Day in the dumps

My lesson never happened today.  The hall mixed up Boss’s bookings, so it wasn’t opened until 20 minutes into my lesson, so when given the choice of a 1/2 hour lesson or to reschedule, I chose to reschedule.

My day went a little downhill from there.  It’s been a long time since this has happened, but today I had no desire to practice.  I did anyway, and unfortunately, general disappointment about not having a lesson plus lack of motivation to practice meant practice didn’t go well.

Generally, it seems today is just one of my bad days.  I can’t seem to pull myself out of the dumps and events of the past 3 weeks seem to be catching up with me.  Aside from radiation, the last 3 weeks have been pretty stressful for me and lot has happened in my world outside of dance and cancer.  There have been a lot of general disappointments.  Today I just feel under-estimated, under-appreciated and taken for granted.

I don’t really have any reason to feel this way, but it seems the accumulation of everything over the past few weeks has just caught up with me.  I feel like I should be expecting another disappointment or two to come out of the woodwork.  I am just tied up in knots and something needs to give–I really need some good, positive and stress-free news that doesn’t cost me anything, but I don’t see any coming anytime soon.

It sucks feeling like this, but it’s ok.  I know tomorrow will be a new day, and as of Friday I will have only 9 rounds of radiation left–single digits!!  It’s also a long weekend coming up, so that has to be good, right?

Boss is supposed to let me know tonight the costs for the competition in October I am hoping to do.  I am really hoping the costs aren’t too high.  Competing anywhere is always a lot to consider and there are a lot of unknowns for me in October.  I have no idea how I will be in terms of side effects.

My financial priority right now, actually, is to work on affording my new dresses which are going to be a necessity in the new year after my surgery. I am really hopeful I will be able to sell my current dresses to help off-set those costs, but I am not sure I will have luck with that.  But I won’t know until I try, and that won’t be until after the competition.  One of them may be sold already, but the buyer has had some financial issues, so it’s on the rocks.  I remain hopeful though.

One good thing about this competition is that there is at least one other of Boss’s pro/am students going, which will help with the costs a little.

Doing a competition may be exactly what I need.  I have been working hard, but I really haven’t had much to measure progress against except for Boss’s encouragement.  A competition would be something external for measuring that.  I am sure I have made progress, but I guess I just have some doubt about the amount.

I will pick myself up and carry myself forward.  Just not today.

Slow Foxtrot

I haven’t done any ‘keywords’ posts for standard dances, so since I am focusing on it, I figured I would start with slow foxtrot.

I feel it’s important to differentiate between slow and american foxtrot because the two dances have different characters.

Keywords for slow foxtrot are ‘elegant’, ‘smooth’, ‘flowing’, and ‘precise’.

There is something very simple and basic about this extremely complicated dance that gives it it’s charm.

Slow foxtrot is like a conversation between each couple as they weave in and out amongst each other.  The ladies really get to shine in this dance and show simple elegance at it’s finest.  The men really get to show off their ladies as they move through this dance looking debonair and charming.  The tailsuits really suit this dance.

When done right, this dance is just smooth and elegant and full of charm with basic precise steps that just seem to flow across the dance floor.  The couple truly moves as one like a fairy tale.

14 down, 14 to go

And…halfway point!

Honestly, it is starting to get hard.  I spent another day mostly in bed exhausted.  My skin is starting to feel sunburned, not just looking it.  I seem to always feel a little bit nauseous.  My head is always foggy.

But I did get practice in today.

I am very proud of myself for that because it was looking dicey most of the day.  On top of my regular exercises, I took 5 mins to run through the foxtrot sequence on my own.  No idea if I am doing it right, but I could tell my body was at least trying to do something.

The nice thing about practice today was that it was later in the day, the gym was quiet and because I was mentally tired all my exercises were very meditative and relaxing.  They even seemed more consistent than they have been lately.  I was definitely in my happy place.

I am trying to remember to give myself a break.  It’s ok that I am sleeping later in the day, or needing a nap right after my treatment.  It’s ok if the only thing I get done in a day is my dance exercises.  No one expects me to be super productive, except me.

I can tell that even boss is noticing the treatments are starting to weigh on me.  He asks more frequently how I am.  Last weekend he was concerned because I apparently got very red in the face when we were practicing.  Yesterday he noticed (but tried not to) that I was just dripping sweat during my lesson (there was a small comment about it being so hot in the studio, and was I able to notice the humidity).  It’s good though that he is noticing so I don’t feel the need to explain it or point it out.

One of the best things about working with Boss through this is that from just after my diagnosis, he decided to just keep going as though I wasn’t sick and adjusting from there–which is exactly what my approach has been for myself too.  It’s been pretty rocky since I started and finished chemo, but I got through it and kept dancing thanks to his support.

So that makes the next 3 weeks a little easier to face.  First that it is only 3 weeks and not 3 months, second that I have had to manage fatigue before (although not quite this strong!) so I know I can do it, and finally that I know Boss will keep helping me keep dancing as much as I keep pushing myself.  I also have a great support network that is invaluable to helping me get through this. It also helps I have definite goals to work towards and look forward to.

One day at a time.  Just.keep.breathing.

And dancing. Can’t forget the dancing.

It’s all in the details

I love consistency of learning.

I am also extremely detail-oriented and goal-oriented.

Finally, I am getting all 3 in standard–and I love it!

I am probably one of very few people who actually enjoy doing the same thing over and over and over again.

That’s because when it comes to dance it rarely is exactly the same as the time before.  There is always some sort of new sensation I feel or small subtle change I notice.  Doing things over and over again seems to be pretty key for me in standard.

I had a great lesson today focused again on foxtrot.  We are slowly going through the sequence in small details and my body is responding to the demands placed on it.  That’s a great feeling.  We got through the feather, reverse turn, feather ending, 3-step, to natural turn to hover cross today.

Because we kept doing it over and over, it gave me a little bit of time to try different things with my body to see what works and what doesn’t.  Boss still finds me being cautious when dancing with him, but it isn’t something I am doing consciously.  He had me do the first part to the feather finish on my own to see how it looks compared to when we are working together and interestingly, he found I was doing things too much on my own–I need to take smaller steps on my own, and bigger steps with him.

One of the main things I can tell I am struggling with is keeping myself forward over my supporting leg.  It’s better with him, and terrible on my own.  When I do it on my own, because I am doing too much I am almost falling over backwards into my steps.

That’s an interesting thing to think about and consider.

I don’t have a lesson tomorrow, but I do hope to get to the gym to practice on my own and I hope to have the energy to do a bit of work on my foxtrot on my own to work out some small things.  That’s my big goal for tomorrow.  I did have a good practice going through my latin routines tonight, the details I have been working on there seem to be coming more naturally and finally my right arm is starting to work better.

Overall, with the focus on standard this week, my body is definitely feeling it, but not in a bad way.  I am pretty sore and tender, but it is telling me I am working hard in a new way and I can always appreciate that.

I get a break this weekend, so it will be good for my body to rest and heal up for next week.

Standard focus

Despite fatigue, I had another great lesson in standard today.

We are still focusing on foxtrot, but the best thing was that we are doing things over and over to build up consistency.  It’s exactly what I want to do right now.

About a month ago, I suddenly found myself better able to feel and control my upper body through my frame.  We are capitalizing on that and working through standard in big details to develop new good habits and muscle memory.

The goal right now is to build up as many strong habits and develop muscle memory in standard as much as possible before my surgery in the hopes that after my surgery my body will be able to adjust to the changes faster because it will be better able to remember how to move from the build up of good habits. At the same time, it should continue to build strength that hopefully will make my recovery better and quicker.

I really enjoyed what we were doing tonight because it is capitalizing exactly on the way that I learn.  We did things first slowly with Boss pointing  out small points, and building on the points and adding something new each time.  We would stop between steps to check and see if I was doing what I was supposed to.  At the end of the lesson, we just ran through the full sequence of feather, reverse turn, feather ending, 3-step with the music over and over to give me time to incorporate all the different points together in time.  It allowed me to see what I would do instinctively.

Boss seemed really pleased with how things went tonight and he mentioned he intends to focus on basic foxtrot for the next couple of lessons to build the foundation and to give me some consistency in working in standard together.

More standard tomorrow 🙂 With 2 naps, I should be good to go.

Radiation Fatigue

It’s official, radiation fatigue is here.

I spent most of today in bed, and when I wasn’t in bed I only got about 30 mins of clear thinking before my head felt heavy and fuzzy and things just stopped making a lot of sense.

I really don’t like this.  I could tell it was coming on yesterday, but I didn’t expect it to hit quite so hard, so all of a sudden.

Other than going to radiation, I did get out for about 2 hours today for dinner with a friend, but it was pretty draining.  I am really to head to bed again, and I am not looking forward to the early morning for radiation tomorrow.  At least I will have most of the day to rest before my lesson and practice tomorrow night.

I am optimistic that the activity will help boost my energy a bit, but I know it’s going to take some planning to get myself to the studio.

The worse thing is that I can’t seem to really nap.  I just sort of lie in bed with my eyes closed while my thoughts just wander on random things.  It’s restful and not all at the same time.  I even tried reading, which usually helps me sleep, but it wasn’t much help either.  I am hopeful that will sort itself out as I get a little more fatigued.

I think the most helpful thing will be to get as much sleep at night as possible.  Difficult when I have early radiation appointments, but not drinking coffee before I go and napping after may be the way to go there.  Thankfully, not every day is an early one, and hopefully the early appointments will be at a minimum for the next 3 weeks until I finish.

I have been here before with chemo, but I haven’t quite faced such a build-up for fatigue.  With chemo, because the treatments were weekly (or every 3 weeks), I got a bit of a break in between to recover.  There is no recovery time with radiation, I just have to keep managing the fatigue and keep my activity levels up where I can.

I guess I will see how tomorrow’s lesson and practice goes.

Fingers crossed.

Here I go again?

I had a good lesson today, completely focused on foxtrot.

However, I had a hard time getting through my exercises afterward.  I could actually feel myself run out of gas in the middle of my focused latin work, and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to get through my ballet and arm work.

But I did.

I am hoping I am just more tired today because of the extra effort I put in yesterday at the competitive practice, not because this is the start of the radiation side effects.  The other thing to consider is that I haven’t done a complete lesson in standard in quite some time, so that could also be a factor. I know fatigue is a big side effect of radiation, but I guess I am hoping to get just a little bit more time to feel good before it sets in.

Tomorrow should be a day off and rest, so I am hoping that allows me to regroup and that Wednesday is a less fatiguing day.

My body is definitely letting me know it isn’t appreciating the change in level of work I am doing.  I seem to have pissed off one of my glute muscles during practice yesterday, so it was sore today, but felt better before my lesson.  About when I started getting tired, it started acting up again tonight.  I have it coated in Voltaren and Biofreeze and I hope that encourages it to settle down.

I was really glad to take the time to focus on standard during my lesson.  It’s one of my goals to really work consistently in standard before my surgery, but I didn’t realize until last night that this had become really important to me.  I have made some small progress lately in being able to hold and work through my frame and finally I am starting to be able to tell when it isn’t right, how I am swayed, and what muscles are working.

I really want to bank on that progress to try and move forward.  I feel like I am really on the verge of a breakthrough in standard, I just need some consistent work to help solidify it and take me to the next level.  I also want to keep building on the small foundation I have so it is good and strong before my surgery for me to fall back on as I start back to dance through my recovery.  Post-surgery, standard is definitely going to be the hardest to bounce back from, so the better situated I am before, the better able I will be to adjust to the changes in my body.

At least that’s the hope.

If I needed confirmation that Boss was pleased with practice yesterday, I definitely got it today.  It was the first thing he mentioned and he commented again on how ‘cool’ the Viennese Waltz was, the start of my Quickstep, the first line of my Foxtrot….he actually gave me a bit of a list of everything that went really well.  It was great to hear.

I hope I can keep building on that momentum because it’s been a long time coming.  Boss’s goal is to really dig into the details of my silver standard routines to set me up good for gold.  He mentioned that he was doing things in my routines that a lot of people don’t do because it is complicated, but he purposely included them in my routines to have something different and because I am able to use my dynamics to help me through the steps.

One of the interesting things about today was that for the first time Boss acknowledged that he can see a different between when I am sure what I am doing, and when I am not.  He actually told me I tend to get too cautious when I am thinking about swing and sway and I start trying too hard to control all my movements and it makes everything small.  He wants me to move ‘big’ because he knows I can, and he was trying to convince me today to stop thinking about swing and sway so much and to just follow what he is leading.

That seems to be the big difference.  If I get out of my head and just follow, I have now started to do swing and sway on my own without real conscious thought.  If I start thinking should I sway left or right etc. my steps get smaller and it becomes obvious I am thinking.  I need to learn to trust myself and that I can control my movement without trying to–that controlling the movement has become second nature.

It’s a new way of thinking for me.  Previously, Boss would be telling me to not do so much or to focus on one thing or another.  I have to find the balance between now.  I am curious to see if this is a problem in foxtrot only (which is my most complicated routine), or if it carries across all the dances.

It will be interesting to see what Wednesday brings.

I have two early mornings in a row for radiation ahead of me, so I can see the possible return to naps in my future.  I definitely noticed last week that I did not want to get out of bed in any hurry.

I just have to remember–this Friday radiation is halfway done.

The Return to Competitive Practice

For the first time since April, I was able to return to the weekly competitive practice Boss runs.

Overall, it wasn’t too bad.  Definitely my endurance has slipped, but I expected that.  In the end, I did managed to dance all the dances twice, except samba, and I managed to dance almost the entire time in each dance I did.  Boss was taking it a little easy and stopped whenever he felt me start to struggle, but he was really pleased with how the latin went.

The standard run-through drove me a little crazy.  It’s been so long since we have done a standard run-through both Boss and I were having trouble remembering the steps.  He made some changes to the foxtrot about a month ago, and neither of us could remember them exactly.  The first watlz I couldn’t seem to find the right position, but once boss pointed out I was really pulling my arms back, that helped me regroup for the next few dances.  We had a really great VW, especially the left turns. I am not used to turning so much though and got quite dizzy by the end.  That’s definitely going to need some conditioning.  My position got better in standard, but it irks me a little how inconsistent it was.

I should really give myself a break as I am just starting to understand how I need to be for the correct position, so it is going to be inconsistent, but I guess I had hoped for better.  Boss seemed please with the sway overall through standard and made a point of saying he was pleased with the first line of the foxtrot that it was ‘pretty cool’.

Definitely, there are some points to work on for future practices, the next one being in 3 weeks (Boss does one week wtih me, one with two students who do 5 dances each, and takes a break).  There is a small hope he might be adding a pro/am practice during the week, so I am hopeful for that.

Boss wants me to relax a little on standard right now.  He knows that everything about standard is going to change after my surgery, so at this point, and since we won’t be competing in it at the competition in October, he doesn’t want to do a lot of work in it, especially since I rely a lot on physical sensations for my progress.  We are really going to have to start a bit from the beginning in January with standard, and I am not looking forward to that.  In the meantime though, I would like to try and get down a little more consistently the physical sensations we are working with.

Latin today went really well.  Boss was extremely happy with all the routines, and the number of details that came out as we worked through them today.  All of them went exceptionally well, and almost all of the details we worked on managed to make it into the routines in one way or another.  I think he was surprised I had so many of the details nailed down, since I didn’t take any notes, and I got to ‘one up’ him a little because I remembered details he forgot.  The Latin routines are really feeling good right now AND I did them in my full 2 1/2 ” heels.  There were some balance issues here and there, especially near the end of each routine as I was getting tired, but I was able to get through each routine strongly.  The first Paso was definitely rough, but the second was pretty bang on.

Boss was impressed with a few different things, so I have to give myself a pat on the back.  We had worked on our natural tops in all dances and I nailed every one with exactly the technical changes he had given me.  The difference is huge as the small changes mean a lot of extra momentum and it was all controlled.  Boss made a point of saying he could tell I have been working hard on the routines because the biggest difference was that I was dancing more on my own and not relying on him to help me do the steps as much as before.  That allowed him to bring things ‘up a notch’ with the things we are doing together.

I definitely feel more confident in the latin routines that I had before.  I am not dancing them ‘inside’ myself as I was previously.  I am just going for them and doing them full steam.  I feel like I have more control, but also that I am not having to work to keep that control the way I used to.

Just a little more endurance and all would be good.  I am really pleased though with how Latin went today and I really surprised myself a lot.  I think I surprised Boss a lot too.  I don’t think I have had so many positive comments from him, but after not doing something for a long time, I think it’s a little easier to impress than when it is week to week.

I feel very motivated after the practice today, and I think it’s something that has been missing for me–just that opportunity to run through routines from top to bottom without stopping and thinking.  Just going out and dancing and seeing how it goes.  It’s great to know I can still do it, even after all this time and everything my body has been through and is going through.

I am not where I was, but I am not as far behind as I feared.

Now I have to go do my latin homework from Boss 🙂

Oops on Smooth and Detailing Jive and Cha Cha

Oops!! Turns out that neither Boss nor I can make sense of my notes for the smooth routines, so we put them aside until Boss can get clarification from Instructor #2 and her notes (which will definitely be better than mine).  We should pick them up next week.

So, today was about Jive and Cha Cha.  That finishes off the detailing of going through all my routines, except for one part of my jive routine that Boss wants to think on some to decide what to do.

It was interesting today because Boss was getting unexpectedly creative in the jive routine.  Instead of just keeping things in the regular hold, he decided to change things up in the rolling off the arm and let me do it on my own while he put his hands on my hips.  It’s a pretty neat change up and makes me work to do the spin at the end of the move on my own without working off of him.  I like it 🙂

Cha cha was pretty straightforward, except he changed up the chase a little.  By the time we get into the chase we get pretty separated and I always seem to have to really move a lot to bring myself back closer to him.  He adjusted the choreography using a rock instead of a back lock so I don’t feel like I am running after him.  I need to work out what I do during the fan a little better for myself, and I need to get my right arm moving!

I have a really weird quirk with my right arm.  When I do latin, my left arm is very natural and always moving from my body movement and I never have to think about it.  My right arm, however, tends to just stick straight out to the side and do nothing like a stick.  It is the strangest thing!  It’s reaching the point where it is pretty annoying because if I don’t put conscious thought into moving my right arm, it just won’t go.  AND it feels very strange and awkward whenever I do use it.

I had an interesting request from Boss tonight.  He asked me to put into notes and to send him what I am focusing on in each latin dance routine, so he can make sure we are on the same page.  What is strange is that usually I am sending him this without him asking, so it was unexpected for him to ask me to do it.  I honestly hadn’t really thought about it yet.  I don’t usually make notes as, like the smooth routines, I find they tend to lose their meaning when I look back.

I work off of recreating physical sensations and doing repetition and it is hard to put that into viable notes.  I actually have to put some thoughts into trying to make some notes for Boss that will make sense.  It’s a good request, it’s just going to take a little bit to put together.

My next lesson is Monday and Boss said we are going to run through Paso a few times (he understands the difficulty of my trying to do it myself without him), and hopefully he will have heard from Instructor #2 so we can go through the smooth routines as we were supposed to do tonight.  If not, we will also work on Jive to finish up the detailing needed there.  Jive is another dance I can’t seem to quite get the routine together on my own, so it needs work.

Sunday I will finally have a chance to return to the competitor’s practice Boss runs and run through all my routines with him with music one after the other.  The last time I was able to go to the practice was back in April, before my chemo treatments zapped my strength and made Sundays a mandatory rest day.

I am a little nervous about my endurance going back.  It’s been a while since I have worked so intensely.  I just hope to be able to get through all the routines without having to start.  That’s my goal for Sunday.

Wish me luck!!

Detailing Paso Doble

I really like Paso, but it’s a hard dance to practice on your own.

For some reason, my Paso routines never really stick in my head.  I try and do them on my own, but the steps don’t seem to want to come out.

Tonight Boss and I went through my Paso routine to do the detailing like we have been for my other Latin routines.  It was good to go through, but I find that unlike the other Latin dances, the details of this one are more dependent on working with Boss.  A lot of it has to do with how I work within my frame and connect with him through it–which is very hard to practice on my own.

I like the challenge of Paso because it is so different from the other Latin dances, it has a position all it’s own and has many similar challenges to the standard dances.  Even the way you step in Paso is different.  It almost requires it’s own skill-set.  I can understand why it’s usually the last dance people learn of the 5 Latin dances.

It will be interesting to see what I remember when I work on Paso on my own tomorrow during practice.  Just getting the steps down would be a good jump ahead.  It’s not that I don’t know the routine, it just doesn’t seem to want to come together without it being led.

I did get an interesting compliment tonight from Boss though–we were working through some steps and he looked over at my left arm and was impressed by the way I was holding it.  My shoulder wasn’t up, and my elbow was out where it should have been.  Basically, I was told ‘congratulations, you now have a frame’.  Good progress, I guess 🙂  If I can sort out my right arm I would be completely good to go.  It’s always nice to surprise Boss with some sort of unexpected progress, he doesn’t get impressed easily.

Tomorrow night I think we are going to work on the smooth routines, and next week we should go through Cha Cha and Jive to finish up the 5 dances.

We had a general talk about the competition in October.  I will do Latin only for a number of reasons, providing the budget works out and seems reasonable.  There may be another student going, so at least that will cut down on half of Boss’s travel costs.  Slowly we are getting closer to a final decision.