Dancing Queen

Friday, June 19, 2009

In 2007 Patti decided she needed a hobby.  In November of that year she found that pastime—a new passion that would give her a life outside of horses but also improve her riding.  One of her students took her daughter to dance lessons, and Patti decided it was something she would like to try.  “I grew up with my mom watching Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire and those were the movies that we always watched, and I always wanted to take dance lessons,” she says.  “That was something I always wanted to do, but I was really more wrapped up in the horses.  As a kid I didn’t really have the discipline to do both.  Plus I was riding several horses a day.”

In time Patti learned that she was good at dancing and would enjoy trying her hand at competing.  “I wasn’t planning on competing when I started; I just wanted a hobby,” she said.  “But I did two national competitions this year.”  The Fred Astaire CCDC in Las Vegas was her first competition, and she won top female student out of 11,000 entries.  Next she did the Fred Astaire AAC in Chicago and won top female student overall and top female bronze student.  “Las Vegas worked out well because it was right at the end of the Florida season,” she says.  “I always take a week off then anyway and give the horses a week to rest.  So it just worked out.”

Patti keeps up her dance regiment in Florida and danced every day last winter.  “It’s helped my riding so much, the body work, the position and the core strength, and it’s more fun than Pilates and other things,” she says.  “It’s more like riding, because it’s using all of those muscles mentally in a more similar way to riding because you’re doing something totally different and having to function.  You’re not focusing on a particular exercise like in Pilates.  You have to be able to remember the steps, listen to your partner and still use your core all at the same time.”

In the summer she dances three times a week and practices every day for 45 minutes.  In Florida she attempts to dance a double (an hour and a half) every day.  “It’s harder to practice in Florida,” she says.  “At home I have a small studio set up in the basement where I can dance in front of the mirrors.”

Dancing is more of a workout than some might think.  “If we’re working on technique and practicing one particular movement you sweat, you work hard,” she says.  “I’ll feel more sore the next day if I’m dancing through stuff.  I know a lot of people who use it as an exercise program.  It’s a workout.  Some days it’s more like weight lifting and some days it’s more like cardio.”