It started as many adventures do at a certain point in life: with a Bucket List.
“I promised myself that one day I’d spend a week as a showgirl in Las Vegas,” says TSB author, motivational speaker, dressage coach, and former Olympic dressage alternate Jane Savoie. “I’d kick my legs like nobody’s business and wear a plume on my head instead of a helmet.”
A wild, pie-in-the-sky, pipe dream of a Bucket List item for some, perhaps, but Jane has developed a vast network of contacts via her popular Dressage Mentor site (www.DressageMentor.com). And one such connection offered her the chance of a lifetime: to don that fairytale plume and kick her heels up (instead of insisting they stay down) at Caesars Palace, a glittering resort known for hosting some of the biggest names in entertainment.
“And on top of that,” says Jane, “someone one-upped my showgirl goals and planted an even crazier idea in my head—I should (of course!) be on Dancing with the Stars! I don’t know whether it made things better or worse that I again knew someone through my Dressage Mentor network who made this new ‘goal’ actually remotely possible!
“It was about this time—between daydreaming about Caesars Palace and imagining myself on Prime Time Television—that I figured I better learn how to dance.”
So about a year ago, Jane, long a fan of ballet and Broadway, started taking ballroom dancing lessons at the Fred Astaire Dance Studio in West Palm Beach, Florida (www.fredastairewpb.com). And it just so happened that “Dance Instructor Clifton” was the perfect fit for a Dressage-Queen-cum-Dancing-Queen like Jane.
“I became totally obsessed with dancing, and found myself in complete wonder over the parallels I was discovering between dressage and ballroom,” admits Jane. “Not only was it fun to do both, but one activity made me better at the other: Dancing improved my riding, and my history of riding toward very specific goals made applying myself to not just learning dance steps, but to becoming a REALLY GOOD DANCER, feasible.”
Well, hello Tom Bergeron! And viva Las Vegas!
“When you spend 40 years perfecting a 20-meter circle, focusing on the minutia that makes up serious dancing seems only natural,” Jane explains. “Clifton will tell me that when you are getting ready to take a step in the waltz, for example, your power isn’t coming from the pointing leg—as most people might think—but from the standing leg. This is exactly like knowing when and how you can influence the power of the horse: not in the leg when it is in stride, but in the leg on the ground just before it takes a stride.
“The precision required in ballroom dancing, the layers of knowledge and strength, how you engage which muscle to go from one position to another, it is intricate, just like dressage.
“Plus, when dancing, you are working with a partner, just like when you are riding—it is a partnership that demands contact and connection. Your contact with your dance partner can start too strong, just like with a horse—then it might be inconsistent. The goal, as in dressage, is to establish and maintain a light, alive, consistent contact/connection so you and your partner look and move like a single unit. Again, this the same ideal we aim for in the dressage arena: whether we are floating as one across a dance floor or an indoor, ultimately, we are looking for a delicacy of sensation, an established sensitivity to the needs and movements of another, and communication that is so subtle it is almost intuitive.”
So what’s in store for Jane Savoie, the ballroom dancer? She’s preparing for a competition the first week of December and a showcase performance in February. The latter is a recital-type event that gives her a chance to channel her inner diva in a sizzling hot number called “Be Italian” from the musical Nine.
“Dressage has given me good core strength and the ability to hold a frame on the dance floor, but you might say I have an FEI topline and Training Level feet!” says Jane with a laugh. “I have some serious work to do to get ready, especially after a summer where a number of injuries interfered with my conditioning.”
And what about riding? Unfortunately, Jane’s injuries prevented her from riding her Grand Prix horse Menno PM (“Moshi”), and so he was out of normal work for much of the summer.
“Our winter project is muscle-building and getting back into condition together,” says Jane, unsurprisingly still smiling. Jane always seems to ascend that much higher when faced with an additional challenge, so we think it is a pretty safe bet that she (and Moshi) will come back in better shape than ever.
And will we see Jane at Caesars Palace someday soon?
We’re definitely willing to put money on it.
Jane Savoie is the author of many bestselling books and DVDs. Check out these popular titles available from the TSB online bookstore where shipping in the US is always FREE: