It’s a rumba!

At least it has the appearance of one now.

My last few lessons have been focused on working through the choreography for the new open rumba. It’s taken a few lessons due to the intricacies of the steps, but tonight we were able to go through the entire routine top to bottom with slow music without any major hiccups or restarts.

It’s quite an achievement as its a long routine with a lot of details and changes in timing. It’s also a routine unlike any I have done before so I am giving myself a little pat on the back for being able to get it together. A week ago, I was sure it would be at least another week before we got even close to doing it without stop, let alone to the music.

That’s not to say its good to go. There are definitely a lot more details to work out and technical points that are lacking, but the foundation is there and that is a positive step. I also still need to fully work out my timing and become more confident in it.

Even just working through the choreography I am already understanding where work needs to be done. Just to execute the choreography properly requires a lot of trust and connection through the lead and follow. I can’t do all of the steps on my own as I am used to rely on, or at least it won’t really work if I do that. That has led to a bit of a steep curve, but just the need to use it has already starting clicking into place some of the tactile things I need to understand. I feel there has been some growth in that area. Its interesting how a lack of option can affect things.

I find all of it fascinating and I have surprised myself in learning pieces of this. I know where I need to focus some of my own practice and I am eager to start digging into this myself.

Unfortunately, that may have to wait a bit. Once again, my neck muscles are acting up, although it appears to be more related to work and sitting at a computer than dance or anything more physical. Despite that, I am at a point where if I can’t get my neck muscles to relax, they are signalling they are going to seize up again. I saw the doc today and was referred for both acupuncture and physio, but was unable to get an appointment for either until next week. In the mean time, I have some stretches and some pain relievers to try and keep it from locking up on me.

Isn’t that always the way?

I did have a productive weekend that allowed me to catch up on work and school as I had hoped, so my stress levels are much better now. Getting through the rumba has contributed to that so I hope my neck will keep playing nice and allowing me to keep dancing until I can get it fully relieved.

In addition to the rumba, we will be continuing to work on the tango and I was told to expect to start working through the samba next week.

Suddenly, learning 9 open routines doesn’t seem as daunting.

All that from learning a rumba.

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Made it…

…to the end of the week.

I have two days off physically, but mentally I have a lot to do this weekend, including some school and work, as well as some more transcribing of routines for dance. My work week went a little unexpectedly sideways and left me unable to do the things I wanted to get done to deal with emerging things. I am sure it happens at every job.

My work description itself is changing, almost daily at this point and one of the things I have to do is figure out a structure and plan for my office now that I have more people and more responsibility. That is going to take some heavy thinking.

I had hoped for a bit more of a break this weekend, but if I get the things I hope to finished I know that next weekend I will be able to relax more and focus on the things I want to focus on, rather that those I have to focus on.

Moving from work, it was a productive night at my lesson.

We have been working on the new open rumba routine and we have worked through about 1/2 – 2/3rds of it, and Boss told me he intends to try to finish it up next week.

It is interesting what I am discovering just working through the choreography. It has highlighted some gaps in things I haven’t really worked on and essentially provided a bit of a ‘to do’ list, once we have worked through the routine.

Some of the specific things I know I will need to work on is the connection within the partnership, allowing myself to use my partner to execute more challenging parts, and some elements such as rondes and stylistic details.

As we work through it though, I am feeling better about the routines and that they are doable and achievable and not quite as complicated and complex as they might seem.

It ended a rough week on a positive note, and one which I certainly needed.

It helped me make it through.

Finding something that has been elusive…

Every once in a while something comes together.

Bonus when it is something you have been trying to figure out for a while.

During my last two individual practices, I suddenly was able to pull together something that I have been trying to figure out for longer than I can remember. I could tell it was close, but that it was still just on the cusps of not quite being there.

And now it seems to have finally developed, at least preliminarily.

A feeling of connection complete from one side to the other around my back in standard. Basically, I can finally feel a connection from elbow to elbow when I hold up my arms in standard frame.

It seems strange to say, but it’s an odd sensation for me. It can be a bit fleeting and honestly it feels like there is a band from one elbow to the other, but I can tell when it falls into place and when it doesn’t. Previously, I could connect with one side or the other but not across.

How did this happen?

It is a little strange the steps that seems to have led to this. First it was a matter of developing awareness of moving my shoulder blades separate from my ribs, then it was developing awareness of when one side was leading versus another. This was followed by working to make sure one side or the other was leading and engaged at all times. Once that developed, I noticed that I had to be careful that when I was leading with one side forward, I wasn’t allowing the opposite side to fall back (it still has to stay forward too so I don’t end up turned). Once I added engaging the opposite side to keep it from falling back, suddenly the two sides connected together.

This has been at least a two year process for me, beginning with no awareness or understanding of when one side or the other moved anywhere. I had to keep doing it to figure out what I was feeling, as I wasn’t sure and when it finally clicked together what it was and I realized it was something Boss and other coaches have been telling me to look for it took me a few moments to completely process it. It was the ultimate ‘aha’ moment.

At least I hope I am feeling what I think I am feeling. I haven’t had a chance to discuss it with Boss yet. I could be just doing something completely strange and not realize it.

But there is a glimmer of hope…

I might figure out this whole standard thing yet.

Re-learning to push

Push through the walls, that is.

In the last week I have discovered that I am re-learning something I didn’t fully know I had forgotten–that is pushing through walls.

By walls, I mean those moments when you are working physically and you feel like you have reached your limits, but then you dig a little deeper and find another small burst of energy to get you over the hump.

The biggest difference for me is that I find energy now when I dig deeper, which is a sign of on-going recovery. What I am having to remember is how to dig for that energy and push just that little bit more to bring myself to the next level.

This week is “week 2” of adjusting to a new schedule so I feel pretty tired, achy and worn out a little. But I am pushing through it as best I can, knowing that I will be able to rest on the weekend and that next week will be better.

It’s surprising me a little how surprised I am about rediscovering this ability, but more than that, a big part of it is realizing how much I thought I was pushing through things before but wasn’t. Although that is not entirely accurate either. I think it would be more accurate to say that I am surprised to discover that I was pushing, but I wasn’t pushing very well or as much as I really could.

I am battling through things and I know it will bring results in the long run.  The trick is knowing when I am at a wall that can be pushed through, and when I am actually done. So far, I am reaching walls I can climb and I hope it continues, but I will see what the next couple days bring.

I have a lesson again tomorrow night and in line with what I am discovering about being able to push harder than I could I have also been discovering some new things at dance too. I will try to write about them tomorrow night.

It seems I am coming into a period of discovery in general.

And that is one of the best parts of dance.

Transcribing routines

I have a big task before me.

Before I can start working on routines, I have to have them written out. So, with the new latin routines I just received I have to take the time to go through the video and write down what I see the lady doing to make it relevant to me. Then I have to go through again and figure out how the timing fits with what I have written.

I have transcribed the rumba so far. It took me more than 3 hours to write out a 2 minute routine. There was a lot of going back and forth over the same 10 seconds of video to double check things like what foot was moving or supporting (I can be directionally challenged, so this means a lot of double checking), and then figuring out the best was to describe the movement I see in the video.

Since these are open routines, few of the steps are fully recognizable, although many are variations on popular steps. The problem is ‘sliding doors variation’ doesn’t really tell me anything.

This weekend I hope to get through either the cha cha or samba. I haven’t decided which yet as cha cha may be easier, samba is trickier because I have a harder time recognizing steps.

I hope it won’t take another 3 hours!

On the standard side, we are working through the open tango. We were able to more or less walk through it tonight from top to bottom with a couple hiccups here and there. I have the steps written out, but already there are slight variations as we work through the routine. I am waiting for the final version from Boss with the timing as that will help me start to work through it on my own.

Anyone else finding this week really long? I don’t know why, but I find it hard to believe it’s only just Friday. On the other hand, I feel like I still have a lot to do before returning to work next week! Perhaps it is just that this has been a productive week for me, but quite repetitive doing similar things every day (bit of school, bit of dance, going to the gym, repeat). My body can feel the extra activity I have been doing this week as well and it is definitely tired.

I actually expect that I will feel pretty exhausted by the end of next week, but that it will get better after that as I adjust back to my full routine.

Just keep breathing and on top of the things I need to do.

Like transcribing videos.

And 2018 begins…

Off and running into the New Year!

I am not back to work until Monday, but this week has seen the return to weight training and the return to dance. I haven’t been able to do weight training since my surgery and dance was quite scattered after with the incision opening and the holidays.

All that to say I feel like I am shaking off a lot of rust and dust.

One thing that was a happy surprise is that in addition to the open standard routines Boss put together before the holidays, I now have 5 new open latin routines put together by the couple I worked with during my work trip in October.

It’s a happy surprise as I didn’t expect all 5 routines so soon, and was told to expect them later in the new year. I received the videos of all the routines yesterday and I am still digesting and processing them. I am super excited to start working on them.

I really enjoyed working with this couple back in October and I have been looking for other ways to work with them some more. I guess my enthusiasm rubbed off because Boss suggested we ask them to do routines for us. They have never done routines for a pro/am couple, so it was a new experience for them, but I am beyond thrilled with what they have come up with. Among other things, it’s obvious they took into account what they noticed from working with me. The routines have a way of playing to my strengths while still challenging me to work on the areas I still need to develop.

All nine (latin and standard) routines are going to push me out of my comfort zone in a good way and in a way I really need to be pushed. I wrote a bit about that before the end of the year and 2018 looks well on track to do just that.

I had my first lesson back tonight and the main focus was tango. We started working on the sequence for the new open tango, and I have a new mini-sequence from tango for doing conditioning (before the holidays I was doing waltz).

I also took 30 minutes tonight just to work through some things on my own and see how things feel after the surgery. I was focusing on latin because I haven’t done it in a while and my hips and belly had new incisions (and new scar tissue). It was enough to tell me I need to get back into the habit of moving them regularly as they feel very tight and almost unmoveable. It will work out, but it’s going to take some consistent movement to get the bugs out.

2018 has started with a fire hose of information for me and I am working to get it under control before I return to work next week and add to it. Lots to do, but already 2018 is looking to be the year for me.

About time!

2017 Reflections and the impact of living past cancer

Like most, I find myself thinking about 2017.

2017 was a rough year for me. Certainly it was a lot tougher than I expected at the beginning of the year.

I had 2 major surgeries, spent the beginning of the year fighting debilitating side effects from hormone therapy, and lost any possibility to compete in the near future.

But I also completed almost 1/2 of my masters degree with a strong average, competed twice, including in open smooth and gold level, had a strong recovery, lost a third of the chemo weight, had successes at work, bought a new car, and felt my strength return for the first time since 2015.

I may recognize the good easier than the bad and I accept that as a gift.

Some things will continue for 2018. My degree will be only 3 months from completion, I expect work to keep progressing (especially since I can work full-time again now), recovery will continue and with it strength and weight loss. Dance will progress and while I am not going to be competing, I do have the time to focus on me and strengthen my dancing overall.

Cancer taught me a lot of hard lessons, not only about life but also about myself. It showed me strength and discipline I didn’t realize I had, helped me to determine what is truly important to me and to let go of those that are not.

Now, more than ever before, I can truly say that I am happy and content with where I am and where I am going. But that contentment comes more from knowing I am going some where, even if I don’t know the destination. I just want (and intend) to keep going there.

I don’t know what the future will bring. I don’t know when I will compete next, but I know at some point I will. In the meantime, I will continue to learn. I was told by work I can “reasonably” expect to stay in my current geographic location for 3-5 years and I am pleased with that. I am working to make sure I am well set up for my future.

The biggest takeaway from 2017 for me is reaching a point where I feel like I have a future I can look to again.

While dealing with cancer, the future disappeared. Not because the projected outcome was bleak or dismal, but only because it takes so much energy to fight cancer it is necessary to keep focused on the present and take things one day at a time. You focus on treatments–when the next one will be, whether the next day, week or 3 weeks–and work to get yourself there as positively as possible.

I am not sure I would have realized how important things such as dance and my work are to me if I hadn’t had to fight to keep them in my life. It gives me a different perspective on them and I fully believes shapes decisions I make about them–because I know now what is important about them.

This fall, I was put in a position where I had to decide what was more important to me in dance, competing or my process for learning. I would have made a different decision in 2014, and I know I would have regretted it and possibly ended up stopping dance.

I am comfortable in my decision, but also find myself a bit resigned–at least for now. I am resigned to the fact that current circumstances mean I can’t participate in dance how I would fully like to, but the circumstances are just that–current. They will change and I will adapt to new circumstances then. There will come a time when I can determine those circumstances, but it is not yet. There is a time for everything.

So as 2017 comes to an end, those are the thoughts that are bringing me into 2018.

I wish everyone a Happy New Year!

Sometimes, you just have to purge…

My Christmas vacation started with a mission.

I am not quite sure where it came from, but I started my vacation determined to purge extra stuff from my life. I actually still had things I have moved 3 times without unpacking them. They are now gone.

I also replaced my bedroom furniture, something I have been wanting to do for quite some time. My old stuff had reached the end of it’s life. If you rubbed against it, you got splinters. Some of the drawers were unusable.

I also replaced the shelves in my living room, mainly just for a change.

In the end, I tossed out 5 contractor bags full of things plus 3 containers, I also donated 2 bags of clothes, and DVDs. I feel 100% lighter, although the process is still on-going.

The old stuff has left and the new stuff should arrive in a couple hours. Then I can relax knowing I am going into the new year without a lot of excess baggage, and launching myself into a true period of renewal.

It’s amazing how much just letting go of stuff (even if you had forgotten you had it) can make you feel better.

On a dance note, I had my final lesson yesterday and it was indeed the final open routine, quickstep. That finishes up all the standard routines and leaves us ready to move forward in the new year.

I hope next week allows for the final bit of healing I need, letting me truly launch into the new year with all cylinders firing.

Never underestimate the power of a good purge.

 

Analytics

As much as I am a kinesthetic learner, I have some analytical tendencies too.

I am not completely analytical, as I really don’t do well with geometry and math, so I am not paying attention to things like degree of rotation. But I do find myself enjoying exploring deep details and figuring out how they all come together.

We are doing that a lot in standard right now.

The focus for standard right now is a lot about how. How I step, whether straight back or forward, on an angle, in CBMP, and how I move my upper body–what side is leading forward, how much do I rotate. It’s a lot of layers together and I am enjoying it.

The interesting thing is that it’s a lot of information, and it is not quite all coming together but it is not stressing me out as once it may have. I think that is because I have all the information I need and can feel my mind (and by extension my body) working to process it and put it all together.

We are working through tango right now. Taking the silver sequences I have and breaking them down in detail. Working through them both fast and slow. The slow stuff is great because I can fully think through all the things I need to do. The fast stuff challenges me and forces me to work on processing it faster.

It’s a different way of approaching things, but I am really enjoying it.

My lessons have been all standard lately due to the issues with the stitches in my hip, but I am ok with that. I have one more lesson tomorrow where I am told we will do the final open standard routine (quickstep) and record it, which sets us up nicely for working in the new year when my stitches will be healed up.

I have one week off of dance, then back at it. Looking forward to the break, but I am finding I am more excited for the new year than I have been in a long time. I will talk more on that soon.

Who knew analyzing could be so much fun??

My (REAL) Dance Goals

I have a difficult time admitting to my goals.

I think one of the things that I personally struggle with when it comes to goals is that for some reason I feel they should be complicated and specific by my goals are and always have been really very simple.

I have two. Both are more about the experience and process than any tangible thing.

My goals are simple:

-to enjoy the experience of learning

-to enjoy the experience of competing

That’s it. There are no levels, placings, techniques or other things linked to it. It’s all about the experience of learning to dance and the experience of being on a competition floor. That is what matters to me when it comes to dance. And if I had to rank them (as recently I have had to do), then learning comes first.

To elaborate on each:

-Learning. I absolutely enjoy learning, whatever it is. I like analyzing, challenging myself, discovering new details and learning about myself and my capabilities in the process. It is the most important thing to me when it comes to dancing. I started with virtually nothing. In my past I have done classes in highland dance, country line dance, hip hop, and belly dance but none of them stuck because they weren’t for me (except maybe highland, but that ended because my teacher moved).

One of the reasons none of them stuck–there was no one to share the learning experience with on a one-on-one basis, although if there had been, perhaps it would have been different. As much as I am learning from an instructor and having the opportunity to develop myself, there is an aspect to ballroom where I have to share with others. At some times, perhaps others even learn from me.

The challenge of learning remains the most important part of dance for me and I don’t see that changing. From my perspective, the only thing that would enhance that would be the opportunity to teach that learning to others, as one never truly really learns something until they are able to teach it to someone else (of course I am very passionate about teaching, so perhaps I am biased on that). Teaching seems to be an evolution of learning.

-Competing. Competing is another aspect of learning for me, and it is truly about the experience. About challenging myself to get out there and in 1:30 show what I know and what I am capable of. Its a 1:30 to share what I have learned with others and perhaps inspire them to learn too. Competing has never been about winning or placements for me. It’s been about growth, stretching myself, learning about myself, seeing what I am capable of and getting outside of box I allow myself to be in during my regular life. Competing is the one opportunity I have to get out and feel like I have achieved something, and that is before the placing or marks come it.

Every competitive experience for me is an achievement and represents one moment in my life where I took a risk and got out there and did SOMETHING. The challenge of competing in ballroom is that I have to work with someone else for that achievement. I can’t just rely on myself which is my natural inclination to do. It’s a team effort and the challenge for me is to rise to the expectation of my partner and make him proud (whoever he is, instructor or otherwise) of what we are able to accomplish together. I want to feel as though I belong on the floor with the people I am competing with, and I don’t want to be the person who is automatically considered for last, but beyond that, I just want to be there and enjoy doing what I love to work for.

But that’s it.

I know I should probably have more concrete and specific goals, and ones that are more driven by reality than passion, but in the end it is just not what I want. I don’t want to limit myself. I just want to enjoy what I do.

As far as learning, I have no specific goals because I don’t know what I don’t know. As far as I am concerned, what I learn next or need to focus on is up to my instructor (even if in collaboration with others).  I just want to understand what I am trying to learn.

There are a lot of things I want to experience within the dance world.