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26 January 2014

Ballroom for Beginners: So you think you wanna dance...


Matt and I with our first blue ribbon at the MIT Open in 2011.
Maybe you watch Dancing with the Stars, or have seen Richard Gere twirl across the big screen with Jennifer Lopez. Maybe your parents dance a little, or you saw the NYU ballroom team at Club Fest. Somehow or other, you found out about ballroom dancing and thought it would be fun to give it a shot. 
People often ask me how I got into ballroom. The truth is, I can’t pinpoint an exact reason or moment I decided to take the plunge. I think I had always had it in my head that such a glamorous, elegant way to move to music would be a fun and different thing to learn. That, and I did tune into Dancing with the Stars diligently every week. It was all so exciting and different, and I swear I got butterflies every time Jonathan Roberts swept his partner into a throwaway oversway.

I signed up for the ballroom team and club listserves as soon as I got to NYU as a starry-eyed freshman. The thought of competing intimidated me too much though, so I joined the much more low-key sounding recreational ballroom club, which met for a couple hours every Saturday afternoon to learn some basic steps. These lessons quickly became the highlight of my week, and I went back almost every week for two years. Eventually, after talking to some other people who were on the team, I realized that joining a competitively oriented team would help me learn how to do more material, and better. 

When I pictured the people I would soon meet on the ballroom team, I imagined very serious dancers who had been dancing all their lives. They probably wore all black, had stern expressions on their faces all the time, and vaguely resembled the guys from Center Stage. But when I finally got to my first team lesson, what I found was a group of people just like me, who had heard about ballroom somewhere along the line and were just interested to learn more. (When I first started practicing in a real studio, I did find aforementioned intense dancer people.) The rest of that semester was a blur of dancing and competing and making amazing friends (and yes, I met my current boyfriend too) and having the best time of my life. 

Steve and I at MAC 2014. Photo by Ryan Kenner Photography.
Thinking back, I can’t believe it took me that long to realize how much I loved this new hobby. It gave me so much more than just more dance steps – I gained a lot of confidence, the closest thing to a “real” college experience I could at NYU, and a hobby I can pursue for the rest of my life. I love also that the social aspect is built in – it is a partner dance after all, so meeting new people is kind of a given. Previously I had mostly kept to myself, so this was the kick I needed to “put myself out there”.

So if the thought had ever crossed your mind to learn ballroom, try it out! Get one of those endless Groupon deals for salsa classes and learn a few steps. It’s a great activity for couples especially. If nothing else, you’ll have a couple steps to show off at weddings. But maybe you’ll find new hobby that will enrich your life as much as it did mine =). If ballroom’s not your thing but you’re kind of feeling in a life funk, do try something new even if it scares you a little bit. Most things worth doing are a bit scary at first!

That said, one of the main topics I’ll be writing about on this little blog is ballroom – specifically geared towards beginners to the competitive scene. Competitive dancesport is pretty crazy and very different from anything I had ever done before so when I started I had a ton of questions. I’ll address things like costuming, hair and makeup, developing technique, attending a first competition, when to start getting private lessons, etc. I hope it can be of use to the newbies, and maybe some more experienced dancers can chip in too. I’m planning on posting at least once or twice every week.

Check back soon for updates!

21 January 2014

Making your blog snazzy: Step One

So you've just downloaded a generic-y, but somewhat neutral and pleasant new template for your nascent blog. What's the next step? Have something go wonky in the code and not be able to find it, of course...

My header is currently weirdly centered and hovering on top of the posts and it decidedly is not supposed to be doing that. Blankly poked around the code hoping there would be a section that popped out and said, "Hey, fix me here!". Alas. Will take to the experts in the next few days...

EDIT: Figured it out (on my own) after a couple of hours of farting around on Buzzfeed and Reddit!! Small victories. The header is now in place.

Watch This Space

The very first post I wrote on this blog in January 2010 was titled, "Watch This Space", and I wrote it while I was packing for my semester abroad in Florence. This blog was originally intended to be a chronicle of that experience - a hopeful blank corner of the interwebs waiting to be filled with amazing travel experiences and pictures and accounts of la dolce vita. I did actually write a few posts throughout that spring, but of course not as often as I had hoped (especially considering I had a solid 4 hour window every week that I killed time between classes in the campus computer lab, now that I think of it). I also tried to write a bit after I got back, but there never seemed to be anything to write about as I busied myself with "life as usual", i.e. classes and internships and such. It just didn't seem very interesting to me at the time. And so it went as it always seems to go: blogs started with good intentions but ultimately left un-updated for months and years at a time.

Since I've finished school and entered 'the real world', I've had a bit more time and brain space to think/interact with the world in general - just enough to realize that my education, in the general sense, has only just begun.  I've always liked having a space to ramble a little and sort out my thoughts, so I think it's high time to kick this little blog into gear again.

I've never been big on new year's resolutions, but as 2014 approached, I did feel that the new year would be a good marker to get some long-simmering goals in gear, for my own sake. We all have those projects we mean to get started on in the vague "future"/"soon", but as they say, there's no better time than the present, and I'm already three weeks behind now!

For posterity, the big-ticket items I have in mind are:

1. Write more in general (with the aim of improving and giving myself space to reflect on things).
2. Learn enough HTML/CSS to be able to build/update a basic site.
3. Learn Photoshop well enough to make basic graphics.
4. Brush up on my very, very elementary Chinese/French/Korean.
(*5. As an extra bonus goal, maybe I can venture into photography too? I've always planned to eventually get myself a Big Girl Camera and take fancy pictures.)

Bringing this blog back to life is the perfect fit to the first three, and I'm hoping more general proactiveness will bring about some progress on the fourth.

Most successful blogs tend to focus deeply on one topic, but as I'm not an expert in any one thing, I decided to write about all the things I'm interested in, so that this blog is like a collection of my thoughts and interest in a variety of topics that I occasionally mull about. This is liable to include any amount of random things, but major topics will include travel, ballroom, movies/TV, and college/career stuff. I'd also like to write about random news/current events, internet findings, and other errant thoughts. Occasionally, I blog for DramaFever News - inevitably some of that will leak over as well.

So this January 2014, I again ask you to please 'watch this space' as I hopefully make it much prettier and fill it with writing. Please check back and comment with your comments! =)

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