Erminio Stefano & Luana Conte Recap

February 4, 2009 at 9:36 PM (Dance, Happenings) (, , , , )

For whatever reason, my blog has received a bunch of hits through the search terms “Erminio & Luana” and “Erminio Stefano & Luana Conte.”  Admittedly, they were at Balera this past weekend, and I frequently talk about the goings-on at Balera, but I was sick this past week and just didn’t get to it.  I don’t know if any of you dancing blog surfers will appreciate it, but I’ll try to talk about their visit either tonight or tomorrow.

Today’s Distraction
4.35 P.M. sunset directly beaming into my eyes . . . ouch

UPDATE: 02.06.09
I know I said I’d update by today, but I’ve been a bit distracted this evening since learning that my grandfather’s in the hospital again.  I have Friday off, and promise on everything I consider holy that I’ll post about the past weekend in greater detail later.

Tonight’s Distractions
Thoughts of mortality and other terribly unpleasant things

UPDATE: 02.07.09
As promised, I’m finally sitting down to talk about last weekend when Erminio Stefano and Luana Conte coached and performed at Balera.  To sum their talent up quickly, these two are pretty awesome dancers.  To go into a bit more detail (but not too much, since I don’t have their exact credentials committed to memory), they were International Standard Champions in their native Italy, 3rd in the United States, and Rising Star Champions at Blackpool Dance Festival (one of the world’s most prestigious ballroom competitions).  Not only are they incredibly accomplished dancers, but they are also delightful people as well as friends and coaches of John Nigro.

After what felt like eons of coordinating, Johnny, Erminio and Luana finally found a weekend to visit that worked for most people.  They would coach at Balera on Friday and Saturday, and perform both at the Friday night party and the Saturday night party (a special event to commemorate Chinese New Year).  Admittedly, I was pretty nervous and excited: while I had been doing decently in Standard with Johnny, I hadn’t  had the privilege/ humbling experience of having a fresh set of eyes critique my dancing.  Although I looked forward to whatever nuggets of genius that Erminio & Luana had to offer, I also tried to prepare my tender ego for the harshest of critiques.

They arrived Thursday night, or more accurately, very early on Friday morning.  Despite suffering from acute jetlag and having lessons in a matter of hours, they graciously accepted a quick tour of the studio, which they both agreed was stunning.  They finished their tour, and we all went home to get a few hours of sleep before embarking on another exhausting day.

For running on maybe six hours of sleep, both Erminio and Luana seemed to be functioning quite well at 9.30 A.M.  I could only gaze in sleepy eyed awe as I clutched my coffee, trying to wake up.  Luckily I wasn’t the first one on the schedule, so I had a couple hours to gather my bearings.  After downing the rest of my coffee, I took it upon myself to take photos of students in their lessons.  I quickly discovered that not everyone likes having his or her picture taken, and I had to swear not to post images of some students (which I’ve honoured: the photo below is of Johnny in his lesson with Luana).

Luana & JohnnyMy first lesson was with Luana.  I had watched her coaching Johnny, and although she did not sugarcoat her criticisms, she was was still very encouraging as a coach.  Still, I was nervous.  I already knew that I slacked on my frame, that my footwork was less than impeccable, and that I didn’t shape nearly as much as I could.  Luana smiled and asked what I wanted to work on.  My instinct was to say “Tango,” but I looked to Johnny instead.

“How about foxtrot?  I think that’s probably your weakest dance.”

God, what do you have against me today? He was right, though.  Foxtrot was my weakest dance.  Determined to spend the lesson working on stuff Ididn’t already knew I needed to fix, I went to take dance position with Johnny, extending my neck and elbows as far as I thought possible.  Johnny started to move, and I almost stumbled out of nervousness.  I think we got as far as a feather step (the first full figure in our routine) when Luana told us to stop.  I grinned sheepishly as I waited for the onslaught of things I did wrong.  Johnny was befuddled: whenever we danced socially, I moved like a dream (or so he’s told me).  Suddenly “rigid” was an understatement.  “What’s wrong with you today?  Do you need a drink or something?”  I looked at him skeptically: I’m not usually one for drinks at noon.  Luana was a bit more subtle:

“Let’s say that you are the teacher today, and I am your student -”

“God, help me.”  She continued with her scenario: I was a ballroom teacher, and she was a brand new student who had never seen ballroom dancing before, did not know a thing about it, but wanted to learn.  What would I discuss?  How would I describe ballroom dancing to someone who had no idea as to what it was?  I thought for a moment.  Perhaps even many moments.  “I suppose I would tell her that, at its core, ballroom dancing was the musical, emotional, and physical interaction between a man and a woman.  After that, I got nothing.”  Luana’s pokerface told me absolutely nothing, until . . .

“That was actually quite accurate.  Ballroom dancing is about a lady dancing in a man’s arms.”  I exhaled, and she smiled: “So why do you look like you’re dancing with Shrek??”

For most of the rest of the lesson, Luana worked with me on the most basic element ballroom dancing: dancing in the arms of the man, ignoring the frivolities of extension that had been added to the art as it became competitive.  Oh, and we did get to work on tango a little bit at the end, which made my day.

My next lesson was with Erminio.  Carlton and I agreed to work on waltz, since the technique translated easily over to Viennese, foxtrot and quickstep.  Our lesson started off much more successfully than my lesson with Luana had: we managed to get through our entire routine before Erminio jumped in.  His lesson differed from Luana’s quite a bit, but was still incredibly enlightening.  Where Luana disregarded the formalised look of frame, Erminio stressed it (however, before Luana’s lesson, I had been doing it improperly anyway, so this was my opportunity to fix it).  As he adjusted Carlton’s and my frame, not only did we look better, but we moved with less effort.

Obviously, after such productive lessons with such amazing coaches, I’m planning on taking the amateur title in Blackpool this May.  Okay, perhaps not this year, because I’ll be on vacation with my family during Blackpool, but definitely next year.  We’ll see.

Erminio and Luana have been dancing together for years, but they took a four-year break, and only recently began dancing together again.  You wouldn’t know to watch them, though.  We were lucky enough to have them perfrom their second and third shows since partnering up again.  Although they only danced a waltz and a tango, I melted all the same.  Both times I saw it.  They glided across the floor so effortlessly in waltz.  In tango, the staccato looked flawless.  After they left following their final performance on Saturday night, I found myself wondering when they’d be back, and how much I could improve before then.

Okay, that was a terrible wrap-up, and I’m sorry, but my brain is beyond fried today.  Perhaps I’ll try polishing it up tomorrow.

Today’s Tunes
“Tonight,” Kate Walsh
“Nothing Lasts Forever,” Maroon 5
“La Pared (Version Acoustica),” Shakira
“How Could I,” Marc Anthony
“Younger Than Springtime,” South Pacific
“Tell It Like You Mean It,” Quantic
“Good Bye, Little Dream, Good Bye,” Anything Goes
“Hundred,” The Fray
“To Be Loved,” Brian Setzer
“Songbird,” Eva Cassidy
“Daddy’s Little Girl,” Michael Bublé
“42,” Coldplay
“With This Tear,” Celine Dion
“Motorcycle Driveby,” Third Eye Blind
“The Cousin of Death,” Beastie Boys
“She’s Like the Wind,” Patrick Swayze & Wendy Fraser
“It’s Good to Be in Love,” Frou Frou
“Caliph’s Mines,” Jeff Johnson & Brian Dunning
“Night and Day,” Frank Sinatra
“When I’m Sixty-Four,” The Beatles
“Try a Little Tenderness,” Michael Bublé
“El Tango de Roxanne,” Moulin Rouge!
“Somebody to Love,” Nelly Furtado
“I’ll Be That Girl,” Barenaked Ladies
“Quien Como Tu (Remix),” Enzo Diaz

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