Written by Erin Santos, ISF Executive Director & President
Well, here we are. Dancing With the Stars tickets are sold out, votes are rolling in and by this time next week, I will be back to a normal life. All these weeks I have been saying that I am not too nervous about the actual dancing part. That’s now a lie. The anxiety is setting in and my stomach is in knots. I didn’t start the week out that way – but as each day passed… the knot begins to grow.
Saturday – my Mom is in town and the plan was for her and Sophia to join me for dance practice. In true Santos children style, they are bored with every cool experience I’m a part of because they have grown numb to it, so she chooses a morning on her iPad instead of heading to the ballet to watch. Whatever. My mom joins me and sits quietly in the seats and Juwan and I kick through the moves. I notice she is taping a couple of the segments on her phone which I plan to watch later. Turns out watching it as soon as we get in the car scares the shit out of me because some of the moves I’m doing just look straight stupid. Yikes. I’m two weeks out. I’m better in my head than I am on stage.
Tuesday – our normal Tuesday practice and we are fixing small pieces that aren’t working. I’m still working on adding that flare that feels completely dumb when I do it, but I know it comes across better on stage. I can tell Juwan is wanting more from me and I’m having trouble giving it for some reason. It just feels weird at times. We have a couple of tricks that we practice a couple of times to really get the feel of them. One of the tricks is killing me and I’m not getting it right. I’m finally nailing the backflip but I’m still doing it in tennis shoes. We still don’t have shoes and I should be in them by now. I’m stressing.
Friday – 12:30. The AMAZING Whitley Hamlin (@thequeencitystyle) who has graciously agreed to help style me for the event with the help of Neiman Marcus meets us at Southpark to try on some gala looks. My traditional look is a little short and a little tight and sometimes a little unprofessional and I love that she is taking me out of my comfort zone. The first dress I try on takes an army to put in on me. I’m not kidding… it’s a damn scuba suit and I almost pass out twice. I get it on and take a look in the mirror. It’s elegant and sophisticated and I love it. It’s never anything I would ever wear, try on or even buy. I turn and look at Whitley and my Director of Marketing, Rachel and it feels like I found the perfect wedding dress on the first try. I try on about 10 more but I keep coming back to the same first dress. I think we have a winner. I also need to drop all alcohol, bread, sugar, and calories in the next week to pull this thing off. 2:15 practice time comes and goes and I’m super late. The videographer from the Ballet is there to shoot some of our practice for our gala video and it freezes me up a little. Why am I freezing up? It’s just a week away! I do however have a new haircut that is making me feel like a new woman – but having a stranger in the room is screwing with me. Of course, when the camera starts rolling, I see Juwan transform into the performer he is meant to be. He’s insanely good and at that moment I know he will carry me through this because he is professional. He’s the best. I have to feed off his energy.
Saturday – Just breezing through my email and see an email from the Ballet. Turns out that Juwan and I are the show closers. I may vomit.
Sunday – 6 more days. After watching the video of us performing, Juwan levels with me and lets me know there are some parts that just aren’t working. Here’s the thing. I have to do a cartwheel twice in my performance. I know what you are thinking… it’s a cartwheel. But ask yourself honestly when the last time you DID a cartwheel. Not just a cartwheel in your living room, but a cartwheel where you have to grab the back of someone’s thigh and do a cartwheel over the front of him. Oh, and make it look graceful and point your toes and you are 42. Juwan asks me to do a couple of cartwheels just on the stage to see if we can figure this out. Cartwheel number one – I pull the back of my thigh and my groin right out of the gate. I pull it so bad that I want to spend the entire rest of the practice in the tub with Epson salt. Instead, Juwan keeps making me do them. He is showing me how to do them with his legs that are like 5 feet long and he looks like a damn starfish but with a touch of a ballet dancer. I’m not getting any better at them but it’s probably because I’m 42 freaking years old! Ugh. Okay, homework for the week – figure out how to be more flexible and also do 100 cartwheels. Side note: the other women I’m competing against next Saturday… one is an ex-college gymnast and the other is an ex-Chicago Bulls cheerleader. Bonus. They are probably kicking out cartwheels for breakfast. We run through the music a couple of times, videotaping then reviewing. I’m gonna throw up.
My week ahead is dancing every day, finding shoes that won’t kill me, practicing in my actual dance outfit, dress fittings, dress rehearsals, primping, and anxiety. God bless anyone that has to come in contact with me this week. I’m going to be a disaster.
For goodness sake – please go out and vote for me. One vote is $1, and I would love the support this week.
Go to gala.charlotteballet.org and select “Erin and Juwan”.