A New Chapter

I’ve been thinking a lot about dance lately.

It started before the cruise and has continued into this week.

I think the time away from competing, as difficult as it has been, has been good for me. I can genuinely say that I am enjoying being able to take the time to dig into the details of the routines and steps and movements that I am doing. I’ve been able to connect with my body and dance in a way I didn’t expect.

And I really really like it.

That’s not to say I don’t want to compete anymore, absolutely I do!

But I am not in a rush to do it. I also don’t find I have a need to do it as much as I felt I did before.

What I crave most from dance right now is the experience of it. Yes, competing is part of the experience, but it is no longer the main goal for me.

Right now, I want to see how far I can continue to develop and grow through dance. I want to keep developing those details, keep pushing myself, keep working to see what I can do.

I want to inspire others to dance and to be an example for other dancers to look up to. I have overcome a lot to be where I am right now and I know life is going to continue to throw obstacles at me, whether in dance or other areas of my life. That is just how life goes. By meeting those challenges, that is how we grow and get stronger.

I have grown a lot and come so far in dance, and there is so much more of this journey left.

But right now I feel my focus in dance needs a slightly different focus. I want to focus more on development.

For the past 8 months or so, my dance journey has been focused on me and my development. I haven’t really been able to do that since before I got sick because there was always a competition or test or performance I was preparing for. During that time, that prep and focus on tangible goals was what I needed.

I am surprised to discover that I don’t really need that sort of focus anymore.

I do still have a need and desire to compete and perform, but it is not as pressing. When I do it, I want to do it to show my progress, and mostly it’s to show that progress to myself. I feel that competitions, and by extension performance (I would much much rather compete than perform) are necessary to help give a limit to break up phases of development. They give a timeline for taking a step back, evaluating, and refocusing.

For the past year, I have enjoyed working with Boss more than I have during the 5 years prior to it. We really have come into a solid grove with how we work, and it really is at a higher level than I ever really thought possible, in consideration of the struggles we had trying to get and stay on the same page before that. There is an element of mutual respect I never expected.

It makes me optimistic and eager to see where Boss’s teaching will lead me next.

I am so grateful that I discovered pro/am, despite the unique challenges it presents. Without it, I likely would have stopped dancing a long time ago and I would definitely not be where I am now. The opportunity it provides me is unmatched.

I don’t know what the future holds. I expect at some point my career will take me to a new location and that will mean new dance experiences. For now, I intend to embrace the opportunities Boss gives me as best I can. I don’t know what all those opportunities will be, but I do know I will continue to get fitter, healthier and feel better — which finally brings me back full circle to the main reasons I started dancing in the first place. Before I found dance, I was very lost and broken.

Through dance I have become strong and confident. I would never have beaten cancer without it. Words cannot express my gratitude for those who have been part of my dance journey, especially Boss who never gave up on me, even when I seemed determine to give up on dance, myself, and to make it as difficult as possible.

This has been such a long time coming.

It’s time for a new chapter in dance for me. I am not quite sure where it will go, but I know it will be great and ideas are already forming. Once I can get them organized into some sort of sense, I will present them to Boss and see what he suggests.

I’m excited for this new chapter and where it will lead me.

Time to start writing.

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Milestone reached

Whew!

I finally started feeling better yesterday (thank goodness!), and along with it came the completion of going through all 9 routines during my lesson yesterday!

It’s been a pretty long road for this. Yesterday we reviewed the end of the Paso and finished the foxtrot meaning I now have the steps for all 9 routines in my head.

Now I just have to finish solidifying my memorization, get the timing down and do about a million other things to get them ready to perform, but minor details 😉 At least I have the ‘working’ knowledge down.

I should be able to work through all the routines on my own now, although admittedly, some are more solid than others (afterall, paso and foxtrot are only a couple days old!).

It still feels like a good milestone to celebrate, although I really have no idea if and/or when we will actually put them on the floor at a competition.

There is still a lot of work to do, but at this point its about building layers on the foundation, rather than trying to build a foundation, and that feels better.

My ‘one week post vacation grace period’ I gave myself ends today, so tomorrow it is fully back at it. Due to some schedule changes in the studio, my practice time for exercises is shifting slightly from MWF to SunWF, and I will be adding a standard technique class on Mondays after my lesson. I will be dancing slightly more than I was before my vacation, but very marginally and I am hoping it won’t cause problems. My intent is to add a little more to what I was doing and see how it goes as the level I was at before seemed to be working well.

I am (or at least should be) home for the entire summer and I am looking forward to it. Besides being home, there are no surgeries, no treatments, not even any medical appointments (except a 6-month follow-up) until the fall. For the first time since 2014 my summer is all mine to work consistently on dance, fitness, school and work.

I also have only 2 more weeks of my current course for school (which is definitely the most intense), and then I am on to two courses which are completely led by me giving much more flexibility.

I am eager to see what improvements I can make with just over 2 months of consistent work.

Time to get started.

What is going on?

First — My bag was found intact!

I am just waiting to hear it has been shipped. Words cannot express the feelings of relief that flooded through me when I saw it had been found.

But on to the rest of the post…

As far as I can tell, I seem to be experience some sort of extreme effects of jet lag.

Or maybe it’s a combination of things. At this point I can’t tell.

Exhausted doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel. I have never felt jet lag like this. I am not sure it even qualifies as jet lag, since I am actually sleeping pretty good and mostly usual amounts and hours.

It could very well be jet lag combined with menopause symptoms (perhaps brought on by the jet lag??) and stress. With the loss of my bag and late arrival it was certainly more stressful arriving home than I anticipated.

I am having trouble thinking. There is that entire feeling like I am trying to “think through water” and I can’t seem to put a full sentence together without remembering what I wanted to say. I have recently missed some details leading to obvious mistakes. I do know I was having a lot of intense hot flashes last week.

Last night at dance I got through my lesson (we were finishing off the Paso), but struggled all the way through my practice, barely getting it done. I went to review what we had just done in paso and what I retained seemed to be pretty slim. Today I can’t seem to get past the first two bars before I hit a huge gap.

Work today was painful. I couldn’t concentrate and what I was able to do was pretty limited. I have been working on a course and tomorrow I will have to reread everything I did today. The worse thing is that it is a review course.

I went to the gym to try to clear my head and do some cardio and I came very close to stopping halfway through, even though I wasn’t working as hard as I usually do. I cannot believe how much of a battle it was to do my usual 35 mins of cardio and I couldn’t push myself enough to get my pulse up to the right level no matter how hard I tried.

I did finish my paper for school, but I am loathe to proof-read it. Thank goodness it is a formative step to a bigger evaluated paper.

It’s just before 8 pm and I am more than ready for bed and will head there right after I finish writing this.

I am super frustrated with this feeling because I can’t fully explain it. Beyond being exhausted, I feel weak. It was a struggle even to walk back to my office, which is not that far.

I really hope it is just a perfect storm of factors and after a restful weekend (once the paper is handed in!) it will all resolve. I did have minor surgery on my chest yesterday (10 mins in office) and perhaps that is also contributing. Since I can’t even feel what was done it’s a little out of mind, but I do have 3 stitches that are healing.

This has also left me frustrated at dance because I feel like if I could pull it all together I might have some good progress going on, instead of feeling like I am fighting my body for every movement and step. My balance is off and I feel really ‘clunky’ and cumbersome.

All I can do at this point is keep plugging through and wait for it to sort itself. I have never felt jet lag so intensely. Hopefully when it clears, I will be able to sort through the mist and water and fog in my brain and things will emerge clear.

It’ll come.

A Costly Loss

I lost my backpack in London.

It was a stupid mistake. I had placed it on an overhead shelf on the bus that took us from the ship to the airport and then forgot to grab it when I left the bus.

It still hasn’t surfaced and I am pretty much out of hope that it will.

With it I lost my computer with all my school files, dance videos, records, budget sheets, music and documents, an MP3 player, e-reader, apartment, work and scooter keys, fitness bands, and the charging cable for all my electronics.

At least I had my passport in my pocket along with my wallet and phone and was still able to get home.

I was also delayed more than 2 hours for my final flight and didn’t get home until well past midnight. I had to wake up my roommate to let me in the apartment. Thank goodness he was home!

Needless to say, my first day home was spent acquiring new versions of what I had lost. I have a paper due for school this weekend, so priority one had to be a new laptop. So far it has been the costliest replacement, although I haven’t looked into replacing my scooter key yet…

Since I had to buy a new laptop, I took the opportunity to try to address the issue I have been having with my neck by getting a larger size one than what I had, returning to the size I had before. Since I am not looking down as much to work or working so compactly, I am hoping that will at least give some relief to my neck and shoulders as I move forward.

I have had two lessons since I returned, both yesterday and today. We are working on putting together the last two routines (paso and fox) and Boss filled me in on his plan moving forward. It’s a good plan, but ambitious. I can tell it is still evolving some, which is perfectly ok with me. I am interested to see how it plays out.

One of the things I am most looking forward to is spending the entire summer at home without any surgeries (minus a very small nipple revision later this week that is done in office) or other obstacles. For the first time in almost 4 years I have a nice block of time to really focus on what I want to do. I can work consistently and can’t wait!

The fall is already looking busy. As of right now, I will be away for 6 weeks just before Christmas for work. I am looking forward to it and hope it does come to pass.

For now, I am definitely jet-lagged and feeling the full effects even though I seem to be adjusted back to my own time zone. My trip was pretty intense just with all the touring we did, so I can’t say it was restful, but it was amazing to see all the different places. 4 more countries to add to my list of places I have been.

I am giving myself the week to be a little more low-key before fully ramping back into the swing of things. Getting my paper done is my main priority this week and resting up some. I am almost done the most intense course of my degree and believe me I am counting down the days. Despite the setbacks, I am still fairly on track and now that I am home I can focus on it more.

I will try to write some more tomorrow or Wednesday as I have some post-vacation dance thoughts to share. As usually seems to be the case, the time off of dance seems to have led to some processing and a few pieces coming together from the step back.

Until then, I will mourn the loss of my bag, and move on.

Quick cruise update

Greetings from the Atlantic!

I am on day 12 of my 14 day cruise and currently sailing from Inverness to Edinburgh. Following that we sail back to Southhampton to start the journey home.

It’s been a pretty amazing trip despite some small bumps. All of the ports have been amazing and I really recommend everyone take an opportunity to cross Iceland off any bucket list they may have.

I managed to get my group project for school done about a week early, so that is a load off! My weekend when I get home will be my next paper but I should be in a good place for it.

The first week at sea I was pretty diligent about eating, practice and weight training, but have relaxed a little the last couple days.

I am a little concerned because I seem to have upset my back and am getting pulling sensations down my legs, especially the right side when I sit or lie. It’s been 2 days now and can’t seem to get relief. I am hopeful it will settle once I get back to normal at home.

That’s all for now, back at things when I get home late Friday night, and a full summer yo build consistency without any travel.

At least so far.

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.

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.