Final Preps

I leave tomorrow for 10 weeks of sailing at sea for work.

It’s not as glamorous as it sounds. I am deploying on a Maritime Coastal Defence Vessel with a crew of about 40 ‘issued friends’ with whom I will be working for the duration of the deployment. We leave from the dock here tomorrow morning and will return around mid-December.

It will be a challenge with long days, busy days and not so busy days. It’s a small ship so there is limited space for physical activity. There are some weights on board and a treadmill, rowing machine and exercise bike, as well as a collection of therabands. The only wood-like floors are in the messes, which is where we eat – not exactly a place for working out.

That said, I do plan to try to keep up dance exercises and keep fit while I am away.

That has been the focus of my lessons this week at dance. That and reviewing the information from the coaching lessons last week. Knowing that space will be limited, Boss and I have worked together to figure out exercises that don’t need a lot of space or a slippery floor to do.

How exactly I will put them into practice on the ship I am not completely sure yet, but I know I will work out a routine once I settle into the regular rhythm of working on the ship.

I will also be writing an article about my work on the ship and I hope to do some video of me working. We will see what I can put together in the end.

Finally, I want to apologize in advanced as it is quite highly unlikely that I will be able to post while I am away. Internet bandwidth is extremely limited on the ship and in the end it is only slightly better than dial-up. I have a very small window of time each night to do all the emailing and uploading required for my work and that is it. It’s slightly better when we are in port, but that will only be about 3 times during the entire trip.

But I promise that after this short break I will be back and ready to write about my next chapter in dance.

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A week of coaching

Last week I did seven coaching lessons.

All of them were really interesting and fun. I had two lessons with two different instructors – one a standard lead, the other a latin follow and three with a latin lead.

The latin couple were the ones who choreographed my open latin routines which was an advantage as they were familiar with what I have been working on. We sent them all videos of recent work before I arrived and Boss sent them messages to let them know what he would like me to work on.

I started by working with the standard coach, who was someone I haven’t worked with since my first two years of dancing. Interestingly, he is also working with another of Boss’s students who in working for a year in Ottawa, so he was a little bit familiar with the style of Boss’s students.

Boss had two specific sections of sequences from our waltz and tango he wanted him to look at, so that is what we did. One of the first things he suggested was that we try a more off-set position for standard to see if it had a positive effect. It actually made a big difference in ways I can’t fully describe but it allowed me to travel more and gave me a little more freedom in movement and shaping.

We also talked about thinking of lifting my sternum through my position to connect with my partner at the ribs, and using this to project up through shaping. We also talked about being a little more grounded in my steps and being sure not to rush through them.

Finally, in tango we also talked about position and connecting more through my left arm to the point where we could dance full steps while only maintaining hold on that side. The other interesting thing was to think of resisting against the partner as we move – so if I was moving back, I needed to think of resisting his forward movement through my ribs.

I was really tired and jet-legged when I had those lessons and I was concerned I didn’t retain much from them, but today working with Boss it appears I retained more than I thought to the point I was doing things differently without fully realizing what I was doing.

From there I moved on to Latin coaching. My first lessons were with the lead and they started with him looking at the videos and asking what I would like to work on. I talked about the state of all the routines and mentioned that paso was probably the roughest. So paso was what we worked on.

At the end of the first two lessons, we had gone through the first half of the routine in detail and cleaned and adjusted parts as needed. We talked a lot about position and the use of the knees and forward pelvis. We also found a lot of steps in paso which I have a natural tendency to turn into standard so we worked on identifying and fixing those sections. He also made some small adjustments to the choreography so it worked better for me. We were able to record the first half together for Boss.

At the end of the second lesson we took 10 minutes to look at the samba and he identified 3 steps that needed a little more clarification. That was a fast and furious section, and I am not sure I completely got all the steps down in the end, but I have an idea how to adjust.

My final lesson with him was focused on cha cha and twisting was the name of the game. We took one section of the routine and worked on getting me to twist more and to separate the twisting from the rest of my body movement. From there we looked at some specific steps (like swivels) and cleaned up one section of the routine which was a bit messy. We were able to record that section to make it more clear for Boss.

My other lessons were with the latin follow and they were focused on styling, and some technical exercises for lead/follow and using the ankles to help travel. The interesting thing about those lessons was that we talked about 4 different hip levels and how to use them, as well as a breakdown of the aims/goals of styling in each style, which are all different. I got some really good exercises out of those lessons, especially focused on styling.

I have had two lessons now with Boss since I got back and they have been focused on going over what I did with the coaches and developing a program for practice while I am away. I have a bunch of new exercises from all three coaches so I want to incorporate them into my work while I am away.

I will talk more about those preparations tomorrow.

Once a year I get this opportunity to work with these coaches and its always been a really positive experience. I hope the future presents more opportunities for us to work together again.

But for now, a week of coaching is a valuable experience.

Rough couple days

My Nan died Saturday evening.

It wasn’t unexpected as she was 89 and my Dad had told me a couple weeks ago she had begun deteriorating. Despite that, it was still hard as my Nan played a big role in my life.

I may not have mentioned before, but I grew up in a military family. My father served in the regular force, and my mother in the reserves except for a period when my sisters and I were very young. When she rejoined it was necessary for her to be away for several months of training. At the same time my father also had to be away so my Nan came to live with us and care for my sisters and I.

This was nothing new for her, she actually raised over 60 different foster children during her life in addition to her 5 natural children. During the time she stayed with us, several of my friends also connected with her, and pretty much everyone called her Nan.

Even before she stayed with us, it was common for my sisters and I to spend our summer vacation with both sets of grandparents, alternating from one place to the other. If we were moving that summer, usually the move would happen while we were away.

I have a lot of childhood memories of time spent in rural Nova Scotia with my grandparents and cousins.

Nan was my last surviving grandparent. Her loss is deeply felt. I am sorry I could not be there, but I also know she was always supportive and proud of what I do and that she understood the demands of my career. I saw her back in May when I was home for work and I knew then that it would be the last time.

It’s hard to say good-bye, but at the same time sometimes it is ok. It’s been a rough couple of days, but as I finish my preparations for my work deployment slowly I am refocusing.

With all that said, last week was incredibly fun and productively full of coaching lessons I can’t wait to discuss.

But first, I needed to say good-bye.