As a self-help author who writes books on positive thinking, interfaith and personal development, and other groundbreaking spiritual pursuits, Charlene Proctor has found new life and enthusiasm through dance.
It’s not really such a leap from her former career – with extensive experience in television and radio, Charlene is used to performing and enticing a rapt audience. And now, in her glorious gowns and deliberate dance steps, she is once again capturing crowds.
“Dance can be so very challenging,” says Charlene. “It takes a lot of years and time to set a goal, and whether that’s bronze, silver, gold, or social dancing, dance becomes your passion. At least, it is for me.”
What Charlene teaches her readers in countless books that have made it to the best seller lists, is how important it is to be fully present and full of joy for that thing you love to do. If you take that approach, everything falls in place at the right moment.
Dance is a sport as much as an art form, Charlene insists. “Dance comes from a deep place inside a person. It’s challenging to always let go and be able to express something that’s greater than yourself while still keeping a competitive focus,” she says.
Charlene Proctor grew up in Chicago, married and moved to Michigan, where she has lived for most of her adult life, currently in Bloomfield Hills, just minutes from the Fred Astaire studio.
Her sons were devoted athletes, so much of her parenting years were spent on soccer and football fields. As they grew, she returned to dance with her husband. She attended a dance competition and was “completely mesmerized with competitive dancing.” And that was it. “I jumped with two feet in, and I have never looked back,” she says, with relish.
Charlene practices six days of every week and has two partners – with our instructor, Viktor Tkachenko, and with Igor Kiselev, from Atlantic Ballroom in Baltimore. She dances international style with Igor and American smooth with Viktor.
When asked what her favorite mode of dance is, she can’t commit. “All of the dances are like our children,” she says. “They’re all endearing in some ways and I love them all so much, honestly, the only dance I probably would say out of the international, fox trot is my favorite. I love and appreciate all the dances so much. I wish I could keep up with all the styles.”
She’s competed more than 115 times, winning many titles and awards – top bronze, silver, gold, or top competitor at least 60 times. Last year, Viktor and Charlene won the smooth championship at the Fred Astaire Worlds. Also last year, at U.S.D.C., she was a finalist in three styles and won the rising star Latin.
There is so much to love about dance, says Charlene, not the least of which is the gorgeous attire. Over the years, she’s worked with many professional designers. At nearly six feet tall in her dance shoes with a long body, Charlene likes working with designers to create custom designs that fit her and her style perfectly.
“I love the aspect of custom design because everybody has different requirements,” she says. “I don’t like a lot of fussiness to the costumes. It has to have a certain cut and fit for me and over the years I have developed different preferences for fabric and skirt style. That part of the sport and the art is very glamorous, but to be able to perform properly, to really express yourself, the costuming is important; it is one of the most fun and unique things about our industry.”
“I get a lot of questions from people who start the process, maybe they’re not certain, or they find it really challenging,” she says. “One coach I’ve had for 7 years, Ray Rivers, always says that everything is simple and nothing is easy. I remind myself of that. Sometimes when the process gets overwhelming, and it seems like it’s too challenging, we have to remember that after many years of practice, the process of the dance journey is super important to remember.”
Says Charlene, “It’s not all about the winning even though most of us who compete, that IS part of the experience. We want to perform to our potential and perform with excellence because if you do that, the winning comes naturally and you don’t lose the joy in the process.”
“We always try to keep the best attitude that we can to make sure all the boxes are checked at the end of the day and we can still put on beautiful gowns on and go out and enjoy ourselves and be in the moment.”