Preparing for coaching

Today was my last day in my office until New Year.

Next week I am off to Ottawa for work for the week, then I am home for Thanksgiving. After that, I have a couple days of vacation before joining a ship that leaves our home port on Friday. We won’t be back until almost Christmas.

I will talk some more about the upcoming trip and preparations I am making to have some dance productivity while at sea, but tonight I want to talk about next week and the prep we have been making for that.

While I am in Ottawa for work, I am going to take the time to do some lessons with 3 different coaches – 1 standard and 2 latin – in the bit of time I have between work. I was able to schedule my flights to give me time on the day I arrive before I start work the next day and time before I fly home the day after work finishes.

I am pretty excited to be able to work with all 3 of them. I am going to do 2 lessons with 2 of them, and 3 with the other. The 2 latin coaches are the couple who designed our routines, and I also worked with both of them this time last year when I was in town for the same reason.

So, to get ready this week was about reviewing the routines I didn’t perform and recording the other 3 latin routines. We recorded 3 of the 4 standard routines back in August. We recorded the routines so the coaches can see where I am at and to give them an idea of where the problem areas are.

Needless to say, the other 3 latin routines are a bit rough, but not too bad. We were able to do them in time with the music, with only the odd disaster here and there. It didn’t help that this week has been crazy at work with a day of sailing, and having to travel more than 2 hours for a medical appointment. My brain was a little more fried than I would have liked.

Boss has been communicating with the coaches and giving them his thoughts and ideas for things to work on. He has some very specific ideas of things mostly which he hopes my getting another perspective will help my mind process it in a new way–which is really the main goal for any sort of coaching–at least my goal.

Last time I worked with these coaches it was a lot of information, but a lot of fun. It made a big difference right before my last competition and I left with about 4 pages of notes. I expect more the same this time, although a little more focused as we have worked together and are not new to each other.

It’s going to be a pretty intense week next week but I am up for the challenge. I am really looking forward to it as I am sure it’s going to be a valuable experience.

Because the ship is not leaving right away when I get back I will even have 4 more lessons with Boss before I leave until Christmas. That will give us time to review and go over what I have from the coaches and work together to develop exercises which can be done in the limited space on ship. It’s really important to me that I stay active and dancing while I am away.

In the meantime, I feel prepared for the week ahead.

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A Successful Performance

And two of my open latin routines are on the floor!

Some poeple can grow a human in 9 months. I can’t, so instead I grew 2 latin routines to initial performance level.

The showcase last night went really well, but instead of just talking about it, I am going to show you.

First, we did the open Cha cha then we did the open rumba.

It felt so good to be performing. I really didn’t realize how much I have missed preparing for a goal. We decided to do the cha cha just over a month ago, and added the rumba 3 weeks ago. I was really amazed how much we were able to polish up the routines in that short amount of time – especially as prior to that we hadn’t even tried either in time with the music.

I could go into multiple details about what was wrong with them – little stumbles, legs not quite straight, some strange styling – but that was not what last night was about.

Last night was about getting back on the floor, knowing I worked hard and taking the time to just enjoy dancing and presenting two challenging routines to a local audience who haven’t seen me perform since 2016.

I was approached by one of the local social dancers after the showcase and what she told me really stuck. She told me she really enjoyed watching me perform last night because she could see the pure joy I was experiencing being on the floor.

It really stuck out because she has seen me dance through my entire cancer journey and when it became known I had cancer she was one of the first to approach me and share that she too had battled cancer and won. Her sharing that with me helped me to realize I too could win this battle. Sadly, last night she shared she is once again battling and will be doing a form of chemo for the rest of her life. But to know that seeing me back on the floor and doing what I love meant a lot to her really touched me.

Cancer has not been nice to the dancers in my community. But we keep fighting and supporting each other to overcome it.

2 of 9 routines now on the floor! I am sure the others will follow in the new year after I get back from this upcoming extended work trip.

I reminded myself of something last night I hadn’t realized I had forgotten. It’s easy to always declare new routines ‘not ready’. The truth is that they are never ready, but at some point they need to be put on the floor so the next steps for them can be determined.

Ready for the next steps in cha cha and rumba now.

 

Unlocking muscles

I have had an interesting encounter at acupuncture.

Last week I had an interesting conversation with my physiotherapist because I am encountering issues getting my left leg to engage and keep my left knee turned out. Progress for this on the right is going well, but my left just didn’t seem to want to work so I mentioned it to him.

He said that sometimes, an impinged nerve that is a little blocked can stop firing correctly meaning that the message to the muscle I am trying to engage might not be getting through. That can lead the muscle to going to sleep a bit and becoming dormant and more or less locked.

I then mentioned that to my acupuncturist later that evening. She found that interesting and did some dry needling in my hip which is one way to wake up a muscle and get it to unlock and start working again.

If you have ever had dry needling, you probably know what I am talking about. It’s not the most pleasant thing as when the needle is inserted and hits the right spot it sends almost an electrical zing through the muscle which leads it to contract and then let go. At least that is what I feel – the sensation for someone else could be different.

I didn’t fully understand until later in the week what she had been doing and its effects, but I did notice that it did suddenly get easier to maintain my knee out on my left side, and I could feel my hips firing to keep it out as I walked which was something I couldn’t feel before on my left side. Its been an interesting experience.

A small unpleasant side effect of that is that my knees have suddenly realized that they are working differently and they are not sure if they are happy about it. They have been aching more, especially the right, but its not a surprise when making changes to how you move. I hope they will adapt and settle soon though.

Today I had acupuncture again and that led to a new experience. As I have mentioned, I have been trying to work on my styling and engaging the right muscles to move my arms and encountering a lot of difficulty. After repeated trying, it was obvious something was not working right on my right side. I could feel the muscles working as I brought my arm forward but as I brought it back I could feel the muscles ‘let go’. Compared with the left I could tell something was up.

I mentioned it at my appointment, especially as it seemed to be relevant to fixing my neck and shoulders. She did some experiments first having me move my arms as I need to for dance to see what she could observe. She almost immediately noted that when I brought my arm back it appeared I was using the wrong muscles which left me fighting to keep my shoulder down.

She then had me repeat the action with her hand on my shoulder blade and that confirmed her suspicion – she found my rhomboid, which should have been engaging wasn’t doing anything noticeable. That led to some explorations in the muscles around my armpit and shoulder and she found two huge bundles of knotted muscles.

And so started a lot of dry needling and a lot of zings and hiccups as she called them. She did as much as I could tolerate and she felt practical and not too overwhelming in my armpit and then moved on to my shoulder blade and around my traps muscles over the top of the shoulder. She also put a stimulator on my shoulder blade to wake up the muscles.

It was not pleasant, to say the least, and I had sensations of ‘nervyness’ through my shoulders and down my arm. When the muscles let go and relaxed they also feel like they have just done a supper intense workout (which in some ways they have).

It is all worth it though because at the end of my session she had me repeat the movement again and the difference is incredible! I don’t feel like I am fighting to move my shoulder and arms through my right side any more. I don’t feel like I reach a point where I lose control of the shoulder and I can move it both forward and back without having to rely on my arm movement.

Both sides feel almost the same now. Its an amazing accomplishment for me!

If it keeps this way, then I might see some progress through my arms. For now and into tomorrow the entire area is very tender and sore. Muscles that have been locked into one position have relaxed for the first time in a while and they are almost breathing a sigh of relief. It would be a bonus if this leads to some relief of the back and shoulder issues.

Unfortunately I won’t see her again until the new year as she is away next week and I am away the week after until Christmas. I have physio later this week and should have it again next week so hopefully he can build on the success from today before I leave.

It just never occurred to me that some of my issues could be muscles just not working as they are supposed to. My physio said sometimes scar tissue can affect the nerves that fire certain muscles and that can lead to issues like I have encountered. Considering the amount of scar tissue around my shoulder and chest, there is no surprise. The muscle in my hip for keeping my left knee out has a nerve root based out of the damaged disc in my back. In the end it makes a lot of sense.

But the important thing is that my muscles appear to now be unlocked.

Finishing touches

I spent a big part of my lesson learning how to bow today.

It seems so simple. Don’t we all learn it as a kid? Well, apparently not dancesport style.

As we get closer to the performance on Saturday it is time to sort out these little details. The routines we are doing are meant for competition, but this is going to be a bit of a show.

Among other things, we had to figure out what to do for an opening and closing. We kept it simple in the end, but I think it will work. As I said, the trickiest part was sorting out how to make the bow works.

Other than that the main focus was on running through the routines and cleaning up a few areas that needed a little more work.

One of the things we had to do was sort out how I was responding to the lead in a few places. Especially when the lead is on my right side, I have a tendency to lock up and restrict my movement, which then makes is really difficult for Boss to lead me through steps, especially if I have to turn anywhere.

It took some experimenting, but in the end what worked was just relaxing in some spots and letting my arm go, and in others moving to the step when I felt the lead. It will work for now, and I am sure there are other spots we need to work out.

The routines are not going to be perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but they will still look good and be passable. Considering this is the first time we will dance them, I feel pretty good about where they are right now.

I think Boss is pretty happy with them too. He was saying today that on Wednesday he plans to do some work on the other routines as we want to record them before I head to Ottawa at the beginning of the month.

The next two weeks are going to be pretty crazy, but I am just taking it one day at a time and looking forward to the performance this weekend.

Until then, its the finishing touches to build on the foundation we have.

Confidence

Usually when you see that in a title it’s because it is lacking.

I am actually finding the opposite. Last night I realized that I am slowly regaining my confidence back.

The odd thing is that I hadn’t even been really aware that I had lost it. But I suppose like most things you don’t realize something until you can see a big difference. I lost it gradually, but at yesterday’s lesson I realized there has been quite a change.

We were focusing on the rumba and cha cha yesterday as we continue to prepare for the showcase in two weeks. I can’t even really explain what I noticed was different except to say that I felt myself looking up more and feeling confident in bringing the routines to the next level. I was beginning to perform the routines instead of just working through the steps.

I felt better about how I looked doing the routines.

I am not sure what is triggering the change but part of it is having a performance to focus on. Another part of it is likely that I have been able to lose some of the chemo weight. Its appears to be a combination that just works.

I am not going to knock it. Instead I am just going to roll with it.

It helps that the routines seem to be coming together really well. We may have also decided on music yesterday, just from what we were using to practice.

We started by ironing out some of the details for some of the line features in the rumba. I have a roll-out to a lunge I wasn’t very sure of, especially the movements after the lunge. We were able to to get that working together, and the transition to the next step. It leaves only one more section to work out, and the routine will be in really good shape.

We also worked a little on the cha cha, working through the beginning and reviewing the section we worked on last week. We were able to run through 2/3rds of the routine before we ran out of time, at speed. It was also working well.

It puts us in a great place for the performance in 2 weeks. It’s been a while since I have felt this good about my dancing. It is making me look forward to what is next.

And hopefully more confidence will emerge.

Preparing to perform

So it appears we will be performing in two weeks.

We are focusing on latin and we will do the cha cha routine for sure, but we are also working on the rumba and will probably do that as well.

It’s a showcase for another local studio that Boss’s studio has been invited to participate in. It presented an opportunity for us to perform just before I leave for the rest of the fall, and gives us a goal for getting two routines ready to perform.

It just makes sense, especially since other than a really brief and quick demonstration back in July we haven’t done any competing or performing since last October.

Both routines are actually not in bad shape right now.

The cha cha we are able to get through in time with slow music and the medium music has only a couple of bumps but doesn’t completely fall apart. Since the last time we ran it in full, we have worked out almost all of the bumps, and most of the styling. In the end, the routine has only two major spots where arm styling is a concern and I have been working on them pretty hard.

The big thing we have been focusing on in the cha cha is the lead and follow as that is key to getting the turns on time and executing quite a few of the steps. It’s actually pretty together right now, but needs some polishing and running through a few more times to hopefully lock it down.

I have actually really enjoyed the concentrated focus on the cha cha routine to pull it together and it confirms for me that agreeing to do the performance has been the right thing to do to move some of the routines to the next level before I leave.

We started digging into the rumba on Monday. It’s actually also not in a bad place, but it also has a few bumps to iron out and we really need to go over the styling in detail. We ironed out one of the biggest bumps in the middle of the routine yesterday, taking the whole lesson, but it was time well spent as we were able to go through that section in time with the music several times.

The key to the rumba right now seems to be the timing. Its tricky because it varies quite a bit and there are holds and pauses for development – some of which are one bar, some are two. The trick is remembering how long to develop at what part.

The styling will also be tricky, especially some of the transitional pieces. I already accidentally clobbered Boss in the face yesterday in a combination of not getting my arm high enough and him having his head a little forward. Some of the hold changes are also tricky.

One of my biggest concerns about the styling is that I am not very good at developing some of the lines and some of them need a lot of very specific movements I just can’t seem to make work for me. One of the key parts of the routine has me do a double turn to roll-out into a side lunge stretching away from Boss. When I hit the lunge, I need to make sure I have reconnected with Boss after turning on my own and after I stretch away I am supposed to melt.

I don’t melt very well. I really think we need to considering another way of styling that step, whether it is to stretch it a little longer and then turn in for the transition which is to a pivot to a lunge done together. I hope it is something we look at a bit closer very soon. I know I can do a good stretch because we have done one in a previous showcase routine.

For both routines, it really is about polishing right now, minus a couple of timing and step bumps to work out. For the cha cha, I need to make sure I add more power and speed to my turns, and the rumba is about the timing and not rushing. I don’t feel relaxed about performing, but I am not feeling overly stressed about either routine not being ready.

At least not yet. We will see how I feel in a couple weeks.

The focus on latin and the details has really been interesting over the last week. I’ve really enjoyed what we have been doing and actually been surprised at how things have come together. I feel really good about the work we have done and while I know neither routine will go perfectly, I am starting to look forward to performing. I have missed it more than I realized.

More prep to go.

Finding the root of a problem

I had an insightful physio appointment today.

I haven’t had physio in a while as I had to cancel my last one and the therapist was on vacation. Most of my appointments had been more focused on providing relief to my neck and shoulders, but since I last saw him I have had some good progress through acupuncture, including release the knot in my trapezius.

This allowed the therapist to focus more on an evaluation to try and figure out what hasn’t been working around my shoulders so we can start to correct the issue.

What he discovered made perfect sense. My right serratus anterior muscle is extremely weak (I am almost not able to resist pressure against it at all), and is very limited in its range of motion.

The serratus anterior muscle runs from the shoulder blade along the outside of the torso and is connected to the 2nd to 8th ribs. It’s a very long muscle that pretty much runs from the armpit down your side. This muscle is what moves the shoulder blade around the ribs, moving it forward. It is a key muscle when you punch straight forward.

Strength in this muscle helps protect the rest of the shoulder and neck muscles from getting hammer backwards when there is resistance from the front. It’s also the muscle that keeps the arm in front of the body when it is held at 90 degrees.

This explains a big part of why the muscles on the right side of my neck and shoulders tend to easily get angry. It also explains why I have a hard time with lead and follow, arm movements and always seem to be allowing my right side to fall back behind me when I try to use my partner to turn.

Its something Boss and I have been trying to figure out for a few weeks now. In order to be able to counter resistance from Boss in many of my turns, I have to start with my arm almost straight out or else it goes too far behind me and it is like I am not there.

Since I have so little strength in the muscle, pretty much I am not there.

It’s hard to say why this muscle on this one side is so weak, but it is likely a combination of many things. First, the lymph nodes that were removed from my right armpit would have been sitting right on top of the muscle (as that is where they lie), and it would have been very difficult to remove them without causing at least minimal damage to the muscle. This area was also fully irradiated by the radiation. Then you add in several other surgeries to the area and a lot of time spent not being able to lift things, and shingles in the nerve that is connected to this muscle…well, it makes sense.

The good news is that now we have found the root of the problem, I can start working to fix it. I have 3 exercises to focus on for the next week – stretching the muscle to try to gain some range of motion back (the best stretch is the classic triceps stretch bending the elbow over the head), the waiter lift (which focuses on lifting the bent elbow straight up from a position like a waiter carrying a tray), and a lying punch (pushing a weight straight up from the shoulder without allowing the shoulder to raise towards my ears).

I expect to be a bit sore tomorrow after the work I have done on the muscle today.

It’s going to be a long process to restrengthen the muscle, but it’s very possible. As the muscle strengthens, some of the neck and shoulder pain should begin to subside (it’s only part of that problem), but I should also be able to move through my arm styling better (its a main muscle for properly moving the arm from the shoulder since it controls the shoulder blade), and it will help with my lead and follow in latin.

It’s something I can focus on while I am away since the exercises are easy to do in a confined space.

I have some other exercises to work on which should also help with the neck and shoulder issues.

I promise to write about dance next time. Lots of things have been happening, especially in latin as we prepare to perform in a couple weeks. It seems that we will be doing not only the cha cha, but we are now adding the rumba.

September is turning into a busy month.

Masters Post #4 – Tech for promoting niche sports

Last post for my current masters course!

Today I came across an interesting article found at https://grandstandcentral.com/how-niche-sports-can-use-tech-to-go-mainstream-1d4e2101971e

This caught my attention right off the bat because it immediately made me think of dance, for two reasons in particular – how it is becoming easier to access coverage of events – and how this evolution in technology is further weakening WDSF’s argument for pushing so hard to include dancesport in the Olympics.

For a recap on the Olympics issue, here is a link to a great blog post by George Pytlik that sums up the issue as well as the effects this is having on dancesport as a whole. I agree with the points he makes – the changes that have come about and the rift in the dance world due to the pursuit of the Olympic dream by WDSF have already gone too far.

I for one dread the day that is coming soon when we will start seeing numerous posts again about how WDSF is trying to get dancesport accepted into the next games that offers spots to new sports, and the social media fallout and debates that inevitably will come with it.

As you can see from George’s post, one of the main motivating factors that is identified by those who are pushing for this dream is that Olympic inclusion would result in an influx of money and mainstream coverage for dance.

Unfortunately, I just don’t see how this would happen given today’s technology and trends toward cord-cutting and online viewing on demand. In addition, as George also points out, there are many sports in the Olympics that receive almost no coverage, especially if there are no medals in that sport for the broadcast country.

The article I came across today also makes and interesting point that technological advances have resulted in making “niche” sports more interesting, particularly extreme sports which appear to be growing in popularity in general across social media. The more extreme, the more it attracts viewers. The more these sports grow in popularity, the more likely they are to attract spots and coverage in the Olympics over other sports that seem to be fading away – which includes dancesport.

But there is an area where dancesport is becoming more and more accessible to anyone who wants to look for it, and it is not on cable. It’s through social media and streaming sites.

I have already mentioned that I try (as much as work will permit me) to watch the 3 major UK dance festivals every year. When I can, I even schedule my work vacation to correlate with watching Blackpool. I don’t watch them on cable (I haven’t had cable since 2012), I watch them live on www.dsi-london.tv through an annual subscription. DSI London is only one of several live dance streaming ‘channels’ available and that does not even include some live streams available on youtube for free.

And that is just live events. Following any major competition, videos quickly become available and shared through social media channels, often including full finals, for anyone to watch.

Commentary on live feeds in another trend that appears to be becoming more commonplace, enough that NDCA has recently included rules about who can provide commentary during a competition (for example, anyone judging at the competition cannot).

Personally, I think commentary is an area where dancesport in particular could benefit the most in expanding its viewership online. Commentary helps to connect the average person with what they are watching (by explaining what is happening, what is good, what is not so good, and background on couples), and it also can build excitement and anticipation.

As an experiment, try watching a ‘mainstream’ sports event with the sound or commentary turned off – a World Cup clip, for example – and then watch it again with the commentary on. I am willing to be you notice a difference in your viewing experience.

Overall, I would say that in the past two years live streaming of dance events has really started expanding. We now have https://www.dancenetwork.tv/ , an online only channel dedicated to all types of dance, and does include live streaming of ballroom events.

There is no denying that technology is and has brought about many changes in the world, including making easily accessible information and products that previously would not have been. Global media no longer have as much control over what it is we watch and learn about as news broadcasts and cable programming is no longer sole source. If you see something new or interesting somewhere, a search online will quickly provide expanded sources to see, experience and learn more about it.

Dance still needs to be appropriately packaged and marketed to specific audiences. Cable shows such as Dancing with the Stars, World of Dance, and Strictly Come Dancing are always going to be more effective at reaching a more general population than this blog. Dance movies such as Shall we Dance, Take the Lead, Dirty Dancing and Strictly Ballroom all resulted in ‘mini-crazes’ and more people interested in trying dance. It might be time for a new ballroom-based movie…

The point taken from this article is that any sport now has the potential to reach audiences it couldn’t before through today’s technology, and the sky is the limit for what potential future technology could unlock – like virtual reality.

Being a bit of a Star Trek geek, I just had a flash back to an episode of the The Next Generation where Data wanted to learn to dance for Chief O’Brien’s wedding. After consulting Dr Crusher, she suggested he ‘program up a virtual dance partner in the holodeck’. I can think of more than a few people who would find that option appealing for learning dance. Perhaps that will be possible in the future.

Perhaps.