Let’s Dance!

So, enough about cancer, how about talking about some dance??

As I mentioned, here is a little bit more about my dancing background, which is really the main point of this entire blog.

So, dance is something I have always wanted to do, but never had the means, or partner willing, to be able to do it.  Finally, on my 32nd birthday I decided enough was enough and for my birthday checked out a local studio, figuring I would sort out the partner thing later.  One group lesson, and I was hooked.  I went home, gave it some serious thought and decided that I would approach dance as I would a sport–training seriously to compete, moving through the levels as I could and making it a priority in my life.

I had been overweight most of my life even though I worked out a lot, and my job requires me to maintain a basic level of physical fitness.  I had been injured during training at one point and that made a lot of other sports very difficult, including running which I did a lot of before I was injured.  I was ready to make a big change and wanted to find a physical activity that would motivate me to lose weight, that I enjoyed, that I could compete in, and that I could do without even realizing I was working.

Dance it turned out, fill the bill exactly.

I did just over a year of group classes at the first studio I went to learning the basics in ballroom and latin dance before work decided to transfer me to my current location.  When I was looking at moving, I made the decision to arrange my life so I could better afford to dance more and perhaps do private lessons.  I also decided to make other lifestyle changes increasing my activity more and changing my diet. When I got to my new location I signed up for group classes at a local studio, but since the move had kept me from dancing for 6 months I signed up for the ‘newcomer’ classes, thinking it would be a review.  It was a small mistake as I was already ahead of the class and I found myself bored.

At Christmas 2012, I had lost almost 40lbs and decided that group classes weren’t for me, so I looked at options for doing private lessons and that led me to the local franchise studio.  I was feeling a little intimidated, but willing to do what it took to keep dancing and start competing.  When I walked in, I noticed right away an instructor working with a woman about my age who was slightly heavier than I was.  I watched for a while and was really impressed with the instructor and he reminded me a lot of the instructors at the studio I started with in Ottawa.  Long story short, I signed up for lessons and started working with him just before Christmas.

That started a year and a half of learning American Style through a franchise system and introduced me to pro/am–no partner needed as I competed with my pro against other ladies with their pros.  I didn’t realize at first I had been switched from international style (no one had ever explained there were different styles) but once I realized, I was already committed and ‘checking out’ at the first level in all 12 dances.  I did my first competition in New York in August 2013, and my second in Maui in January 2014, and placed well at both.

For the most part, I was happy and eager to work.  I practiced in the studio and outside it, did all the group classes I could took lessons 2-3 or more times a week.  I was in the 3rd bronze level (of 4 in the franchise system) and I had lost 60lbs by the competition in Maui and I felt great.  Unfortunately the cost of it all was catching up with me and I knew I would have to look at different options in order to continue.  As much as I enjoyed American Style, I also missed International Style.

Missing International Style was solved on a whim from my instructor.  He was originally from Russia and trained in International Style and he asked me if I would be interested in doing a more local competition that only offered International Style.  I agreed and started working again on International Ballroom (which had a lot of elements and similar technique to the smooth I was doing).  I competed at the comp in bronze and silver and won every heat (some weren’t contested though–so does that count??).  After that, I didn’t want to give up standard.

The cost problem was still on my mind.  I was limiting the number of lessons I was doing, and putting money away for savings, but considering the cost of franchise competitions (think 5 figures minimum), I was frustrated that I likely would only be able to compete once every two years.  I did one more local competition in May and then….

My instructor came to me with a surprise that helped solve my budget concerns.  He decided to leave the franchise and teach on his own.  Because of contract obligations he could only teach International Style.  I gave it a lot of thought and then spent 2 weeks finishing my lessons at the franchise before I approached my instructor to ask him to take me on.

That started what is now 1 year working in all 10 international dances.  It’s been a crazy road to get here, and I lost 75 lbs before chemotherapy steroids brought 25lbs back.  We competed last fall in Toronto just after I found the first lump, and again in Vancouver just after my first surgery before I started chemo.  I am still working with the same instructor, now at silver, and looking forward to when I can compete again, and get back to losing weight to reach my goal.

So that’s a brief history of how I came into and got where I am in dance.

I want to take a small minute to acknowledge that when I got sick I sat down with my instructor and told him I wanted to keep dancing through all my treatment, but I didn’t want him to feel obligated to keep teaching me knowing that It was going to be rough–there would be good days, bad days, I was going to be emotional, impossible, up, down, and in the end neither of us could say if I would be able to keep dancing.  I told him honestly that if he wanted me to wait to work with him until after treatment was finished I would be ok with that, and would return when my health allowed.  He thought about it….and decided my health didn’t change anything and he was willing to work through all the bumps.

I am very grateful that was what he decided, because it has definitely been bumpy.  Because dance is so important to me and the main thing getting me through treatment, his support has been immeasurable.

I am very lucky that even besides my instructor, the local competitive community is a close group and we all support each other.  So this is really the start of my journey on this blog.

Now that the history is covered, let’s embrace the present to see what the future brings 🙂

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