really loved the music choices everyone made for the event -- so much fun!  The crowd really got into it, so the music did what it was supposed to do.

Once you know your dances and music -- even if you haven't learned them yet -- you move on to clothing. [Note on shoes - buy them a size smaller!] Just to keep it real, I'm letting you see a picture of some of the family members who were very interested to see all these strange goings on. They were constant companions on many self dance sessions.  They are pretty good  at rhythm, and never tripped me up getting out of my way:

I won't go on about clothes, I'll just say I stressed and stressed over them.  FYI Julie Mac, you can rent this dress or any other one that suits your fancy from Rhythmic Rentals!  However, you can't rent "Fabio."  His so sweet and incredible partner, Veronika probably wouldn't go for that!  Here is one of my favorite pictures of them, you should check out these champs --  CLICK HERE FOR A LINK TO THEIR FACEBOOK PAGE --  If you scroll down on it just a bit you'll see they were recently in the company of the great Shirley Ballas!  I wish them the very best! 

Veronika probably doesn't know it but her little acts of kindness to me made all the difference.  Always very sweet and encouraging, when Rangel would overwhelm me (I know you can't imagine that! -- not that he wasn't always such a great teacher and wonderful to work with, he's just so darn good its a bit overwhelming), she always made me feel good.  Thank you Veronika! Same thing with my husband -- he was 100% behind me, even on the passionate Tango dance.  He was only going to be mad at me if I didn't go for it!  Besides, he's the reason I love the Tango!  You don't emote those feelings in a dance without having experienced great love and all that comes with it over a lifetime.  That Tango dance was for him, and he absolutely loved it. 

So, you practice, and practice and practice.  And your partner starts realizing that he just might as well repeat himself 50 million times on the off chance you might remember something he said.  (I will say that I think I came away with one big picture item from each lesson.  Not that I did them on the dance floor!)

For example, while the last picture looks pretty good, I'm dropping my frame -- my elbow and upper body --  there.  Also, in the top picture, I'm supposed to be twisting with my back, not just putting my leg out.  

Now, these pictures are from our very first Tango lesson.  I hope even with the technical issues that surprises you because it just came so natural.  I've read that Tango is a street dance -- now that I've done it I can totally understand what that means.  Because, while it would take hours and hours of practice to hone those technical moves into my brain, the tango has some simple rules, and -- most importantly -- it is very much a lead dance.  In other words, body language tells you where to go.   So you meet your fella on the street and he takes you for a spin.  It either works for you, and the passion is there, or you are on the hunt for the next guy, looking over your shoulder until your guys says enough and shakes you back to him, and hopefully no street fight ensues, but no guarantees.

This looks good, too, but you'll notice that Rangel's knees are bent.  Mine clearly aren't.  That is something in the Tango you are supposed to do, bend those knees.  Also, you push against each other to maintain your balance and momentum, see how hard I'm pushing with my arm?  But my elbow isn't supposed to be locked out.  

Details, details.   

Still, I'll take it.

You'll notice from the practice photos that there are people on the dance floor, unless you happen to be lucky enough to be practicing at a time when no one else is there (at Studio 22 there are basically three dance floors -- click the link to check them out, they have so much going on!).  Being from the theatre world, I'm not used to sharing stage with anyone not in the scene.  I get so focused that I don't know other people are there, and then poof I'm about to run into them and where the heck were we in the routine?  In one video of us practicing, I actually see people scooting out of the way, and I'm totally oblivious.  Sorry guys!  

Now, I think obviously, there is never enough time.  We all wanted more dance lessons, and I particularly wanted to get my head in the game and understand how to approach couple dance performance.  So of course, I read a number of books about dance that I loved.  If you enjoyed the event or are interested, here are my suggestions:
Taking the Lead: Lessons from a Life in Motion
Brand new book by the Big 5 Mirror Ball Winner himself, Derek Hough (the reason I even know anything about Shirley Ballas).  Amazing how inspirational this is.  I confess, that I used to be a book snob about books "by" athletes, actually written by ghost writers.  Now I want more!

Dancing Lessons: How I Found Passion and Potential on the Dance Floor and in Life

And because I wanted more, and also because I just spend at least 40 (!!!) hours in the car this month driving to dance practice and back, I got this audio and listened to it.  Loved it in the same way, and in a different way, because it actually shares about some women's issues, and you know I'm all about that!  (We'll dub Cheryl an official V Girl for being brave and sharing her story!) 

Fitness Confidential 

This book is about fitness.  Best one I think I've ever listened to!  No holding back, and while I don't endorse all his views, I love his passion!  I simply must remember to tune in to his podcast. 

The Silver Linings Playbook 

I loved the dance competition aspect (and all the rest) of Silver Linings the movie, so I picked up the book as a cheap easy read.  Loved it all over again,  even though it really had nothing much about the competition! 

Astonish Me 

If not for dancing, I think I would have missed this book in a sea of blue book covers. HERE IS MY REVIEW OF IT.  I loved it!  One of my favorite fiction books I've read this year. 

Anyway, that is more of the story about my experience with Dancing with The Stars, Paris Texas style 2014, benefiting Lamar County Crime Stoppers.  Even though I wasn't perfect, and knew I wouldn't be, I feel really great about what we all did out there, and why, and I'm thankful for the whole experience. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Putting on Your Ballroom Dancing

All the discarded dance shoes from a recent event via Juan Espinosa

"We can dance

 if we want to . . . . 

 We can dance, 

We can dance . . . "

I can't get that song out of my mind.  Perhaps because I've lost my mind a little, and have agreed to do something that is stretching my boundaries quite a bit.  It's one thing to enjoy theatrical / vocal performing,  it's quite another to agree to dance while being judged, even if it is for a good cause.  

I've always loved to dance, but I'm definitely not up to par to do anything like that.  Especially in front of a huge crowd that is judging us!  But I'm in good company, because all of us who have signed up for this year's Dancing with the Stars, Paris Texas, feel quite a bit sick at our stomachs about what we have gotten ourselves in to.  (Stacy Eatherly with Paris Regional Medical Center, Casey Gain with The Moore Firm, Stacy Ladell with Kimberly Clark, Bari "Beni" Mehmeti of Capizzi's, Cindy Ruthart -- Lamar County Justice of the Peace, and me, Sydney Young of Young Title Company).   Nervous, but determined and definitely a team.

So we just keep chanting this mantra: It's for a good cause, it's for a good cause.

This is another Mantra that I happen to really like!!

It truly is for a good cause, and we all agree that it's not about winning the competition -- even though we are each going to work hard to do so -- but about having a great night while raising a good deal of funds for the cause.

Lamar County Crimestoppers is an organization that I have supported for years.  They've always had a rodeo as their fund raiser, but this year they stepped out and were awarded the Dancing With the Stars fundraiser by the City of Paris on the night of September 6th.   (Order your Tickets Here).   This is the same night as the 6 Squared Community Art fundraiser at the Gilbratar -- thankfully they have timed the events so you can do both!

The thing is, the dancing starts long before the night of the event.  So, I thought I would share some of our experiences with you along the way, perhaps you will be inspired to go dance.  Yes, we can if we want to.  (TIP to the guys -- ALL OF US GIRLS DO WANT TO DANCE!)

I truly am learning that it is as easy as the song -- we really can dance if we want to!  But how?

Of course, first, you must have a studio.  Lucky for us, we all really like the one that is working with us.  It is called Studio 22.

Doesn't this place just look perfect?  (And there is even a tanning place nearby - I think that was pretty brilliant).  It's an easy drive to Plano via 75 / 121 and the tollroad, on Preston.

Here is the Website for Studio 22, check it out!

Now, I'll admit, it is a little --no, no, no, it is very -- intimidating to drive over there and show up for some dance lessons.

The V-Girl story is pretty tops -- click here for link

In fact, I was so anxious about just going for the first dance lesson that I  fixated on "what to wear" and changed my sloppy yoga pants and Tshirt about twenty times.  I finally realized that I needed pure Vgirl power for this one.  It truly, truly helped.  Good thing I wore my V-girl Tshirt, because my dancing partner, when I met him, was in dress pants and a tie.  I was totally empowered.

But I am getting ahead of myself.  Because when I came to the parking lot, a troupe of people were coming out of Studio 22.  And guess what?  They all looked just like me!  No, not the yoga pants, and V-girl shirt, but the whole thing.  Not skinny, tan, professional, Dancing with the Stars Pros and Celebrities. They were just ordinary.  Ordinary people.  Like me.  Like you, too.

Alright, so.  I have the dance studio and first workout clothes down.  I also feel pretty good about walking into the studio because on the drive over I sang the entire Wicked CD.  Ready to Defy Gravity.

When I go in, I'm not really obsessing over what the building itself will be like -- I've been in enough dance studios in my life time.  But after the reception desk, I get to go into the ballroom and to my amazement, this is what I see.

Rangel Spirov
I hope the picture does it justice.  It's a really pretty ballroom.  With little sparkly lights, and tables and chairs set up all around (just in case you have some girlfriends that you are begging to come with you, and you can say:  see, you can just sit around and chat and have some wine and say what's going on, and I'll dance and be your designated driver.  Come on, girlfriends, please!)   

So, I guess what I 'm saying here is that the ballroom is quite inspirational.

But you can't dance without a dancer.   That, obviously, is step Number Two.  

 Here is a link to our instructors.  I think that I'll get to tell you a bit about each of them, because it will be more fun for all of us that way, but for right now I want you to meet my instructor.

His name is Rangel Spriov.  He's been dancing since he was 10 -- for 20 years!

He said that he has let nothing come between him and his dream for dancing.  He immigrated to America to fulfill that dream.  He is very inspiring.

Here Rangel is showing me a Waltz step.  He's top notch.  

Here he is along with his dance partner, showing everyone how to do the Paso.  (Yes, fellas, his partner will also be appearing in Paris on the night of September 6th, as Stacy Laddell's partner.  By the way, I have it on the best of authority that Stacy believes that the key to his success will be his ripped abs, and I say more power to him!).

Veronika Chernyavska
They've definitely got some moves!  (And now I feel sick to my stomach again).

Rangel Spirov and Veronika Chernyavska, among other awards,  are the 2012 Professional Latin  Champions of Bulgaria. They have been dancing  together since September 2011.  

But the best thing is, Rangel's been quite nice about teaching me, as have all the pros from what I hear.

So, we have our studio and  our dancers.  What next?  

Stay tuned . . . and  Order your Tickets!