Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Gary Ostrander, PhD

Shame on the University of Hawaii:  You Lost Gary Ostrander

I don’t think that anyone would debate the UNIVERSAL TRUTH that the University of Hawaii has made bad choices in its hiring of administrators to lead the university. And one would forgive UH one or even two lapses in reasoning given the highly politicized nature of this state run university where closed door politics rules in a state that reflexively votes for ANY democratic candidate, just for that reason alone……Linda Lingle, you were truly a miracle in time!

But in addition to making bad choices in hiring, we should add to the list of UH chronic deficiencies and spurious misadventures, the lackluster pseudo-attempt at retaining the one administrator at UH that I and countless others revered, Gary Ostrander.  Now I admit that my appreciation for Dr. Ostrander is an opinion, which will be branded as biased by some, and in truth not fully vetted through any formal process of evaluation.  But this glowing image is also the view of many other Dean’s and Directors, other leaders and accomplished faculty members at UH, who still miss having Dr. Ostrander in his role as Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education at UH Manoa.

The reason for dredging up the letter I wrote to MRC Greenwood, the president of UH at the time of Dr. Ostrander’s departure, and publishing it now on my blog –
is that I was rummaging through my virtual library of files a few weeks ago and opened up the letter that is seen below.  It instantly took me back to that uncertain time when Dr. Ostrander was contemplating his fate.  And it spontaneously sparked the return of my frustration that was felt at the time, prompting me to share this documentation with anyone interested in the history of Dr. Ostrander’s transition from UH to FSU.

It is truly rare to find an administrator that is competent, honest, respectful, responsive, unbiased (as much as any human can possibly be), open minded, humble, intelligent, visionary, engaging, a good listener and open to opposing views.  To me this describes Gary Ostrander. 


In an email written April, 2012

Dr. Greenwood,

If the University of Hawaii loses Gary Ostrander, it will represent the greatest loss to the University since my arrival 35 years ago.  And it will be among the biggest mistakes UH has ever made.   

Gary Ostrander is the best research administrator UH has ever had, and the best University administrator that I have ever worked with and for.  Honest, smart, visionary, detailed oriented, experienced, tirelessly responding to challenges big and small.  He is focused entirely on what is best for UH, always maintaining equipoise and fairness but conservative and careful, and the best steward of RTRF the University could ever have.

You can’t imagine how many people rely on Gary Ostrander for support and guidance.  Not just Deans and Directors; his door is always open to anyone who knocks, and he treats everyone with the same respect.  He is charismatic and articulate, but he does not need to hear himself talk. Rather, he is an excellent listener, and follows through with action.   

I’m sure you have heard from Gary’s critics in the past.  But you may not have heard enough from his supporters.  Until now, there was no reason to worry about Gary’s commitment to remaining at UH.  Clearly Gary is willing at any time to get in harm’s way to protect the University from mediocrity, entitlement mentality, dishonesty, and self-serving critics.  I would be willing to bet that the overwhelming silent majority would give Gary the highest of praise.  Dr. Greenwood, we cannot afford to lose Gary Ostrander.  I say this sincerely and with unwavering determination.

As professor emeritus, I am a pediatrician who was Director of Neonatology at Kapiolani for 20 years.  I became the first director of the RCMI supported university Clinical Research Center in 1995.  Medical School Dean Cadman recruited me in 1999 as the Director for Research.  I subsequently worked with Interim Dean Shoemaker, Interim Dean Ostrander, Dean Hedges to develop and strengthen research infrastructure at JABSOM.  From 2007 - 2011, I worked closely with Dr Ostrander in the Office of the Vice Chancellor which affirmed my admiration for Dr. Ostrander’s ability to lead the University to new heights. 

In summary, I urge you to take the strongest action possible to retain Dr. Ostrander in what I believe should be a role that combines Dr. Gaines position with his present one by combining the Vice President for Research with the Vice Chancellor position he currently holds.

David Easa

Duncan James Easa - born 08:09AM, June 24th, 2015: Apgar Scores 8, 9.

                                                                       DJ2









Thursday, May 21, 2015

Who is this Man?

Just under 20 - being cool at the Tower of London trying to
impress every young girl that I could find.
A decade later looking nerdy, out of shape, unkempt and dressed in homeless handouts.
Standing with best friend Buzz.  Would you ever expect looking at this picture
 that we would make anything of ourselves??  One truly ugly picture!!!
Content with life at age 68 in Auckland, New Zealand
In Latin costume at Kiwi Dance Competition 2015. Enjoyment in
life has much to do with ballroom dancing.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Kiwi Classic Dance Competition - 2015 as told through American Eyes


Any doubt who the sponsor was?
I started this travelogue recounting my New Zealand experience sitting in the airport nearing midnight, weary and groggy with mounting multi-joint pain spawned from overuse, waiting for HA466 to fly me and dance teacher Yanna home after having competing in the Kiwi Classic Dance Competition in Auckland, New Zealand.

This was my third trip to New Zealand. I am very much fond of New Zealand and New Zealanders.  In fact, my trip last November gave me the opportunity to scout out the competition location, the elegant Langham Hotel. To be sure, the Langham was a perfect venue for this two day international dance competition, the smart rooms just a little smaller than expected, and an elevator ride and a 50 odd step transit hop to the “Great Room” which served - on the 18th and 19th of April, 2015 - as the competition ballroom.  As importantly, the bathrooms were very close (they worked overtime to serve me), located at the entrance foyer to the ballroom, where one vendor, Capezio…the major sponsor…was situated along with two “bars” serving snacks, sandwiches, tea, coffee and even wine and beer.  I’m assuming that the alcoholic refreshments were there for spectators and the fortunate competitors who completed their heats for the day and were relaxing and thawing out watching the hordes of remaining dancers take to the floor to prove their worth.   

One of four New Zealanders owns a boat
But my story starts a bit earlier.  We arrived two days before the competition to allow for one day of rest and a little site seeing.  By the time we left Auckland after enjoying two extra days at the tail end of our trip, we had ventured out to a decent number of places.  We got a chance to explore on foot, by cab, by ferry and by tour bus, some of the attractions that Auckland had to offer.  For example, a short ferry gave us the opportunity to experience a nice walk and some yummy chocolates in the coastal community of Devonport, a powerful elevator took us 2000 meters up the Sky Tower, and a cab drove us to the Auckland Museum where we enjoyed the very pleasant and child friendly venue, including a very well done Maori performance. But there was much more of Auckland that we experienced and we both loved it immensely. 

To satisfy our culinary cravings, we discovered two fine seafood restaurants on the two evenings preceding our departure where we enjoyed the local fish.  I had snapper both nights; the snapper in Auckland looked and tasted very much like our Hawaiian Opakapaka (AKA pink snapper), arguably my favorite fish in Hawaii.  It was also so fresh that the fish morsels flapped and “snapped” in my mouth….but maybe it was just the wine talking….ha ha…

Auckland is impeccably clean as witnessed by all of the land and ocean that we viewed.  Indeed, I did not see one smidgeon of refuse in the harbor area, on land, or anywhere in the deeper ocean despite the fact that we saw quite a lot of land and sea on our tourist outings.  There is no rational conclusion other than New Zealanders taking ownership of their country with a communal imperative to maintain their country clean and pristine and beautiful for themselves and to showcase it for the rest of the world.   Of course, it’s a little easier to do so in a relatively stable countrywide population that numbers less than half that of New York City. 


But the other aspect worth mentioning is the relative calm and informality of the people, who are agreeable, kind, friendly and approachable, but also helpful and sophisticated – definitely not snooty or aloof or arrogant. The city felt comfortable and calm and the streets were busy but not frenzied or crazed.  The people were never too much in a rush to do anything including serving you but overall that set the tone for a very enjoyable and relaxing experience as we ventured out to see Auckland and its neighboring areas.  Really, I could live in Auckland a very happy man!

Well I could go on about Auckland for much, much longer, but I’ll move on to competition so I won’t lose any more of my audience.

But before I do that, I want to make an unambiguous recommendation that any serious ballroom dance competitor from the US should attend and participate in at least one international dance competition at some point in their dance life.  I am pleased that my choice was the Kiwi Classic, and I recommend this HIGHLY as one really good choice to fulfill this Easa imperative!  But to put things truly into perspective, there were pluses and minuses.

At the Kiwi, the dance judges can stand in the center of the
ballroom to score the dance heats
Both days of dance competition were intense!  We had little time to do anything other than dance, watch others dancers, or wait interminably in anticipation of the next dance heat during two long days of competition. Yanna and I were in the ballroom the entire 18th and 19th competing in about 46 events, six of which were three dance events, with little to no time for a breather of relaxation and/or reflection.  For Saturday it was 11:30am till 9pm when we finally found our way out after conceding by scratching one dance heat, an uncontested Paso Doble that would have us sitting around until 11pm.  On Sunday, we were there from 9:30am to about 11:00pm (although we were able to somehow fashion a 3 hour break in between).  In retrospect, this was too grueling for an old man like me, and I’m still paying the price (one week later) with a swollen ankle and a teetering gait, re-injuring the bad left ankle that promises to shorten my dance career and a noxious reminder of the morbidity exacted on it from previous injuries.

I was only familiar with the American fashioned dance competition format of clustering of dance heats that focus on a single dance type, e.g. rhythm, smooth, Latin, and standard. But the approach taken at the Kiwi was to alternate and diversify the dances so that competitors would have the “opportunity” to observe dancers of all ages, dancing the full spectrum of dances. Youth would be dancing the waltz and the Masters (AKA as Senior) would follow with a jive or cha cha. You could never predict what dance would come next without the program (which by the way lacked heat times). But this sprawling format injected diversity and variety, creating intrigue, innovation and invigoration.  And there were so many new - New Vogue dances to observe in the comp with my American eyes that it was indeed a “treat and a privilege” to be in attendance. And the level of dance was excellent and a pleasure to watch.

As it turned out, ALL dance heats were unisex, which meant that men would not only be competing against men dancing with professional female partners but also competing against women dancing with their professional male partners.  But it was indeed more complicated that that because there were same sex dance heats as well.  At the Kiwi, there were more combinations of dancers and dances then you can shake a stick at!

In the end, the competition flowed unperturbed. Everyone seemed happy and accepting.  Moreover, they seemed sincerely joyed to have Americans in their midst (a truly unusual situation given the general disdain for Americans throughout the world), a competition regularly attended by Kiwis and Aussies that is just beginning to attract an American following (as it was, there were three American competitors there).  But we were truly welcomed. And the three American’s competing were the focus of much attention by many in the audience who wanted to learn what the American dance forms….smooth and rhythm…. were all about.  Yanna told me before we arrived that she expected the best smooth dances from me that I have ever performed and I really didn’t want to let her and myself down!  And I didn’t ….but not without some hiccups. 

Organizer Wendy Johnson and grandchild
I was happy with my results, NO, I was more than happy! And there were no freebees. Everyone that I competed against was a worthy competitor.  Lots of lady dancers, but only two gentlemen.  They were all skilled and gracious.  And, I was so very happy that I performed so well that I have even forgiven myself for the silly and unnecessary mistakes that I made in several heats over the two long days of competing.  


The Kiwi Classic turned out to be a wonderful experience.  Everyone that we encountered was kind and friendly and gracious and respectful.  That included organizers Candy Lane, Kingsley Gainsford, and Wendy Johnson.  So many dancers came up to Yanna to compliment her on everything…her looks, her dancing, her dress, etc.  And a few came up to me to congratulate me on my wins and to say nice things about my dancing.  The Kiwis and the Aussies were truly spectacular in their gracious behavior and I will never forget this wonderful and fulfilling experience, clearly one unforgettable highlight of my life. To come to a foreign country as an outsider and to leave with such fond memories is simply phenomenal. 
New Vogue

Just a few words about the New Vogue dance style we experienced in Auckland. From Wikipedia: The New Vogue dance style is an Australian form of sequence dancing that originated in the 1930s. All New Vogue dances are based on a sequence of dance steps, which are continually repeated, usually until the music ends. The sequences are always either 16 or 32 bars long, and require music that is in turn "sequenced" (composed of verses that are either 16 or 32 bars long)……..  And take notice of these colorful names: Tracie Leigh Waltz, Tango Terrific and Carousel, Fylde Waltz, La Bomba, Gypsy Tap, Charmaine, Barclay Blues, Lucille Waltz, and Swing Waltz.  Come and see them for yourself! 

Postscript.

I usually rush to the computer to unload my mind filled with experiences and thoughts immediately after any dance competition so that my blog gets uploaded within a day or so.  Not so this time.  As you can see, it’s been a week since the completion, and my foot is still swollen and painful and on ice, my walking cane is at my side as I complete the finishing touches to this blog.


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Face it; You Are Your Face!

When I was an undergraduate student, to make a few extra bucks, I worked in two research labs: one that used mice as experimental animals and another that utilized rats.  We were always joking that the lab professors in charge took on an uncanny resemblance to the rodents they experimented on?  Truly the similarity was unmistakable for both.

As a student of 68 years of life, I have witnessed humans travelling life’s journey and its inevitable physical transformation.  No matter what good looks from good genes and God are bestowed to one in youth, no one can escape the effect of time.  To me, its eerie how often ones life experiences are shown naked on your face - transforming it to reveal the sum of these experiences, your highs, your lows, your loves, your hates, who you are and who you are not, the time you spend happy and the time you spend sad, angry, overwhelmed or just helpless or hapless. 


It is not overnight but rather like the ocean, which slowly but methodically smoothens the rough surfaces of the seashore. But instead of smoothing over rough edges and sharp protrusions, human life and living creates scars, etches creases, weathers and hardens skin, and fissures flow like tributaries from life’s indelible brandings. 

Indeed for better or worse, life methodically and relentlessly drains, thins, weakens and drags one’s most exposed and vulnerable surface from the trillion repetitive frowns, gasps, smiles, cries, laughs, writhes, squirms, grimaces, twitches and retractions - movements that taken together, represent the totality of ones living history as reflected from the standpoint of facial movement. 


But there is no telling whether what is inside….the inside you….mirrors what is now exposed for the world to see.  Does the real you reflect the past or can one reverse the angry and unhappy lines for one with a happier motif?   Maybe life was harder in youth, and now its time to loosen up?  Maybe the sins of the past have been forgiven, and a kinder, happier you is now ever-present. Maybe you were once privileged and lucky in life and now things have gotten ugly.  Maybe you are one of the unlucky ones with cancer in later life and life itself has become a chore, painful, or alternately in others, a blessing to cherish every remaining day of their lives.

So you have an advantage when you want to get to know someone who has revealed their life in time through their face….you can discover their history.  Young people have less history. 


But still, you can never be sure that what you see in its outward manifestation reflects what is currently inside…..and that is true whether you are young or old, whether you skin is weathered or pristine, whether you mother is a saint or a scoundrel, whether you are a peasant or a prince.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Big White 2015 - Overcoming One's Fears

Conquering the T-bar

Yes, that feels good!

Its beautiful up there

A little help from my friend Sandy, and all pics thanks to her functional iphone

I love skiing but I’m not much of a skier.  Similar to my dance life, my ski skills were developed as an adult, rather than being ingrained and established with proper technique and muscle memory as a child or adolescent.  So I can navigate down the mountain of greens and blues with relative ease, but don’t count on me winning any prizes for technique.  It’s not a pretty site, flailing and jerking from side to side hunched over like the old decrepit man I’m always working to disguise on the dance floor.  This is in contrast to the hundreds of beautiful skiers of all body types; fat, small, tall, young, and old who can glide effortlessly, gracefully carving prefect semicircles in the snow, looking nonchalant as they whisk by the plebian riffraff of slow, crusty, bumpy, tentative cadaver like skier want-to-bees losing the fight with the mountain they are reluctantly descending. 

Still I have my moments when the snow is perfect and the runs are groomed and clear of tracts before the mob of skiers push the snow into obstructive piles of hard mounds and boulders, exposing the underlying slick rock-hard white ice beneath the powder that flings you off of your feet sliding in a free-for-all. Yes, there are moments when the snow is perfect and I can look like a reasonable skier. Problem is the snow is seldom perfect for long, and thus I can never really relax on the mountain unless I descend into my la-la-land white out brain trance. 

This happens at the end of the day, or at the end of the week when the brain is fully saturated with and mesmerized by the pervasive white-out snow cover, the whitish/ grey overcast skies, the cloudy mist and palpable fog unpredictably obscuring your vision and balance, and by the intricate pattern of lace like figures of the snow-covered camouflaged trees.  These prerequisites lead to falling victim to, and being engulfed in the ubiquitous whiteness of the surrounding moment, which insidiously seeps into your being while transforming you into an inanimate glob of flesh, releasing an out-of-body experience, numb to your surroundings and those alarming signals that protect you from harm and injury.  You are bobbing down the mountain without a care, dazed and anesthetized, a prime candidate for a disastrous fall!

But wait a minute, I’m not sure what possessed me to descend into this diatribe of self-deprecation, but the actual intent of this writing was to describe overcoming ones fears.  Having skied for roughly 20 years, the only real ski vessel that I feared prior to this BIG WHITE trip was the T-bar.  Being scarred by a previous experience on a T-bar – when the T-bar was jolting me nearly off of the bar through uneven snow, and the path up the mountain was un-groomed, making navigating the path toward the end all the more treacherous.  Finally, there was no descent or decline at the end of the T-bar allowing for a clean exit.  Thus, as I released the stupid death bar from my freezing butt, it suddenly recoiled sending me a parting farewell jolt while torpedoing me to the ground, demanding that I never to return in its presence.

I thought I was scarred for life but this year, my ski buddies encouraged me to set my fears aside and give it another chance.  The T-bar takes you up to the top of BIG WHITE with a fabulous view of the world.  And I’ve been missing that view and a beautifully fluid long run that seems to last forever appropriately called the Sun Run.   OK, am I a man or a mouse?

With the unwavering confidence of my ski friends, encouragement and hand holding…literally, I found that the T-bar was not even a slightly worrisome feat.  Once accomplished, you could not stop me from returning back again and again.  

What is the lesson to be gained?  Not all T-bars are the alike?  That’s obvious or maybe not so obvious to me at least. 

But I think the important message for me is that while we live mostly within ourselves, we need others to bring out the best (and maybe even the worst).  Left alone to bask in the world we have created limits our possibilities.  We live in the confinement of our imagination, likes and dislikes, fears and preferences.  Others have their own world and experiences that can be shared with us as long as we are brave enough to be engaged with other humans.  We each can contribute to the others expanding world of possibilities.  You don’t have to give up your humanity to allow others access to your world.  It may bring you closer to the heavens as the T-bar lifted me to arguably the most beautiful view from Big White and the most memorable ski run of the week. 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Heritage Classic Dancesport Championships – 2015





 Introduction:

What a truly great competition!  My most all time favorite comp; this year was no exception, delightfully punctuated by the appearance of special friends and North Carolina family members greeting us for a Monday and Saturday night treat.  And I have pictures to prove it! 

The Venue:

Always attending to detail, the competition was meticulous in its execution thanks to the sweat and tears of the organizer couple Hillary; the venue pristine and cozily nestled in the womb of the Grove Park Inn, itself a palace of magnificence and grandeur. The lobby is so large that the front desk, concierge, and hotel services desks and lobby bar were all insignificant, while the two fireplaces located on the smaller ends of the rectangular room sparkled and crackled with life.  Indeed, the colossal lobby fireplaces were an inviting temptation, large enough to concomitantly envelope and consume more folks then can fit into a large SUV should that be the intended function, which hopefully it was not.  Nevertheless, the fireplaces were uncomfortably magnetic; the powerful flames drawing one closer and closer, mesmerizing and alluring. Only the rush of pain from the intense heat would halt the march of death, jolting one back to reality, escaping safely from the hypnotic trance of the dancing flames.  Unbeknownst, the fireplace was the perfect and powerful metaphor for my life in ballroom dancing, especially my week at the Heritage Classic, 2015. 


The hotel lobby was made for a giant, ceilings so high they take tall scaffoldings to reach, widely crafted warm wooden pillars and walls constructed from large cubes of immovable grey stone insuring a sense of permanence, a far contrast from the plastic and toothpick construction of our modern day world.  The rest of the Grove Park Inn followed suit with one beautiful magnificence after another including the competition ballroom. Located in the outskirts of Asheville, it is protected by trees, quiet and privacy, a perfectly site for the hustle and bustle and raw nerves of a major dance completion.


Why Am I Alone?

Why it is so difficult for more students from Divino Ritmo Dance Studio to attend this event bewilders my imagination.  To be sure, other students….as many as five or six…. have come in the past as this is at least my 5th straight Heritage Classic competition…see other postings! The venue, the level of competition, the perfectly executed schedule of events, the friendly and regal North Carolinians, the engaging organizers, the varied ballroom venders selling dance jewelry and clothes, the food at the Grove Park Inn, the beautifully adorned and colorful dining room with dance floor, the jazzy ensemble of musicians playing upbeat dance music during dinner, the classy and charming town of Asheville, its restaurants, the Biltmore Estates, etc, etc, all make for a powerful allure.  Travelling from Hawaii on Delta directly to Atlanta and the short puddle jumper to Asheville is an easy itinerary to travel.  Perhaps it’s the time zone disparity and jet lag from Hawaii to the east coast, perhaps it is the urban legend of the ghost inhabiting the interior stonewalls of the Grove Park Inn, perhaps it is no rational reason but rather the fear of the unknown? 


But I wouldn’t miss this competition for the world, and as I boarded the plane from Asheville to Atlanta on our way returning home, I could not rid myself of the residual taste of the most delicious cauliflower casserole consumed the night before that prompted second helpings for both Yanna (my dance teacher) and myself.  It is worth returning back next year to Ashville just for this reason!   

Da Pain in Da Feet; OR The Pain of Defeat:

Nothing materialized as planned.  I was expecting to do well in Bronze and to struggle with Silver heats in Standard, but do better in Silver Smooth. In fact, the only dance style I did well in …..in the single dance events….. was in Rhythm.  I encountered known competitors in Silver Smooth that I have never beaten except for the Holiday Classic 2013 (see posting), who greeted me at the door.  With many more competitions under their belt, they had remarkably improved even from the baseline of our most recent encounter.  I had no chance against them as I observed their refined skills and lost every heat prompting me to comment graciously and sincerely in feedback.  There is no shame in losing to a “more worthy” competitor.  Still it felt like it was a 1, 2 punch as they took turns in reducing me to dance rubble on the competition floor like a tag-team wrestling match beating down an opponent already mangled, bruised, contracted and barely alive.


In silver standard, I was venturing on unchartered territory as I unwittingly convinced Yanna that my time had come to venture into silver.  But as fate would have it, my skills were contested against a more experienced Gold level dancer who I have admired for years as a dancer with advanced skills and gracious presence.  Just to feel that I could be on the same dance floor with him made me feel good; I had NO expectation that I would take a single heat, and I didn’t.

In Bronze Latin, I won some and lost some but I was more or less beaten by one worthy opponent who I have taken in the past.  Well, no one comes back thinking they can repeat the scoring of the past as every student is striving to improve from competition to competition. Still I was a bit surprised, as much as he was glowing and beaming in delight….at least until the final confrontation….see below.

Yes, nothing occurred as “planned” as conceived by my feeble mind.  It was pretty much a difficult week with some exceptions.  Having gone through some awful months of painful injuries of my feet….with every possible diagnostic entity identified in my medical records, pain in every conceivable location, redness and swelling, jutting bunions aggravated by braces placed to support every foot joint, I was expecting some pain and foot limitation that just didn’t materialize thanks to good luck, prior strengthening exercises and Celebrex. 

Instead of the pain in my feet, it was the pain of defeat that commanded the week of horror at the Heritage Classic 2015.   But I am upbeat because there were unexpected moments of success to be jubilant about that I will recount below starting with the story of Dr. Outrageous.

Dr. Outrageous:

Well, I am a mature 68- year old who dances for fun and to improve his dance skills.  Yeah, right.  In Bronze Latin, I followed the path of splitting dance heats with the worthy opponent mentioned above, until the fateful 3 Dance Scholarship that I was competing in, pitted against this gentleman and two or three other ladies.  I was in a good mood thinking I had nothing to lose and expecting to come in last based on the supposition that ladies are difficult to beat and my previous failure to command the gentlemen single dance events.  I danced my cha cha and rumba and was generally pleased.  But I messed up on my samba in the final moments when I could not accommodate to a certain change in direction that clearly I should have been able to do.  Storming off the dance floor, glowing with anger, cursing, flailing and assailing myself for my miserable mistake, all I wanted to do was get the fu…. out of there and return to my room, and burry my head under my pillow and disappear from life.

Yanna, in her wisdom, said NOTHING, realizing the futility of any words when such anger was being displayed, but TOLD me I could NOT leave the ballroom until the awards were presented.  My stomach burned with acid, every moment felt like an eternity waiting for conformation of my miserable performance. When it came, as the names were announced from last to first, as certain as I was that I would be last, the names were ticked off until mine was announced.  I somehow took FIRST place in this 3 Dance event! My stomach went from acidy to more acidy, and I somehow had to reverse my self-loathing physiology to accept the miracle of the year, which was not easy to do without some forthcoming afternoon coctail.  




Nothing was Standard!

There were other moments of joy.  Besides the Latin 3 Dance Scholarship trophy, I won a best silver solo trophy award that arguably was the best solo performance of the competition, at least according to Yanna and the many comments from the audience.

But the other moments of joy came when dancing Standard.  Clearly my most challenging dance form, Yanna is constantly asking me when I will start moving during my lessons as I am famous for making tiny wimpy steps and going nowhere.  We have worked on Standard over the past few months, but there was no indication that any improvements were forthcoming.  With new Silver routines, I was expecting to be tentative and unconvincing and had little expectation for myself. 

Again, I was proven wrong……as I was 100% wrong with every preconceived expectation! My Standard dance heats were increasingly fluid, confident, and comfortable.  The Silver heats were performed with increasing precision and a far cry from the miserable performance displayed in the City Lights competition a month earlier.  The open events were even more enjoyable and I really felt the joy of dancing as the day progressed moving to the last of the last heats.  And my performance reflected my joy.

I had no expectation for the Semifinal 3 Dance Scholarship Silver Ballroom event, competing in a field of 2 other men and 6 ladies.  Indeed, I have not had much of a record of success even in the Bronze category, and the gentlemen that I was competing against this day included the one that cleaned the floor with me in Smooth two days prior and the one that was defeating me in Latin.  I was calm and circumspect, and just tried to have fun.  I was rewarded by making the cut to the final as the only male student, defeating one of the ladies and displacing both men.  Apparently this was to be as far as I would go in this event. Nevertheless, I felt like I had accented my week of hard work with a visible success, leaving on a high note, dancing in my most difficult of dances, and floating off the dance floor on a cloud.

Final Dance Thoughts:

Ballroom dance competing is a lot of hard work sprinkled with moments of fun and enjoyment.  There are a hundreds of things to order in your body, you need to remain alert and navigate properly, remain confident when avoiding collisions or even when colliding with other dancers, and somehow you must EXPRESS the joy of dancing in your execution of the dance.  There are many mechanical dance professionals that cannot rise to the level of dance expression that is required to be the best of the best. 

But what I experienced on Saturday afternoon were fleeting moments of comfort and fluidity and joy in dancing my standard dance heats that were pure delight.  Not consumed by any concerns about frame, dance routine steps, navigation strategies and contingencies, I became lost in the moment, no longer driving (or more accurately dragging) Yanna on the dance floor following some preconceived cutout path of movement, but rather being commanded by the music, flowing effortlessly and synchronously in harmony with my dance teacher.  A moment here and a moment there, but I think this is what good dancers must experience every day and the reason why they come back the next.  It is an experience that must be experienced, pure and magical and one worthy of the hard work and effort and expense that one needs to commit before a taste of dance heaven is revealed.

Appropriate Thank You’s…..

I want to thank Yanna for being TIRELESSLY patient with me and to admit that I am an unworthy student but have the best dance teacher I could ever imagine.

I want to thank Mark and Anna for dinner on Monday night and your continued friendship as well as attending the wonderful Friday night performances at the Heritage.


I also want to especially thank my sister-in-law, Frankie Lou, another North Carolina native as well as Rita and Grace (daughter in law and granddaughter) who trekked for hours to share Saturday night with me at the Heritage and the Grove Park Inn.  To Frankie Lou, I can never repay you for what you have done for me, your unselfish and endearing love of family including for my wife, your sister and the common sadness we share in having lost our spouses that we live with each and every day.