Sunday, March 3, 2013

Three Challenges - Week 9

Hello Everyone!  Welcome back to the journey.  A special welcome to all the new readers this week, especially those from Russia and Thailand!  Thanks for joining the journey!  The list of countries keeps growing! 

After last week's blog titled, "Who Am I?  A Personal Introduction," I was asked where my family bloodline comes from?  As far as I know, I have ancestry from Germany, England, Scotland, Ireland and French Speaking Canada.  I should have included that, thanks for inquiring.   

I had a significant increase in readership from The United Kingdom this week.  I would enjoy travelling with Herencia to the UK and performing for all of you living there.  A UK tour sounds great!  I've been there before when I was 15 years old.  I was in the 10th grade.  The band went and marched in the Easter Parade in London, England.  I don't recall which park the parade was in exactly.  It was either Hyde Park or Battersea Park.  I checked my passport and we were there from April 10th-19th in 1990.  We also travelled from London up to Edinborough (Or Edinburgh), Scotland and back, stopping at towns and villages along the way.  I'm overdue for a another visit.  Don't you agree? 

This week's blog is a satire about some of the challenges I've encountered while learning to dance and performing.  Some are common for dancers in general.  Please note, the thoughts and opinions expressed in this blog are my own.  They do not represent Herencia Mexicana or Richard Solorzano.  I will admit right from the start, that some of these challenges and expectations are placed upon me by myself and I hope they do not reflect negatively on folklorico dancing or the dance group.  Laugh with me and enjoy the read!

Challenge #1:  Weight

This morning I weighed myself and I am 212 pounds.  Perhaps I ate one too many buffets in Las Vegas this past weekend.  Ugh!  When I first met Richard, I was barely 185 pounds.  Too skinny!  However, the doctor said I was at an ideal weight for a 6'2" male.  Imagine that!  I also had myself evaluated at the gym and they also agreed I was ideal in weight and body fat.  I find that hard to believe because I looked sick.  Regardless, I must have been 185 pounds of pure butter because when I started dancing I sweat like crazy.  There was nothing to sweat, but it was coming from somewhere!  My shirts were soaked and I was dripping from every pore. 

In some folklorico groups (not Herencia Mexicana), the directors tell their performing students that they do not make big costumes.  In other words, if you want to perform on stage you will adjust your body to fit into the costume they make.  They do not make the costume to fit your body.  When I think of dancers, the image that comes to mind is a slender and toned person.  They have conditioned their bodies.  Young people often have an advantage because when your young, you have all the energy in the world and can burn calories like crazy.  As you get older, your body slows down naturally.  I do not have age on my side, but I can control my weight and think being thinner would be better for dancing.  Especially when some of these dances require rapid footwork and lots of sustained energy. 

I was too thin in the beginning and wanted me to gain a little weight.  Eager to do so, I indulged in fast food, soda and was eating everything that guaranteed weight gain.  And I grew.  As I have gotten older I've noticed by body shape has changed.  I was heavier in the past, upwards of 260 pounds, and I didn't look it at all.  This time after I gained the weight, I was told I looked like "a pregnant pencil!"  Just call me yellow No. 2.  Not the desired result.  Then it was clarified to me, "You need a bigger chest, shoulders and arms, not a bigger waistline.  Go to the gym."  OK, got it.  But I don't have time for the gym, my cup is full at the moment.  I'm too busy eating!  I purchased a membership at the local 24 Hour Fitness anyway.  Perhaps spending the money on monthly membership fees would be enough encouragement to get my butt to the gym.  NOT!  I know I need to do it, and trust I would love to have a killer body, but it's not easy and the timing is bad.  Excuses!  Excuses!

In addition, it never fails that someone in the dance group is selling chocolates to support their child.  The dramatic and emphatic sales pitch often goes something like this, "Mijo!  Mijo, the children.  The children are marching in the parade.  The one in Pasadena.  They need money, mijo.  They're selling chocolates."  Now, being in band myself in school, I understand so I ask, "What kind of chocolates?"  Then the reply goes something like this, "Mijo, they are special chocolates!  First they start with bacon.  Yummy bacon and they fry it up in some butter.  Then they roll it in butter cream and coat it with sugar.  Then its dipped in batter and deep fried.  After that they dip it in chocolate made with extra heavy cream and dust it in powered sugar.  They are delicious mijo."  Sounds interesting so I ask, "How much?"  They reply, "Each student needs to raise $1000 for the bus trip across town, so they are $40 a box."  Now the pressure is on and not wanting to appear cheap I say, "Give me two!"  Then they say, "Ok I got them in the car!"  Nothing like immediate delivery!

So now I'm stuck with two boxes of fat and I take them home, hide them in the back of the fridge and try to forget about them.  Sure enough, two weeks later I'm at home starving and feeling extra lazy.  There's no food in the house and I'm so tired that I don't want to go to the grocery store.  Immediately my mind goes straight to those boxes of chocolate.  How bad can they be?  So I try one and they are amazing.  Dinner!  Two boxes later I'm on the couch in a sugar coma, eyes rolled back, with the last piece of bacon hanging from the corner of my mouth.  Then it hits!  You know that feeling.  That feeling that there's about to be an aggressive movement.  This is what I call "Michael's Chocolate Cleanse!"  Having worked in a chocolate factory myself and learning from personal experience, I know that eating a excessive amount of chocolate results in a laxative effect.  Not as extreme as an Epsom salt flush, but it does the job.  Therefore, in this example, there are two results.  The first, the pipes get an explosive cleansing.  The second, you'll think twice before indulging in massive quantities of chocolate again.  No one wants a repeat experience!  Trust Me!

There are probably a few of you out there thinking to yourself, "I cant believe he's writing about this, I thought this was about folklorico!"  It is!  Mexico has provided us with the wonderful terminology of Montezuma's Revenge and The Aztec Two Step!  After white Spaniards defeated and conquered Moctezuma II, the runs are his revenge on the white man.  Likewise, the folklorico gods have their revenge on invading wedos of the dance:  The Folklorico Foreigner Flush!  Isn't is funny that after nine weeks of blogging we have already covered one end of the spectum to the other!

Then there is the that time of year when young aspiring girls everywhere turn into militant cookie pushing peddlers.  They are everywhere.  You can't avoid them.  You will buy their cookies or else wrath will come upon you.  Every time I see one of them, fear sets in.  My freezer is full of boxes, upon boxes, of cookies.  And true to the previous example, whole evening meals are spent consuming them to support the American girl's future and development.  My waist line is a small price to pay.  Why can't fundraising groups sell lettuce at $20 a head instead?  It's always sugar, sugar, sugar!

And if that isn't enough, lets look at some of the food the Mexican community consumes:  tortillas, refried beans and rice.  There is nothing better than a hot fresh flour tortilla with butter.  Can I get a witness?  Come on people, seriously, it's delicious!  Plus there's nothing like the abundance of lard and masa creations.  Masa!  Masa = Mass, Mass = Massive and Massive = No Folklorico For You Wedo.  I find it ironic that in Mexican culture, men are macho, robust and burly, yet they expect their dancers to be fit, trim and thin.  Men are groomed from birth to be strong and respected  So there is a constant battle between portraying the masculine Mexican male image and the expectation of the male folklorico dancer.  No one wants to see a man who looks six months pregnant in a charro suit, sweating and dying from exhaustion.  Even a robust and muscular man will appear heavy in a charro suit on stage.  On the other hand, no one wants to watch a man perform that appears weak and sickly.  The goal is to find balance. 

One thing that I feel is important to remember is that there are several different body types.  Your body type determines where you will carry the weight.  I think that the American culture idolizes the "V" shape body type, with the broad shoulders and skinny waistline.  We obsess over it and put ourselves through all kinds of torture to achieve that perfect form.  Truth is not everyone is going to have it, myself included, unless I pay for it!  Plastic surgery anyone? 

I have made efforts to be healthier and fit.  I acknowledge that I can do better.  Please don't mistake my writing about this as excuses or complaints.  As soon as my schooling is over, I will have additional time to dedicate to the gym and practicing.  I have tried to reduce the carbohydrates and increase the protein.  I've laid off the sodas and drink Kangen alkaline water.  I've limited my fast food intake.  Every morning, I start my day off with a buffet of vitamins and supplements.  I try to avoid the plethora of donut boxes and snack machines at work.  Usually with little or no success.  When I start to get depressed over it, I just wear some extra baggy, over sized clothing and it's amazing how many people remark on how it looks like you've lost weight.  It's a real pick me up. 

Many dancers use belts, body suits and girdles.  Anything to help get that appealing shape.  It's a small price to pay.  One dancer friend of mine was told by their instructor, "Run, don't walk, run and buy yourself a girdle!"  Audiences only see the end result.  However, there is countless hours of practice, dedication and commitment that go on behind the scenes.  It truly is a lifestyle that requires discipline and diligence.  Personally, I would prefer to be a bit on the husky side.  But if dancing is a genuine priority in my life, then I need to make the sacrifices and do what is best.  So I'm off to Wal Mart this weekend to invest in a waist trimming belt to help melt my midsection.   

Recently, I grew a beard.  Looks nice.  As for the top of my head, I have a receding hairline and I am balding, so I shave it clean.  However, I tell everyone that I have a sagging scalp and that the hair on my head ended up on my chin.   Likewise, the same can be said of my belly.  My gut is actually a beautiful set of pectorals in development.  Everything just needs a little lift!

On Tuesday this week I was telling my co-worker, the same one who filmed the Three Amigos video, about this week's blog as we were leaving work, heading to our cars in the parking lot.  We shared a laugh over the "pregnant pencil" comment.  I got in my car, pulled out of the parking lot and got to the signal light where I stopped and sneezed.  I felt a pop around my waist and when I looked down I noticed my belt had broke.  Completely busted, snapped right at the buckle.  Poor thing couldn't handle the pressure anymore.  The force of the sneeze caused my belly to expand and that belt didn't stand a chance.  Now that's a power gut for you!  Guess I have some work to do!

Challenge #2:  Posture   

"Stand up straight Michael", "Stand up tall Michael", "Shoulders back Michael", "Lift your collar bone Michael", "Stand proud Michael.  Let it radiate from within", "Have Pride", "Earn Respect with your body language", "Puff your chest up and out Michael.  Besides, it makes your waist look smaller", "Women, and some men, love a tall man with dominating presence Michael",  "Don't slouch Michael",  "Stop stooping Michael",  "You're learning forward on the turns Michael.  You're losing your balance.  You look like a Weeble Wobble", "Dance from your core Michael", "Center yourself Michael", "Poise", "Rise to the occasion", "Lift", "Let your body speak", "Exude Confidence", "Stand Proud", "Make your presence known",  "Stand your ground",  "Take the fort!",  "CCCHHHHAAAAARRRRRRGGGGGGGEEEEEEEE!",  " To infinity and beyond!"  On and on it goes!

It's true, my posture needs improvement.  I don't deny it.  I understand all these things are said in good intent and for my benefit, in hopes that I will become a better dancer.  Posture is not one of my family's strengths.  My grandmother had a hunched back.  It's not easy being head and shoulders over the rest.  I am always on the look out for tall women dancers.  I try to recruit them to our dance group.  It never fails that they put the 6'2" wedo with a 4' tall partner.  Why does that always happen?  Do you see the dilemma?  Then its, "Just bend your knees Michael.  Not your back"  Really, that's all there is to it?  From my calculations I need to bend those knees 2 feet and 2 inches just to get to eye level with my partner.  Try sustaining that while whipping around the dance floor and tapping your feet like mad.  Chop me off at the knees better!

At times I am tempted to just pick up my dance partner and carry them along as I travel.  Of course, lacking any upper body strength, this presents yet another challenge.  And it doesn't help if my partner is as deep and wide as she is tall.  Anyone feel boxed in?  I'm completely joking here but my height does present a challenge to perfect posture.  I did some investigating and according to Wikipedia's Average Height Around The World, the average height for a Mexican male ranges between 5 feet 4 inches to 5 feet 5 1/2 inches.  The average height for a Mexican female ranges between 4 feet 11 1/2 inches to 5 feet 1 inch.  The same study states that the average height for a U.S. male is between 5 feet 7 inches and 5 feet 10 1/2 inches.  For a U.S. woman the average height range is 5 feet 2 1/2 inches to 5 feet 5 inches.  So regardless whether it's the average height for men or women, Mexican or American, I top them all at 6 feet 2 inches!

There was one concerned dance group parent who went online and found posture enhancing devices for dancers and recommended I invest in one.  That's when I knew my posture must be absolutely deplorable.  After 36 years of poor posture and looking down upon the world, there must be some muscular skeletal deterioration going on back there.  To add to the situation, my work has less than ideal ergonomic conditions which consistently reinforce poor posture.  Certainly all the stretching and conditioning has helped some, especially with flexibility.  At this point, however, a posture strap contraption or even a corset is probably the best option.  Any other ideas out there?  Does anyone know if there is such a thing as rolled shoulder syndrome or posturitis?  Must be, because whatever you call it, I've got it.

On Wednesday this week I went out to eat with a friend.  Echoing the words of my father throughout my my childhood, my friend (who shall remain nameless) says, "Michael!  Sit up straight!"  Then he proceeds to tell me that I look like an inmate eating.  An inmate?  Yes, an inmate hunched over my plate.  And not just any inmate, a pregnant inmate!  All that was missing was the yellow jump suit.  Priceless.

Challenge #3:  Focus!

As a child I was very hyper active.  I was zipping all over the place.  In Kindergarten we learned our A, B, C's.  I remember that I had a lot of trouble focusing and learning.  It took too long.  My attention span was short.  I felt I only needed to know letters A and Z, the first and the last.  Never mind everything in between.  The teacher would conduct her tests to evaluate how our progress in learning and developing.  The alphabet was a part of them.  I remember those tests.  I just wanted to start at A and selectively choose other letters along the was to get to Z as quickly as possible.  This concerned the teacher and she notified my mother that I wasn't learning my alphabet and there was the potential of holding me back for another year.  What a way to start out life, flunking kindergarten.

My mother quickly took the matter into her own hands and purchased a Disney record for children that had the A, B, C song on it.  Obviously she knew me well and that I had a musical gene inside.  I learned my alphabet in no time at all and the teacher marvelled at my sudden progress.  Music was the key to my success.  I passed kindergarten and proceeded with my education.  My mother enrolled me into a special after school music appreciation and development class to aid in my educational success.  I still own that original record to this day!

A year or two later, we started learning math.  Right after the math portion of the class, we had play time.  Once we finished our math assignment, we turned it in and got to go and play.  The only thing that stood between me and play time was that assignment.  The assignment became the problem.  The solution, get it done as quickly as possible.  The result, do the first, third, eighth, ninth and tenth math questions and skip over the rest.  All done!  That was easy.  Time to play.  Well again, my mother caught wind of the situation and addressed it.  Apparently there is no records with math songs because when I got home I had to do all the work I skipped in class, plus a little extra.  I took the completed assignment to the teacher the next day and the teacher thanked me.  I passed another year!

The summer before the third grade the school had a summer reading drive.  Students were encouraged to read books to their parents.  That summer I read 50 books!  Actually, I read only a couple.  Who wants to read?  It was much more fun to create my own stories that went along with the pictures.  I just pretended I was reading and made up the story line.  Often times those stories were short and to the point.  What was going on.  I will tell you, I have A.D.D. - Attention Deficit Disorder.  Not only was I hyper active physically, my mind raced all the time.  My mind still goes a hundred miles an hour.  I will be on one thought and before anyone around me gets caught up with me, I'm already onto four or five thoughts down the road.  Combine an over active mind with obsessive thinking, you've got an issue!  Welcome to my world.  Don't let my calm demeanor deceive you!  Perhaps it is evident in my writing.  Have you noticed?

The only reason that I believe that I have had so much success with the dancing is because it involves music.  Granted the instruction has been superb and it's a lot of fun too, which helps.  I am definitely a product of the "Now Generation" which at times makes me impatient.  I think it gets frustrating for people sometimes.  At dance practice, I ask a lot of questions.  Questions are good, they show eagerness to learn and do it right.  The problem with me is that I'll be asking another question before I even get the answer to the last one.  Often I have to be stopped and my attention redirected.  I am aware of my situation and I try to control it to the best of my ability.  Focus, focus, focus!  That's what it takes.  People that know me, when they see me in a rehearsal, have commented that I get intensively focused.  At times, I get overly focused and need snapping out of it.  I can quickly go from being distracted and all over the place to extremely focused and shutting out everything and everyone around me, lost in the space of my own head.  Thank God I have a teacher that understands and is patient.

My A.D.D. had lead to challenges in performances.  If I don't have the time to center myself, I can fall apart.  Chaos in the dressing room is common.  Being rushed to change costumes and get back out on the stage, at times, is a challenge.  I am determined to overcome!  Reducing potential distractions is one way I deal with this.  Even so, I notice that I tend to perform my best at the beginning of a performance.  The trend is start out strong and struggle to end strong.  In my blog about "What to Wear?" I told you I bought a sombrero down on Olvera Street.  They had one that fit my big head.  Remember that?  Anyway, with the weight gain my head must have gotten bigger!  Now I have a Jiffy Pop head!  The hat still fits but now it tends to start sliding off while dancing.  This is a big distraction for me.  When this happens during the performance, my dancing starts to falter.  I focus more on the hat and less on the dance.  Always a challenge!  I've looked into better hats.  One that won't be a distraction on stage.  They cost a small fortune.  Custom sombreros can cost upwards of $500.00.  But I take the dancing seriously enough that it will be worth the investment just not to have the distraction any more.

There you have it - Three Challenges!  There are others too.  Perhaps, we will visit some more of them sometime in the future.  Let me clarify that just because challenges exist, they don't disqualify me or make me an inferior dancer.  Everyone faces challenges in whatever they do.  These are just a few of mine.  Hope they made you laugh!  There is nothing wrong with taking an honest assessment of ourselves and realizing what challenges we face.  I know there is a very optimistic and inspiring mindset out there that tends to imply that if we don't acknowledge or admit challenges, they don't exist and reality is only our perception and what we give credit to, not an absolute or factual.  Facebook is inundated with such statements.  Well, I keep it a bit more real than that.  I would much rather be honest and look at the facts and be truthful in my awareness of myself and the challenges I face so that I can overcome and improve upon them rather than disillusion and deceive myself by denying the presence of them, ending up going no where.  This wedo may wobble, but I wont fall down!

In closing, I want to say that I am learning more about this site,, and the features they offer.  As a result, I have been correcting, updating and editing my previous posts.  On some of the older ones, the links were not working any longer and the photos disappeared.  I've been doing maintenance to keep them up.  I'm also going back and adding new photos.  However, whenever I update or make a change, Blogger sends out notices of a new and updated posts.  I apologize for any excess notice communications and for any inconvenience.  New posts will be published on Sundays.  There were some general glitches on the page layout overall as well.  I have modified and corrected these problems.  If there's anything I've missed, please advise me.  Thank you.

To wet your appetite, here are some ideas for future blog postings that I'm working on:

"The Tale of Two China's" (Pronounced Cheeeeeenahs)
"A Folklorico Competition" or "So You Think You Can Dance!"
"Working The Workshop"
"The Language of Folklorico" or "The Lingo!" or "A Wedo's Interpretation"
"What is Folk Dancing?"
"Ballet Vs. Danza"
"History of Folklorico"
"Dancer's of Drama" or "The Double D's" or "Types of Dancers"
"Man Up!" or "You Go Girl!"
"Tiffs and Tantrums"  or  "These boots were made for dancing (and walking)"
"Viva Mariachi"
"Visions For Folklorico"  or  "I have a dream" or "Ideas"
"Time With Images" or "Images of Mexico"
"Sol de Mexico"  or  "Fun with Sol"  or  "Soul to Sol"  or "Got Sol?" or "Durango Sol"
"Darling Deb"
"Unbelievable Opportunities" or "Expectations Exceeded" or "Dancing with the Stars"
"Who's That Wedo?" or "What Are You Lookin' At?"
"Herencia Mexicana"  or  "Why Herencia" or "I believe in Herencia"
"A Wedo's Take" or "In My Opinion"
"The Day Of The Dead" or "Traditions" or "The Day Of The Dead & Other Traditions"
"Why A Blog"
"Thank You" or "Recognitions" or "Acknowledgements"

Be sure to check back!

Contact Information for "The Big Wedo":

Google E-mail:
Facebook: One Big Wedo (Guero)
Twitter: Michael Smith @onebigwedo

Contact Information for Ballet Folklorico de Herencia Mexicana:

Richard Solorzano, Director: (909) 201-1957
Facebook: Herencia Mexicana

Note: Looking for your own adventure or journey? Herencia is a great place to find one!  Folklorico lessons and performances are both available. Herencia Mexicana performs for private & public events of all kinds. Book your event today! Herencia Mexicana welcomes new students. No previous folklorico or dance experience required.  All are welcome.

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