Heartsoles Foundation | Deborah Holmes and Stefan Badea

Ballroom Chat: Episode #53August 18, 2021

Deborah Holmes and Stefan Badea sit down to discuss their non-profit foundation, the HeartSoles Foundation and its mission. The pair also explore how their pro-am dancing relationship blossomed into a friendship and business partnership, and how the dance community has come together to build a stronger and more supportive ballroom family.

The HeartSoles Foundation provides dance shoes, competitive attire and scholarships to dancers in impoverished communities. At time of recording, their goal is to raise $10,000 and collect 1,000 pairs of shoes to support the South African dance community.

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Episode Transcript

Our transcripts are automatically generated from our audio podcast with only small modifications for readability. Since the transcripts are automatically generated from our podcast conversation, they will contain errors.

Samantha: Welcome back to another episode of Ballroom Chat, the podcast dedicated to sharing the dance journey. I'm your host, Samantha with Love.Live.Dance. Today I am joined by Deborah Holmes and Stefan Badea. They are the founders of the Heartsoles Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to sharing the joy of dance with dancers all around the world. Specifically they are starting in Cape Town, South Africa with the goal of raising $10,000 and 1,000 donated shoes by 2022 to donate to the dance community there. We sat down and talked today about the start of the foundation, their goals and hopes and dreams for the future and also their dancing partnership.

They are a pro am couple that has been dancing for a, uh, two year period, two and a half year period, and, uh, we talked a little bit about how their dance relationship built into a friendship into a business partnership as well. So please enjoy my conversation today with Deborah and Stefan. Well, thank you, Deborah and Stefan for being guests today on the podcast.

Stefan: Happy to be here.

Deborah: Yeah, thanks for having us.

Samantha: So, I mentioned in the introduction that you are the founders of the HeartSoles Foundation, a nonprofit organization with the mission of, uh, collecting and equipping dancers with shoes and clothing and the ability to compete at a better level than they are currently able to. Um, so can you tell us a little bit about how the foundation got started and a little bit more about that mission?

Stefan: Yeah. So, um, basically the foundation got started with, um, we were, we were kind of talking back and forth in Deb. Deb already had a little bit of, or more I should say of, um, how would you call that? Um, you're already involved a little bit into, into this whole idea of, um, giving back to giving back to the dancers a little bit. And, um, she, she really was a little more established and, um,

Deborah: Well, I've done philanthropy for a while. In my, in my past life, I was a lawyer. I was child sexual abuse layer, so it was about sort of giving back to the community. And, um, we, as a family, our family had built houses and schools and things like that for, um, just to give back in a, in a, kind of a social conscience kind of way.

And I happened to be in South Africa a few years ago and I was at a competition. I was not competing, but, um, I had brought some shoes there that were gifted, donated to me. And, um, when we passed them out at this little regional competition, it was this kind of light bulb moment for me that there are so many dancers in other parts of the world that could really benefit from things and how lucky we are to have the ability to get these things. So when Stefan and I got together, Um, and started talking about what we could do. Like basically during the pandemic, it's like, there's gotta be more we can be doing right. Cause we're, we're not dancing much. And you know, there are really ballroom dancers in our area that are suffering, that, that don't have, you know, funds because they're not teaching.

They don't have what they need right now. We have to be able to give back. And, you know, we're both very fortunate to be able to be in a position that we can do that. So that's kind of how it got started. And then we just sort of snowballed

Stefan: yeah, and we just kind of started talking back and forth and we really, really just started with, uh, with idea, let's just see what happens. Let's collect a few shoes and how can we do this? How can we kind of go about it? And then we, we talked about it and collaborated more and we started the foundation and we started going from competition to competition with really no big, um, Like expectation. Right. And, um, we, we just started doing that.

Deborah: And its gone crazy!

Stefan: It really, it really just kind of a, it didn't snowball, it was like an avalanche came through and, um, we just got overwhelming amount of donations, uh, which is fantastic. We, I don't think either of us expected, um, how, how generous the dance community was. And, um, yeah, we, we just went from there and, um, from one competition to now, we've been to what three now? Three comps so far and, um, we've, we've already had a fair, a fair amount of shoes to the point where we're both like, where are we going to put these shoes? Where are we going to stack them? I had like the, the driveways or, um, uh,

Deborah: My garage is starting to fill up, we're going to need a storage unit soon. So we're now where, you know, we were really fortunate, the first competition that we went to, um,

Stefan: which was a desert classic, I believe.

Deborah: Yes. Igor and Irina Suvorov. Um, they were just so lovely and they said, sure, of course bring a banner. And they, you know, they advertised it a little bit and um, we put some things out on Facebook. And we had this, like Stefan said, an avalanche of shoes delivered. We probably had, I don't know, about a hundred pairs by the end of the weekend of donated shoes.

Stefan: Yeah. And sorry to interrupt, not just shoes. We had some, uh, ballroom attire as well. We had some, um, some, uh, practice clothing as well. Which was, which was awesome. Cause, um, again, we, we came out with idea with the shoes, but then after that people really, really wanting to contribute more. So then yeah, of course we'll we'll accept, we'll accept anything and everything. That's a dance related.

Samantha: Yeah.

Deborah: Even some vendors donated some new clothing. We had a shoe manufacturer in China, reached out to us and say, Hey, I'd really like to be a part of this too. They shipped us. We haven't received them yet, but they're there. I have the shipping notice now. 350 new pairs of shoes. Um, we had an anonymous donor make a pretty substantial financial contribution, and then this influx of these shoes that are some barely worn, some well loved, costumes practice wear, it's been really incredible. And, um, then we had, um, Dance Vision and USDC reach out to us and, um, they're onboard and they're, you know, promoting and helping us and we're going to Gatsby, right?

Stefan: Yeah, we're going to be going to Gatsby this weekend coming up here. And they're also fantastic, but before that we were at San Antonio Classic,

Deborah: They were amazing!

Stefan: Jason and Sveta Daly with Eddie. Um, they, they, they were awesome. They were like, yeah, go ahead and you guys can bring your banner up. And again, we had a, a great, um, a great amount of people coming out and just support and donate. And this upcoming weekend, we're going to be at Gatsby and kind of the same thing. We're just going to be putting a banner and a donation box out there. And then every time I, every time

Deborah: Its magical!

Stefan: We walked by there, we kind of take a look and, uh, it's kind of like Christmas, you look under the tree kind of and you see more, more shoes pop up. So it's, um, it's been, it's been quite a fantastic journey so far for such a short period of time.

Samantha: Yeah.

Deborah: So our current idea, oh do you have another question or should I, like, continue,

Samantha: go, go ahead. Go ahead.

Deborah: Uh, I, I was going to say that our current plan, we sort of have divided the foundation into a different campaigns. Like where are we going to take the donations? How are we going to get them? It's a logistical issue as well. Um, and because my, um, Our first thought and our first discussion was about South Africa. That is where our first campaign is. So we've just booked our trip. And, um, we're going in September of 2022. The some, some friends that I met, lovely people that I met in South Africa last time was there are invigilators for the South African Dance Federation and they are planning a competition to celebrate this, HeartSoles, and, um, to have a little introduction to smooth dancing.

They don't dance smooth there. So I think they have high expectations. That's something we're going to show them. I don't know. So they're trying to gather, there are several different foundations in South Africa, so they're trying to organize all of the foundations to participate in this competition that will be, um, put on for, for that weekend that we're there.

So we're really looking forward to that. So that's our first campaign. And then we're, we're sort of looking around for where our next one should be. We had a meeting with, um, with a gentlemen who's working with the, um, Armenian, Armenian Athletic Trainers Association and the, um, the UN and, uh, he, he had, he expressed some interest. They, they help train athletic trainers. And so Artashat, I, I understand in Armenia is having a difficult time in that they have quite a substantial ballroom community there. So we're looking at, at that as well and other, you know, more local areas as well. We just, haven't really, we're trying to focus on one first and, and, you know, we still got to get the shoes cleaned and sanitized and packed.

Stefan: There's quite a few more things that are, are kind of on our plate. So

Samantha: yeah. So so much that I want to dive into there. Um, first of all, I, I think I kind of said at the top, like, it's amazing that you guys are doing this. I think it's a fantastic idea. And I think the fact that the dance community has kind of rallied behind you guys and supported you is just, we are a family. We are a generous heart of a community. So, it really just took someone stepping up to the plate and saying, all right, we'll take on this initiative for everyone to be able to rally behind. And I'm so glad that it was the two of you that did that. Um, so let's talk about the donations themselves and then talk about missions and kind of the growth of the foundation, kind of where you see it in the future.

So when it comes to donating, if we have someone that is listening and is going to be at an upcoming competition or perhaps is in the California area, that can kind of stop by and drop off donations. When we're talking about used clothing and used shoes, um, what is kind of the acceptable amount of well loved that we can donate.

Stefan: Yeah, well really there's um, there's there's really, um, any, in any, any amount of, uh, of help is, is appreciated. So, uh, basically from one pair of shoes to this lady from China that, uh, wanted to donate, um, three, well, it was like 300 or 150.

Deborah: 350

Stefan: 350 , Um, pairs of shoes, um, yeah, really, really anything and everything. We, we accept that it has to do with any type of dance attire or, um, shoes. Right. Um, and, um, yeah. So if, if anybody wanted to donate, let's say I have, I have a few people that wanted to donate from Canada. Um, we can. As a dance community, we're not huge, but we are quite spread out around everywhere around the world. So, um, making, whenever I make a trip to Canada or when let's say a friend is going to Canada, so we can kind of coordinate that and we can kind of try and, um, either meet somewhere in the middle or, um, Hey, like, are you going to be USDC for example? Yeah, I'll be at USDC. We kind of meet there. Um, so that's kind of the beauty of that, that, um, even though we are small, we did travel quite a bit from, from state to state. So we can always either meet in the middle or meet at a competition. Or, um, even at a studio. So that's kind of another thing that we've been doing now. We've had, uh, uh, contributions from different studios that have, um, just put out or put out one of our banners and then we just go. Our or they ship it to us. Um, they kind of just figure it out from there.

Deborah: In terms of quality of the shoes, if that was your question.

Samantha: Yes

Deborah: We are accepting all donations, gently used is better, but you know, w when we are not those to look a gift horse in the mouth. So I, I think it's, um, we can look at them and, and make a determination about whether or not they can be restored to. To, to something that would be useful for the competitors in other countries. Obviously, you know, we want the other dancers, the recipients of the shoes to feel like this is a special gift and that they're, um, you know, that it is something that is going to help them promote their dancing.

So we don't want it to feel like it's, I would say we don't want it to feel like it's charity. It's not charity. It's just, a little bit of a helping hand. Um, or it's like having a friend and you want to share your party shoes with them, you know, oh, you don't have black party shoes. I'll give you mine for now. You know, not, you wouldn't give them something terrible. But, um, but I think that we are really desperately looking for someone right now, um, an organization, a group of people, someone, hopefully someone will hear your podcast and jump in with both feet, but we are looking for people that have the ability and the knowledge to do some basic repairs, nothing outstanding, you know, outrageous but basic repairs and how to clean them.

I think it's always an issue to clean these women shoes. They're like, uh,

Samantha: yeah

Deborah: Even my own, it's like, what, how did this happen? And it's hard to keep them clean. And the fabric is so sensitive. And so we need to find a way. I we're looking, we're searching and maybe it has to be hand done. I don't know. But, um, I want a big, giant magic cave where you put them all in and they come out all shiny and pretty.

Samantha: Yeah, absolutely. So, so part of my background before I became a full-time ballroom dancer was I actually worked in the nonprofit space. So I worked at three different nonprofits in a volunteer coordinator capacity over the years. And, um, the one thing that I would say whenever we did clothing drives or shoe drives or anything like that is, we almost were asking people, we want you to donate, but think about, would you give this to your grandkids? Because if you wouldn't give it to your grandkids, we appreciate, we know that your heart's in the right place, but we'd rather you write a check for $25 to support the organization than give us things that are just going to be destined to go into the dumpster. Because I don't think a lot of people understand that it is a lot of work to sort through and clean and repair and decide what is still salvageable.

What is in good quality that we can pass on to someone else that it doesn't feel like we're just saving it from the dumpster. Um, so you know, thinking about that, when we're donating old costumes or old shoes, if you wouldn't still put this on your body, maybe it's, it's better left somewhere else.

Deborah: We are taking financial donations. Since you mentioned the check, um, since we're new, we're just sort of starting at the idea was to initially just gather the actual physical donations, but, um, the long-term plan in the next 12 months is to raise $10,000 because we had Stef and I had discussed the, um, The need for some dancers to actually have the funding, to attend competitions for entry fees or whatever, and long range, we would really like to have scholarships where young dancers might be able to come to the United States for a short, you know, Workshop period, two weeks or a week or something, and maybe be hosted by ballroom dancers who are interested in, um, donating their time or their energy or mentoring in a different way.

That's kind of a long-term goal, but, um, you know, we dream big, right?

Samantha: No, but I like that. I like the we'll start small, but we have an eye to the future and we kind of know where we would love if we're able to, to expand too. I think that's great. Um, if people are listening to the podcast and are, and are considering maybe making a financial contribution, we mentioned that it is a nonprofit, is it a 501-C3 status? Is it a tax-exempt donation or are we still in the process of kind of working up to that point?

Deborah: It is a 501-C3. Yes.

Samantha: Excellent. Excellent. So that's something for everybody to keep in mind, you know, when you donate to a 501- C3 that is a tax deductible donation. So not only are you doing good work for your community, you're also saving a little bit from, from the IRS at the end of the year. Um,

Deborah: every little bit helps

Samantha: every little bit helps. Um, okay, so, so let's pivot just a little bit and talk about your dance background. Um, you are a pro am partnership, correct?

Stefan: Yes.

Samantha: Excellent. And how long ago,

Deborah: Talk about Stefan, he's the magic dancer? I just do as I'm told.

Samantha: There you go. There you go. Uh, you mentioned, uh, that, uh, when you are going to Cape town in 2022, that, uh, the expectation is for you to do a smooth performance of some sort. Is that the area that you primarily dance in?

Stefan: Well, um, with, uh, with my background, I, I actually started when I was six and I did international. Um, and I, yeah, I did international for, I think about 18. I want to say 18 years. Um, and then from, from that point on, um, I was in Canada and then I moved here about four years ago. And I'm in orange county. I would say that, or I would say more or less in, um, in California, that smooth is, uh, is quite huge. So I started making the transition into smooth and, um, I started working with a Slawek and Marzena then, um, afterwards I was looking for a partner and then I started working with Virginia and Ana. Um, and now my current professional partners is Whitney Meyers. And, um, we, I went from there and, um, I kind of started, um, I kind of started as like, okay, let me kind of feel it out and see how it is, you know, going into Smooth.

It's such a, it's such a different style, but it's a, it's a hybrid, I would say between, um, in between Latin and Ballroom. So I started with that and, um, honestly I went from something that I didn't have a lot of expectation to completely something I got completely engulfed in.

Deborah: He's a total Smooth-y

Stefan: And I, I love it now. So excited. It's something that definitely took me by surprise

Deborah: And when Stefan and I started dancing, um, we, we were dancing Latin, um, and we recently decided not to do Latin anymore, and we were doing international as well.

Stefan: International Ballroom

Deborah: International ballroom. Right. And then, um, in February of this year, um, post, post pandemic or what, I guess, in the midst of pandemic. When we got back to dancing, I said to him, you know, I'm no spring chicken and Latin is really hard on the body. Um, I would like to, you know, not do Latin anymore. And, you know, typical teacher is like, what? What? Well, okay, we'll discuss that.

Stefan: I threw a little fit.

Deborah: He says's we'll discuss that but, if you're gonna, if you're going to stop Latin, then I want you to try smooth a little bit. Like, he hooked me is what he did. He threw it out there and they just reeled me in. And so we've been doing competing in smooth, since March, I started in February, he throws me into a Smooth competition in March.

So we've been competing since March in International and in Smooth. So, uh, but we enjoy it. I think it's fun. It's fun.

Stefan: We were like, you know what? We don't have enough on our plate. Let's also, let's also start Smooth.

Samantha: Right, right. Not only are we starting a nonprofit foundation, we're also going to start a complete new chapter in your dance career. Let's do it.

Stefan: Exactly

Deborah: One of the really great things about, I think about our partnership, just our overall partnership, not just dance, but the foundation, our friendship is that we're really on the same page, about a lot of things.

Um, we have experiences in different areas and, um, we both bring those experiences to the table and they seem to meld in such a really, um, Genuine way. I mean, I truly, you know, so, um, Grateful to have Stefan in my life. He's a wonderful human beings, a really great person. He's a wonderful teacher. Um, and he puts up with all my crap.

Stefan: Keep going, keep going.

Deborah: And we're really very, very good. We're very good friends, despite our age difference and whatever we are really good friends,

Stefan: I think it's definitely that are dynamic is definitely a unique one. In the sense of, um, It's uh, going, going from, um, like, you know, being, being a teacher then going to being friends, then going to being more of a, more of a partnership into this foundation that, uh, that we have. And, um, I think that our, our, our whole dynamics is just so, so unique and so rare that we're able to be quite quite like-minded and we're, we're both extremely hard workers and, um, we, we both strive, strive for excellence. Right.

Deborah: Yeah, strive for excellence, our motto.

Stefan: So, um, yeah. And, um, she, she's also a fantastic student and, you know, We, we both know, um, our, our boundaries with each other, in a sense of all right. We're going to push, push something a little bit more and then, oh, okay. Yeah. So, um, it's um, it's, we're, I think we're both very, very thankful and grateful for each other.

Deborah: And I think it's unique because we know we, because we know each other so well now it's, um, we can bring very differening points of view and have, uh, a really significant disagreement in terms of our points of view, not between us, but we're able to work through those things and, and bring each other on board or say, Hey, oh no, you're right.

That, that was a really crappy idea. Or let's try it this way. Or Stefan will say, why don't we hold off on that and approach it in this way. It's just a really good, um, well-rounded. Uh, relationship, which really benefits, not only our dancing, but definitely the foundation as well.

Samantha: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, that's the kind of relationship that, that I think every instructor wants for their students and every student wants with their instructor is something where you trust each other enough to push each other's boundaries. But you also respect each other enough to know what you can and can't push. What you can and can't do. Um, That you can have that you can share ideas and that you're, you've created, uh, an environment where topics are open for discussion and you can have creative disagreements, but you're on the same page at the end of the day. What the, what the ultimate goal is. I think that's, that's the best possible scenario, uh, in dancing and in business and in life. So how long have you guys been dancing together?

Deborah: Three weeks, no. About two years?

Stefan: I think about two and a half,

Deborah: two and a half years maybe.

Samantha: Wow. Wow.

Deborah: Not long.

Samantha: That's amazing. That's that's incredible. So you started

Stefan: It's felt a lot longer at some points,

Deborah: Most days

Stefan: Those days when you stroll into the studio

Deborah: at 9 am, I hope you brought coffee,

Samantha: but that's

Deborah: best dance teacher ever. He brings coffee

Stefan: right? There's that.

Samantha: There you go. There you go. Um, yeah. No, that's, that's incredible. To form such a strong bond and a strong trust in that short amount of time. Um, so then you guys started dancing. You started training Deb, uh, with Stefan just before the pandemic hit.

Deborah: Well, let's see about a year before the pandemic.

Samantha: Okay.

Deborah: We, we started, I don't, I'm not very good at the anniversary things. It's not important to me, but, um, I would say we've been, we've been dancing together for consistently and solely for about two and a half years. I think that's about right. The pandemic. I don't know how long that's gone on, but it seems like forever.

Stefan: Too long. For me too long.

Deborah: Um, but we, um, we really clicked when we first started dancing together. We just really got each other, I think. And, um, it's, uh, it's worked really well. And I think that now with just a short, the short time that we've been dancing. Um, because we, we mostly, he pushes me, um, in the dance department. Um, I think the progress has been really phenomenal in a really short period of time. Um, I'm not a very confident dancer on the floor, but Stefan makes me feel confident and, um, he's like, you can do it. I know you can do it. And, um, it's just sort of like a really great thing, yeah. I love dancing with him.

It's like a great thing.

Samantha: That's awesome.

Deborah: He's not going to say that. He's like she's okay.

Stefan: Like she said, we both clicked really well and we're both super grateful for that. Which is awesome.

Samantha: Yeah. That's that's incredible. So, um, what, so, so the foundation came out as a product of the pandemic. Um, what was it like for that? Six months, year, 18 months. What is time anymore? Uh, when we weren't able to dance, but you were still uh clearly involved in each other's lives, still kept in communication in order for this foundation to happen. So what was that, what was that process like of keeping in touch and deciding, Hey, why not? Let's go into business together?

Stefan: Yeah. So, um,

Deborah: lots of texting,

Stefan: lots and lots of texting, lots of phone calls. Um, really it was, um, it was just a lot of, uh, back and forth and like, Hey, how, how can we, how can we make this happen?

How, how can, uh, let's kind of talk about ways when, when things do get better so we can kind of just go at it full force. Um, so I think it was, um, it was quite a, quite a bit of planning and, um, it was a lot of, um,

Deborah: a lot of Starbucks coffee meetings, that kind of thing and we also did. Um, before the, before the idea of that foundation started, we were kind of brainstorming about what is it that we could do?

What else could we do? How could we help? Should we think about, um, Kids in the inner city. Are there programs helping kids in the inner city, for example, are there, um, are there programs in like Canada where Stefan's from? Is there something that we could do there? We just sort of tossed around a lot of ideas. Do we want to do, do we want to do, um, when the pandemic is over? Do, uh, basically Stefan, I'm not, I can't do this, but you know, do you want to, I teach classes or could we do something where we could give free classes to inner students, inner city students or something like that? We, we toss around all these ideas, but. When you don't know when it's going to end and you don't know if you're ever going to be able to be in proximity with other people again, the foundation was kind of born from that like idea from the past, of we can give back and we don't, we don't even have to be there. We could do this, even if there were no competitions and we weren't gathering shoes there, people could still save them up and we could drive around and collect them. You know, that it just kind of happened that way

Stefan: It was it was just something that, uh, we, we, we definitely talked a lot about and something that we, we wanted to, okay. If we're going to do this, we're going to do this at full force. And we're going to stick to it, um, this is not just going to be a quick little idea that we're going to, you know, just, uh, mash up together quickly and just kind of throw at a wall and see if it sticks, you know? Um, so I think, uh, I think it definitely took a lot of, um, a lot of, like Deb said a lot of planning, a lot of ideas, and I think it's something that we truly both genuinely genuinely care about and something that we want to make sure we keep this for longterm.

It's not, this is not, this is not just going to be a, um, quick six month thing. And then after that, we're gonna, we're gonna fade off. So I think, yeah.

Samantha: Yeah. So, so we mentioned that the initial push is in South Africa, and then we're in discussions of maybe expanding to Armenia. You've mentioned a moment ago, you know, initially on the drawing board was potentially inner city, potentially doing something with the Canadian ballroom community. Why not start something local? Why not start local and then branch out internationally.

Deborah: Well, we discussed that. Remember we were talking about that and we, there are a number of programs that are currently in place. Um, one that comes to mind right away is the Fordney Foundation. Um, the Debbie Allen school, there are a lot of local schools, especially in Southern California, uh, where we're located that, um, that offer programs to help kids and other dancers who need assistance or a boost.

And so I think because, um, Africa is really, truly my happy place. I just, it's just really, uh, thing. I, I love Africa, um, that, uh, I think that was the germ of the idea and yes, it seems so far away and it seems so I think exotic to a lot of people, because it's not, um, someplace that people would associate ballroom dance with, or really have spent a lot of time there.

Um, But because I have a little bit of a base there and I've been there a few times and the people are so warm and accepting and beautiful people. And I just thought like, this is a connection that, um, that, that could really work for the way that we are together and how our vision would work. Um, and there is a lot to be quite honest, there's there is both a little more, um, freedom and a lot more red tape when you're doing something in a foreign country, but there's a lot less. Uh, stringent requirements in terms of are the shoes used. You know, in the United States, you donate you shoes to a group, and then they're going to want them to be a certain way and a certain standard and

Stefan: A lot more hoops to jump through

Deborah: a lot of more hoops, there's a lot more hoops to get the stuff to Africa. We can't ship it. It's so so cost prohibitive. It's unbelievable. It was, we were thinking about shipping and it was over $10,000 to send a shipment of shoes to South Africa and not knowing whether or not actually they would really make it through customs and ever get released. So we booked a trip. We're going, we're going to donate them.

And, um, I think that is now one of the really important, important things to us in our foundation is that we want to be there. We want to make sure that the donations are getting where they need to be. Um,

Stefan: rather than spending 10 K then hoping that they're going to get to the place that we're actually that they're intended for. And then. It says delivered. And then all of a sudden we're like, well, where is that? Right.

Deborah: We also, um, we have a little tie-in where we're still working in it's longterm, but, um, I have a friend who worked for the, um, United Cerebral Palsy Foundation, uh, Organization. They have a big, uh, distribution of wheel wheelchairs to many, many, many, many, many countries, and they ship on a huge basis. And so maybe at, sometime in the future, they might be kind enough to deliver some of our donations as well. Um, We don't know, we have lots of ideas,

Stefan: We're definitely kind of just like working in a way that will be beneficial for a, for everyone. And I guess at the most part safe that I'll actually, uh, actually get there and everything will be distributed as it should be. So, but that's not to say that, um, maybe because we are still such a young foundation that, um, in the future that we, we will be also working locally. Um, so again, we're, we're both super open-minded and we're both super, um, wanting to, to kind of whatever, whatever ideas come to us. And, um, however we can make things work. I think we'd certainly be up to, um, up to us to step up to the plate. So,

Deborah: yeah. And we're totally open to ideas. If there are listeners out there, or other people that come to us and say, Hey, what about this? Have you thought about that? Or I know of, that this issue or this opportunity, we are open to all of those things and we're happy to meet and talk with people. Oops, sorry. Um, meet and talk with people and, um, you know, explore those opportunities.

Stefan: Yeah. Yeah. And if people it to reach out to us, you can definitely go on our website, heartsolesfoundation.org, right. Just a little plug in.

Deborah: Look at you, look at him.

Stefan: Or reach out to us on Facebook or through Instagram. Um, and I'm, I'm sure that, um, um, you'll have something posted after the podcast that, uh, people can reach out to us as well. So,

Samantha: yup. Yup. I always say it at the end, but, uh, I'll say it now since we brought it up, uh, there will be links in the description box below wherever you are listening or watching. Watching this episode, um, to all of those, the website, the Instagram, the Facebook and the Twitter. So you can reach out and be in contact there.

Deborah: Awesome.

Stefan: Perfect.

Samantha: Yeah. Um, so just before we wrap up today, because I know you've got amazing things to do with the rest of your morning. Um, I did want to find out, um, what you were dance plans are for the rest of 2021. Do you have a lot of competitions coming up? Are we excited or are we taking this as a retrain and recenter year?

Stefan: No, definitely, definitely. Um, I don't think, uh, retrain, recenter. I think we're, we're definitely going for it for,

Deborah: We're on the freight train.

Stefan: So, uh, we're right now, um, we just came back from, um, a competition in San Antonio. Um, and I think that was the competition that we just mentioned, uh, San Antonio Classic and that's, uh, uh, Sveta and Jason and Eddie's competition. Um, and now this weekend coming up we're at Gatsby, um, then afterwards we're going to be at Embassy and then USDC. So we're definitely, we're definitely going for it. And, um, she's.

Deborah: He thinks I'm young apparently.

Stefan: See this is exactly where, I keep pushing that envelope. I keep pushing that envelope and see, see how, how far we can get where we've already achieved great things, and we're gonna achieve greater greater things. So

Samantha: That's fantastic. Competing in international ballroom and American smooth?

Stefan: Uh, she, yeah, we're going to be competing in, uh, international standard and a smooth and, uh, also be competing with my professional partner in Smooth.

Samantha: Excellent, excellent rising star or open professional.

Stefan: Both

Samantha: wonderful, wonderful,

Deborah: It's a beautiful thing to watch/

Stefan: not just doing one or the other, we're going for both on that one.

Samantha: That's excellent. That's excellent. And, uh, what is the competition scene felt like since, since everything's starting to come back up, I I'm seeing all of the competitions that are really going full force. We're starting to hear back from competitors that have gone to multiple weekends in a row. What does it feel like to be back in the ballroom and back on the floor?

Stefan: You know, and, um, I think, um, I think at the beginning and I'll, I'll speak for myself, I'm, I'm sure. I'm sure Deb has her own own feelings for this, but, um, I think at the beginning, everybody was, uh, was a little weary of it. I'm like, oh man. Okay. We're kind of coming back. And, um, I don't know how everyone else felt, but I personally felt like, okay, let's kind of see how things go. Let's kind of, let's kind of creep in there. And then, um, again, I think it was just an explosion of positive vibes and positive feelings and a sense of community, a community coming back into, into the ballroom world.

Everyone just, just being happy to be around other people and, you know, friends that you haven't seen in, in. I don't even know how long anymore it's been

Deborah: Its felt like a hundred years.

Stefan: And just seeing. Oh, like, how are you doing, oh, you have a beard now or, you know, it's, it's just one of those things where it's, um, it seemed such, such a, such a thing of, um, is this ever going to come back to normal again?

Any normalities and, um, Yeah, it's, it's just been, um, I think, I think it's just been overall a very nice positive feel as a competitions. I think, um, all the organizers have done a fantastic job of keeping things safe and as sanitary as possible. Um, Undergoing, you know, all these changing conditions of the virus. So I think, um, I think it's definitely been, um, a very positive, positive thing.

Deborah: Well, I felt like when we got back, I think our first competition was in March

Stefan: I think so, I can't really tell anymore

Deborah: Yeah, we did San Francisco in March, and I, I feel like, um, the vibe in the ballroom was really, really different than it was a year ago. And I think it, my own personal experience was, I felt like it was. There was much more joy. There was much more sense of, um, community support. And by that, I mean, um, oftentimes you'll go to a competition and while people speak to each other, um, they stay with their own studio or their own group of people, but yeah, their, you know, their group, their support group.

Yeah. But my experience has been people that you don't even know or have only met once, uh, or you met in the, in the hallway, outside the ballroom. When you get on the floor, those people are cheering for you and they are wishing you well, and there is a, a really great sense. I feel like it's, um, There's more of like a weaving of the ballroom community and all the fabrics of these different studios and competitions and organizers and judges are all weaving together to create a really much stronger fabric of the ballroom community.

It just feels much more like if you jumped, someone's going to catch you. If your partners, you know, over there talking to somebody else and you feel like you're falling, someone's going to be there to pick up.

Stefan: Yeah, there's a, there's definitely a sense of unity, I'd say.

Samantha: That's excellent. It's, it's good to know that, when everyone thought that all was lost. And now we're back on the other side, it's made us a stronger community and more grateful to be able to do what we love every single day, um, rather than, you know, going back to old way. So I think that's fantastic to hear that that sense of comradery has come back and hopefully it continues that way for years to come

Stefan: Exactly.

Deborah: Fingers crossed, right?

Samantha: Yeah. Yeah. Excellent. Well, thank you so much, Deb and Stefan for being guests today on the podcast, any last things that you want to leave our listeners with?

Stefan: Um, no, just, um, I would say that, um, we're, we're grateful for, for everybody's support and I'm obviously for, for your support as well. Thank you for, for having us again. And, um, um, we're, we're always open to, um, if anybody has any ideas. Or any, anyone wanting to contribute more to, to the foundation? Um, again, um, I'm sure, like you said that the links are links are below, so, um, and yeah, any ideas or any donations or anything like that, we're, we're always open to it. And we're always happy to hear from, from anybody and everybody,

Deborah: you know, our, our little catch phrase for our foundation is, "Dancers helping dancers, two soles at a time". So any contribution you make is, is a huge change in somebody's life. It really, really does. Make a gigantic difference in the life of a dancer in, in an impoverished community. So give generously, give from your art and, um, thank you for having us, Samantha.

Samantha: Thank you. Thank you. Once again, to Deborah and Stefan for being guests on the podcast today, as we mentioned earlier, if you want to reach out to support the HeartSoles foundation, or if you just want to follow along with their progress, links are in the description box.

As always I'm Samantha, I'm your host with Love Live Dance. You can find the podcast versions of these episodes at ballroomchat.com or you can watch the YouTube versions of these interviews at the Love Live Dance YouTube channel. You can also follow us across social media at Ballroom Chat on Instagram and Facebook.

If you have not already done. So please do make sure that you hit the like button on this video, or, uh, make sure that you are subscribed if you have not already done so. If you're listening to us in podcast four, make sure that you subscribe or follow the channel, given the appropriate, uh, platform. And as always stay safe, stay positive, and we hope to see you dancing very soon.