Erin’s Journey to Dancing With the Stars: Why did I sign up for this again?

Written by Erin Santos, ISF Executive Director & President

No turning back now!

I’m two weeks into my rehearsal for the Charlotte Ballet’s Dancing with the Stars… let’s just say I needed week 2.  The first week was a little scary.  I had an idea of what I wanted to do.  I knew the idea was a little out there and maybe didn’t fall in line with what most of the dancers were doing, but that is kind of who I was.  I figure if I didn’t do something that was totally me – it wasn’t worth doing.  I just couldn’t go out there and do some ballroom dance to some cancer song because it was relevant to Isabella.  This dance was going to be different.  So I worked on a playlist – sent it over and crossed my fingers.  

Juwan and I had met twice already.  Once in a coffee shop where it felt like a blind date where we talked about our background, our hopes and dreams and touched on some personal stories.   I could have birthed him, he’s so young – but I try to get past this.  I figure, let me invite him to my holiday party in December so we can get to know each other in a social setting to shake off the nerves.  He arrived with his boyfriend, Mason, after a Nutcracker performance.  Luckily I was a couple of drinks in so I ran to him and hugged him like an old high school bestie.  Honestly, the night became a little of a blur but I definitely know our eyes connected that night when the music turned up and we really saw what we were dealing with.  My main goal that night was just to prove that I’m not some old, suburban housewife who can barely get out of bed after losing her daughter.  I think all those ideas were lit on fire that night.


This guy is crazy fun & super positive!

The first day of practice really just involved us sitting on the dance floor and listening to my playlists.  10 songs was a bit much so let’s narrow it down and figure out what was a MUST and what part of the song was a MUST.  Once we got up and got loose, he wanted to run through just a few moves to see if I was teachable and if I had any rhythm.  Teachable… yes.  Rhythm… depends on the night.  I was stiff and felt like a sober mom.  But, I must have impressed him enough because he said, “Ok, I can work with this”.  Yikes.


Here we go.  Damn am I stiff.  I decide not to stretch out because who stretches before they go to the club?  One trick in and one slide on the floor and I find myself with a pulled groin, pulled quad muscles and skin missing off my ankles.  Apparently, this is real exercise and there is a way to dress for sliding around on a wooden dance floor.  Noted.  I tried not to complain because it was Day 1 but I left feeling a little discouraged.  I felt like I could dance (a little) and I thought I was definitely in better shape than to pull every muscle in my body.  Homework: buy long sweatpants.  If you know me, you know I do not own this kind of clothing.  But Lululemon pants weren’t giving my skin the protection it required to crawl around like I needed to.  Hoping to find “cute” sweatpants somewhere.  Also, I express to Juwan that I’m getting KILLED in the fundraising.  He assures me it’s early but it doesn’t stop the embarrassment in my stomach with being in last place on the leader board.  


I have never owned a pair of sweatpants!

This guy is my spirit animal!

I’m in these freaking sweatpants.  I have on no makeup and a hat on.  I look like shit.  Juwan comes in and puts on these 6-inch heels that he got at goodwill, which makes my 6-foot tall partner closer to 6’6.  We walk through what we did last week and I’m just as bad.  I now have a part in the dance that I call my “Dirty Dancing Move”.  You know the jump and lift that she is supposed to do but wusses out?  Yeah, the slide that took the skin off my ankle is stressing me.  We try to do it and I land directly on my knee.  By the way, this bad knee land will produce a bruise the size of a small orange on me.  Not to mention random bruises that are showing up on the other leg.  (This one may or not of been acquired at the Justin Timberlake concert two nights ago.)  I ask for us to put last week’s stuff in the file and move on.  Our next bit comes a little easier for me.  It’s a little more manageable but I’m still stiff.  I’m actually not sure if I’m stiff or it’s that my partner moves like a damn snake across the floor.  It would be easier if he weren’t so good.  I determine that I’m not going to let his moves shake me and I must start dressing the part.  I’m in sneakers, he’s in heels.  That move is over.


Heels! Ah, I love them!

Heels.  This already makes me happy.  I whip them on and instantly feel like a sexpot.  I’m still in sweats but I style the Under Armor pants in a way that is hip and not so… I’m running in to pick up butter and a six-pack from Wal-Mart.  I’m on a work high so I’m a little giddy but start off by throwing myself under the bus.  I’m not practicing.  But, by saying it out loud I agree to change my ways and will seriously put some time in outside the studio.  This is starting to mean something to me and my competitiveness is showing.  New song.  Juwan is making choreography up on the fly and I love watching his process.  He does some moves, then does some fast clapping and says, “Oh my god yes.”  He starts the count.  Today I’m feeling it and the stiffness is fading.  I think an upcoming night out with Juwan plus drinks will help this continue to fade – but he has given up drinking this month.  Whatever.  Quitting is for losers.  He will be back on it soon and when he is ready – I’ll be there to catch him… with a bottle of Titos.  We are rushed but I still have it.  I leave the studio and obsess over the music.  My playlist is annoying my kids but I am assuring them it is their musical education.  One day they will thank me for it.  WTF with this fundraising number?  How are some of these cats doing so well at this?  I tell myself it’s because I fundraise for a living so people are tired of my ask.  But I’m in dead dead dead last.  Wishing someone would swoop in and drop funds on the last place girl.  I mean I’m working my ass off out here and I have the bruises to show it.


My partner!

Like most things in life, one good day usually leads to a not so good day.  Today was one of those days where I was running late (shocker!) and was frazzled upon arrival.  I was still on my dancing high from yesterday but that quickly ended.  Why did I pick songs that are so damn fast?  My body just doesn’t move this fast!  Juwan asked if I wanted him to slow the tempo down, to which he answered as soon as it came out of his mouth to “Nope”.  The songs and steps are blending in my head and we are just adding more and more to them.  I’m honestly looking forward to having the next two days off because I need to gather my thoughts on these dances.  I need to watch the videos, write down the moves and study them like a test.  Just remembering the moves isn’t enough because they have to be sharp and cool on the beat.  Write them down, test myself, and walk through them slowly, put them to music.  Luckily I got a facial this week so my entire face is peeling off.  Sounds like a great weekend to stay indoors and then show up Sunday to impress Juwan with my progress.  I also pulled my groin again.  Welcome to 41.

To add on top of this all, I thought it would be a great idea to add signing up for the Transformation Challenge at Orange Theory.  3-4 classes a week plus dancing on top of that.  I had the weigh-in and measurements done today.  Figure if I’m going to go for it over the next 6 weeks, let’s turn this old bag of bones into something I can be proud of.  Remind me of this when I start breaking down in a few weeks.  

ISF has 20 tickets held for my guests so it’s not too late to purchase them until January 30th.  I would love to have a big group in the audience to help calm my nerves.  Yes, I know the ticket price is a little heavy but word on the street is this is one of the BEST events in Charlotte.  Can’t attend the event?   Go online and vote for me!  I need some people out there who are pushing us out to their networks, business and individuals.  We need all the help we can get!  Go to to buy tickets and to vote.  And when you get out there and see some of these people killing us on fundraising, you will want to help.