Lovable Stefanie, “Biggest Girl in the Ballroom”

Last year, Stefanie walked away the Editor’s Choice winner and a Top 10 finalist in our Top Dance Blog contest for her blog, “Biggest Girl in the Ballroom.”

I chose Stefanie for my pick because, despite my lack of ballroom dancing experience, I always find her insights as a student, performer, and human being valuable and completely relatable.

Stefanie and partner, IvanShe shares anecdotes about her partner and teachers, and frequently shares technique guidance they’ve given to her. Her stories about her Bulgarian pro instructor are funny and endearing. The blog includes information about pro/am competitive ballroom that can be difficult to find elsewhere: pointers on first competitions, buying shoes, choosing an instructor and more.

Writing openly about her journey to lose weight and to become the best dancer she can be, Stefanie has also built a community of support among other dancers, women, bloggers, and anyone working toward their goals.

Her most recent community-building effort is the Ballroom Village, a growing list of blogs about ballroom dancing. Stefanie says there are so few blogs with this focus, she wants to band together to connect and “play.” So, if you aren’t blogging about ballroom, Stefanie wants you to get going! If you already blog about ballroom, she wants you to join the village.

If you aren’t familiar with Stefanie’s blog yet, you should at least get to know to her.

Theme song

Watch this video on YouTube.

Honestly, the video above may tell all you need to know about lovable Stefanie. However, she stopped lip-syncing and gliding around the ballroom for a moment to answer some of my questions, too, and her answers are worth the read!

On Dance Blogging:

Dance Advantage: When someone asks you what your blog is all about, how do you answer?

Stefanie: My blog is about a real person doing competitive pro/am ballroom dancing, and all the struggles, triumphs, and insights that happen during the process.

When it comes down to it, the blog is where I basically share me, my journey, my experiences in life from the gym to the ballet barre to ballroom lessons to competitions.

My tagline is “Ballroom dancing, Weight loss, Inspiration, Community,” and I think that pretty much sums it up!

DA: Please share with readers what 2 things have most helped you develop an audience for your blog.

S: One, being authentic and interacting with others on my blog, via their blogs, and via other social media outlets.

Two, sticking with it. People find me, I don’t even know how most of the time. I keep writing and tagging posts and the more I write, the more tags I put on the blog, the easier it is to find me on a web search.

DA: Sticking with it, is a BIG one! Speaking of, what’s the hardest thing about keeping a blog active?

S: Creating the time to write. My blog posts are way, way longer than the average post so they take a big chunk of time to complete. I usually have so much to say and life moves at a fast past so keeping up with all I experience in a week is quite a challenge, but so worth it!

DA: What’s so great about blogging about dance, anyway?

S: Blogging about my dancing has been another way I have found, reclaimed, strengthened and developed my voice. I bottled up so much when I was dancing as a kid with self-esteem and body image issues, but now as an adult, the blog is a place where I can process all I experience while dancing.

I’m just doing what I’m doing and people seem to connect with my experience. So, the best part is that not only am I working out my own stuff, but I’ve found a community of like-minded people, other dancers, others who inspire me and who are inspired by me.

DA: What experience in your dance study best prepared you for your dance blogging experience?

S: Honestly, there was no preparation for this! I just started writing thinking that my mom and maybe, if I was lucky, my best friend would read the blog, while knowing that my husband had already fulfilled his quota listening to me blather on about dance.

All I do is share from my heart. That’s all the preparation needed. Well, that and a (somewhat) firm grasp on the English language.

It is kind of like dancing – you need a base of technique, but what moves people is the heart you put in it.

On Dancing:

Stefanie "Biggest Girl in the Ballroom"DA: You’ve talked candidly about weight and body issues. Have you ever felt judged by fellow students or even teachers when you begin a new class?

S: I am blessed that in the environments I dance in now, I am encouraged and supported.

As a kid, I certainly felt more judged, and the honest truth is we are all judged, and judging others, and judging ourselves, all the time. Of course I am being judged when I compete. In fact, I am deliberately putting myself in a position to be judged.

More than anything, I think it has to do with the attitude I bring to the situation. Over the years I have gained a modicum of confidence in myself and my dancing, which at some moments can be fragile, but most times I trust in it and figure that those who have the eyes to see, will see.

Those who can’t see beyond their judgments of my outward appearance, well, I have no power over that, so I don’t put too much thought into it. It is a larger problem the judgment I place on myself, when I reject myself for not being as I think I should be or wish I were.

I do not actively seek to please others but rather focus on fully expressing myself as best as I am able, which means dancing as I am. Dance, being a subjective art form, will always involve a level of judgment – that is part of the game I have chosen to play. So I accept that and seek to please myself, and my instructor/pro dance partner. As long as we feel we do our best, feel the dance, tune into the connection, and stay present in the moment, I am satisfied with that.

On Perceived Shortcomings:

DA: Amen. If you had only a few lines to convince someone afraid of beginning a dance class because of their perceived shortcomings, what would you write?

S: I would say if you have a desire in your heart to dance (or anything else in this world for that matter) then do it! Life is a journey and we all have to start somewhere. Dancing, especially, is a process of self-discovery, experimentation, and a practice.

I think it is incredibly sad when we limit ourselves or deny ourselves experiences due to perceived shortcomings and it is really a matter of choosing to engage in life, to say yes and risk it, or to say no, and slowly waste away. Courage is not the absence of fear but rather getting on with it anyway in the face of it. And that is where the growth is, outside our comfort zone.

It is amazing what one choice to step out into a new experience like taking a dance class for the first time can blossom into. It is worth the 45 minutes of courage. The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.

On Being Awesome:

DA: What’s the most wonderful, exciting, or inspiring thing a reader of your blog has ever said to you?

S: My readers inspire me all the time. It is difficult to pinpoint one particular example because I have been blessed and surprised by the many kind words sent to me.

However, I was most surprised to receive a letter in the mail once. The author mentioned things she admired about me – that in her eyes I am a warrior, an athlete, someone who could write a book or speak about my experiences, that I have mental strength and determination. That she took the time to write that letter this day and age is so incredibly special.

Even so, I value and appreciate all the interactions I have been fortunate enough to experience along the way, and sometimes the encouragement is what gets me through. Just to know people care, that they are even rooting for me as I take on my life, like no kidding, is a gift beyond measure.

This article wouldn’t be complete without sharing Stefanie’s fantastic dancing with you.

Check out her sexy, showcase Cha Cha!

Showcase cha cha

Watch this video on YouTube.

If that doesn’t inspire you to leave your comfort zone, nothing will!

Congratulations Top Dance Blogs of 2013!

Nearly 3000 votes were counted!

Here are the Top 20 Dance Blogs of 2013:

Top Dance Blog 2013


Top Dance Blog 2013 – 26% of votes

2. The T.D.O.T. Blog

3. Dancing With Stefanie

4. Rince go Bragh

5. Odette’s Ordeal

6. On My Toes

7. Maria’s Movers

8. Jade Belly Dance

9. Albany Dance Fitness + Tamara Bally Dance (tie)

11. Dance Commentary

12. 2Pointe Social

13. Ballet Shoes & Bobby Pins

14. Art Intercepts

15. The Healthy Dancer

16. My Son Can Dance AND

Life of a Freelance Dancer

18. Inside Ballet Technique

19. The Dance Training Project

20. Adult Ballerina Project


Category Winners


Recreational Dancer

Rince go Bragh

46% of votes

Industry Support

The T.D.O.T. Blog

59% of votes

Teacher Talk

The Unlikely Salsero: Don Baarns

66% of votes

Speaking Dance

Dance Commentary by Heather Desaulniers

56% of votes

Editor’s Choice

This is always a VERY difficult choice.

This year, I led with my heart. DancingWithStefanie.com is positive and uplifting. Stefanie is enthusiastic and dedicated to dance. And, as she blogs about her adventures as the “Biggest Girl In The Ballroom,” her readers learn and share and celebrate dance right along with Stefanie.

I think this photo says it all!

DancingWithStefanie.com - Biggest Girl In The Ballroom

Thanks again to ALL who entered.

I’m happy that such a variety of dance forms and dance blogs were represented this year.

If you haven’t already, visit the list of blogs who participated. I have so many favorites in this list, including those who did not make the Top 20!

Everyone in the contest is a winner just for entering. It takes just as much bravery to blog as it does to enter. These folks put themselves out there every time they hit publish, and they do it in the name of dance!

Give them a cheer with a comment below!


Time To Vote! Top Dance Blogs 2013

It’s time, ladies and gents!

You choose the Top Dance Blogs of 2013

Dance Advantage Top Dance Blog Contest 2013

Here are the blogs that entered with a blog post about the contest:

2Pointe Social
Adult Ballerina Project
Albany Dance Fitness
Art Intercepts
Ballet Shoes & Bobby Pins
Ballet Class With Leigh
Dance Commentary
Dancing With Stefanie
Inside Ballet Technique
Jade Belly Dance
Life of a Freelance Dancer
Maria’s Movers
My Son Can Dance
Odette’s Ordeal
On My Toes
Rince go Bragh
Tamara Bally Dance
The 109th Bead
The Dance Buzz
The Dance Training Project
The Healthy Dancer
The T.D.O.T. Blog
The Unlikely Salsero
Tippy Toes Ballet Blog
Your Daily Dance

Each did such a great job and received fabulous endorsements from their dedicated readers.

Now it’s time to vote for your favorites! [Read more…]

Enter Your Site In Our Top Dance Blog Contest

Dance bloggers, are you ready to start the year with a bang?

Participate in our contest and let your readers choose you as a 2013 Top Dance Blog.

Dance Advantage Top Dance Blog Contest 2013

Round ONE — Enter

Step 1 — Decide which of the following categories is the best fit for your blog:

  • Career Dancer (Pre-Pro/College/Professional) – Pros or pros-to-be discuss the dance lifestyle
  • Recreational Dancer – Teen or adult dancers discuss classes, making time for dance, and more
  • Dance Organization/Artist – Companies or choreographers talk performance, process, production
  • Teacher Talk (Education/Training/Instruction) – Dance class topics; teacher to teacher OR teacher to dancer
  • Speaking Dance (Dance News/Review/Criticism/Audience Education) – Covering the dance world for audiences
  • Industry Support – Business to business, marketing for dancers, and other dance industry shop talk.

Categorizing is never perfect but do your best to choose just ONE of these categories.

Editor’s Choice

From our participants, Nichelle will choose a blog she feels is noteworthy or up and coming, regardless of comment count or readership. This blog will receive the Editor’s Choice award.

Step 2: Publish a blog post about the contest.

In YOUR post, ask readers to show support of YOUR blog with a comment on YOUR post.

You have until Tuesday, January 22 to round up as much comment support as you can.

Step 3: Enter with a comment on this blog post (the one you’re reading now) and tell me…

  1. Which category you are entering under.
  2. The permalink to your blog post about the contest.

Round TWO — Finalists

As soon as you publish your post, start promoting it and encouraging comments!

Though any blog can enter, only blogs with the most comments on their post will be finalists in the voting round.

Comment support will be compared in all participating blogs. The 20 blogs with the most support will qualify as finalists and compete for the Top Dance Blog title.

The blogs that receive the most comments will also be eligible to compete for the top spot in their category.

Round THREE — Voting

On January 24, I will open the Top 20 and category finalist polls.

Even if your blog does not make it to this final round, you will be given special mention as a participant in the contest with a link to your blog.

From Jan 24 – 31, if you are a finalist, send as many people as possible to vote in our polls and secure your ranking.

Voting ends at 10pm EST on Jan 31st. Readers’ votes will be tallied and the results posted on February 2.

Dance Advantage Top Dance Blog Contest 2013

Dos and Don’ts (The Rules)

DO add our contest logo. (Right-click/Save-as the image above)

DO link back to this post. Here’s the URL: http://www.danceadvantage.net/2013/01/07/be-a-top-dance-blog

DO make it clear to readers that they should show their support by commenting on YOUR post about the competition (not mine).

DO encourage your commenters to share why they read your blog, what makes it special, or which are their favorite posts.

DO monitor and delete any duplicate comments from your readers.

DON’T be sneaky about comments. Please, do not offer incentives to commenters or pad your comment count in any way. Your blog will be disqualified.

DON’T mention competing blogs (positively or negatively) in your entry. Keep your post about you.

What do I get if I’m a Top Dance Blog winner?
  1. Engagement: Winner or not, every blog is noted as a participant and each is given an opportunity to engage their readers.

  2. A Badge: Winners receive a badge to display on their site. Those in the Top 20 receive a badge with their rank. Those with the most votes in their category receive a badge also.

  3. A Feature: Category winners will be highlighted together in an article on Dance Advantage. The Top 20 winner will receive their own dedicated feature.

Top Dance Blog #1 category_org

Got Questions?

A list of frequently asked questions can be found here.

If you have questions that aren’t answered on that page, feel free to comment below.

Enforced Arch: Dancers As A Force For Change

You’ve met Carla and read more about her blog, Ballet To The People which was chosen as THE Top Dance Blog of 2011.

Readers vote in our contest and the race for that top slot was very, very close. Less than 20 votes separated the top two, and both blew the rest of the competition out of the water with over 700 votes each!

Generous spirit that she is, Carla offered to share her spotlight article with Enforced Arch, a blog and project spearheaded by James Koroni. But when each of these unique Top Dance Blogs deserves its own feature, why make ’em share the spotlight?

IMAGE James Koroni - Photo by Joshua Katcher IMAGE

James Koroni - Photo by Joshua Katcher

So without further ado, James Koroni talks about the unique community he launched in November of 2010.

DA: What is Enforced Arch?

James Koroni: Enforced Arch is a dance and performance community of intelligent communicators who use their unique talents to bring life to environmental and social issues.

Each member of the community takes it upon themselves to stand against current injustices. They utilize transmedia and performance art to shed light on crucial issues. Its members are called compassionate ‘Movers.’ This title means that they focus much of their creative energy producing effective and unique ways to express their vision, gain community support and create awareness for various topics.

DA: Tell us a little about your dance background.

JK: I began dancing at The Edge in Los Angeles. My mentors there were Kitty McnNamee, Ryan Heffington, Erica Sobel, Bobby Newberry, Dante, Anes, Tovaris Williams, Bill Prudich, Denise Leitner Terri Best and Frank Williams.

I started at Santa Monica College where I studied ballet with Cati Jean and Charlotte Richards. Then, later I moved to New York to train at Broadway Dance Center. My mentors were, and still are, Luam, Sheryl Murakami, Derek Mitchell, Shaik, Brice Mousset, La Jon, Dana Foglia, Josh Bergasse, David Marquez, Shelia Barker, Joshua Pelatzky and Ginger Cox.

I have always been a performing artist. Prior to my adult life I was a singer. I was president of the High School choir and in a band in High School named Sway, at which point I had never taken a dance class. This was absurd, considering I couldn’t keep still when music was playing!

I began dancing at 19 only after I auditioned for Disney and they asked me to do a double pirouette. I thought, what’s that?


I obviously didn’t get the call back and immediately I could be found in Frank Williams’ Jazz class three times a week and in ballet classes five times a week for the next 6 months until I was ready to progress. I just couldn’t stop and here I am now.

DA: Why did you create the Enforced Arch community?

JK: All my life I have had a strong desire to sing, dance and entertain everyone. All of which was an attempt to brighten someones day.

As an adult I went through two devastating losses – each breathing new life into my love of performance art – – the death of my brother and later the loss of my father who both died of cancer.

It wasn’t until I felt the severity of my fathers illness that I knew I needed to change my own life. After he died I sought the truth behind the causes for cancer and I found an abundance of resources, including The China Study, linking many causes of cancer to our diets. This sent me on a a course of research that changed my life forever. The first step I took was adopting a vegan lifestyle, not only for my brother & father, but also for my health, the environment, and all of the animals suffering for our dinners. This discovery has filled my life with great intention.

Every moment following that day has contained yet another opportunity to inspire change through my lifestyle and as a dancer/choreographer. Dancers have a unique ability to speak to others and I value those who use this talent to create awareness.

I felt that there must be others out there with similar stories and interests that could use a supportive community of like-minded individuals. This is why I created the Enforced Arch community. It lives as a platform for compassionate performing artists to express themselves and promote their cause.

DA: What are some ways dancers are using their position as artists to make a difference?

JK: I could go through them all one by one because I have found a profound group of compassionate ‘Movers’ but I’ll try to mention just a few.

In 2008 Nicole Johnson, a dancer and choreographer, launched her production company, Javanna Productions, and presented an effort entitled M.O.V.E which stands for Motivation Opportunity Vision Entertainment. Javanna Productions’ M.O.V.E. is raising funds and awareness for the need for education in rural parts of the world. Nicole is working with the Bernie Krisher Rural School Project Foundation to build a school in rural Cambodia within the next two years. Since 2008 M.O.V.E. has raised money and awareness for organizations like Autism Speaks, QSAC, Children of Uganda, Church Of Christ in Ghana and the Fivers Foundation.

Tonya Kay owns two green businesses, Happy Mandible, Inc and Solid Hollywood, LLC, and believes that creating the world you wish to live in starts with the individual, but does not stop there. Sshe is a philanthropist, generously donating to the Performing Animal Welfare Society, NORML, The Serengeti Foundation, The Tree People, The Witch’s Voice, Center for Biological Diversity and reforestation projects via CarbonFund.org. She has traveled 18 countries to volunteer her physical body to the preservation and protection of endangered species including the Asian elephant at Thailand’s Elephant Nature Park and the sea turtle at Costa Rica’s PETROMA.

Lastly, I’d like to mention Tracey Katof who has recently become the PR Director of Enforced Arch. Tracey has contributed choreography and performed for both stage and video productions. She has collaborated as a dancer and choreographer with HBO award-winning comedian Rebecca Drysdale for her video contribution to the It Gets Better Project. She contributed her choreography to an Anti-Fur performance piece that was featured in Paris at La Bellevilloise, at Brooklyn’s 3rd Ward Art gallery, and in a fashion magazine called PINNACLE Reinvent the Icon. Tracey is also the choreographer for the upcoming Off-Broadway production of Lemon Meringue which tells the story of one mans recovery from Childhood sexual abuse.

As you can see these individuals all deserve their own spotlight and this is why Enforced Arch lives and breathes. I admire, am inspired, and look forward to sharing the efforts of these compassionate artists day after day!

DA: How do dance and ethics align?

JK: Dance is a physically, mentally and emotionally demanding lifestyle. It seems overwhelming at times giving way to cultural disconnect. Without occasionally tapping into a larger reality we allow those in power to justify things that we as individuals would not be okay with. They thrive on our apathy which is why it is extremely important to be aware and become an effective catalyst for action.

In order to do this we need to ask ourselves: Is this society ideal for every member contributing and am I in a position to help those who suffer? Where does my food come from and at what cost? What are my clothes made of and who made them? With this knowledge you will learn what part you play and discover what powers you have to give back respectively.

Dancers will find great value for their talent, technique and tools when they understand the power it holds. Dance is an energy, a life force, a discipline and a focus. When we channel this, we turn heads and call attention to specific ideas.

In a world of social media distractions there is very little that will cause a rumble in our society but dance compels others to take action because dance is action.

DA: So dance can communicate in ways that other artistic forms cannot?

JK: Yes! Rather than people being lectured, dance communicates raw emotions and allows those witnessing its power to have a visceral experience – specifically with ambassadors to the individuals to which its content is committed.

Dance is a universal language that transcends words and becomes a form of expression available to everyone present to experience it’s grandeur.

IMAGE: Image of community members in front of the tree -- Photo by Joshua Katcher IMAGE

Photo by Joshua Katcher

DA: How can dancers help animals?

JK: There are a lot of terrible things happening in the world and, while it might seem overwhelming to solve these problems, one effective way to help is to be aware of what we eat and what we wear on our bodies.

Many of the Enforced Arch members have adopted a plant based diet and vegan lifestyle to avoid cruelty, improve their health and reduce green house gas emissions.

Animals that our society have deemed to be food or clothing are 99% of the time coming from factory farms. With a growing demand for animal commodities we have institutionalized agriculture with no consideration for any sentient beings who have a will to live or at what carbon footprint this kind of farming creates.

Agriculture is the basis for human development but our path towards a more intensive farming system has run rampant in developed nations. It’s growth has lead to increased risk of global warming to which the United Nations has called for a worldwide shift to a plant based diet. Their findings state that livestock is the leading cause of green house gas emissions which inevitably causes global warming. In fact if you combined every form of transportation into one, livestock would still be the single greatest cause of global warming.

IMAGE Please Don't Touch -- Break Free From Fur || ARTIST CREDIT: Julie Gueraseva IMAGE

"Please, Don't Touch" ARTIST CREDIT: Julie Gueraseva

In addition, many of Enforced Arch’s ‘Movers’ avoid purchasing animal textiles such as leather or fur. On average it takes 100 chinchillas to make one fur coat.

It’s remarkable to see people still purchasing it with so many warm and cruelty free alternatives available to us.

An example of the Enforced Arch community efforts is its performance piece called Please, Don’t Touch which depicts the unfortunate lives of animals caught up in the fur trade.

When it was invited to be performed in Paris during Fashion week of Fall 2011, I rejoiced in the fact that so much time and effort was finally beginning to pay off.


PLEASE, DON'T TOUCH by James Koroni

Watch this video on YouTube.

To make these cruelty-free alternatives more accessible for compassionate ‘Movers’  the Enforced Arch community has created a resource for dancers who wish to avoid animal textiles and seek plant based nutrition. These resource pages can be found on the Enforced Arch website under the titles: Fuel and Essentials.

DA: At Enforced Arch, artists can submit video and events to be featured. What are some other ways dancers or dance-makers can get involved (online or off)?

JK: Being involved often requires understanding and confronting complex issues that many people often find overwhelming or upsetting. We’re aware that Enforced Arch is not for everyone. It’s only for dancers who are prepared to channel concepts that require emotional security and strength of character. At the same time, dancers are capable, if only they had the right motivation.

We welcome involvement from writers, dancers, choreographers, video artists, costume designers, makeup artists, non-profit organizations, dance companies, etc. We encourage all professional, creative and ambitious artists, to step forward and introduce themselves to our community. Our creative team is inspired by its members and we support them as their media platform.

The one thing all of it’s members or ‘Movers’ have in common, is the belief that performance art has great potential to make change.

Contact us at EnforcedArch@gmail.com. Tell us about yourself, share your story.

If you regularly dancing to create awareness you might be asked to become a ‘Mover’ at which point you would keep us up to date on your upcoming projects and we’ll write about them.

We receive invitations from all over the U.S., and more recently around the world, asking for choreographers and dancers. When these opportunities arise we hold auditions or seek talent from within our community.


Enforced Arch

The possibilities are endless.

DA: Any final thoughts, James?

JK: Sometimes no words can speak the language of atrocity. Dancers are fluent in a dialect that is crucial to communicating emotional experiences that are necessary for making social change. Enforced Arch is dedicated to inspiring and supporting dancers that explore this talent.

Upcoming Performance!

Enforced Arch will present a two-night limited engagement April 6th & 7that Manhattan Movement & Arts Center where they will be presenting their latest work, ‘ALLIANCE’ Art & Activism. A collection of past and new works honoring the ‘ALLIANCE’ of art and activism, these performances mark the first presentation of works by creative directors, James Koroni and Tracey Katof. For ticket information visit http://www.enforcedarch.com/tickets/ or to interview James Koroni and Tracey Katof, please contact them at (323) 376-0050 or email them at EnforcedArch@gmail.com.