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  • Kristine Bendul

Meeting A Master

As I write this, my hair is still SOAKED from my 45 minute epsom salt bath. I initially thought I was feeling STRONGER once I got past what I thought was my "hump" day on Thursday last week then enter EMMANUEL PIERRE-ANTOINE.


Emmanuel is a THREE-TIME WORLD and United States CHAMPION in the American Rhythm category and he has agreed to be Abdiel and my COACH and CHOREOGRAPHER. What an honor to have met him knowing he was going to work with us. When he asked about my ballroom experience, how could I not be honest and say that it's only been TWO WEEKS since I embarked down the American Rhythm path?


Our first REHEARSAL with Emmanuel was at Stepping Out studios in Chelsea. We worked for two hours beginning with what he thought would be easiest, RUMBA. I suppose it was because the tempo is of the slower of the five dances. I thought a Rumba box was challenging... He gave us the most beautiful choreography and yet it's INTRICACY and SPECIFICITY left me dumbfounded. If I could have concentrated harder than I was, my eyes might have popped out of their sockets. I did my best to remain composed and not look like I was staring down the mouth of some PREDATORY BEAST that was about to engulf me whole.


The massive amount of CONTROL and ENERGY it took of grounding the legs, the Cuban motion of the hips, the final TURN OUT of the back foot, going over the edges of the toes (bunions to be specific), engaging the lats, back and rib cage, maintaining TIMING, and both leading and following my 6' 1" partner who is in 3" heels left me feeling like I had run the perimeter of Manhattan. Everything was SCREAMING. I felt like my brain had partially leaked from my ears. I hope no one slips in studio B.


It was fascinating to see how quickly the two hours past once I just dove in and did my best to keep up. I definitely STRUGGLED with the steps and timing and I know Abdiel wanted to feel more of a lead. I just wanted to LOCK DOWN and coordinate what my lower and upper body were doing. Whatever Latin technique I thought I had "mastered" went out the window. I could feel my toes not staying connected with the floor, my knees bending at the WRONG times and my "boogie" JAZZ-ISMS as Emmanuel put it taking over. I was so hoping to do better.


Emmanuel and Abdiel are both champions and I am a NEWBORN learning to (Rumba) walk for the first time. It is one thing to be a professional dancer just learning choreography, but I want so much more than to learn steps. I want to, I must MASTER the technique! Is it even possible that in two months I will be ready to take the floor and do JUSTICE to our mission? I could allow myself to fret I suppose, but there is NO TURNING BACK now.


We have another session with Emmanuel TOMORROW. Our's is an extreme journey and unfortunately the road isn't as long as I would prefer. I plan to get an early start and continue to go over my FORM. I plan to get a good night's SLEEP. I plan to do the best that I can tomorrow. I plan to master my own self and I plan to NEVER GIVE UP.

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