Monthly Archives: December 2011

Top 10 Things I will take away from Dancing Stars Experience

1. The people at the Ballroom Dance Center are amazing!! What a tremendous group of people. Always happy, helpful and supportive. Either Emilie is gifted at selecting the best people for her team, or dancing truly does give people endorphins. I suspect it is a bit of both. Special shout out to Emilie for her leadership and Jillian for her bright and encouraging ways.

2. Stephen and Brandi Rozier must be one of the most adorable couples ever! They are both incredible dancers, teachers and human beings. I was honored to dance with Stephen, and fortunate that his ability to guide me throughout the process resulted in a successful performance and memorable experience.

3. It is important to push oneself outside of the comfort zones. I was more afraid of this performance than anything I have ever done, including jumping out of a plane. I will be even more likely to push myself into new endeavors in the future.

3. Everything has a rhythm. Find it and go with it. As I suspected I would, I leaned on the iPod in times of jittery nerves, and Rihanna came to my rescue to get me back in the zone. Music has a powerful energy.

4. If you think you have pushed yourself to the limit, work just a little bit harder. One more step after you think you cannot do anymore is probably the right place to stop. Exercize is not so bad after all.

5. Be in the moment. Until you realize how often you are thinking of other things, you don’t realize what you miss. Be aware of all the senses, so that you can truly appreciate right now.

6. The fight against Alzheimers disease is an important one and deserves our attention. Sincere thanks to the team at the Augusta office of the Alzheimers Association for all they do every day to help affected families. To Dee Dee- you are an inspiration. I will sign up for any project that you lead.

7. The amount of support I received from my friends and the team from Jim Hudson Lexus was humbling and touching. I especially want to thank everyone who contributed to my page and attended the event. It was great to turn around throughout the night and see familiar faces approaching me-Jeff and Jen, Melody, Maria, Kyle and Misty, Brandi and Devan, Brittany, Laura and Gene, Connie, Saundra, Brenda, George and Crystal (thanks George-I think we scored an 11 too!), Terri, Chris, Laurie, Todd. When Lester handed me the flowers and card from the dealership team while I was walking onstage, that was an incredible moment.

8. I have an amazingly supportive group family in my corner. Special thanks to my Mom (Mary), Dad (Dennis), Stepmom (Jackie), Sister (Lora), Niece (Mary Catherine), Brother in Law (Phil), future stepson (Forrest), future inlaws (John and Judy) and Sister (Lisa). Everyone believed in me, and it meant so much to have their encouragement.

9. I am fortunate that I was able to be a part of such an awesome group of competitors. They all gave it their heart and soul, and made the experience more fun. I really enjoyed meeting Deanna, who told me about how her Dad liked to be quiet and alone before a performance (which is what Deanna did, and -taking her cue-I did as well. They were right; it helps). I also enjoyed Amy’s enthusiasm, Austin’s humor, and meeting Mary Lynn. I am so proud of Terra for pulling off the big win.

10. Finally, most of all, just when I think Kevin cannot impress me more, he comes through again by being the most supportive, loving and understanding person I have ever known. I am not sure what karma brought him to me, but I will try to always be the best person I can be, to be worthy of having him in my life.

Tips to Combat Stage Fright

I will not have stage fright the night of June 10th. I may not even be visibly nervous. (Key word: visible) Most of my competitors are pretty cool characters with experience in the spotlight, so this is not an issue for them. Austin Rhodes probably doesn’t even know what nervous feels like. This article is not for him.

This article is for those of you who have ever experienced any form of anxiousness preceding a big event. Perhaps your heart beats faster before you have to make a speech. Maybe your stomach feels a little tense when the big event you’ve been planning is getting underway. Some people get sweaty palms before meeting people who may be important to them (potential in-laws, bosses, tax advisors).

I have experienced all of these symptoms when thinking about performing as a Dancing Star. Here are some of the strategies which have given me the courage to make my bold opening statement.

1. Time heals all nervousness.

Nervousness is like hunger. At first you are uncomfortable; then the feeling blossoms into nausea. Eventually, enough time passes, and you are not even hungry anymore. The body can only take so much anxiety before it becomes tired of thinking of it. It’s been living with the “fight or flight” feeling for so long it will sit down with a book and say, “Call me when you’re ready to panic.” I have encountered and overcome the heart palpitations so many times that it doesn’t even faze me. I actually found myself recently looking at auditions for a play, thinking, “I could do that”. Then I remembered I don’t act.

2. Play a Role

Speaking of acting, Stephen tells me I cannot be nervous when I dance, because it really won’t be me performing. I will get into character, and that character is the one who will be on stage. This is where Austin has a competitive advantage. He has been acting for years-since high school, I think, or perhaps since he was a zygote. He will probably wake up that Friday morning and think, “Don’t I have something to do tonight? Oh yeah, I need to dance in front of a packed Bell Auditorium.”

Stephen asked me to come up with a character, complete with name and back story. I wasn’t able to do that, but was able to come up with many brave and confident female personae that inspire me. Laura Croft, from the movie Tomb Raider, is a character that I admire. She fights the bad guys, drives a motorcycle, and does bungee ballet in her free time. Elle Woods also speaks to me. The “Legally Blond” character, when challenged about her back-up plan in case she is not accepted into Harvard, stated, “I don’t need back-ups. I’m going to Harvard.”

So I meditate on the images of these strong females, and also on some of the things I have accomplished and survived in my own life. I may channel some combination of all of them when I get on the dance floor, but more likely the character I will be playing is one called “Angela kicking some ass.”

3. Music is therapeutic

Have you noticed that when you hear some songs, you cannot be anything but happy? Others make you want to dance, or cry, or relax. I have a combination of all of these kinds of songs on my iPod, so that on the off-chance that there is some minor heart fluttering on the 10th, I can plug in the headphones and rock out until I calm down. If you see me that night backstage singing aloud to Eminem, you might want to leave me alone for awhile.

4. Support system in place

My friends, dealership and family have been amazing. They have supported me with words of encouragement and donations to the cause. I will have 4 tables of support on June 10th: two from the dealership (who sponsored the event), one from my family, and one from my incredible book club friends.

Kevin has been awesome! He has listened to the daily details of my adventure, helped to pay for the dance lessons, held me when I practiced my turns and offered positive encouragement throughout the entire experience. Kevin’s mom Judy has been supporting me all the way from Missouri-sending a donation, putting an article in their small-town paper, and sending me Facebook messages of encouragement.

My Mom and Dad have been helping to raise money/votes for me, so much so that I officially deemed my Mom my official “Dance Manager”. You couldn’t find a better person to have in your corner. She is behind me all the way, and has been from the start.

Suffice it to say, “Team Angela” has all the strength and love behind it. You know that saying “Too blessed to be stressed”? Well, it is true, and I am!

5. The Power of Prayer

Speaking of blessings, it is important to note the impact of meditation and prayer in overcoming one’s personal challenges. So I offer this: “God grant me the strength to work hard in my preparations, guide me as I honor the commitment I have made to this endeavor, and help me to show grace under pressure. Thank you for the spectacular team at the Alzheimer’s Association for all of the faith they have placed in me. Thank you for Stephen, who is an incredible dancing teacher, and for everyone at the Ballroom Dance Center who are so positive and who have welcomed me into their home. Thank you for all of my competitors, who are working just as hard as I am for this great cause. Finally, bless my family, friends and co-workers who have offered their unconditional love and support. Amen.”

6. It’s all in Perspective

It’s always good to remind yourself what is important in life. Nervousness is often based on worrying what other people will think of you, and that is not the noblest path of thought. That is why I will remember the story Kathy Tuckey told about the caretaker who was helping multiple family members with Alzheimer’s disease. All she wanted in the whole world was some time to herself, so that she could go to Wal-Mart. That is infinitely more important than anything Angela has going on in her mind. So I tell myself, nervousness is really not such a big deal, really. Let’s keep it all in perspective and remember why we are dancing.

So there you have it, Angela’s tips for the new performers out there. For those of you who have any advice for me, please let me know what I am missing! (Austin, that would be you!) I humbly admit I do need all the tips I can get.

I encourage everyone to come out and be a part of what will truly be a memorable evening. If you have not yet purchased your ticket to see 10 phenomenal couples taking the dance floor for this worthy cause, I encourage you to do so right away!

Angela’s Fitness Diary

Before I signed up for Dancing Stars Augusta, I never exercized. I mean never. If I tried to run a block, I would become so winded that I frightened the neighborhood children. I knew that one of my greatest challenges with this endeavor would be to increase my lung capacity to something larger than the size of a lima bean.

So I began very slowly, taking the “baby steps” concept to almost religious extremes. I would run my short block once or twice a week, and throw in a few jumping jacks and stretches for good measure. This was back in November, before we even had our first “Meet and Greet” reception with the other dancers. I’m lucky that they gave me a head start.

Over the winter I avoided outdoor activities but stayed on with the jumping jacks. I gradually worked up to 5 times a week, trying to take it easy over the weekends. I basically would do as many jj’s as I could, rounded to the nearest 25. I considered it an acceptable place to stop if I felt compelled to say an expletive to myself when I was done. My cats learned to stay out of the way.

Dance classes began in late February, and Stephen was good to give me a few basic steps to practice as “homework”. This was a nice addition to the jumping jacks and stretches, and made the workout more interesting and purposeful. I was pretty shy about the homework and the working-out at this point. I tried to only engage in these activities when I was home alone. You know you are shy about your fitness regimen if you don’t even want your fiance to witness it. One time Forrest saw me go through it and he came up and gave me a big hug. I can only assume he was moved by some form of empathy.

Then, standing in line at Kinko’s one day, I noticed a workout video for sale. (Not quite sure why Kinko’s sells videos, but I was there to pick up a case of wine I had purchased through mail order, so I guess anything goes at Kinko’s.) Of course, the video was “Dancing with the Stars”, and it turned out to be a good investment at $14. The dance routines were almost impossible for me to follow, but the “Warm Up” and “Cool Down” sessions became a perfect way to start and end my daily routine.

The routine had blossomed into a well-rounded, 45-minute session, including my video workout, my jumping jacks (for cardio), stretches, walking with good posture (forward and backward) and my dancing step homework assignments. I emailed this list to Stephen for his blessing. I figured since he is a certified dance instructor, a Physician’s Assistant and studied sports medecine in school, at least someone qualified would be aware of what I was up to.

What I am up to now is 125 jumping jacks a day, running a couple times a week, an extensive list of dance steps and stretches, 50 crunches and even a few push-ups. (It’s not pretty, though. The arms are still pretty woosy. They got in on the fitness routine late in the game.) I realized when I was running recently that I have never truly pushed my body to see what it could do. That was an empowering thought. Another motivation is that I have noticed a little definition and weight loss, which pushes me to keep going when life feels too busy for the workout routine.

As far as the dance routine which will take place on June 10th, it is only 2 minutes long, but it is a pretty intense 2 minutes. The first time we went through it completely, I was light-headed. But that may have been from the spins and twirling, and not from the exercize. I like to think I’m in better shape than that. At least there were no expletives.

Will I be light-headed and panting uncontrollably after the dance routine on June 10th? Come and see for yourself! Find out what 6 months of fitness and practice can bring out in a 45-year-old exercize-avoider! Tickets to the extravaganza are still available! And whatever happens, at least it will be interesting!

p.s. I now enjoy the routine and have integrated it into my daily life enough to say with confidence that there will be some exercize in my life after June 10th. I am no longer shy about working out in front of Kevin and Forrest. (They love me for my personality anyway, right?)

Say Yes to the Dress…and the Other Dress..and the Photo Shoot

When people ask me, “have you found the dress?” I find myself asking them, which one? Are you referring to my fancy Dancing Stars Augusta dress that I need in June, or my very-specific-and-impossible-to-find wedding dress, that I need in October? They are, of course, always referring to the dress with the capital letters-The Wedding Dress. But as elusive as The Dress has been, I am finding the other dress equally challenging.

The more tango videos I study, the more I realize there is a dress style which is ideal for this dance, and it is not on the menu at your average party-dress store. It is typically slinky, sparkly and replete with aggressive slits, allowing the legs to have room to move (plus it just looks fun).

Not having secured this fun garment yet, I wore a simple but flow-y dress to the DSA photo shoot recently. Sammy Anderson of Anderson Photography is the official photo sponsor of the event, and was very gracious during what had to be an unusual session for him. Stephen choreographed the shoot, and I found myself in a wide range of poses designed to look like a frozen moment of a real dance. After each pose, I must have had a strange expression on my face, because they would both ask me, “Are you ok?” –I think they were quite concerned for me. I was fine, just a little out of my element. I’ve not posed for a picture while suspended in mid-air before. I will have to make sure to veto some of the shots, or people will surely bribe me with them later in life.

As you can see, the photos which were selected convey a hint of the drama we can expect on June 10th. The tricky part of this deal is the facial expressions. Notice Stephen, who was “in character” for the shoot, perfectly playing the role of dramatic male tango expert. Notice Angela, who was still new to the performance arts, and forgot to get into character. She looks like she just lost her puppy. In some shots (that hopefully you will never see), she looks like she just saw the trailer for Scream 4. Sammy would have to take Photoshop to a whole new level to make those shots look presentable.

Well, I still have 5 more weeks to work on my character, and I am sure that the right dress will help. Be sure to forward any suggestions for slinky-sparkly dresses to me, and don’t forget to buy your tickets for the big night! They are going fast!!

I appreciate everyone’s support so far! Looking forward to seeing you in June!

P.S. It is hard to see, but I am wearing a fancy black scarf with sparkles. My future Mother-in-Law Judy brought it back for me from Mexico. I think it is my good luck charm!

Pay Attention!

When I started working in the car business, I began to pay more attention to cars on the road. At the time, I was at Saturn of Augusta, and I noticed Saturn cars everywhere! My niece Mary Catherine, who was about 4 or 5 years old at the time, would help me find these small cars when we drove around town. The headlamps are very distinguishable, and she had a keen eye for spotting them. She could even identify the less common, older model year body styles, which always amazed me.

Now that I represent Lexus, I notice everything related to the brand. My ears sharpen when I hear the distinctive commercials, even from a distant radio or TV. I recognize Lexus owners when I am out in the community. I notice the vehicles wherever I travel, and also take a peek to see where they were purchased. I spot the internet ads when I browse online. Everything even remotely significant to the company or the dealership has become relevant to me. Kevin works in the car business also, so I am further immersed in the automotive world as he shares what he observes each day. I enjoy this immersion very much; it is a great way to live.

As I learn to dance, I am starting to notice all of the dynamics which have been brought up in class. Posture is important, so I find I am watching that more closely throughout the day. Music is more than just background noise, so I listen more attentively. The dance performance is similar to acting (playing out a story), so I pick up on the acting skills of others.

The most important “paying attention” that must be done- in the dance world or the car business- is noticing what is going on right here and now. Being completely in the moment is critical. Each customer with whom we speak deserves our full attention, just as each step of a dance deserves our full energy. A step may be small, and very brief, but you commit to it. You put all of your momentum into it. That one step has your full attention while you are in it.

For someone that has always has a proclivity to think about what’s coming next instead of what is going on now, this is a valuable lesson for me. It is my tendency to think about my next move, but when I do that, I sacrifice the quality of this move. If I think about everything that must be done at work today, I sacrifice the quality of the dialogue I have with my Lexus owners. Each dance movement I make must be purposeful, even if it is done very quickly. Each contact with others must be purposeful, even if it is brief. There is a powerful energy in each moment.

I am confident that you will enjoy observing this energy when you attend Dancing Stars Augusta at the Bell Auditorium on June 10th.  That night, I challenge you to be completely absorbed in each detail. Savor each bite of your meal. Enjoy the fellowship of the fellow patrons around you. During the performances, each dancing couple will only be on stage about 2 minutes, so you will want to catch all of the nuances that these pairs have worked so hard to create. Pay attention to their feet to see the intricate steps they have learned, and see the special dance shoes which allow them to feel the floor more closely. Hear the beats of the music to appreciate the role that the song plays in the dance. Observe the glitter of the costumes and the expression of the dancer’s faces as they become the characters they have created.

Finally, and most importantly, pay very close attention to the members of the local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association as they share what this event means to the local families who struggle with this illness every day. This will be the most powerful and impactful moment of all. I promise you, it will be a richer experience when your awareness zones in on what is taking place at that moment. You will be glad you paid attention.