Set to travel

At least physically.

Mentally….not so sure.

My mood took a crazy turn over the weekend. I am guessing it’s a combination of stress and hormones. I am back in crazy hot flash zone and that just makes me feel physically ill and tired.

I can’t seem to get excited for this trip. I keep telling myself it’ll hit later, but I am just waiting. Already I am delayed 1 hour, 1 leg had to be rescheduled and with it a seat at the very back of the plane for a 4-hour flight. I was almost rerouted so I wouldn’t meet my mother and sister in Totonto, but that got fixed, at least so far.

I did get my paper finished after swimming my way through a crazy weekend of being on-call with a doggy brain. Already I fell stressed for the next assignment that us due the day after I return and a group project. I am trying to keep that in check as I can’t even start it till the weekend when the rest of the class catches up.

I do plan to try to relax. It’s a busy trip and, of course Blackpool is on!

I am just waiting to get into relax mode.

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The beginning of paso

That’s right, we started on the last latin routine last night.

We started by going through the Waltz and tango so they could be recorded. They went ok in the end, although I forgot an entire short line in the waltz so I am sure that doesn’t look quite so good. Due to technical issues we have to record the tango again. It was a little strange as due to the hall size and how much we can travel we had to start and stop some, but I think the intent was fulfilled.

We then reviewed the jive and began working through it looking at the lead/follow. It was pretty interesting as all the pieces were starting to come together and pieces of it are with the music. That’s quite the progress considering even a week ago I couldn’t quite remember the last section. I finally feel pretty confident in the sequence and I am looking forward to working on it more.

One other thing that happened last night was that during my practice I ran into an interesting problem — in three of my exercises, two in rumba and one in cha cha, I found myself getting frustrated because I couldn’t keep the exercises with the music. The reason — I was moving too fast. It took me a bit of work to slow myself down and use the time to move through the technique instead of just moving the feet to the next beat. It’s actually a really good problem to have.

And then there was paso. We had a general conversation about the styling in paso (hips forward, arm movements from the lats), and then dove into the sequence for the routine. The beginning is probably the most complicated part and we were able to work through it more or less until about 4 or 5 phrases in.

My mind just wants to completely focus on the footwork — whether I should be stepping with straight legs, or on heels or toes — and it is getting in my way right now.

That said, we seemed to be working through it faster than I expected and with a little luck we should be able to get through to the end of the first part in my next lesson tomorrow, which is also my last before I leave.

Well, that is enough procrastinating on school work, so I need to get my paper written to try to relieve some of this stress and so I can get a little excited about my upcoming cruise!

More Paso to follow…

Pulling it all together

It’s a busy week and weekend ahead of me.

To prepare for leaving for the cruise next week, I need to get an assignment done for school. I have been working at it in segments, but each segment is like pulling teeth a little.

It doesn’t help that I seem to be in fuzzy head zone again. I really had hoped that was behind me.

I will get the paper finished, but it is going to be a challenge as it appears work is going to be ramped up some over the weekend while I am on call. I am just glad I am as far ahead as I am, or else I would be in a lot of trouble.

There are two reason for the title of this post though.

The first, I have been struggling in getting two major muscles to work together in a lot of my standard work recently. I had a meeting with my trainer at the gym and discovered it is also an issue when I do squats.

Essentially, when I engage my glute muscles I have a tendency to lose my core. This results in my upper body leaning back uncontrollably and my pelvis thrusting forward, making me feel off balance (because I am). I seem to have a habit of using either one or the other — engaging my core or using my glutes.

My challenge is to get them used to working together — allowing my glutes to drive me forward while keeping my core engaged to control my upper body. I can focus on this while I do my squats to help develop a new habit and muscle memory, and I am already focusing on this when I do my standard side step exercise. It’s coming but needs to be much more consistent to ‘pull it all together’.

The other reason for this post is that tonight during my lesson we were really able to pull together the jive. I finally have the steps more or less down, or at least to a place where I can work on it myself. After reviewing the steps with Boss, we tried sections of it to slow music. The interesting thing was that the first tempo we tried was too slow (not a bad problem to have!), and we had to go with slightly faster to better match the speed I have been spinning at (there are a lot of spins in our jive). It was pretty cool to see even a few sections come together with the music, even at a slower tempo (about 5-6 BPM slower than comp speed). I think the biggest surprise for me was to discover that even at that speed I could tell that I could do my spins faster.

It was great to put the work I have been doing in context. I have been missing that as much of what we have been doing has been working on getting the sequences down in sections, or small areas of technique. There hasn’t really been much opportunity to try to run through any of the routines with the exception of the rumba.

That is also going to change for standard, and already started some tonight. We were working through some of the details in the waltz, and we ended by trying to dance it with the tempo (something we haven’t attempted yet all the way through). Boss’s goal this week is to record the Waltz, Tango, and Quickstep with at least slow music for sending to a coach for feedback (one of the ones I have worked with last fall).

I think Boss is a really really brave man, especially for the Quickstep.

The waltz actually did not go too bad tonight, aside from a couple little hiccups. The first half of tango went well, but then Boss had to make a small change to one step and we ran out of time. I was actually pretty impressed with how both went, so I am not too worried about them.

Quickstep on the other hand…

I just can’t seem to wrap my head around how it is ever going to be possible to do with the music. I just can’t seem to figure out the flow of the steps with the timing although I am sure once we go through it a few times it will start to sort itself out.

Going through all the routines is the main plan for tomorrow’s lesson and then Friday we will record them. Fingers crossed.

After the recording, we are going to start working on the Paso — another dance I am anxious about. There is a lot of styling that just seems like when I do it it will only be awkward and clumsy looking.

I guess we will soon see how it all comes together.

Heatwave!

My car registered a temperature of 28 degrees (C) outside today.

That is incredibly warm for where I live, even in the summer.

Not being used to the heat, practice and my lesson tonight was incredibly hard. It was like the heat was just draining the energy from me. I even cut my practice a bit short to make sure I had enough energy for my lesson afterwards.

It’s amazing how much such a rapid change in temperature can affect things. Because it was such a quick change, there has been no time to adapt to it.

Despite the heat, my lesson went well. We were revisiting the end of the jive again as we went through it yesterday to finish it up, but there were large chunks that just didn’t stick for me.

It’s always that way for jive it seems. Slowly, piece by piece it will come together. I hope to have it down before I leave for the cruise next week.

Oh, did I mention I am going on a 2 week cruise with my mother and sister? We leave on Wednesday the 23rd and we are going to Northern Britain, Norway, Scotland and Iceland. It should be an interesting and great time, but I also hope to be able to keep up some with my practice and workouts. We are at sea almost every other day, so it will give me something to do.

Following the jive, we went through the rumba together and Boss clarified some points. One of the most interesting discoveries was that some of the work we have done on lead/follow were starting to be incorporated into almost all the steps. It was even a little bit evident in the jive.

What was nice was that I could feel my mind working through things and processing and looking for the right way to apply the lead/follow. That was interesting progress.

We ended by breaking down and looking at the beginning of our waltz, working through it in detail to give me some focus when while I am practicing on my own.

We were going to do conditioning tonight, but with the heat, it just didn’t seem like a good idea. I, for one, was certainly struggling, so we kept working on the waltz.

It’s not likely the heat will end anytime soon, but with some luck I should be able to adapt to it over the next couple days. My main task before my next lesson is to try and work through the jive to get all the steps into my brain so we can move on to the paso.

That’s a different type of heat.

When tragedy strikes…

A member of our dance studio suddenly passed away in her sleep last week.

I found out the news on my way home from out east when I asked why classes were suddenly canceled. Needless to say, it was not what I expected.

In addition to being a dancer at the studio, she was also Boss’s part-time admin assistant. She had remarked to some dancers one night she wasn’t feeling well and when she didn’t show up at the studio and couldn’t be reached Boss and her dance partner became concerned and went to her home, where they found she had passed.

She has no family in the area so we are waiting to hopefully hear about a service here, but likely it will be out east where she is from. I don’t know her age but I believe she was late 50s to early 60s.

The gap at the studio without her will be profoundly felt. As Boss’s admin assistant, she interacted with almost every student, regularly attended group classes and was preparing for a medal test to take place next month with her dance partner.

A death in any community is always felt, but none more so than in a community as small as ours. The full implications are only beginning now and even myself I am not sure I have completely processed that she is gone.

Lessons resumed today but even something as straightforward as scheduling lessons now has different considerations. Boss and I tried to scheduled my next set of lessons for after my next return and it led to discussions about how things will likely be rearranged in the studio schedule. We put off scheduling for now until things settle a little. There will probably be some impact on some planned coaching as it was related to the upcoming medal test.

I anticipate a bit of a hard week coming up at the studio as people slowly learn the news.

Rest in Peace my dancing friend. As you dance among the stars, you will be missed in the studio here on earth.

Getting it done

It’s always a challenge to practice while you are traveling.

But I am getting it done.

Not only have I been able to get my practice in, but I have also been able to do my cardio and strength training, although all of that has been due to some good luck and being able to maximize your work time to finish up a bit early and your lunch times.

It’s certainly garnered a few different looks from others in the gym where I have been practicing. I guess they are not used to seeing ballroom in the gym.

Things have actually gone pretty good. A couple of the exercises I need Boss to look at because I think I have incorporated the twisting, but I am not sure (I could be just fooling myself).

The other thing I have been doing besides exercises are reviewing my routines daily. The standard ones each have 1 spot that needs a little review to smooth out, but overall, not too bad from start to finish.

The latin routines are also going quite well. I am pleasantly surprised that even the new section in jive is pretty together, although there is one step I need to go over with Boss to understand how to do my own steps without him.

In general, I am proud of the amount I have been able to do this week. Work has been a bit intense, but strange hours and before I left I set a goal to try to get my practice and training in, and I have done that!

That’s all for now, one more day here then I head back home on Friday and will have a lesson that night (my way to deal with jet leg). I am looking forward to it!

Digging in

We are starting to blend working on steps with technique.

I had a lesson Thursday night which was a bit of a hybrid.

First, we worked on the jive and adding another small section for me to work on while I am away. If all goes well, I should be able to have it down so I can learn the final piece when I get back, leaving only Paso and Foxtrot to learn.

Once we had gone through the new section a couple times, Boss decided to try the jive with slow music (almost half speed) and see how it went.

It actually went well, and better than he expected. It certainly went better than I expected!

Actually, once it was put in context with Boss it made a lot more sense than what I have been working on. There was one spot I wasn’t doing right (it’s much easier than my version–whew!!), and one spot that I couldn’t quite get to in the timing, but even Boss remarked that he wasn’t quite ready for me to have the steps down as well as I did.

And, it’s actually quite a fun little routine. I can’t wait to try it a little faster, but I am nervous about it at the same time.

The second half of the lesson was focused on one of the promenade footwork pieces in tango.

We have worked on it before, but we were working on my position and tightening it up a bit and making it look sharper. Promenade position continues to be a bit of an achilles heel for me, but it seemed like I made a little bit of progress.

One of the more difficult things I am struggling with right now is best described as trying to balance as a couple vs balancing on my own. It requires me to keep my energy and position forward into Boss so that he can do the same to find a point where we more or less balance against each other.

I always feel like I am going to push Boss over (which is actually more or less what I am supposed to feel like). It’s still a bit of trial and error though because there is such a small window where it isn’t too forward or too back.

In the tango, there is one piece in the sequence we were working on that it is crucial we do this or one or both of us will lose our balance. By the end of the lesson I seemed to have gotten more consistent with finding it, but I could still feel the doubt in my mind every time we worked through that section. I am sure it will come with time and confidence.

At the end of the lesson, one of the other students recorded the sequence of us doing it in time with regular tempo music. I was pretty surprised at how it looked. The sharpness really stood out, and there was only one place where I have to have a look at my timing as my feet were quite out-of-sync with Boss. Overall, that is going to be a pretty impressive section in our routine.

Digging into a couple sections in my routines really went a long way to helping me feel more productive in my work and helping me to understand a bit more of the context to the full routine rather than just my part. It’s funny because a lot of the things we have worked on are coming out when we dance together, often without me realizing it (or Boss sometimes), which is a pleasant surprise.

When I get back from my work trip next week, Boss told me we are going to start digging even more into the routines as we finish up going over the steps for the 2 we haven’t looked at yet and I am looking forward to that. I have 7 lessons between when I return from this trip and when I leave for my next just after the long weekend in May. I hope that I will be able to get the sequence of steps for all 9 routines down enough that I can keep working through them while I am away.

After that second trip, I should be here all summer and I am looking forward to it. I just realized it is the first summer since I was diagnosed where I am not on any therapies, not recovering from any surgeries, and not biding time waiting for a surgery. It’s the first summer that is completely my own. What a concept!!

It should leave lots of time for digging before the fall.

Power

Using my full power scares me.

I just don’t feel like I can control it and if I can’t control it it seems like a likely disaster.

There are times when I move and I really feel like I am on the edge of my control. I know I could do more or move more, but I don’t know how to do it without hurting myself.

It’s holding me back and I don’t really know how to get past it to move forward. I also don’t understand when I became so cautious and timid about my own dancing.

At the same time, it is also frustrating me because I feel like I am plateauing, especially in the work I am doing on my routines in latin. I really feel it in jive. I have finally gotten the footwork down on the part of the routine I have been working on, but it feels so slow and heavy and cumbersome.

It really feels like I will never be able to fully get that routine down and up to speed. Even when I try to lighten up the steps, it still feels like I am missing some major pieces of the puzzle.

It’s an odd crisis of confidence to face right now after coming so far. I am not really sure how I can get that confidence back, besides the obvious just giving my all and going for it. It’s unusual for me to feel that way, so it leaves me racking my brain a little to deal with it.

Perhaps it is only that I am sitting on the cusp of a bit of a breakthrough and I can feel that. Moving forward is possible, but it is going to need a a big push to get me moving down the other side.

It’s also similar in standard. I have gotten comfortable with doing my routines slow and steady, even Quickstep. The thought of trying any of them at full speed or with the music just seems a little impossible right now.

Perhaps it is just too soon to worry about. I know in Quickstep I am really worried about trying it together with Boss. I don’t want to trip him or risk hurting him.

We did go over the standard routines tonight and they didn’t go too bad. I was able to clarify some of the sections I wasn’t too sure about. We finished the lesson with the new waltz conditioning, and Boss did it a couple times with me, so I could get an idea of the difference between doing it on my own and with him.

That sequence does make me feel out of control at times. Especially as I tire near the end. It seems to be coming though, but there is lots to work on.

I am finding myself pretty exhausted this week. It’s been a while, more than 5 weeks, but I got hit with the frequent intense hot flashes this week and it is sapping my energy some. I was sweating so much this morning I was worried I would drip on my students as I was coaching them. Yuck.

I stayed for practice after my lesson tonight, but I could really feel myself run out of steam. I didn’t even try to run my routines with the music, as I felt like I could barely stand at that point, but I did review the footwork. The important thing is that I got it done.

One more long day at work followed immediately by dance. Friday should be shorter, although I have a formal dinner that night. Saturday will be school and relaxing before I cross the country on Sunday.

I hope the hot flashes settle by then, I’ll need my energy next week.

I have to give more thought to what I am feeling about using my power. I am sure once we start digging into the technique more on my routines a lot of things will just come.

Ok, Let’s Twist

I think I finally figured out what Boss has been asking me to do.

Better than that, I can actually feel when I do it and when I don’t.

It took the entire lesson to figure it out, but now that I have, it should be easier to start incorporating it and finding the places it should probably go.

Another mini-mountain semi conquered. I was even able to incorporate it into my samba conditioning but it took until the very last set to figure it out.

We also went through the samba, cha cha and jive together today, which was really helpful. We didn’t do any with the music, but just going through them together helped me to figure out a little better where Boss is during the steps. It helped me to identify a couple of places where I am turned in the wrong direction, but overall it seemed to go good.

Boss was already starting to identify some places that will need work, and he commented that one of the reasons I am having such a hard time getting the routines up to speed is because I am not using my power enough, and I am not twisting my body enough.

Fair enough. The twisting we have been going over and I just tonight starting to figure out that piece.

The power piece — well that is a whole other story, and one I will save for a little later this week. For now, I will say he is right and it is something I have noticed and have been thinking about.

Now that I have figured out the twisting, it gives me something to focus on while I am working through my routines. I certainly left my lesson intrigued.

At chiro today, the Dr. made some adjustments to my feet and right side of my pelvis and hip to try and see if he can’t get my right foot going in the right direction. He gave me a stretch to do on top of it and pretty much we will see what effect it has. Already, I can feel a difference and I have noticed an increased range of motion when turning inside. It’s optimistic for standard, which we are going to look at on Wednesday.

Perhaps this might fix my other twist.

Almost got the steps

But I admit to being a little concerned about everything else.

I am getting closer to having the steps down in 6 of the 9 routines. The jive is much more solid and coming. Today during my lesson we finished going through the quickstep and the waltz. I really hope they stick.

But while the steps are slowly coming together, a lot of the routine are obviously lacking the technique needed to pull them off. The worse is jive by far, but I have strange moments when working on samba that it is pretty obvious there are pieces missing.

It’s understandable as the focus has been on the routines and getting the steps down, although there have been some areas of technique we have looked at, especially in latin.

I don’t think I am completely without any technique or anything like that, but I have reached a point in a few of the routines where I can tell I should be doing more and I find myself trying to figure out how to do it.

It’s not necessarily a bad thing.

For example, when working in cha cha, I can feel myself starting to focus a little more on the turns because as I speed it up I have to work harder to execute them. Some of it is triggering things I feel I used to know, like using my ribs to make the turn happen, but I don’t know if that is just something I do, or if it is something I should do.

One thing we have been focusing on lately is twisting of the hips. I feel like there is a little bit of a disconnect there for me because I have been asked to do it, but we have never discussed how to do it and I feel like I do it differently every time. I also feel like because I am figuring it out, I am also limiting myself because I don’t want to do it wrong.

In standard, I find myself questioning how I am rotating almost constantly. Because we were working on that some in the new year, I am cognizant of it, but it’s enough that I spend almost every step wondering if I am rotating wrong.

All this to say I hope the technique, or a review of the technique catches up soon. Some of the routines I can’t even imagine doing slow with the music right now, let along at full speed and with Boss. Quickstep and Jive are at the top of those lists. I am sure they will come though.

Next week is going to be a challenge. I am working crazy hours teaching for work and I don’t know if I will even be able to make it to 2 of my lessons. I am hoping to be able to mitigate things as best I can, but the entire week is going to be a bit exhausting. Following that, I am working on the east coast of Canada for another week.

I can’t help but feel like there are going to be some missed opportunities and that until I return in June my lessons are going to be a lot of review (mostly because there is not any time to develop new concepts — which is completely fair).

It’s just left me feeling like I need to scramble some, and I really can’t explain why. Perhaps it is simply that I don’t want all the travel in May to set me back like I felt happened with the travel in March and April.

Regardless, I am determined to get the steps for these routines down and feel comfortable with them so we can start focusing on the technique and really move them forward. It’s been a big jump to do these open routines, but there is some light at the end of the tunnel. The summer is going to be telling in many ways.

After the steps, time for the next layer.