After careful consideration, SWAT and I decided that we need to follow Tristan’s tour bus around the country and revert back to the years when we were young and carefree (that means no kids or husbands) and take classes wherever he teaches. That way we can get backstage passes (okay, so maybe there’s no such thing) but we could at least become experts at dance. We would then fight over which one of us might be more likely to become his celebrity partner on Season 334 of DWTS (that’s how long it would take us to become passable dancers). We haven’t figured out yet how to be celebrities, but we’re hoping that this blog will bring us fame, fortune, and the chance to duke it out over being Tristan’s partner on DWTS. I guess you could call it the SWAT and Shakes Smackdown.
Our original plan for the blog was to share our really bad poetry with you – all Tristan-related and composed recently. On a Friday night not too long ago we were absolutely clueless about the next blog (more so than usual), and in a burst of creativity, we wrote some poems that we intended to publish in blog format. Unfortunately, when we read them the next day, the poetry was so horrible that we shelved it temporarily and wrote the Dangerous blog instead. Then there was the suggestion that we write about our imaginary trip to Florida in pursuit of Tristan, followed by trips to Minnesota, LA, and wherever the urge (or Tristan) takes us. Since it’s all utter nonsense anyway, we decided to treat you to a series of our ‘on the road’ adventures, however, before we attempt to go on the imaginary road and learn to dance from Tristan, we realized that we had to go into training. After all, we’re not just following him just to follow; we’re following him to dance. This is where we made our first mistake.
The following paragraphs chronicle what happened when we went into training. I (Shakes) was presented with a gift of a Cha Cha class at a local dance studio where I was promised (by my friend, not the studio) that I could master the Cha Cha in something like 90 minutes; SWAT tried to show off her strength and stamina and took a Zumba class. Both of these endeavors showcased our extraordinary talents for dance and our unbelievable skill level. All of those rumored celebrities for DWTS had better watch out because we have this. Really we do. Just wait until you hear about it. Oh, by the way while the rest of the series is pure, unadulterated fiction, the part you are reading below is absolutely, mostly true so try not to be astonished by the visual. And we would appreciate it if you don’t laugh at us.
First of all, let me clarify that I will never be classified as a “ringer” when I make my first appearance on DWTS. There will be no outrage, no blogs blasting me for having “previous dance experience”, nor will anybody ever post on the ABC message board that I “clearly had years and years of ballet”. Nobody is going to compare my thighs or hips to Peta’s because let’s face it, nobody looks like that except Peta and no thighmaster is going to help make my anything look like that. I was considered a decent dancer in eighth grade when I could dance shrink-wrapped around my boyfriend while slow dancing in the school cafeteria among the crepe paper streamers. I even hit the discos and clubs in platform shoes, big hair, and mini-skirts. Yes, it was hot. You don’t need any more of the visual to get the general idea of my overall dance experience. I am also no athlete; suffice it to say that my one attempt at skiing ended up with me in a thigh to ankle cast because of a dislocated kneecap, and the one time I tried ice skating, I spent more time on my backside than on my skates. Dance was clearly my thing. I loved it (watching it mostly), and I was pretty decent at weddings and bar mitzvahs. I could feel the music. I understood the music. After all, I had rhythm; I assumed that 12 years of piano lessons took care of that. I did take a couple of group salsa classes a few years ago, and as long as I stood in the back and danced with the guy who also had two left feet, I was pretty good. I could shimmy with the best of them, and I wasn’t a complete klutz. Nobody’s toes were broken because of me, and I didn’t throw out my back, hip, or kneecap or anybody else’s, for that matter.
Knowing my thoughts about DWTS, a good friend decided to give me two special presents for my birthday (we’ll just say it was my 30th. That’s a lie). One gift was a hand massage, and that’s a story for another time. SWAT knows the story, but I’m not sharing it without drinking a lot of margaritas. The other was a Cha Cha lesson because after Week 1 of Season 13, I decided that the Cha Cha was the best dance ever created, and I had to learn it. I was a natural Latin dancer. It’s in my blood. I was born in a Spanish-speaking country, I speak Spanish, I watch Telemundo whenever possible, and I love, love, love Latin music. I can even sing the perfect Cha Cha song - Marc Anthony's I Need to Know in Spanish. (By the way, it's called Dímelo.)
All of this has to make me a natural. Obviously. I told my good friend that I wanted a teacher just like Tristan MacManus. It was for my birthday after all, and I had bought her some really nice perfume for her birthday which was a couple of weeks before mine. Therefore, I assumed she would find me a teacher just like Tristan MacManus.
How hard could the Cha Cha be? I’m reasonably fit - reasonably being the operative word. I walk every day; I ride the stationary bike almost every day. I take the steps always. I walk instead of driving. Now I’m not 30 but I’m not 93 either, and I’ve watched DWTS. The Cha Cha doesn’t seem that hard to me; it didn’t look that difficult on television. Nancy looked great doing it; so could I.
As soon as I stepped into the studio, I knew I was in trouble. First of all, I outweighed my instructor by a good 25 pounds. Maybe 35. He was also approximately 12, and he was no Tristan MacManus. No bedhead, no sexy clear blue eyes, no sexy stubble. This dude had slicked down hair parted on the side, beady little eyes that practically snarled at me, and I don’t think he had hit puberty yet, so shaving any stubble wasn’t an issue. Then I focused on his size again. All I could think of was that I had never seen any lifts in a Cha Cha and was praying he’d seen the same Cha Cha I had because if that little dude tried to lift me, we would be talking hernia. (Him, not me).
So here’s the thing. Mr. Nasty Cha Cha Teacher Who Still Hadn’t Gone Through Puberty immediately started frowning at me. “NONONONONO,” he insisted. “Your hips are all wrong.” Yeah, well, I kind of knew that. First of all, they’ve delivered a bunch of kids, they don’t fit into a size 4 anything, and they also don’t move the way they are supposed to in the Salsa Clubs of Havana or Buenos Aires or San Juan. They. Do. Not. Move. That. Way. When he stood in front of me and demonstrated and told me to keep my eyes on his hips, I almost puked. Reality sucked. Those hips didn’t even come close to doing what I saw Tristan do on Dancing With the Stars when the ‘should have won an Emmy for cinematography’ camera guy focused on Tristan. The reality was so much worse than the fantasy.
Then he stopped, turned around, started huffing and puffing and pointed at my feet. I stopped, glared, and looked down at my feet. “What?” I snapped. “Some Tristan MacManus,” I muttered under my breath. “Point your toes. You have to point your toes,” he practically screeched at me, almost sounding like SWAT when I tell her she can’t go “there” in the blog. Anyway, I guess I didn’t point them to his satisfaction because he knelt down at my feet (exactly where any man should be, I might add but then this was no man), grabbed my foot, twisted it and then forced my toes into a position that would have brought a weaker woman to tears. Instead, I just wanted to kick him. I might have. I don’t remember.
Then he pulled a Tristan MacManus. Yes, he did. Now I wouldn’t have minded it had it been Tristan MacManus putting his hands on me to push my shoulders back and my chin up. But this infant was no Tristan and a 12 year old dance instructor poking and prodding at me is not my idea of a good time. So I closed my eyes and tried to imagine that it was Tristan pushing my shoulders back and tilting my chin up, but then The Dance Instructor From Hell spoke in a whiny little high-pitched annoying voice that was nothing like an Irish brogue. He sounded just like everybody else in Jersey but worse. HE SOUNDED LIKE HE WAS 12.
The minutes seemed like days, and I knew I just wanted to go home and watch you tube videos of Tristan dancing, but no, I was stuck there to the amusement of my former best friend who caught the whole thing on video. Instead of step step cha cha cha , I was doing the one two trip trip NO. The next time it was step step ouch, stop, NO. Then step step, D**n, S**t, D**n. You get it. It was not going well (I assume it’s because he wasn’t Tristan because we know Tristan can teach anybody to dance). Then he said that I was supposed to flirt and do a slow, slow, quick, quick, slow – slow, slow, quick, quick, slow thing or some such nonsense, but I couldn’t get him to understand that I do everything at one speed. Aaaaargh. Hold your torso still, move those hips. Roll ‘em! I WAS ROLLING THEM! THEY DON’T ROLL ANY OTHER WAY!
Let’s just say that my Cha Cha to Cry Baby had everybody crying, including me. I suck. I’m going to have to work on the Cha Cha before taking it up with Tristan. I’m thinking the Tango might be more my speed – all that up close and personal stuff with a big strong Irish dancer sounds a whole lot more appealing.
It's a funny thing. Once you realize that there is a possibility that you will be attending a dance workshop instructed by the most gorgeous dude on the planet, Tristan MacManus, then the ideas start to flow. Some good, some not so good. One of our more brilliant ideas was for each of us to get ourselves into prime dancing condition. Shakes decided to take a Cha Cha class (no doubt she chose this style so she could relive the fantasy of dancing with Bentley Bumtapper in his dangerously delicious boyfriend suspenders), and I, in my most infinite wisdom thought it would be fantastic to start taking Zumba. For those who don't know what Zumba is, it's a combination of aerobics and Latin dance, all rolled into one giant burrito that gets your ass into shape really quickly. It seemed like a really good idea at the time.
Now I'm a tad on the stubborn side when it comes to admitting that I'm not a professional anything, let alone a professional athlete or dancer. I always assume that I'm going to be fantastic at whatever I'm about to try. Rock climbing? Too easy. Skiing? Child's play. Who cares if I am afraid of heights or if I once took out a line of innocent skiers as they waited for the chair lift? I was eager to meet the challenge, so why should Zumba be any different? After all, I was Drew Middle School's Electric Slide Champion, circa 1993. I was also the First Runner-Up in the Stafford High School's Macarena Challenge of 1995 so I was pretty confident to say that when it came to my chances with Zumba, I got this!
I sauntered into the Zumba Room at my local gym this past Friday like I owned it. All of the more in-shape ladies in their spandex and halter tops were standing in front, and all of the more **cough** normal looking people (like me) are cleverly situated in the back of the studio where they couldn't be seen. Of course I'm not going to conform. If these skinny chicks think they can dominate this Zumba class, then they have another thing coming. I, the Queen of the Electric Slide, am going to school them in the art of Zumba and do it during my first class. I made the wise decision to plant myself right next to a girl that likes Zumba. And when I say that she likes Zumba, I mean she REALLY likes Zumba. She's enthusiastically clad in a Zumba Brand workout shirt, a Zumba brand sweat band, and placed a few feet in front of her is her Zumba brand water bottle no doubt filled with a combination of water and electrolytes. She's the one who comes to every single class and inserts that rather loud and annoying, high pitched “Whoo!” in the middle of a routine just when everyone is about to keel over, foolishly thinking that it motivates people. Yeah...she's THAT chick, and I stood right next to her with a “Can-Do” attitude and hot pink leg warmers of death. (By the way, I was going for an Edyta Sliwinska look and ended up more with a Mike Catherwood look.) I also had in hand a bottle of blue sports drink that I remember seeing Tristan drink during Week 6 . Hey, if Tristan drinks it, then it must be some sort of magical, hydrating dance elixir.
The Zumba instructor finally enters the room and suddenly my inferiority complex begins to rear its ugly head as Karina Smirnoff Jr. struts in and gives a knowing wink to the overly tanned, blonde Zumba freak next to me. My small moment of inferiority then turns into smugness and I'm now bound and determined to beat this chick. Some perky Samba music starts blasting and away we go. The first few minutes were exactly what I expected with a bunch of repetitious side steps and a few easy hip rolls thrown in for good measure. Oh yeah, this was going to be a breeze, and I started fantasizing the very moment when Tristan would point his finger at me out of everyone in his upcoming dance workshop and say “ Her. She's the one that I want to dance with, that Zumba prodigy!”. Well, that's what he would have said if I wasn't such a poser in real life. Ah yes, the wonderful stench of my own conceited ignorance was about to get stinkier my friends. Suddenly the easy hip rolls, turned into supersonic jiggly bootie pops and 360 degree leaps accompanied by Jackie Chanesque dance kicks. These aerobic combinations not only became more intricate but they never stopped! So now, I'm starting to panic, and I suddenly transformed into a grossly out of shape version of the Energizer Bunny who was about to blow a fuse. It wasn't that my footwork was all that awful, I was grasping the movements and trying valiantly to do a higher Jackie Chan kick than Zumba Freak next to me, even if I was about to pull a hamstring. The problem here is that Zumba was beginning to kick my giant, overly confident arse. I kept up with the music trying not to think about how certain I was that this class was definitely going to end my life. I was gasping for air but didn't want to show it. Still the dances kept going, one after another with a measly 30 second break in between. I watched as Karina Jr. bounced around and barely broke a sweat, and the rest of the normal girls in the back were leaning on each other and guzzling their water as if they had just trekked through the Mohave desert. I lunged for my Magical Blue Tristan Sports Drink, and basically inhaled it. Drat...it was just regular sports drink. I was toast!
The next song began and the same ridiculously fast choreography became even more ridiculously challenging. As the possibility of me collapsing in front of everyone, and being too broken to make it to our first destination of the epic Shakes and SWAT Road Trip 2012, my thoughts turned to Tristan. There was no way around the truth of the fact that Tristan is a dance god. Like Apollo or Zeus or one of the big dudes on Mount Olympus. Here I was struggling not to have a stroke while doing one stupid aerobics class, and our mighty Tristan could make it through a showing of Burn the Floor where he dances endlessly for two hours straight. There is something amazing and unnatural in his stamina, and therefore I'm sure celestial powers are involved. Either that or Tristan's Blue Sports Drink, indeed does have magical powers. Tristan also looks fabulous covered in glistening sweat, where as I'm sure I looked more like a clunky bull in heat. Please Tristan, do your Paso magic and put me out of my misery.
So did I in fact make it through the entire Zumba class without passing out? Barely. As everyone was leaving the workout studio I stood there, doubled over as I rested my hands on my knees and felt my vision getting fuzzy. Karina Jr, skipped over and stops in front of me, saying in her overly perky Southern twang. “Oh my gawd, you did so good. You go girl!”. I couldn't tell if she was being sincere or condescending but I was too pooped to care. I looked up at her and she's got her hand up in the air, gesturing me to give her a high five. I take a half assed swing with my limp arm and miss the high five completely. I then just laugh it off and say sarcastically to Karina Jr. “Don't be jealous.”
And so my friends, am I going back to Zumba next week in order to prep more for the Tristan road trip? Yeah, and I’m making Shakes go with me. That should stir things up.