What do you do when someone you love call it quits? What do you make of it? Something very similar happened to Patty Contenta, who has been a ballroom dancer for 20 years and helps women get in touch with their playful, sensual side.
Ishita Gupta: You took lesson from heartbreak and channelized your anger and sadness toward making a conscious choice, starting an online business, writing a book and building a life from scratch.
Patty Contenta: I basically started with, and still am in, the ballroom dance business. I am a dance consultant for the worldwide franchise, Arthur Marie. I also have my own Arthur Marie dance studio. Years ago, in my competitive career, I spent many hours on being the most feminine dancer on the ballroom floor. You needed to really show yourself and come off like a woman that is sensual, subtle and alluring and not sexual because the judges didn’t like that. I was married at the time and trying to balance both. My dance career very much part time because I really felt that at that time in my life, being married was my main concern and my work came second. It was a conscious choice at the time.
Fast forward a few years, one day I found out that my husband of five years had been cheating on me for probably a year and a half with this woman. I found out through a phone call. She actually called me and said, ‘I want you to know your husband’s not traveling. He’s with me.’ That morning, I was about to leave for a dance coaching session in five minutes. The news of my husband’s cheating devastated me and I had burning questions: ‘How can this happen? Where did I miss the clues?’ We finally did end up separating, and my main mission was to do some soul-searching. I went on this journey of self-exploration and tried to figure things out through reading a lot of books and going to seminars and talking to friends when I started to understand more of who I was as a woman and a dancer. I mean when I walked on that floor, all insecurities slowly started to melt away because I was able to become this woman who had to kind of fake it at first. But then the music would take me over and I became this goddess, this woman who understood her body and how to make it move to make it become feminine and sensual and enjoy the attention she was getting from the audience.
IG: So, you had no clue that he was cheating.
PC: Well, I was less content for the last year of the marriage. I felt we were distant and have not been intimate for the longest time. And I tried to speak to him about it. One day, tired and frustrated of the situation, I wrote my husband a long, heart-felt letter. I told him I didn’t sign up for this, that this was not what I thought marriage was about. Sensing my feelings, he tried to break up with the woman but she wasn’t happy about it and brought everything in the open.
IG: What happened then?
PC: Being an Italian, I had my culture tell me to “get over it”. But I needed a channel. And I found it in the ballroom floor. That was my saving grace and I thank God for it. I loved my work and delved deeper. I wrote a book, opened a studio and won a Canadian Championship. I wanted to prove that I was much more than I thought.
Through my journey I realized that I wanted to merge the woman who was on the dance floor with the woman that was off the dance floor. I thought what if I could use these techniques on the dance floor and merge them in everyday life. I began to consciously be aware of how I walked, how I stood, how I touched myself, how I moved. I adapted into the woman on the dance floor as soon as I stepped out of the house. The attention from men was crazy!
IG: How did you transition from being a ballroom dancer, to going through a divorce to an entrepreneur and a coach today?
PC: It started with a book called The One Minute Millionaire. I wanted to be that woman. And when I read it I was to tears with the leverage that she had and the change that she had created in her life. I mean, it’s written in two sides, the emotional way of becoming a millionaire and the logical way. I couldn’t care less about the logical way. I was all in the emotional change that she was creating. And I had signed up for Mark Victor Hansen and Robert Allen’s newsletters from the book. One day, I got a newsletter in my inbox saying, ‘If you want to be a millionaire, come to LA.’
Surprisingly, I took the offer and left for LA. I remember feeling scared because it was my first flight alone across the country, doing something. I cried on the flight and hid myself behind my hair.
IG: That flight was symbolic of your independence.
PC: Absolutely. Just being in that room with people who are looking for the same thing is like a great drug. When you’re surrounded by people who want to create a change in their life and they’re open and positive, it’s great.
The last speaker of the entire event was John Childress and he spoke up that the highest paid profession is public speaking. So I thought, ‘Oh my god! I can do that!’ So, I signed up for his program and I’ll tell you something, that was another scary moment because it was going to cost me 6,000 US dollars, which I, at a ballroom dance salary, did not have. But I had a credit card and I was looking at my credit card and I was going, ‘Do I do this? I don’t know.’
And I did.
It was that energy that fed another energy and it still fed another energy and my career, whether it was in the dance studio or the online business, started to really rise evenly.
IG: How did you start your coaching with women?
PC: After my divorce, I started dating and had a boyfriend. He wasn’t the best guy for me but he was into personal development and introduced me to Tony Robbins and others. One of the things that he told me was, ‘Patty, you’re such a feminine woman. You should teach women how to be like that.’
He and I broke up after sometime but the idea remained with me. I got in touch with Alex Mendozian and he gave me his program for free in the name of a good cause. He loved my idea and suggested the name Sensuality Secrets for my business. So it’s thanks to him and his guidance, really. He was my first mentor.
IG: Much of fear is a part of our everyday relationships. How do you face it in your relationship?
PC: I was brought up in a certain way and it’s not my family’s fault. It is just that I was in a social environment, in a culture, which sort of made me believe that if I worked through my marriage in so and so manner, I will reach happiness. I considered my marriage as my top priority. It was a way of thinking.
Today, my mom, who I dearly love, feels for me. She’d say, ‘I’m sorry that happened’. She still feels I am not really happy because I don’t have a man in my life. She keeps checking in, ‘Are you OK?’ I tell her, ‘You have no idea how happy I am!’
I am thankful because I never thought I’d be where I am now and the places I’ve seen and the people I’ve met. I’ve come to realise I cannot settle for any less in relationships.
I think being fearful is about not believing in our own capacity and potential. But having all those fears is normal and human. It’s almost like that’s what makes us human, our emotions, right? So we just have to stay with it. Emotional intelligence means really understanding what our emotions are telling us, have the insight, then use that to learn something from it and move forward. Not to stay in that emotion to the point that it stops you, but to say, ‘This is an insight that I need to understand. What do I need to get from this and use that to bring me somewhere else? Do I need to speak with somebody to put me in a better place?’ It really is that simple.
A part of my coping came from staying away from my family. My family has a way of thinking, as if they are stuck in that pattern of thinking. It’s really who they are. Although they are dear to me, I consciously did things without them knowing. I made investments, opened my studio, won the Canadian Championship. They never knew about the studio until it was all set. They were not there when I won the championship. I didn’t want anyone putting fear in me and killing the little hope I had. I didn’t want anyone, even out of genuine love and care, telling me ‘What? Are you crazy? You can’t do that!’
IG: I think it’s very brave to admit that because there’s so much baggage or connotation that we bring to our family because they are so well intentioned. They don’t want us to fail or take risks that are going to hurt us. My friends and family are lovely. But sometimes I find the need to separate myself from them. I think it’s a tool that we should all think about like tending to our garden which has both flowers and weeds — not that people are weeds — but just in a sense of what’s nourishing and beautiful for you and giving you energy.
PC: Yes, and there’s a guilt associated with tending your own garden. Especially in Italian culture and in women, it somehow translates to ‘you don’t want to give back to others’. But first you have to be healthy from the inside to give something that’s nurturing to others.
IG: How does one start to work with themselves physically and mentally in this realm of attraction and dating?
PC: It’s very much about body language. It’s understanding where men come from and where women come from. But my way of instantly tapping into that confidence and that femininity is through the physical being just because it helps to instantly change my state. That’s when I need a break or I need to do something, I’m outside getting physical. I need to walk. I need to work out. And I need to be in my physical state to feel better. I can’t just think about it. It doesn’t work for me. For some people it does. I can’t sit there and think about that. It just puts me in a bigger slump.
I always talk about the non-verbal because it actually is more than 60% of what people see and pay attention to and even out of the other 40%, there’s only about 7% that is about the words. Everything else is about the tone and the rhythm in your voice. So they’re not really hearing what you’re saying if you have anything intelligent to say, but how you’re doing it in the end. So, I really work on that aspect when it comes to the attraction factor, if you will, and there’s a way to stand that makes you more feminine, that gives you a more hour glass appeal, creates angles with your body, creates an inviting tension and spirit instead of a confrontational one. We don’t realize this as women; we’re challenged today because in order to create the successes that we have, we had to be much more in our masculine energy, which is about goal orienting, strategizing, creating those systems, getting it done. But to be in that energy, physically, is to be in a more forward energy. It’s not a lean back, receive and take it in feminine energy.
For example, notice how many women stand with their legs apart. First and foremost, close your legs because opening is a wide, leadership stance and an invitation has to be a smaller stance which does not intimidate. I teach men to take up that leadership space because a woman wants to know that you’re there like a rock for her. That no matter what she does, you’re so solid and that you will not falter. And that’s attractive. So they have to stand that way. A woman is ‘oh, let me show you what life has to offer in the sense and all this wonderful stuff’. So our stance has to be different.
Just standing, for example, with our legs closed and then having one knee bent and the other knee straight creates a curve in the hip. Literally bending one leg and keeping one straight, there’s a hip action. And then it’s about having your shoulder and another angled differently and using your shoulder blades to lift your chest and tilting your head to create a more alluring air and invitation and stance, if you will. Now relax into it and breathe into it. It’s going to feel contrived and artificial and that’s okay. But every time you do it, you realize it’s really not a big deal. It’s really not.
IG: It’s a wonderful feeling. You just move your shoulder down. You push your shoulders down. Your chest lifts, automatically.
PC: Absolutely. Women are so conscious of coming across as sexual. It’s a huge fear. And I’m like, whoa I’d rather be in a position when I have 20 men coming up to me where I say ‘Not you, you!’ You have the power to say no. Most men are gallant enough and they get it. What I do is not about coming across as vulgar at all. On the contrary, it’s about grace and class.
I went out to happy hour with my girlfriends a few weeks ago and I was watching the dynamics of the men and the women. It was really interesting to see how we’re in a place right now that the men lean back and the women are going forward towards them. So no men are moving. No men are doing the flirting. They’re just sitting back and they’re standing there and the women are going up to them. And I thought, ‘We have all of this reversed.’ It should be the gallant man who says, ‘I think you’re an incredible woman.’ And has the guts to go up there and talk to her.
As women, we have to really feel comfortable in that leaning back and smiling. Be flirtatious, maintain an eye contact if you want him to get used to making that first move and stepping forward because you don’t want to be the chaser.
It was just interesting dynamic to notice that night. All you want to do is just be in your body and be in with your girlfriends and be in that moment. And if you’re not noticed that night, it’s all right. Tomorrow’s another day; really embellish yourself and you will get noticed. I mean, all you have to do is keep eye contact long enough and smile.
IG: Thank you Patty. You’ve got a ton of insight. For those who are interested, please visit Patty’s website www.sensualitysecrets.com, which has a collection of videos, articles and her new ebook too. It’s all there to help you create an awareness and to allow you to be gentle with yourself. It’s fun and wonderful.
Featured photo by kevin dooley.