So here is another ‘keywords’ post, this time, about rumba.

My keywords for rumba are ‘mysterious’, ‘passionate’, ‘romantic’, ‘imaginative’, and ’emotional’.

But I need to explain a lot because my definition and use of the keywords is not what they suggest on the surface.

We are going to dive deep into rumba, be prepared!

My first warning is that most people probably won’t agree with how I look at rumba, but that is ok because most people aren’t me 🙂

Most people think of some sort of passionate romantic relationship when they think of rumba.  I, do not.  I tend to think bigger picture.  Perhaps the main reason is that I have never found myself romantically attracted to a partner, so it just hasn’t occurred to me to consider rumba in that context.

So what do I mean by ‘passionate’ and ‘romantic’ then?

The passion is not about a relationship between two people.  It is about two people sharing their passion for dance with each other.  ‘Romantic’ refers to 18th century romanticism, not cards and flowers.  It was a movement that was very focused on expression and aesthetic experience–whether good, bad, or in between.  It was very emotive.  The music of Beethoven is a prime example.

So now that I have explained some of the language, here is some context.

Rumba is about a mystery–the mystery of what the relationship between two people actually is.  They clearly enjoy each other’s company–but it should never be obvious exactly what is between them.  It should keep the audience guessing–Are they friends? Are they lovers? Are they something in between? How close are they?

For me that is where the magic of rumba is–it keeps me guessing and wondering or imagining what the back story could be.  There is passion involved, but it is the sharing of a similar passion-dance-not necessarily passion for each other.  Sharing any passion is emotional, but it doesn’t necessarily mean the emotion is romantic love.  There are many different degrees of love and passion and that is why I think there are so many different interpretations of rumba.  You don’t have to be in love with your partner to do it well–you need to be in love with dance and willing to share that.

The imaginative part comes from the mystery.  Because nothing is ever stated obviously, someone watching is free to imagine their own interpretation of what they are seeing.  That interpretation will be influenced by their own feelings and emotions at that moment in time.  They will see pieces of themselves in what they are watching.  Perhaps they are longing for a relationship themselves–so they may see a ‘longing’ in the dance.

You can’t force feed rumba to an audience, and I think when you try it shows and the beauty and magic of the dance itself is lost. That is when you start seeing too obvious ‘gaudy’ and raunchy rumbas that leave nothing to the imagination. Myself, I find those routines to be hard, harsh, and sometimes even embarrassing to watch.  I would much rather be waiting in anticipation and guessing than to have something like sex spelled out for me in dance.

I think of all the dances, rumba can be the most broad in interpretation because there is so much potential.  No one person approaches dance the same, so each half of a partnership brings their own expression, emotions and passion to the dance.  Because it is slow and controlled there is time to really ‘dig in’ to the rumba and create that air of mystery and passion that is so essential to the musicality of this dance.  I think the closest equivalent in Standard is Waltz.

I don’t think you have to be attracted to your partner to dance a strong expressive rumba.

I think you have to be attracted to dance and willing to share that passion with your partner (and those watching).

But, that is me 🙂

Radiation and Pre-Surgery Goals

I guess since I missed yesterday, tonight I am in the mood to write two!

I wanted to make this post separate because it’s a bit of a bigger one, and separate from my lessons yesterday and today.  More of a ‘bigger picture’ post, you might say.

My lessons over the last little bit, conversations with Boss and information I have received about my health has generated a lot of thinking.  I have realized that I need to give myself some goals to focus on this fall as I go through radiation and prepare for my surgery.  I guess I have enough information now that I was able to decide what they should be.

Boss hasn’t approved these goals yet, and when it comes to lessons, he is the boss, so I will learn what he decides to teach.  But I have sent them to him for consideration and I hope he will be able to respond to them after the competition this weekend is finished and off his plate.  He is doing lessons on Monday, but I won’t have one because I will be home back east (YAY!). Right now, I am not sure when my next lesson with Boss will be because I want to take some time for myself and I am not sure if the 2 weeks he is taking off until August 16th will be enough.

I think it will be though, especially since I will be going home to re-charge for a week.  I think the biggest thing I really needed to figure out were some goals to focus on during the fall to help me get through radiation and ready for my surgery.

Deep down, I am pretty freaked out about how both will affect dance.  Radiation shouldn’t be too bad as long as I keep managing the fatigue and remember to give myself a break when I am tired.  I also need to remember that Boss does keep an eye on my practicing and will cut things out of my exercises if they are too much and unproductive to do.

My surgery is really freaking me out.  It’s quite the wild card and there are a lot of potential negative side effects that can delay healing or make dance difficult.  It is going to be 8 weeks until I can even think about doing more than very basic dance and getting back into full technique–especially in Latin.  My core is going to be very affected.

But I need to keep in mind that I am young, and relatively fit.  All of that works in my favour and if all goes well, parts of me will be smaller and that will only help dance in the end.  I will also probably be ‘tighter’ through the areas where I am struggling right now because I am too flexible and that will also help.

And now, I have figured out some goals to help me get to that point.  I already have goals for after surgery as the main one is just getting back dancing and into shape for a comp at the end of April.

So, without further ado, these are my goals through radiation until my surgery (subject to Boss’s approval, of course):

  1. Practice on my own at least 3x/week–2 for exercises, 1 for practicing latin and smooth routines.  Try and add a 3rd day for exercises, if I have energy.
  2. “Finish” my latin routines
  3. “Finish” the smooth routines
  4. Focus on standard
  5. Attend the round practices with Boss as regularly as possible
  6. Compete in October

The “key” goal there is to focus on Standard.  Because of the proprioception issues I have, standard doesn’t come to me as ‘naturally’ as Latin does.  I have a hard time keeping track of what my body is doing when working on my own.  On top of that, because Standard is harder on my body and requires a lot more energy from me, we haven’t been able to work on it too much during chemo, so it has fallen a bit behind Latin.  I like to keep them as equal as possible, so time focusing on Standard is definitely needed for me.  It’s also harder to practice on my own and my time with Boss is limited by budget and just general time constraints.

What I mean by ‘finish’ is to have the routines worked out with both steps and styling–two things I can work on fairly consistently.  Technique will always need work, so it will be ever evolving, but with the steps and styling I can practice the routines on my own.  Right now the only routine where I have both steps and styling is Samba (and that was yesterday).  So I want to got through each of them in detail with Boss for the styling so that I can work on getting the styling second nature with the steps on my own while we focus on standard.

The ’round’ practices are extra practices Boss runs that I can pay to attend and practice with him.  The practices are for competitive couples only and it’s an opportunity to run through each of the International Style dances one at a time and then all 5 (in each style) together in a row without a break–like an open final.  I have to take my turn with Boss’s other competitive pro/am students, since there is only one Boss and he also needs to watch his Am/Am couples during the other rounds.  I am his only student competing in Latin right now who wants to do the practices, so that is in my favour for Latin.  They are great practices that Boss runs for the local competitive community and they are really popular and helpful for stamina and endurance.  I haven’t been able to do them since halfway through chemo, so I am looking forward to getting back to them, or at least getting some regular practice with Boss that isn’t during my private lessons and at private lesson prices.

I hope I am able to meet my practice goals.  Time will tell on that one.

I am just glad to have something to focus on and look forward to for my next phase of treatment.

Smooth lesson #4–Tango and ‘Flaunting it’

And, we did it!

We managed to put together 4 open smooth routines.  Now I just have to find time to work on them 🙂

I really like the tango we put together.  Boss and Instructor #2 were able to get together and work out some choreography beforehand, so half the routine was done before I started.  I was pretty impressed with myself that I was able to pick up the choreography and actually dance it with Boss (no music yet though!).

I was talking with Instructor #2 after my lesson, and my plan for smooth (which hopefully Boss will agree with!) is to run through the routines with him some, get them with the music and to a point where I can work on them myself.  Then, after my surgery, I will have a few more lessons with Instructor #2 to work on the lady’s styling and make adjustments if needed because of changes from my surgery.

I am really excited to have all the routines done!  One more tick in the box for me.

Speaking of ‘ticks in the box’, I didn’t post after my lesson yesterday because I needed some time to process and I was pretty wiped by the time I got home.  We started working on the styling and detailing for my samba routine and adding some personality to it.  Doing this kind of work is actually pretty difficult for me.  I have a way of feeling like I am ‘over-doing it’ and that perhaps it looks silly.  I think deep down I worry I will look like an overweight girl trying really hard to look skinny.

I should know better though.  My routines themselves Boss put together keeping in mind how things look visually, and there are certain steps I don’t do because they are just not flattering for me.  We also don’t do some holds because they just don’t work.  So the styling works the same.  All that is really needed is for me to commit to the styling and add my own personality to it through my facial expressions.

Boss actually told me that I need ‘flaunt what I’ve got’ and to not be timid with how I move my body.  We had an interesting conversation about rumba.  He told me that I shouldn’t hold myself back and just let myself do what comes naturally and basically ‘work it’ (not his words, but what he was saying).  It’s an interesting concept for me.  When I started to work with Boss, especially in Rhythm (which I was doing at the time), we spent a lot of time teaching me to control every movement and to hold my core tight.

I think for the first time, Boss was giving me permission to take everything I have learned, everything I do naturally and just let it all come together in rumba.  He told me I should watch videos of Reggaton and Brazillian Samba to see how the ladies move there and I should let myself be that free and uninhibited.

Coming from Boss, this was completely unexpected and seemed to be placing a lot of trust in me and my technique.  I guess I just didn’t expect that.

Tying it all together, looking at the smooth routines and the level of dancing we are doing there (and I seem to be able to do!), and this conversation we had yesterday, I guess it has dawned on me that even though I am only at the silver level, Boss has a lot of respect for my dancing.  This has really only come in the last little while though–I think since we worked on the open showcase routine.  In a lot of ways, he has more faith in my dancing than I do myself.  I guess it never really occurred to me before, but Boss did ask me back in January before I started Chemo if I wanted to do Open Smooth routines with him–that is where the idea came from originally.  He asked me.

Guess he knew I could do it even then.

Now I just have to convince myself–but I am getting there 🙂

Coming home…

It’s been a whirlwind day for me.  I decided last night to cross the country and fly home next week.  So I leave on Sunday, coming back on Friday.

I haven’t been home since Christmas 2012.  Within an hour of mentioning I was coming I have managed to arrange a drive to and pick-up from the airport here, pick-up from the airport there, time in a hot tub, a 4-hour road trip with my father, 2 days with my mother, a flight back to my father’s and a surprise visit with friends from Saskatchewan who are coincidentally visiting the same part of the country (one half of the couple knows, the other doesn’t).  I also rearranged some small scheduling conflicts. Oh and bought my tickets!

I also found and picked up one pair of practice shoes with 2″ heels–so currently working on breaking them in and doing the initial stretching before my lesson tomorrow.  Feel like I have been waiting forever for these shoes (my last pair like them fell apart 2 days before chemo started), and these ones got lost in the mail until today.

With the idea of working on strengthening my ankles in mind I am wearing around the house, which my cats seem to think is pretty nuts.  They are, however, ecstatic about the box the came in 🙂 .

The bad news is 5 people I know have had the flu in the last week including my roommate 😦 . Today I woke up with a scratchy throat and that  oh so getting sick feeling.  Considering my health, it’s would be no surprise to find myself with the full-blown flu tomorrow.  That’s Murphy’s Law, isn’t it? To get sick when you have a ‘vacation’ or a break?

I hope it hits and leaves quickly.  Like if I was functional again by Thursday that would be great.  I have my final smooth lesson Thursday night in Tango, and I don’t want to have to cancel it until September.  We aren’t working with Boss that night because he is doing extra lessons to get ready for a competition on the weekend, but Instructor #2 and Boss are taking time tomorrow to collaborate.

Fingers crossed this isn’t too bad. At least I should have an immune system in relatively good shape to fight it this far from my last treatment and before radiation.

Can’t wait to get home though.  There is something about the Atlantic Ocean and the Appalachian Mountains that just recharges me, and lord knows I need it.  Still haven’t decided how long my break is going to be from lessons, but I think going home will help.

Just apparently have to get through this week and the flu first.

Atlantic Canada, here I come!

Ankle strength woes

Never really considered the strength of my ankles previously.

But tonight it because obvious they are oh so weak!

This is week 2 of wearing full heels and tonight I was working through my exercises with boss.  One thing that kept coming up was how wobbly my feet were–the reason? I have lost some of the ankle strength I had before I started chemo from not wearing heels.

The solution? Lots of time wearing heels.

It’s a little frustrating to realize how much this is affecting dance right now, especially in Latin.  I know I will probably regain the strength quicker than I think, but in the mean time I keep wobbling around as I try to do my latin exercises.  I can’t seem to get things in time even though I am trying, and the worse thing is that if I gave in a wore my practice shoes I could probably do it all great.

Time is a great healer and as long as I stay consistent with wearing my full heels the more my body will adapt and the stronger my ankles will become.  I am actually waiting for 2 different pairs of practice shoes with full heels on them and both are held up for reasons beyond my control.

It was a good lesson with boss tonight despite all the wobbling.  We are starting to tailor some of my exercises more to me.  We have sped up some exercises and slowed down others.  We are working on fixing samba (Yay!) to bring it beyond silver.  I am discovering how to use my inner thighs in standard and how to keep my body weight forward instead of straight up and down.  THAT is going to be a huge challenge for me for the next little while, but I am ready for it!

I accepted when I started this journey that probably my progress was going to stop or slow down and that I would lose some things.  Despite that, I have been so so lucky that some how I have been able to progress and keep moving forward.  Having to rebuild ankle strength, in the grand scheme of things, is not too bad.  There is much worse I could have to do, and there may be much worse to come after radiation and my surgery.

But until then, I remain ready and building my ankles 🙂

Lucky Dancer

Had a 3-hour conversation with Boss today.

Finally, we were able to clear some of the things that have been hanging in the air, and we worked out a plan I hope will work through radiation and beyond.

It looks like I am going to try and compete before my surgery, after radiation.  Hopefully not while experiencing the super fatigue I am told might be coming around then.

I think it is important for me to have something to focus on this fall and to look forward to and there is a new local competition which might be just the thing.

Boss and I talked a lot about how it will be important for me to have something to focus on.  During chemo, it was the showcase I did on June 27th, and the coaching lessons with the visiting coach.

For rads, looks like a comp.  We are probably only going to do Latin, but we will see how I am feeling.  Standard is a lot harder for me to pull off well right now, but Latin should be able to be doable at a well enough level.  We might also do a showcase at a social dance of one or two of the new smooth routines, but first we have to finish up choreographing them and see what needs work.

One thing I will say is that I am very very lucky that Boss is so open to communicating.  Most other instructors probably would not be so willing to work with a student whose health is as questionable and Boss has been supportive through the entire process.  He was the only person I told while I was waiting to be diagnosed and that was only because between finding the first lump and being diagnosed we were competing.  I knew concerns about my health was distracting me and affecting my performance and it wasn’t fair to Boss for me to not tell him why I wasn’t myself.

Dance is a big part of helping me sustain myself through my treatment and keeping me going.  For better or worse, Boss plays a big role in that because he is my instructor.  His wife is also one of my closest friends.  I am the student who has been with him the longest.  It all adds up to a very unique relationship.

I am a lucky dancer to have such an understanding instructor.


As mentioned, I am going to share a bit about my upcoming dresses, even though they won’t be made until after I recover from my surgery.  Half the fun of getting new dresses is designing them and picking out the fabrics for them.  I have 3 new dresses in process–one each for standard, latin and smooth.

Each one has a name.  Standard is ‘Winevine’, Latin is ‘Sunno’, and Smooth is ‘Silverbirch’.  The names have to do with the themes of the design of the dress.  I am not going to say too much about the design of them, but I am going to give some details.

First is Winevine.  This dress is going to be mainly Wine and Emerald velvet with some chiffon and organza in the skirt.  It’s a pretty unique design and this one has been on the books the longest.  We were going to start this one before I got diagnosed originally but then as things evolved it became obvious that we would need to wait for my second surgery.  So the materials for this have been waiting almost a year to be put together into this fabulous dress!!  The dress was designed by a friend of Boss’s in Russia (who also designed my current dresses).

I love her designs, but she and I don’t agree on colours at all.  She originally wanted this dress to be Hawaiian Pink with Green.  Being a redhead with a lot of pink undertones to my skin and a tendency to get red in the face just thinking about exertion anything pink is a no no.  This is the second time we have clashed over colours and it always causes an argument with Boss and I, so we decided after Winevine not to use her as a designer anymore.  It seems to work ok.

Probably it seems strange, but Boss is very involved in the dressmaking/design/selection process.  His theory is that if he has to dance with us, and we are representing his studio then he needs to make sure we look good.  It’s interesting to say the least but his input is pretty useful and almost invaluable in the end.

Sunno is going to be my latin dress and it’s theme is ‘Ocean Sunset’.  So the main colour is royal blue, but the contrast is red and yellow tie-dye almost.  This dress, Boss, my dressmaker, and I sat down and worked out the design together.  I am pretty excited for it because it is very different from any dress I have seen, and certainly any dress I have worn.  The royal blue is an amazing colour, but the contrast material is really bold!  I am very curious to see how it all comes together.

Silverbirch is my baby.  The name is the theme–it is a silver dress with green accents that you almost don’t realize are there–like the leaves on silverbirch trees.  This design is mine and probably the most artistically thing I have done.  It just popped into my head one night and I tried to sketch it with 0 artistic ability, but my description of it was enough for my dressmaker to be able to sketch it right.  She says this dress is the one she is most interested in seeing come to reality, and I think I am too!  We are playing around with the colours and silver is colour that is very ‘out there’ for me to choose to wear.  Usually I stick to my comfort zones of colours that compliment fair redheads.  I wanted to do something different though, so silver it is.

So of three dresses, all of them put me outside my comfort zone at bit colour-wise–the Wine in Winevine is a main colour and not usual for me, the yellow, orange in Sunno is pretty out there and colourful and silver in Silverbirch is completely in a different zone.  I think Boss likes I am trying to expand a bit, and even he seems pretty impressed with the designs we have going on.  I hope they look as good in reality (or better!) than they look on paper 🙂

Now I just have to get through radiation and recover from my surgery–minor details 🙂

Radiation…coming up fast

I had my radiation planning session today and they ‘tagged’ me with 3 tattoos that are really like 3 dots.  The tattoos make is all very real all of a sudden.

I can say I am definitely freaking out.  I thought chemo was hard with only one week in between each session.  Radiation is every day except weekends and holidays.  It just seems like a lot and overwhelming.

The main side effect of radiation is fatigue.  I was warned it would be probably worse than chemo and might come on faster.  During chemo I had a few days, especially on my first drug, where in 1/2 an hour I went from really mostly ok to absolutely dead tired.  A couple times it happened while on my way home from dance and it was a little questionable.  The radiation oncologist told me with radiation the same thing can happen within a few minutes.

I am not sure how to deal with that.  I just know that I will.

She is really encouraging me to dance though.  Physical activity really helps to keep the energy up, so with a little luck perhaps staying active and dancing will help keep the fatigue away.

I am very worried about how my mood might be during radiation.  I was pretty positive during chemo, but there were some days when things were really bad.  There were days I was ready to quit dancing and quit everything and just stay in bed until it finished.  But somehow I got through them, although I have some great support here to help me out when things got bad to remind me why I do the things I do.

I am still thinking very seriously about taking a break from lessons.  I don’t know if I will be the best or even a tolerable student during radiation.  Thankfully, because I am a redhead I have very little melatonin in my skin for radiation to react with and cause a rash.  First time being a redhead paid off for NOT getting a sunburn.  That is a small bonus as it means I *should* be able to keep wearing proper undergarments throughout.

I think the thing that freaks me out the most about radiation is that most of the worse side effects will hit 3 weeks AFTER treatments finish.  There is something uncontrollable about that.  Like I am just going to get back on my feet and WHAM! I will get hit with super-fatigue.  My oncologists thinks it could be 8 weeks before I can really go back to work, although the return to work program will help.

My surgery is 10 weeks after I finish.  I can’t imagine just sitting around being tired for 10 weeks waiting for the most major surgery of my life.

It all seems a little too much right now.  Not quite sure how I will make it through, but definitely somehow I will.

I just don’t really know how not to be positive and optimistic.  It always works out.  Even radiation.

Smooth Lesson #3–Foxtrot

Great lesson tonight with instructor #2!

I really like American foxtrot, it’s a great dance to just get really into and be expressive.  Boss and Instructor #2 had a chance to work together before the lesson so that meant they had some figures they had already agreed on ready for me to try. Things went really smoothly and we got a routine together with a nice combination of figures and some pretty playful and cute passages.

I am looking forward to working on it more in the future.  I was pretty surprised at the things Boss wanted to do–they were not in his usual style, but it was interesting to see him having a little bit of fun with stuff.

Tango next week and the smooth lessons and smooth routines are choreographed!

Today was a day of a lot of information outside of dance–I met with my radiation oncologist to go over everything for that. Tomorrow is the planning day where they will scan me, measure me, tattoo me and do all the planning for all my sessions of radiation.  August 11th is Day 1 of 28 treatments.  Thankfully, because I am going to be having surgery after I only need 28 treatments and no ‘boosters’, which would have meant an extra 4 treatments.

I will talk more about radiation tomorrow after my planning session, once I have a chance to process everything from today.

The other fun thing about today was finally Boss and I got to meet with my dressmaker to finish the planning for my 3 dresses!  They won’t be made until probably February, but at least the planning is done, and we can purchase the material 🙂  I will let you know a little more about those in a future post too–probably Saturday or Sunday.

I am pretty pooped and stressed this week so I am sorry for the short posts.  I will catch up soon.

I will be foxtrotting my way through my dreams tonight 🙂

Break time?

Short one today as I am pretty exhausted this week.  Perhaps that is what is contributing to my mind-set.  I promise to write more about this on the weekend though.

The first two weeks of August, Boss is going to be on vacation, so no lessons for me.

But thinking about that and radiation has had me pondering taking a longer break as well.  At this point, I am going to see how I feel while Boss is on his vacation and then decide if I will start back when he does, or if I will take a longer break myself.

I am just not sure how dance will go during radiation.  Because of the location, it is quite likely I won’t be able to wear a normal bra.  I am not sure if I will be able to wear anything even remotely supportive.  The idea is both mortifying and deeply difficult.  A woman my size needs to wear something supportive outside of the house.

And then, how does one approach one’s ultra-conservative dance instructor about this issue?

I also think in general I may just need a break from lessons.  There is a lot of stuff going on in my life right now, my health aside, and I may just need some time to really think things through to make sure I am in the best place to move forward.

I am tired and scared and anxious and I feel like a burden to those around me who have to support me through this.  I am trying not to feel that way, but there are days I don’t succeed.

thankfully, there are some where I do.  I just need more of them.