Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Dancing with One of the Stars... Jonathan Roberts' Group Class!

Mr. Jonathan Roberts... mid sentence is always a good look!
Ok so I didn’t actually dance with Jonathan Roberts, but I did attend his group class tonight at the studio. It’s been a LOOOONG time since I dropped in on one of these dance celebrity classes. I’m highly selective as to what classes I want to attend. I attended this one for a couple of reasons… first is that Jonathan had never been to the studio before, second he’s always been very interesting to me on ABC’s Dancing With the Stars, and finally… let’s face it.. I could use all the help I can afford to get right now.

Back when I was more seasoned I would have totally balked at ANOTHER group class full of American Rumba Box, but I’m smarter than that now that I’m trying to regain my old skill level. Rumba Box is the basis for ALL rhythm dances. Which I still love and I can feel my passion re-awakening. So here’s the low down in that only Kat can describe way….

 I’d known for a long time that Jonathan Roberts and his wife Anna Trebunskaya were going to be in the studio for coaching’s and group classes. You may know them from many of the seasons they’ve been on DWTS (Dancing with the Stars). I only decided to sign up for Jonathan’s group class yesterday as long as there was still space, and I lucked out that there was. I walked into the studio chatted it up with some dance friends, checked out the ballroom gowns that were visiting from one of the top industry designers (most of them wouldn’t fit around my arm… but they’re pretty to look at). Then I saw Anna, and then Jonathan…whew… let me tell you… they’re pretty on TV… but they are absolutely gorgeous in person!!

Ok...ok… so yummy eye candy to go with the class… that’s completely secondary to gleaning dance knowledge…let’s focus for a minute on Jonathan’s dance pedigree since he is the instructor du jour: Jonathan began dancing when he was 20, someone that picks up dancing late in life like that we usually teasingly call a 6 week wonder. Not too dissimilar from the studio’s own Jesse DeSoto who started around the same age and then moved on to conquer the ballroom world. Jonathan was a top amateur before he moved on to turn pro and eventually dance with Anna. Together they placed really high in tons of comps all over the world, they placed 6th in the US and 24th in the world. (That’s HUGE!) Then they retired as a couple and decided to find separate partners. Jonathan moved on to become World Professional American Smooth Champion in 2008. Some of this even happened AS he was working on Dancing with the Stars! So you can understand a bit why I wanted to see what Jonathan’s teaching style is like. I mean come on… I may be a career amateur social dancer but I don’t take lessons from just ANYBODY! (Dance Pedigree info obtained from here.)

Me in My Spot! (I'm in the purple t-shirt)

I had just run into a friend that I hadn’t seen in for EVER so I was a minute or two late to class…*gasp!* As I walked in to take up my usual position in the second ballroom (that really felt like being at home) I hear “Ok so you guys have to be really good, because this is going to determine how I’m going to teach class.” From Jonathan… I made a comment as I crossed the floor that I was going to head out now while I still had the chance! I had no idea what he was asking of us… I figured Rumba, but I wanted to wait for the song to come on to be sure. Music up and it’s one of those that could be a ChaCha but can be a quick Rumba. So I was momentarily confused… but picked up pretty quick that it was Rumba, wow... how long it had been since I stared down the pic of the Rat Pack in my little corner of the ballroom!! Ahhhh... home….

After some pointers on the Rumba box there was a simple routine put together with open breaks, swivels and a couple of pivot turns. I was again reminded how far I’d fallen, but I tried just the same.

 At one point as we were getting the routine down Jesse DeSoto (Studio owner, and former cast member DWTS season 3, oh and ranked #2 in the world in Mambo during his career ß for new readers who don’t know ;-)) came up to me (from my position he has to walk by to get to his office) quietly put his hand on my shoulder and whispered “It’s good to see you got your spot back.” YEAH BABY… it is MY spot… we should tape it off and put my initials all over it.

Back to the class… We focused on swivels and at one point KIT (the gal that Keeps It Together) was running around taking pictures, and I get very nervous when I know there are candid shots being taken… like I’m trying to be candid and it’s not working or something… and I couldn’t swivel during the time when we were working with partners, and I mentioned to the gal I was partnering with “She’s back there taking pictures isn’t she….” In that grrrr kind of way. She must have thought I was really new or something… clearly not familiar with what my statement meant.

“Oh well that’s ok, your pretty hair color, you’ll look fine in them.” *grin*

I almost wanted to stop class laughing, she doesn’t know… that’s ok…she’ll learn ;-) I kept quiet and went back to trying to find my swivel. Although I have to say that when things like that happen it just makes me want IT more.

Back to the little routine we were working on, where I was really just trying to find my balance again. I seriously feel like I have to go to every instructor I’ve never worked with and say “Look, I used to be good, I’ve had a bit of a rough time with injury and then there was a fire...and anyway…I’m trying to come back...and I’m re-learning.. I’ll be good again I promise.”  I didn’t of course, if I were having an individual coaching then sure, but not in a group class. Jonathan added arm movements and ways to focus on different body parts… hip, knee, shoulder, arm… I really enjoyed that part, esp. since I really desperately need to make my dancing look less utilitarian. Also…get this… the knee part, we lowered into our knees and then used our hips to accentuate the position…and wow. That actually felt really sexy. Yeah that’s right I said it... in my purple t-shirt and gray sweat pants… that movement felt a little sexy. We reviewed the routine with all added movements… I sucked at it… no seriously... I’m not being hard on myself… I really sucked… but I actually learned a lot. I’m one of those students that needs to process and then execute… so I have some good stuff to think about, and I will, and it will be part of what makes me better.

Last five minutes of class we worked on a basic Waltz, and I shocked myself by really looking forward to the info. I also totally forgot about heel leads… well give a girl a break, in my 4plus years of being involved in Ballroom I’ve only spent a scattered smattering of lessons and social dances on it. We did some steps like open fan steps, footwork only to start, and once I remembered the heel leads it felt pretty good…although due to ankle strength my rise and fall isn’t where it should be, but it felt good, so for me we know, that’s another jump in the right direction.  So all in all good class! I can officially add Jonathan Roberts to my list of instructors I’ll suggest others learn from, and look forward to seeing him and Anna stop by the studio again.

I wanted to introduce myself to him before I left, but I was struck with an uncharacteristic bout of shyness. I mean who was I to him? A girl among many in one of a million group classes he’ll teach. Next time I’ll get some face time. Thanks Jonathan!

(Photographs courtesy of Savvy who was in the studio getting an awesome Tango and Rumba routine respectively)

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