Rumba-ing in the Right Direction

Tonight’s lesson had an unexpected high note.

We started by reviewing an exercise section for the jive at my request so that I would have something from jive to work on while I am away. Following that, I needed 3 small clarifications in cha cha to tighten that up.

Once those little things were out of the way, Boss wanted to work on the rumba to go through it with me dancing on my own all the way to the end. It took most of the lesson, but I was able to go through both the new section and the entire routine on my own. Boss even found a few different areas to give some coaching for technique to work on while I am away.

Since we had some time left at the end of the lesson, Boss decided to give the full rumba a try together with the music. It wasn’t flawless, of course, but it didn’t fall apart either. We had enough time to run it three times in a row from top to bottom.

Unexpectedly, I have one entire open routine I can actually ‘run through’!

Now the real work on the routine will begin–cleaning it, making it consistent, and styling. The work we already did on connection was already starting to show, but there is obviously a lot that still needs to happen.

Not to mention there are 8 other routines to finish learning to get to the same point. None of them are at the point where I can run through them fully on my own yet, and 2 (almost 3 if you count jive), I am not able to work through on my own yet at all (including the 2 most difficult).

But it’s a starting point. First one routine settles in, then others follow.

I am off for 3 weeks in Europe tomorrow for work and a mini-vacation at the end. It’s going to be a busy time, but I am really hopeful that I will be able to find some time to run through things for dance, as well as some strength training. I already feel a bit paranoid I will lose all of the progress I have made recently while I am away. Fingers crossed it doesn’t degrade too much.

I actually managed to get everything done I wanted to before I leave. I have a school paper due this weekend, which I finished just before dance tonight, I have a group project due while I am away but my group (many of whom are also away at the same time due to Easter) and I agreed to work ahead on it, so it is almost finished too. I got all my work stuff completed as well, although that had me at work after dance last night to finish it up.

I am even packed, which is pretty good for me since I don’t leave until noon tomorrow 🙂 .

The only small potential hiccup I am watching is a snow storm coming through one of the airports I am going to transition through. I am hoping it will be cleared out by the time I get there tomorrow afternoon.

I don’t know if I will be able to post much while I am away, but I do promise to catch up when I get back.

I am going to ride my rumba high for a little bit.

And hope everything isn’t too different when I get back.

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I think they think I am nuts…

Some of the social dancers at the studio, that is.

Either that, or they just don’t believe me when I say I am not preparing for a competition right now.

I don’t know what it was about tonight but I got asked by three different dancers “What competition are you preparing for?” (I still hate that question, BTW)

It was actually getting a bit comical when after the third time my response of “none right now” was met with a look of sheer incredulity.

I guess it just doesn’t make a lot of sense to them for me to be working as hard as they see me working without any competition motivating it.

It’s interesting though that they just assume I have a competition coming up considering compared with the amateur couples, I have only done one competition (most of them have done 3 or 4 since last September). Perhaps it is the way I work that they just automatically equate with competing.

That said, these are people who see me at the studio 3 times a week (well 4 the last 3 due to me being away), and usually when they arrive I am either practicing on my own or doing cardio conditioning, either by myself or with Boss, both of which I can imagine look pretty intense from the outside.

It’s interesting sometimes to see your work from the perspective of others. Truth be known, I don’t really have any routines near to being competition ready, and from now until June I am in and out of town pretty consistently. Most of them will be at more lessons than I will over the next month.

This week, my focus is trying to get the pieces of the routines Boss and I have gone over into my head consistent enough to work on my own while I am away. I just pray I have time to get practice in as the schedule will be pretty hectic, both during the course I will be doing and the vacation time after.

That said, I know myself well enough that I will find time here and there to fit things in, even if not as consistently as I would like.

Almost all the routines are coming along pretty good, and we have even added to the cha cha and waltz with a likelihood of adding to the rumba or samba tomorrow.

Jive is another story, but my guess is it will be on the list to tackle when I get back. I feel back because we spent a lesson going through it, and Boss even identified a couple pieces for me to work on and when I went to work on it myself on Sunday I discovered that pretty much after the second step it was all a blank including the pieces to work on.

(although one of them was ‘kick ball changes’, something I seem to have a complete mental block on)

So am I working for a competition?

There are none on the near horizon and I have no idea if any will appear.

But, I am still working as though there is one coming up — so I can be ready, just in case.

That isn’t nuts, is it?

Quick-stepping

As planned, tonight’s lesson was all about Quickstep.

It went quite well. We have gone over it a few times before, but tonight was the first time for me to work through the steps on my own. By the end of the lesson, we had gone through about half the routine which was the goal for the lesson.

It went as I predicted — rather quick to go through, but a lot of work needs to be done on my own to gain confidence in the steps and to gain the speed needed to execute them. There is a lot of control needed so that things don’t go off the rails.

One of the things about this quickstep routine is that there are, more than any other dance, a lot of steps that are fundamental to the routine, but that aren’t really done a lot in syllabus routines. It’s not that they are complicated, they just take focus at the front end and small changes of mindset. I can easily see where I can over-complicate things if I over-think.

I am glad things went so well. I had a bit of a trying day with low energy and strength, mainly due to the effects of almost a full week of intense hot flashes taking it’s toll on me. It was most noticeable during the cardio conditioning at the end of my lesson. My legs kept feeling like jelly and I just couldn’t push them through the full 1:30 at full capacity. I had something similar during strength training this morning – exercises that usually I have no issue with were tiring me out and a struggle halfway through my sets.

It should work its way out over the weekend, and I can’t wait. I am on leave until Wednesday, but I have some paperwork that needs to be done before then, so my weekend will be busy. I also have a paper to write for school that needs to be finished before I leave for Europe next week.

Because I am going to be away for three weeks, I have been doing some extra lessons. My next one will be on Sunday morning. Although I originally asked to do Paso, when I thought about it more it occurred to me that it might be better to do jive as similar to quickstep there is more for me to do on my own than in lessons. Once we go through it I can start working on that, leaving Paso and Foxtrot to be worked out in lessons, as they will need.

After my lesson on Sunday, my plan is to go through the routines I have done this week and reinforce them. I hope it will become a regular Sunday routine when I get back.

Some more time quick-stepping away.

Surprising Boss

Well, that doesn’t happen very often.

He was surprised last week with how far my samba had progressed, and tonight I went through the waltz for him and he was surprised because he hadn’t realized I had worked so much on it.

In fact, he even commented on how in the past two weeks he has noticed that all the routines I have been working on have really started coming together and that there has been a lot of progress in general lately.

Boss isn’t one to give compliments lightly, so he has to be pretty impressed to mention it so openly. He also acknowledged that he thought I was a little crazy to want to work on so many different routines at one time instead of just one from top to bottom but that he had to admit what I was doing seemed to be working.

The biggest contributor to the progress is the simple fact that in the past couple weeks I have figured out firstly how to work most efficiently through the routines, and secondly I have been able to be more consistent in my practice overall.

Once I figured out the best way for me to work on my own, it was easy to figure out what I needed from Boss in my lessons to enable that. Primarily, it was time working through steps on my own in lessons as I do in my practice with his coaching when I can’t figure out what comes next.

I also realized that I can’t quite process entire routines at once, so I needed to break them up, and I need to be able to acknowledge when I have reached my limit for working on a particular routine.

The interesting thing is that while we work through the routines, each time we go over it we are able to add another layer of technique and correct things because I am a little more confident in what I need to do. It’s a great side effect, for lack of a better description.

Things are going so well, that tonight Boss offered me a choice for what to do next–whether to start working on another routine (which he figured was my preference) or keep working on the routines we have already done. I chose a new routine as I feel ready to take on a little more without compromising what I am already working on.

We had a discussion about which dance to do next and I offered either Quickstep or Paso. We are getting down to the dances that are going to require a lot of working and repetition to really get sorted out (foxtrot/paso), and the dances that while will be easier than others to get into my head, will take a lot of work on my own to fully execute (quickstep/jive). I picked one of each to break up the volume/type of work.

We are going to start with Quickstep tomorrow, and following that we will start to dive into the paso.

I leave for Europe in just over a week, and I hope that before I go I will have a strong foundation to work on my own through the routines, just drilling the sections I have done over and over while I am away.

Perhaps I will surprise Boss again.

Starting to fly on my own

Well, maybe not fly exactly.

The routines are slowly starting to take shape. Three of them are becoming pretty solid in my feet and two more are starting to get consistent.

The trickiest part is trying to take what I do with Boss and figure out how to execute it on my own. We are even starting to work through some of the technique for the section I know.

To put it simply, I am starting to feel like the routines are becoming doable and not quite so overwhelming.

I have also found some time to focus just on the routines, which is something I have been missing. Boss was able to make some extra time available at the studio on Sundays, so I am going to make that my routine time. It is also time to ‘catch up’ if for some reason I missed a practice during the week.

In other news, the ‘fog’ begun lifting at about 4 pm on Friday. I had a few foggy hours on both Saturday, Sunday and today, but the clear moments are much longer. It’s such a relief to have clarity again. My energy and productivity seems up some, so I hope it lasts and I skip the usual week of intense frequent hot flashes. Fingers crossed, so far so good.

My lessons this week, at least tonight and Wednesday should be focused on going through things on my own with Boss coaching. That will go a long way in solidifying the routines for me before I go away, so I can keep working through them while overseas–one of my main goals right now.

I gave Boss a list tonight of some of the things I would like to go through and hopefully the lesson this week will cover all of it. We already got through quite a bit tonight as it is a lot of small details.

We are also progressing with the conditioning. On the advice of my trainer, we raised the threshold of recovery to when I get under 140 BPM instead of under 130 to push my limits a bit more. It means less time recovering and more time moving. It’s more exhausting, but that is a good thing and why we do it at the end of my lesson.

The only slightly awkward thing is that my lesson is almost always just before a group class, which means I do most of my conditioning with a group of waiting students watching. It’s a little weird and sometimes they don’t realize they have walked into my lesson and start trying to ask Boss questions or pay for their class. It’s getting a little better though.

Sometimes, improvements seem to take forever to come and stick. This week, it seems that the work I have been doing is starting to pay off.  There are other signs of progression not only in dance, but in my strength and health in general. I am less tired and exhausted overall, sleeping a bit better, and feeling stronger as I move.

All signs that flying is not far off…

Samba Surprise

Saaay Whaaaaat???

Yes, of all the dances we did tonight, samba went the best. I was even able to do the first 1/3 of the routine with Boss in time with slow samba music. Boss was completely surprised by that.

I was a little less so as I already knew I could do the first 1/4 because of focus practice I had done on it a few weeks ago. I had been able to at least maintain that. The rest of the third following where I usually stop was the surprise for me.

I have slowly been working to try and get to the halfway point, but it is not quite there. After the halfway point there is still pretty much a blank even though we went through the entire routine yesterday (and again tonight).

Considering I am still completely fogged out (this afternoon in first aid I couldn’t remember what number came after 6 in a 10 count twice during CPR practice), my lesson went much better than yesterday. I did ask Boss to break up the lesson into different dances, which he did tonight and definitely helped (although I think he is not too sure).

We started with reviewing the rumba (although not with any music), and after about the halfway point he could see me start to get a vacant stare. We still went through the entire routine before stopping, although the last half is still pretty blank for me. I might be able to reach the full halfway point on my own in practice tomorrow. That’s my hope at least…

One thing that did seem improved in the rumba was the connection, or the consistency of the connection. The work we have been doing is starting to generate ‘triggers’ for me so that I do notice when the connection is missing, and I can feel myself try to re-engage it.

I have to try to work out the timing a bit better on my own tomorrow. I can do it with Boss counting, but when I am on my own the count gets a bit lost without him to lead and prompt my movements.

What I really need to do is go through the steps on my own with Boss correcting and coaching as needed. Once we do that, I am fairly confident I can go away on my own and work out the final pieces and start adding the layers of technique. We didn’t have time to do that today before my brain was full for rumba, so we moved on to the Cha Cha.

The Cha Cha also went better than I expected. There were a lot of blank spots, but there are small sections of the routine that I am starting to do by muscle memory when led, if not quite consciously yet. I am pretty sure Boss could tell when I reached the point where things were no longer computing for me, but we pushed through to the end.

I haven’t worked through Cha Cha on my own yet, so that will be on the docket for tomorrow’s practice. I need to see how far I am able to figure out on my own and I am hoping about half. Some of the footwork gets pretty intricate in the middle, but I do know that usually cha cha is a dance I am able to pick up fairly quickly.

We ended with the samba and were able to go through the first 1/3 twice with the slow music, the second time to make sure the first time wasn’t a fluke. I blanked on a couple of steps, but was able to catch up later. Samba is usually the dance I struggle with learning the most next to paso, so tonight was certainly encouraging.

I hope my lesson tomorrow goes just as well and also has a bit of a surprise in it.

We haven’t done the waltz recently…