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.

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Adjusting to my new body

It seems strange to say, but it’s only recently I have discovered how much my body has changed from my journey.

And it is still changing.

Some of the work I have been doing recently has really brought to light some of the challenges I am now facing due to the scar tissue and side effects of my cancer treatments and resulting surgeries. Some of these things really surprise me.

For example, today it really came home just how tight everything on my right side is – not just on my chest, but all the way down to my hip and hip flexors.

When I was doing my own practice, I was trying to focus on keeping my right side ‘up’ when working on standard because Boss made a small remark about my right side ‘still going down’. It was just one of those things I wanted to explore for myself and see what I found.

I am not sure what I found is that great. After only 15 minutes of trying to keep my right side pulled up, I felt what initially felt like a stretch at my right hip, but then turned into a pull, followed by burning. When I stopped, the burning has remained, right over my hip bone where the tissue feels incredibly tight.

Bottom line, my right side going down is a combination of me not paying enough attention to pull it up, and tightly stretched tissue working to pull it down.

It’s like the issue with my chest being constantly pulled down and irritating my neck and shoulders. I have to constantly work to try to keep pulling it up to allow the tissue to stretch so my body can adjust.

So it is apparently going to have to be for my right side too.

It’s not just in standard that this is affected. Latin is also suffering.

Aside from my range of motion through my shoulders being about half as much on my right as my left, it is also very difficult for me to keep my latin frame in front of me. We haven’t worked on that a lot until recently, but the work we have done has really surprised me with how difficult it is to the point of being mildly painful.

I know that when I cross my right arm too much across my chest the pulling has causes shooting pains across my chest muscle in the past. I am hoping it will work out in time.

There is probably another reason this has become more prominent lately, which is the other thing I am slowly trying to adjust to.

Finally, after more than a year past hormone treatment I am starting to experience consistent weight loss. I have lost almost 15 of the 40 lbs I gained through my treatments in the past 2 months and it is starting to have effects.

I wish I could say all the effects are positive, but unfortunately they aren’t. One of the effects is my body redistributing my weight, resulting in lost inches, but also leading to new places, like my hips and belly, feeling even tighter than they did before. My chest has also gone down 3 inches in size, but not evenly on each side meaning one side is heavier than the other.

The other thing that only just clued in today in conversation with my acupuncturist is that as my fat stores are being burned off, it is very likely that the toxins and hormones that have been stored in them are being released into my body. The hormones being released was something I had to deal with the first time I lost the weight before I got sick, but now there is probably some residual effects from chemo, radiation and hormone therapy.

It would explain why in the past two months I have had a resurgence of menopause symptoms after almost 4 months of them being settled down. During those 4 months, my weight sat pretty steady bouncing around the same 5 lbs up and down. Once I started consistently losing again the hot flashes started up and with it the other menopause symptoms and general feeling of not quite being well.

There is not much that can be done about it until the weight is lost, other than holding weight here and there to give my body some time to adjust and flush the toxins out. I have had to increase my water intake a little bit recently so that should also help, along with the cooler weather.

I am also experiencing something I also did with my previous weight loss which was my back injury becoming irritated every 10 lbs or so as it also tries to adjust to the new distribution of weight and new centre of gravity. That at least I know will work itself out with some exercises and about a week.

It should feel good to lose weight, but the process is really hard on your body. Essentially it is feeling starved all the time and having to use reserves it got used to having. Everything is changing including it’s shape, and as fat is being burned off what is stored in it is being released and needs to be flushed out. It’s constantly working hard and doesn’t get a lot of breaks to try to adapt to all the changes going on.

But once the weight is lost, it does get better. The body doesn’t have to work so hard to move itself. Energy levels go up as the body gets more efficient at using nutrients and repairing itself. It’s able to work better and harder with less side effects and that is really the goal.

So here is to hoping I am able to keep on track and slowly get back to the weight I was pre-diagnosis so I can finally get back to the goal I was aiming for and got derailed from – getting down to a healthy size and weight overall. I was about 25 lbs from that goal when I got sick after losing 75 already. Now I am about 50 lbs away.

What a difference that will make.

Lift off on styling

It appears Boss and I were on similar pages about what is needed for styling.

So, when I got to my lesson today, the first thing we started with was discussing arm styling and going through 3 basic exercises for me to add to my collection.

The first thing I noticed is that there is a lot of pulling at scar tissue and some of the movements hurt, although not intolerably. More like there is some very intense stretching going on through the tight muscles and scar tissue in my shoulders and upper chest.

I am optimistic that as I keep working on my arm styling the scar tissue will breakdown a little and free up my motion. There is already a noticeable lack of mobility on the right side, but I am trying to work through it. Until I start, I will never know.

After going through the basic movements we started to look at the cha cha to figure out how and where to apply them.

If I said it was a success, that would be a gross exaggeration. There is obviously a lot of work that needs to be done and of course my arms don’t want to work with my feet. But I have an idea of what I need to do in my head and I am optimistic with some work it will come together.

Oh, and we got through to the end of the second phrase. About 15 seconds of a 2 minute routine. It’s going to be quite a process, although now that both Boss and I have a better idea of how it needs to work, that should move things along a bit better.

Just the little bit of work we did today has me feeling much better about styling. I have something I can work on, so I know it can only get better. I feel like I am doing something productive to fix my styling – I am taking control of something over which I didn’t have any.

It’s certainly going to be a long term project, but since I will be traveling for work this fall and stuck in rather confined spaces without any studios to work in, 2+ months focused on arm work should go a long way.

In the mean time, I am hoping that I have enough time before the performance in Mid-September to clean up my arm work in the cha cha. After that, I can start looking at the other routines.

We finished the lesson today looking at a portion of the jive routine to try to clean it up as well.

It was a productive lesson, but more importantly, its the beginning of fixing the ‘gravy’ in my latin.

Latin Styling

We all have our weaknesses when it comes to dance.

Latin styling is definitely mine, and those demons came out really hard Friday night.

We have been working on the open cha cha routine and the steps and technique along with the lead/follow is slowly coming together really well – even with the music! We have narrowed it down to about 3 places where the transitions aren’t quite working yet and there are a couple places I get slightly behind the music turning. It’s been really good progress overall and is helping my confidence. I am pretty sure we will perform it on the 22nd of September.

BUT.

At the end of the lesson, Boss asked someone to record one section from the routine that is a series of NYs which I have been working on a lot and we have spent the most time working on together. In general, it wasn’t my best execution of the choreography, but it wasn’t bad.

What was terrible was my arm styling. Really, really abysmal. The worse thing is that the second time we recorded it, I was sure I had gotten 90% of the styling on point and executed well. Nope, not even close. The things I had thought I had “nailed” looked terrible. The angles of my arms were off, the positions were off, arms I was sure were straight looked bent and my shoulders looked up even though I was sure I was keeping them down. And those were the arm movements I thought I had done well. The others were a lot of flailing arms trying to figure out where to go.

It was mortifying and disappointing to watch. If I can’t fix my styling, there is no way I can perform that routine in 4 weeks without embarrassing myself.

Styling has really always been a big concern for me. A lot more so than Boss. It’s not something we even really focus on, in fact I can’t remember the last time we discussed it minus about 2 minutes to go over the arm positions for the NY sequence so I could practice it. I do remember doing some exercises in about 2013/2014 before Boss left the franchise. Almost every time I have asked Boss for some exercises or to work on it, it has somehow ended up in an argument.

For Boss, arms and styling are the ‘gravy’ put on top of a routine to polish them. For me, arms and styling are difficult, require work and repetition to gain confidence in the movement and I would prefer to incorporate them sooner in the learning process. The sooner, the better so I can get used to using them and ‘owning’ them.

Inevitably, what happens is not enough time (and sometimes almost no time) is spent on adding the styling and arms to a routine, or when we get to the point where Boss wants to add it, it is not enough time for me to be confident or comfortable with the styling. Usually at that point, we are committed to either performing or competing and I have no choice but to just do what I can and hope it looks ok.

I have worked on it here and there with female latin instructors as it pretty much is the first thing they focus in on after watching videos. It’s usually really routine focused.

For the most part, I have tried to figure it out on my own, but clearly that approach is not working, because I continue to feel terrible about it. In general, I know what the correct arm placements should be, but I either miss doing them right in context with a step or they just don’t look quite right. If I were to really describe it, I would say my arm movements don’t look ‘clean and tight’.

They look like the afterthought they generally are.

And that is a big part of the problem. When it comes to styling, I am way out of my comfort zone with even the most basic movements. Some people are very natural in how they move their arms. I am not. “Natural” for me is pretty clumsy and awkward. Oh, and one sided. I naturally move my left arm more than my right. For example, if I work on rumba basic, without thinking about my arms, my left will move with my hip movements and steps. My right will just hang limply.

Another problem that has come up recently just compounds the issue. As I have been working on lead/follow which uses some arm movements to mimic the connection with the partner, I have noticed that my range of motion is limited in some direction, likely due to the scar tissue around my chest. It’s particularly telling on the right side, which makes sense as it was the side that received radiation. For example, my right arm can only cross my chest about half the distance my left arm can before my right shoulder starts getting pulled up or in a strange direction, and I can’t stretch my right arm up the same distance as my left without my shoulder getting pulled up.

So, I have physical limitations, feel awkward and clumsy, lack confidence in my arm movements and often feel like the arm movements I am doing suit other (smaller and more feminine) ladies fine, but look contrived when I do them (likely due to me feeling awkward, clumsy and lacking confidence). It’s a bit of a vicious circle and I don’t know how to begin to sort it out.

Oh, I am also generally pretty conservative and self-conscious about my size and weight (regardless of what I weigh, I will always be a ‘solid’ woman). I don’t really ‘do’ feminine or sexy, and honestly don’t feel like I should. It’s not my style at all and when I do try, guess what? That’s what it looks like – someone trying to be something they are not. I have a hard time ‘owning’ something I wouldn’t even buy in the first place.

And maybe that is part of the issue. Like other areas in my life, I am trying to make myself fit into the mold that is expected instead of finding the mold that fits me.

I go to a coach to work on styling and generally I am given suggestions for styling for a particular step, but I don’t actually like any of them. To keep things moving (as I usually have only an hour) I chose whichever seems easiest. I might have an idea what I would like to do, but I don’t say that because I am embarrassed or have already convinced myself it’s not right or wouldn’t work. Since I don’t really have any experience with styling, its seems pretty arrogant of me to suggest something and assume it makes sense to someone who has been dancing most of their life. Sometimes, the suggestions do make complete sense or straightforward but I can’t seem to execute them right or figure out how to ‘own’ them.

Interestingly enough, I can’t recall anyone (other than Boss and that has been pretty limited) asking me to describe ‘my style’ or even what I see as ‘the character’ for a particular dance. Truthfully, my answers to those questions are something I keep pretty locked up because I am pretty sure that my answers are not ‘right’.

More often than not, I will go to a coach for styling on my own and together we will work out some arm movements or styling. Then I will work on them and try to get them to a point where I feel they are ‘presentable’ to Boss. Then I show them to him and one of three things happen: a) he doesn’t like them (and his poker face sucks), b) he sort of likes them, but they don’t really work with his part or what he is doing (so we try to adjust) or c) he likes them or accepts them and we try to go with them. Scenarios a) and b) happen the most, but usually when Boss doesn’t like something, in truth I am not crazy about it either (which probably also shows when I do it).

I actually hate showing any ideas for styling to Boss. It’s not because of anything he says or does, it’s completely a fear of rejection on my part. More often than not, if I am showing him something for styling it is because I am trying to put myself ‘out there’ and get out of my safe, conservative box. Therefore, I already feel like I am trying ‘too hard’.

One thing I really hate the most about styling is being told to ‘develop my own’. Why? Its not because I don’t have my own thoughts or an idea of my style, its because I have NO idea how to use styling to project it. When I am left to ‘develop my own’ styling, I just default to the things I see others doing because that is what I know. I really hate getting a routine that comes with the comment “I haven’t included much styling so you can develop your own.” I much prefer seeing what someone else will do, figuring out what I like and don’t from that and adjusting things where I need or want to. It’s easier to work on a ‘paint by numbers’ than a blank canvas for me.

So I have rambled on for quite a while and tossed a number of thoughts and demons into this post. Where does that leave me? I am not really sure. Here are some things I have discovered:

  1. Styling is always going to be hard for me. I have no confidence in how to execute the physical movements, and mentally I have no confidence any styling will look polished and appropriate for me.
  2. Whether intended or not, I feel like Boss avoids the topic of styling or is dismissive because he feels my concerns are unjustified. I feel like styling isn’t an issue for him because he has been doing it all his life and he doesn’t understand how difficult it is for me and how much I feel I need to work on it.
  3. I sometimes feel like time spent working on choreography and technique is wasted because styling that is poorly executed makes the whole package look under-prepared and sloppy.
  4. When I think of how I do styling right now, I feel like I am just madly flailing my arms around trying to ‘hit’ the right ‘pose’. The issue is not so much where I end up, but how I get there. I don’t know how to get there. I can’t think of a single styling movement I do that I feel good about.
  5. I need to stop being afraid to explore and advocate for my style when working with coaches. If I am not comfortable with something or feels like it doesn’t look right, I need to say so instead of hoping it will just magically come together with time.
  6. I need to find a female coach who is willing to go right back to basics on styling and have those ‘hard’ conversations with me. This is more a mental process than a physical one.
  7. I have a very good idea of how I would like to start to work on styling, but feel it would be unreasonable to impose that on a coach.
  8. Boss suggests and would prefer I work with someone who does jazz, modern, or contemporary for styling. I am INCREDIBLY uncomfortable with the idea because I just can’t relate to or connect with any of those styles. It’s a good idea, but I am not at a point where I feel it actually would benefit me yet. At this point, I am 95% sure it would overwhelm and frustrate me. I need to stick to what I know to start with and I know myself well enough that I have to start in my comfort zone before I can push myself out of it.
  9. I have no idea how to even begin to approach this productively with Boss, and by extension trying to find a coach who is willing to work with me on it in a way that works for and feel productive to me.
  10. When it comes down to it, I am just scared of what styling represents. Its putting myself ‘out there’ and honestly it is one of the reasons I dance – because it makes me get outside my comfort zone. I fear though that because I have allowed myself to avoid embracing styling I am missing and failing at one of my main dance goals.

Hopefully just writing all of this out will help me find a way to move forward.

In the end, despite all the coaching and support (and there is a lot!) I have when it comes to dance, I feel very very alone and left to flounder when it comes to styling because I am embarrassed by how hard it is for me – not just to do, but even to talk about. It’s a part of dance where the barriers are mental and I can’t figure out how to even start to break them down alone. I can’t seem to figure out how to initiate a conversation about it without it leading to either conflict or me feeling like I have been overwhelmed with the opinion of someone else.

Its hard to ask for help when you can’t figure out what it is you need.

 

 

Seeing Standard Come Together

We recorded some videos yesterday.

Exclusively standard, we recorded the Waltz, Foxtrot and Tango line by line to make the best use of the hall.

We haven’t recorded these new standard routines at all except for 2 or 3 individual steps, so it was the first time to see the work I have been doing come together.

The waltz (which we have been working on the most) looked the most polished. I can truly say that I am proud of how the waltz looked and I was really surprised by parts of it. Probably for the first time in a very long time I could see a distinct improvement in standard. It was really great to see!

The foxtrot was not as strong, but it also showed great improvement, especially the first half we have worked on a lot recently. The last half needs work, but it is not a complete disaster. It’s passable, but obvious that it hasn’t been looked at a lot.

The tango was a different story. I couldn’t seem to settle into it, and the position change for tango from waltz and foxtrot really threw me off. We had been working a lot of position in the swing dances and one thing that really helped me and kept me grounded in those dance was stretching back into Boss’s right hand with my left shoulder blade. In tango, because the position is different, that ‘anchor’ just wasn’t there and that caused me to not feel like the position was ‘locking in’. It was obvious watching the videos that my position was all over the place. It was also obvious that I wasn’t completely confident with the steps and in places you could tell I felt a little like I was chasing Boss through the dance.

We started on the quickstep, but it quickly became apparent that it wasn’t ready to be recorded in time with the music as we haven’t really worked on it and we have never tried it at speed. We agreed to make it a project for this week in my lessons and to aim to record it next weekend along with some of the latin routines.

Today at my lesson, quickstep was indeed the theme. We managed to work through the first few lines to the third corner in time with the music, looking at details here and there as necessary. Honestly, the hardest part was getting started and into the first line as I kept miscounting steps. Once we got going, it seemed to come together a bit better.

We finished today with a new conditioning sequence for jive. It’s a challenging sequence with steps straight from my routine, including what is probably the most difficult part of the routine with a combination of turning sailor shuffles and simple spins. It is already coming together better than it was on Friday when I just learned it and I can tell that it is stressing my system (in a good way) more than the samba. It takes longer for my heart rate to recover and it is working my body in a different way.

On a final note today, I had my 6-month follow-up with my oncologist. It went really well and quick, with only one “Are you Kidding?” note when he asked if I would like to try the hormone therapy again now that my ovaries have been removed. I think he realized pretty quickly that I wouldn’t even consider it and switched his messaging to acknowledge that I did try it for more than 6 months and I did have a very toxic reaction, which did justify leaving it behind. The good news is that I will see him again in 6 months and after that I will switch to yearly follow-ups with him with check-ups with my family doctor in between. One more step forward.

I haven’t written much as work has continued to be crazy busy and that combined with school and trying to prepare to be away has left me pretty stressed. I am off 4 days this weekend and I cannot wait. It’s the first full weekend off I have been going pretty full tilt with work since I returned from the cruise and I can tell that the break is completely needed. With the long weekend the week after and no duty in sight, I will have three 4-day weeks in a row before a really busy push to the end of September. After that, it looks like I will be in Ottawa for a few days before getting ready for the extended work trip after that.

Boss has also asked me to consider doing one of the latin routines in a showcase event with one of the other local studios. I am thinking about it, but I am not sure any of the latin routines will be ready in time and I am hesitant to add to my stress levels trying to push to prepare it. Part of my doubt is that I am really not sure where any of the latin routines are at as far as doing them at speed with the music because other than rumba, we haven’t tried any of them. This week we should have a chance and I will make my decision from there. It would be nice to do a performance before I leave.

So perhaps next week I will be able to write about how the latin is coming together.

And suddenly…

Things are making a lot of sense.

Somewhere between my last lesson and the lesson tonight a few things clicked together. The surprising thing is that it is not so much specific elements that has clicked together but more a realization and understanding of the level I am able to work at and that it is much higher than I give myself credit for.

I am not quite sure what triggered this but it seems to be a good thing. My mind has really zeroed in on pulling together a lot of details, processed them and been able to execute them all together.

There was just something about tonight’s lesson that seemed to come together. We weren’t doing anything different from what we usually did, but it just seemed to work much easier. Less time reviewing things and I was picking up the concepts and making the adjustments faster than I expected.

We were focusing on standard tonight, specifically two sequences of steps in waltz and foxtrot that have a lot of similarities. Both end with a lunge, but the entrance to and out of it is different, as is the sway going into the lunge.

It’s really a variation on a theme, but there are enough subtle differences that my mind needs to stay engaged. The nice thing as we moved through each of the sequences is that Boss would give some little directions for improvement and I was able to just incorporate them.

In the end, it was a really productive lesson that just seemed to flow. It was hard work, but it was paying off. We ended with the samba conditioning and while I was certainly tired, it also just seemed a little more refined and put together tonight.

At my last lesson, Boss asked me which latin dance I would prefer for a new sequence for conditioning – cha cha or jive. I originally said cha cha, thinking it might be more technical, but once I thought about it, jive made the most sense. I do the conditioning sequence in time with the music, and it is usually something from one of my routines.

Of all the routines, jive is going to be the trickiest to get up to speed. So, if I work on elements from the routine during conditioning in time with the music then my confidence will also go up in the steps. It’s also quite the cardio workout, there is no denying that!

I think I needed this small breakthrough this week as I had been feeling a bit complacent about dance – although perhaps that isn’t the right word. Perhaps it’s more that I have been feeling like I have been treading water and a little stagnant. It’s not only dance where I had been feeling that way, but a couple of changes seems to have made a big difference overall.

I also had a really productive weekend and cross a lot of things off my ‘to do’ list which has taken some loads off my mind.

It’s interesting how little changes can have big impacts.

“Knocked” Knees

One of the things Boss and I discovered and discussed 2 weeks ago is that I have “knocked” knees.

It was a discussion that came out of looking at the fallaway in standard and some of the issues I was having there. Because my knees tend to fall in, I have problems doing the fallaway and tend to feel like I am going to roll my ankle if I turn in my foot too much because I end up rolled onto the outside of my foot.

It was a long discussion with Boss trying to figure out how to explain what he was seeing and me trying to figure out how to move my muscles to fix it. I kept turning my knees out by rolling my feet out, but what is needed it for me to turn my knees out from my hips while keeping my feet balanced across the ball of my foot.

I did some research on my own and found this article which proved to be really useful : https://www.skyflohealth.com/knee-valgus/

I was able to also talk with the rehab specialist at work and do more experimenting myself. The result? I figured out how to engage my glutes and abductors to turn my knees out. Suddenly, a lot of the exercises I have been doing to help my knee issues made more sense.

The good news is that because I have been doing exercises with bands around my legs that focus on building abductor and the smaller glute muscle strength. My issue is that I haven’t taken what I have been doing to build strength and applied it in other areas.

This is turning out to be like a posture change. I have to constantly remind my muscles to fire and keep my knees turned out without letting my feet roll out. It’s building a new habit.

I have been working on it for almost 2 weeks now and I have actually seen and felt results.  One of the most significant was also something from ballet – I discovered I couldn’t put my feet together while sitting in a pike position because of the angle from my knees to my feet when my knees are together – now I can almost touch my feet.

At the gym, when I do my exercises with the band, since I am now focused on engaging my muscles to keep my knees out, I am suddenly finding the exercises much harder. I am going to have to go back to using just one band and the lightest one and rebuilding from there. After the first day, I was feeling DOMS in the right places, telling me I am doing the right thing.

I am also making a small but significant change to the ankle and foot strength exercises I am doing at the gym to help with my standard rise and fall. On the advice of the rehab specialist I am now doing them with a yoga block between my thighs while keeping my feet as close together as I can. This forces my muscles to engage and keep my knees out as I move through the movements. This is extremely intense and tricky – bringing these exercises to the next level.

The specialist made some changes this week to my program. I had been doing the same program since early in the new year and it was time to change up some exercises to challenge my muscles in a new way. She also added two exercises we hope will help my neck and shoulder issues. The other thing I have had to do to help with this is find a new style and size of bra that better supports my chest with less pressure on my shoulders.

After even one session with the new exercises I am feeling some good DOMS and am optimistic it will help resolve some of the issues I am feeling. On Friday I also had some dry needling relieve a knot in my left trap that has been aggravating things for a while.

Hopefully all of these small changes will add up to big improvements in the long run.

Sometimes half the battle is figuring out what is causing the problem.

Masters post #3 – “Boys” and “Girls” Sports

I came across an interesting article from Prince Edward Island today.

It can be found at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/prince-edward-island/pei-sports-boys-girls-1.4764185

I found this article interesting because it talks about the idea that some sports are more for one gender than the other, and talks about how there are efforts being made to reduce those perceptions and encourage (in particular) girls to participate in sports traditionally thought to be for ‘boys’.

The article looks specifically at baseball as a case study. One of the things that is interesting is that in PEI, baseball is mixed in younger years and become segregated as children age. I have limited knowledge of baseball but my guess is that at that age girls options in baseball become more limited so they are encouraged to move to softball – a sport which appears to be more for ‘girls’.

The other interesting thing that caught my eye in this article is that a lot of girls seem to stop playing sports about the time they hit puberty and while the exact reason isn’t really known (they list some probable causes) I wonder about this a bit. I think we all know that puberty is a pretty confusing and difficult time for both genders, but what I wonder is how reducing sports participation (and activity) impacts the experience. From my own experience, I also stopped participating in gymnastics and swimming around puberty although the reason was more financial rather than desire. Part of me wonders if the difficulties I experienced in my early teens (including a big weight gain) may have been reduced if I had stayed more active. Activity is such a big part of my life now and a huge part of my stress relief.

Putting that aside, I wanted to air some thoughts about segregated sports in general. I do completely understand why it is good to have both male and female divisions in most sport, but competing in a (generally) mixed partnered sport myself, I wonder why there are not more options for mixed team sports – especially for youth.

I am aware of some leagues of soccer in my city that have mixed teams for adults. I am not familiar enough with other team sport associations to know if there are options in baseball, softball, field hockey, lacrosse, or other sports, and I am completely oblivious if any mixed options are available for teens.

I wonder this because I think of the advantages of dance – one of which is that from a young age children learn to be respectful of each other – regardless of gender. Its a lesson that could certainly transfer to other sports, at least in my opinion. Adding to that, it could also provide practical education for things which we seem to be questioning as society as a whole – such as equality between the sexes and gender roles.

If we grow up participating in sports together – as it appears we do when we are younger – perhaps the ideas of treating each other with respect, and equality are not things to question when we get older because it is part of our culture that the sexes always mix.

I am not saying there is no difference between the sexes, clearly there is or else we wouldn’t have them. But what I am saying is that perhaps we focus too much as a society on issues of sex and gender to the point that we almost make too big a deal – leading to segregation and the idea that some sports are for ‘boys’ and other are for ‘girls’.

Perhaps I am also very biased, after all I participate in a sport that should be for both sexes but is currently experiencing a severe shortage of male participants, but when I see an article like the one in the link it gets me thinking and wondering – why do we focus on segregating some sports and not offer more options for mixed teams?

Demand is part of it, I am sure. But that also begs the question – is there a lack of demand because it isn’t expected or offered? Is it because our cultural norm is to have separate teams?

Another interesting thing to note in the article is that some sports, dancesport included, are more popular with both sexes (or the opposite sex, such as field hockey mentioned in the article) in Europe and other places overseas.

Perhaps I have opened a can of worms here but I feel that this is an issue well worth thinking about.

Food for thought.

A New Name

You may notice something different about the blog.

About a month ago I started thinking that perhaps it is time for me to change the name of my blog to reflect that while my journey is not over, the active cancer part of the journey is. I couldn’t think of something at the time, but earlier this week, a name finally came to me. I rolled it around in my head and decided to go for it.

So this blog is now “Beyond Cancer Ballroom Dancer”.

I feel it is fitting because currently my blog is not about dancing through treatment anymore (thankfully) but its more about moving beyond cancer – figuring out how life works again after so much time spent focused on an illness.

And so it is.

I have been a bit quiet lately and for that I apologize. I was getting quite stressed between work, school, and dance and I had to take a step back to reset a little and decompress. I just really needed to take a little time to let my mind calm down so I could think again.

So that is what I have been doing. Focusing on checking things slowly off my ‘to do’ list until I reached a point where I felt like I was back to being a little ahead instead of feeling always behind.

It’s been a really crazy few months. It occurred to me as I was working this weekend that I have actually worked every long weekend since New Year’s, between being on course, being on duty and managing some media requests. It’s no wonder I feel a little like I haven’t stopped. Even the cruise that I was on for ‘vacation’ turned out to not be as relaxing as I hoped when it ended with me forgetting my bag and my ‘recovery’ days getting eaten up being stressed about replacing the things in it and making up for the school work I lost.

I will have a few days off in a couple weeks around the week before the next long weekend and I truly will have the entire Labour Day weekend off. I just need to get through the next couple weeks.

I am hoping tomorrow might be a bit of a funner day at work. As part of my job, I am required to maintain regular qualifications in weapons handling so tomorrow will be spent on the ranges shooting to requalify. Its something completely different and gets me out of the office. I expect to be hot and sweaty but feel like I truly accomplished something. After that, I am going to a dance performance show with a friend and will probably see another I haven’t seen in a long time. I really can’t wait.

I may be a bit absent for a little while yet, but I do promise to write about dance soon. I have been quite busy over the last couple weeks and after the small successes with the latin routines, we are now turning to standard and working in a lot of detail through those routines. The goal is to record them the weekend after next, in time with music, even if not at full strength. It should be interesting.

In the past couple weeks we have also discovered a new challenge for my body related to my knees that I have been actively focusing on fixing. I will speak some more about that too.

In the meantime, I leave you my name change which better speaks to the message I want to convey —

There is life beyond cancer.

Masters Post 2 — Sports for Integration

Today seems to be a bit of a bonus post day with this being my second 🙂

I am catching up some today and was doing some preliminary research for the major paper for this course when I came across this article which immediately caught my eye:

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/newcomer-summer-camps-sports-1.4765521

This appealed to me because it is something I already feel passionate about – how sports activities are capable of transcending cultural barriers.

This article focuses on the experience and value of education and sports camps run in Winnipeg, Manitoba aimed at integrating newcomer and refugee children with Canadian-born children.

The primary purpose of this camp is to help newcomer and refugee children maintain their english language skills (as well as some other subjects) during the summer months while they are off school through continued interaction with Canadian-born children.

The camps also work to transition participants to volunteers to workers, something they appear to have success at. And it is a non-profit organization that works through federal and provincial grants. They run a series of camps throughout the summer and then bring all the camps together for a day of sports, over 500 kids from all over the world playing together.

The camps also include dance which I can obviously relate to 🙂 and it reminded me of another post I saw this week on facebook from a member of my local professional dance community:

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10155535074721937&set=a.10150695488211937.384357.571421936&type=3&theater

The power in this post, and the power of these camps held in Winnipeg speak to the interculturalism of sports and dance. Both of these activities cross international and cultural borders in many different ways, and it is not uncommon to see participants continually move in intercultural circles.

These activities not only speak universal languages, they provide opportunities for cultural awareness, cultural learning, and building of respect and tolerance of cultural differences – something I feel is greatly needed in the world.

Music is another universal language – you don’t need to speak the same language or be from the same culture to read the notes on a page and create music with a foreign stranger.

Through teamwork, partnerships, and shared goals comes shared values, understanding, trust and growth. It’s a powerful thought and has the potential to be more than a dream.

Even my own experience in dance – I work regularly with a Russian instructor, I have done coaching with dancers from the British Isles, other Eastern European countries, Asia, and the U.S. – has enriched my overall understanding not only of other cultures but my own as a Canadian – just as my travels has done, except this happens closer to home and is enhanced through a shared love of dance – a starting point to connect on.

For my last course I did some research into intercultural sports relationships and two studies I came across were focused on how participation in sports and social activities eased the transition and adaptation for both immigrants and ex-pats on temporary assignments (such as an embassy posting), both adults and kids. This is really only a fledgling area of study but the potential…

For all the differences between cultures which contribute to the world being a rich, diverse and interesting place there are also so many things that are shared which can serve as starting points for bigger conversations, interactions, relationships, and friendships.

I will end with my favourite quote from the article:

“Making new friends from other countries is like seeing different people around the world,” said Hamoud, who is starting Grade 5 this fall.

Henein, who will be going into Grade 6 this year, agrees.

“It’s actually fun to get known to other people,” she said.

“We all have different cultures and we all look from different sides.”

I these pre-teens say it all.