Samba Surprise

Saaay Whaaaaat???

Yes, of all the dances we did tonight, samba went the best. I was even able to do the first 1/3 of the routine with Boss in time with slow samba music. Boss was completely surprised by that.

I was a little less so as I already knew I could do the first 1/4 because of focus practice I had done on it a few weeks ago. I had been able to at least maintain that. The rest of the third following where I usually stop was the surprise for me.

I have slowly been working to try and get to the halfway point, but it is not quite there. After the halfway point there is still pretty much a blank even though we went through the entire routine yesterday (and again tonight).

Considering I am still completely fogged out (this afternoon in first aid I couldn’t remember what number came after 6 in a 10 count twice during CPR practice), my lesson went much better than yesterday. I did ask Boss to break up the lesson into different dances, which he did tonight and definitely helped (although I think he is not too sure).

We started with reviewing the rumba (although not with any music), and after about the halfway point he could see me start to get a vacant stare. We still went through the entire routine before stopping, although the last half is still pretty blank for me. I might be able to reach the full halfway point on my own in practice tomorrow. That’s my hope at least…

One thing that did seem improved in the rumba was the connection, or the consistency of the connection. The work we have been doing is starting to generate ‘triggers’ for me so that I do notice when the connection is missing, and I can feel myself try to re-engage it.

I have to try to work out the timing a bit better on my own tomorrow. I can do it with Boss counting, but when I am on my own the count gets a bit lost without him to lead and prompt my movements.

What I really need to do is go through the steps on my own with Boss correcting and coaching as needed. Once we do that, I am fairly confident I can go away on my own and work out the final pieces and start adding the layers of technique. We didn’t have time to do that today before my brain was full for rumba, so we moved on to the Cha Cha.

The Cha Cha also went better than I expected. There were a lot of blank spots, but there are small sections of the routine that I am starting to do by muscle memory when led, if not quite consciously yet. I am pretty sure Boss could tell when I reached the point where things were no longer computing for me, but we pushed through to the end.

I haven’t worked through Cha Cha on my own yet, so that will be on the docket for tomorrow’s practice. I need to see how far I am able to figure out on my own and I am hoping about half. Some of the footwork gets pretty intricate in the middle, but I do know that usually cha cha is a dance I am able to pick up fairly quickly.

We ended with the samba and were able to go through the first 1/3 twice with the slow music, the second time to make sure the first time wasn’t a fluke. I blanked on a couple of steps, but was able to catch up later. Samba is usually the dance I struggle with learning the most next to paso, so tonight was certainly encouraging.

I hope my lesson tomorrow goes just as well and also has a bit of a surprise in it.

We haven’t done the waltz recently…

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Blogger Appreciation Award

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I have recently been recognized for the Blogger Appreciation Award, and I want to take a moment to complete the rules of:

  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you.
  2. Use the award image.
  3. Write a paragraph of something positive about yourself.
  4. Nominate and notify as many bloggers as you wish.

So for number one, I was nominated by DWall of Facing Diagonal Wall , with an overwhelming description of my blog and what he likes about it. I think it was a bit overwhelming because as much as he enjoys and admires my blog, his blog was one of the first ballroom blogs I stumbled across and strongly contributed to me beginning to write here. When I found his blog, I read a few posts and related to it so much I went back to the beginning and read they entire blog in almost one sitting. Having been doing pro/am and experienced the franchise system, I understood a lot of what he was writing. At that time, I was going through chemo and it got me thinking that blogging might be as an outlet to air some of my frustrations, work through the stress and provide information for others struggling like I was. And so this blog was born.

Something positive about me–like DWall said in his post, I am a fighter. I have been through a lot and still keep smiling and pushing forward. When faced with choices between fighting on or giving up, I always choose fight, even if I have to change my tactics and retreat a little before finding that way forward.

There are two other bloggers I want to nominate, both of which also contributed to inspiring me to start my own blog and share my story. I follow both of them regularly and never miss a post.

The first is Adventures in the Dance Kingdom by The Thesbian. I love his cast of characters and lego figure photos he includes with every post. I can’t imagine the time it takes to plan and stage each photo. He writes about being a male amateur competitor and some of the quirks and quarks that come with that and shares his journey and interactions with other in his Kingdom in great detail. He has embarked on a new journey recently with his competing and I wish him and SparkleDancer luck!

The second is The Girl with the Tree Tattoo. I really hope to meet this amazing lady some day. Her blog and experiences, while she focuses on a different style, very much echo my own. We both have moments of self-doubt we overcome and we both are struggling to pro/am competitors and all the challenges that includes. She is an avid writer (with 2 ballroom dance e-books out!), and very passionate about her blog and dancing. She is very open and regularly posts videos and photos, something that I am much less inclined to do. I love how she always puts herself out there.

I am so very humbled and encouraged to see that my writings (and occasional rants) are enjoyed by so many in so many ways. As things start to settle in my life (in theory), I plan to try to write a little more often as I continue my journey with Boss in dance and recovering and surviving. You all help keep me motivated and inspired.

Happy reading 🙂

Settling into a groove

Finally.

The best thing I can say about this week is that I feel almost normal. The hot flashes have backed off and are down to 4-6 in a day versus 1-2 an hour. My head is clear and I have energy. I am having a little trouble sleeping (can’t have everything I guess), but its more my usual insomnia than waking up all night with hot flashes and weird dreams.

The worse is that my left side is really unhappy. The worse part is my ankle, perhaps my achilles, but my knee, hip and elbow have also been tweaky. I am guessing it is all related and seems to be the small changes in movement I am making–particularly in footwork. It’s still manageable, but I have a suspicion its going to get really angry before it gets better. Something else to follow-up with physio.

All of that aside, I am getting into a regular and consistent pattern of working that already is feeling productive and good. I have worked out a pattern for exercises and feel focused on them, and slowly working through my routines on my own. Samba seems to be the most productive so far, but rumba isn’t that far behind.

In standard, we are working on the open waltz and I haven’t quite found a way to work on it, but I know it will be coming in my lessons. We are going through the steps in detail and differentiating which steps are in CBMP, require more rotation or less, etc. It might seem fairly straight forward and intuitive, but for me it is not.

Building on the work we did in standard, Boss has identified for me about three different ways to place my foot as I move–straight forward, under my head or under my elbow–depending on how much rotation is needed for the step. Under my elbow is usually full CBMP with under my head in the middle.

We are now going through the steps in the open waltz and figuring out which step requires which movement. It’s not quite sticking like I wish it would and when I work on my own I am sure there are times I must be turning the wrong way. It’ll come though.

Tonight my lesson was focused on Latin, which is another way things are getting into a grove–a lesson on standard, a lesson on latin and my third lesson in between.

We were able to clean up some of the sections in both routines I have been working on myself, and after running through them on my own tonight I am ready to head into working through the next section on my own. The latin routines seem to be going easier than standard, but that is not surprise to me.

We also started working on connection and lead and follow, doing exercises in keeping my weight forward and towards my partner while moving and responding to Boss’s lead without losing the connection. It’s a lot of feeling and processing things, so pretty much right up my alley, although still challenging.

When working on the routines, I could start to understand where developing that sensitivity is going to help and already I am starting to apply it to the routines in little pieces. I just have to work on doing so more consistently because when I do it Boss can respond and actually lead me, but if I don’t we are both stuck trying to dance on our own.

Similarly, in standard Boss was telling me that I have to make sure I stay consistent with my upper body and head position and stretching–even when we are not moving at full strength in our feet–so that we can consistently counter-balance each other. If we don’t, the entire movement of the dance changes and again we are each then trying to dance separately.

Its given me a lot to process this week in a good way, including a better understanding of the demands that this next level is going to make on me and how I need to respond to move into it. I am not there yet, but I have a better understanding already of the amount of work ahead of me and what it is going to take to get there.

I feel better prepared to move ahead and much less out of my depth. I am starting to feel these routines are doable, and able to do well.

It’s a good grove to be in.

What’s next?

I am really growing to hate that question.

It seems like every time I am at the studio someone asks me that. It’s not any malice on their part, they have just seen me working in my lesson and they are genuinely curious about what I am training for.

The problem is that I don’t know the answer to that. And every time someone asks me, it makes it harder to convince myself that it doesn’t bother me.

It does. A lot.

I feel like I am coasting along and I can feel it starting to wear on me. My motivation is down and it has become too easy to decide not to go to the studio or do a class because I don’t have anything to prepare for. Just from that alone, I know I have to find some time to take a hard look at how I am approaching dance right now and figure out what works for my new reality. Until then, I have pretty much been approaching dance in the same way as though nothing has changed and I have some sort of competitive goal or event I am preparing for.

It doesn’t upset me. I am beyond that part of this, but it is more acceptance and the realization that things have changed so I have to adapt my approach until things change again.

And it is more than just dance. There have been a lot of other changes in my life I have to adapt to as well. As I am turning the corner in my recovery, the time has come for me to start focusing on opportunities for my career. It is once again moving forward in a big way, similarly to how it was before I got sick, and it has recently gained a lot of momentum. I am really fortunate that I truly love and am passionate about what I do.

Before I got sick, I did very well in balancing work and dance. When I was away for work, I had exercises I would do in the confined spaces to maintain my dance fitness and growth even without lessons or a studio.

But in those days, a lot of the work I did needed to be done on my own. I still need to develop myself but partner work has become more important. The things I was doing then were also much easier.

That said, I know I will adapt and figure out a way to balance both again.

I know that Boss has a plan, or is figuring out a plan. I also know that he won’t share that plan with me until he is ready and there is really no point in asking until he does. Otherwise, asking tends to add pressure and that leads to conflict. I have learned it is best to just him go through his process and figure things out on his own and let him tell me.

I can tell that there is something percolating because he told me yesterday that I need to get my neck figured out so we can start working on things other than choreography. There has also been some focus on latin technique lately and new elements added to it, which also speaks to their being a plan or evolving plan.

At this point, I think he is waiting for me to be ready to work and focus again, which I openly admit during the last few weeks with a lot of stress at work and school and my neck issues I haven’t been ready to do. But perhaps how I am feeling tonight is a sign that I am ready to refocus and figure out how to do that and what that means without a competitive goal.

I think a lot of what I am feeling has nothing to do with not competing, but more that I feel my dance is unstructured right now. I am not even really sure what to do for exercises. The ones that I have I don’t understand enough for them to have meaning for me and that is probably the biggest problem. I had asked Boss to go over my exercises, but then my neck acted up and I haven’t been able to practice and working on the exercises just wasn’t a good idea.

So a lot of things are riding on getting my neck back to normal. There is small progress, but it is still short-lived and the end of the day still finds my next burning with fatigue and tightness that is an aching pain. I really hope that the small exercises I am doing keeps it moving in a positive direction. I would really really like to get back to the gym and practice next week, especially since both the work and school stress is moving behind me.

Despite the barriers that I feel are blocking me, they still don’t affect the fact that I just don’t know what is next or when. It doesn’t make being asked that question any easier.

For now, I just hope there will be an answer some day.

As a quick aside, I read an excellent article from one of the instructors in my region about personality types and how they affect how you dance. It’s a great overview so I wanted to share it: Personality Types in Dance . If you don’t follow George’s blog, I highly recommend it, and hope you enjoy his articles as much as I do.

Working out a plan

It seems things have settled.

But boy was it rocky to get there.

We have a plan.

I did go to my lesson on Wednesday, but I took some advice from the lovely Girl with the Tree Tattoo and put together my thoughts and frustrations and asked Boss for 5 minutes at the beginning of my lesson to just vent and let it all out.

It turned into a productive conversation that gave more clarity than previous conversations. One of the first things I mentioned was that I felt a little confused about what I was being told because at times it seemed contradictory. The biggest point to come out of that is that Boss is unable to support competing for at least 6 months to a year, and can’t say right now if he will return to competing or not after that.

Well, neither can I. Anything can happen in a year. I know that better than anyone. 2 weeks ago, while waiting for my biopsy result, I wasn’t sure if I would see my 40th birthday.

Life can change on a dime for all sorts of reasons.

All that to say that I know I won’t be competing with Boss for probably at least a year. After that, no one can really say what might be possible. Maybe he will be willing and able to compete, maybe he won’t.

Maybe I won’t be able to compete. You never know.

I don’t work with Boss because he was willing to be a warm body on a competition floor. While competing is one goal of mine, it is not the only one and it is not the most important one either. I work with him because he is able and willing to teach at the level I want and I can take lessons consistently throughout the week. He is also open to communicating, and does both long and short-term planning for lessons. Going to any other instructor, particularly commuting, eliminates a lot of those advantages, particularly being able to work with lessons throughout the week which is the most important thing for me.

Boss did suggest an option that I may consider in the future (for example if he is still unable to compete this time next year), but for now I don’t see it as necessary (not to mention it would be a bit costly).

After all of that, we did come to a plan that works.

I have no issues with not competing for 6 months to a year. I see it as an opportunity to work on my own technique and particularly focus on some details that require more in-depth and long term focus to sort out–things I can’t focus on while preparing to compete. In particular, trying to sort out the issue with my right foot turning out and lacking the strength to stay turned in. Other things include specific techniques in latin, CBMP in standard (I am just starting to scratch the surface on understanding that), and connection in latin.

Boss and I also discussed how I want to structure lessons for the next little while. We agreed that I would stick with 3 a week (as that’s the level I am happiest with), but two would be on things he wants to work on, but the third lesson would be directed by questions, topics that I want to work on (which I will provide to him in advance). I have already given him something for the first one.

My lessons in general will be focused more on individual conditioning and exercises for technique, although I have some routines that have details that need to be worked out. Now is an opportunity to do that. I see all the work I do now will only make my stronger in the future.

The most interesting thing about the discussion we had was that Boss told me he would like me to be more involved in my learning now as I have reached a point where I should be. It’s an interesting concept.

Finally, I had a couple ideas for evaluating progress without competing. First, as we are going to be doing some specific exercises (most from coaches), so I had the idea of filming me doing all the exercises (once we figure out what they will be), and then refilming them in 3 months to play side by side and see if there is any difference.

The second idea was that if I am not competing, then I am saving money. Something valuable I do with it that is still dance related (and cheaper than competing) is to do some coaching lessons. Already the last coach I worked with is going to be returning in February, so I have an opportunity to be able to afford more lessons with him, and Boss suggested a different coach for latin who may be possible to work with in the near-term (I have worked with her before and enjoyed it  a lot).

I am very glad and relieved to have a plan in place, for at least the next 6 months. In June, there will be a time to re-evaluate where everything is at, but until then I am happy with the plan. I have just over a week until my next surgery which will mean some brief time away from dancing. I am glad to have this sorted now.

Planning for the future

The other thing that happened last week was sitting down with Boss and going over the plan for moving forward until the next competition which should hopefully be in February.

Prior to the competition, we had had a preliminary conversation about where we want to go next, so there were no real surprises.

Boss sent me an outline of the plan before the lesson, which gave us a starting point to work from for our discussion. We were completely on the same page which makes things easy.

During my lesson we discussed the plan, as well as my plans for strength training which I hope to return to next week and how one can support the other an vice versa. We then took some time to look at the videos from the competition and discuss points from there.

The plan (on paper) is relatively simple. Boss has (already) developed some short closed silver sequences which will be competition routines, but more so mini-sequences with aspects of technique I need to focus on. Essentially, they are comp routines and exercises in one.

Adding to this, and where the competition training focus will mostly be will be some open routines–standard developed by Boss and Latin done with another professional couple.

We are also going to work on developing the waltz solo routine we have been trying to put together since the end of summer. The intent is to perform that solo at a local competition in January, and again at the competition in February. My restriction on that is only that the sequence needs to be choreographed before the end of November as I don’t want to be rushing to put it together. We will see how that goes.

I will start back to my lessons tonight, which I expect will begin with going over the new silver sequences to see how they go. There are some interesting combinations already and I am eager to try them out.

I have 1 month until my next surgery, which is the completion of my reconstruction and should only sideline me for 2 weeks, if not less. For myself, I would like to have the silver sequences down, the solo choreographed, and at least some of the open routines ‘mapped out’. But that is what I would like to do.

The plan, is completely Boss’s and up to him to execute 🙂

OH! I had some success in fixing the tear in my standard dress. Hopefully that will last!

Rebuilding Confidence

This seems to be the centre of my issues in Standard.

On a side note, I was right about the infection and with some antibiotics, I am feeling much better and my energy has returned.

Back to standard, I had a brief discussion with Boss last night to try and sort through why I have so much anxiety about standard in general. It was a good discussion and helped me to start to work through some of the clutter in my brain.

It really does come down to confidence. I have no confidence in my stamina for standard. This is leading to a lot of fear and doubts and that is something I am not used to clouding how I dance.

We are doing a lot in standard, but I still can’t seem to get through 1 full dance without collapsing. I haven’t been able to notice any sort of increase in stamina (although I admit it’s been hard to track), and I am really concerned that I will have to dance 5 (will definitely happen), but even 10 or 15 dances in a row at the competition in October.

We will do standard rounds practice in a bigger hall this weekend, and the anxiety I am feeling approaching that is pretty high. I think among other things, what I fear the most is that the practice will confirm my fears, and I will be done for the entire practice after putting marginal effort into the first few dances.

All of that aside, during my lesson yesterday we were working on waltz and it gave me some time to process through some thoughts in context. One thing I realized is aside from stamina concerns, I also am not sure that I know my routines (which actually for the most part I do), and I am relying too much on what is being led instead of taking a little more initiative myself.  This almost puts me behind, but it also doesn’t let me take initiative in putting some effort and power into what I am doing.

The other thing I discovered is that my anxiety is also paralyzing me. I am not going ‘all out’ like I could because I am afraid of making mistakes and in general trying to control things too much. The general theme of comments from Boss tends to be that while I am doing some movements (such as swag, swing and using my head), I am not really embracing the movements fully and there is almost a point I reach where I physically stop the movement instead of following it through.

I think recognition of this is more than half the battle.

We did have some moments yesterday while working through specific parts of the routine that as I realized I do know the steps and stopped focusing on them so much I was able to start adding other elements to what I was doing–like leading with my head, using power on forward steps–and I think that began some baby steps to start to return my trust in my abilities.

Along with confidence, it seems I also have to relearn to trust my body.

I stayed and practiced after my lesson for almost an hour and took the time to run through all my routines except foxtrot which I will focus on more on Friday as I want to pick apart the timing some and hopefully will have more room. Just doing that, I started to realize that I do know about 95% of the steps in my routines, and a lot of them are fairly automatic, instead of taking a lot of thought. I think that went a long way to helping me rebuild the trust and confidence I need.

I think one of the main things is that right now in standard I am experiencing a lot of ‘trial and error’ in how we work. In order to figure out exactly what works, it’s necessary to try them and see how they go.

It means letting go and accepting that I might lose my balance, I might make an error and I could end up being completely wrong. I have a hard time with that.

But hopefully, more trial will mean less error and the more I force myself outside the comfort zone the more confident I will become in my ability to work there.

I think the knowing part of the battle is starting to materialize and now I feel ready to move onto the doing.

It’s time to step forward with confidence. I’ve earned it.

Mixed Messages

“You can ask me any question about technique that you want.”

Except I can’t.

Boss said this last night at my lesson.  Two months ago he told me that I wasn’t allowed to ask any questions and that I should just do what he tells me, because he is the instructor and I am only the student.

(On a side note, he told me this at the same time he told me he is my instructor and not the Boss of my dancing.  I don’t think he realizes I am not his only student to refer to him this way and neither was I the first–its a habit I picked up from another of is students)

I don’t know how to ask questions without making him feel like I am undermining him as an instructor, though lord knows I have tried.

While its an interesting olive branch, history has shown me that whenever I ask questions it inevitably leads to conflict between us because one of 3 things happen (or sometimes all 3):

  1. He dismisses my question and says it either doesn’t matter or is something I ‘don’t need to worry about’.
  2. He assumes I am asking because I am trying to rush progress.
  3. He assumes that by asking I am really saying ‘Forget everything you think I should focus on and focus on only this instead because I want to’.

Very rarely is it numbers 2 or 3, and number 1 just leads me to frustration.  Whether a topic matters to him or not, I wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t important to me and frequently on my mind (and sometimes interfering with other things I am working on).

More often than not, the question comes because I have observed something and am curious about it. Sometimes its related to a small personal project I am working on and I just need a bit of direction to know where to start to begin to work it out for myself.  Sometimes it is related to something else I am working on that my mind has latched on to and won’t let go.

An example–right now one of my exercises is rumba basic and focusing on making sure I step, then settle.  The biggest issue with this is when I step back with my right foot–I have a tendency to step there already settled with no way else to move my hip.  Its taken a lot of experimentation, but slowly I have found a way to step back on a straight leg without having my hip settled. This has led me to consider other steps where I step backwards, and to wonder about how to actually do rumba steps backwards, something I don’t recall working on in international rumba (I did it a lot in rhythm, but very different technique).  Its drawn my attention to the issue to the point that when I do figures with multiple back steps (like aida or reverse top) I find myself distracted by noticing I am not stepping right and trying to figure out how to fix it.  I have tried just walking backwards, but for whatever reason I can’t figure it out–there seems to be a big piece I am missing. In fact, it feels as though what I am doing might lead to injury of my hip as some of the movements I am trying to do are sometimes painful.

But if I ask Boss about that, he will likely think I am asking him to change my exercises or what he wants me to focus on (currently it seems to be forward steps), or he will tell me its something I don’t need to worry about right now.

But on the other hand, he has mentioned several times that my back steps in latin are not good, and while watching videos he has pointed out how others move backwards.

So I feel stuck between a rock and a hard place and mostly I just sort of wait and hope he will notice what is frustrating me and decide to address it.  Because I am not allowed to know his plan, I also have no way to know if my questions will just get naturally addressed when we get to that topic (if we get to that topic).

The rumba back steps are just one of the things I find myself wondering about and wanting to work on by myself.  I have time now since changing my practice schedule but I do feel like I don’t know where to start to work on them.  I am unsure enough that I am concerned I will teach myself wrong and develop bad habits or worse injure myself with bad technique.

But despite what Boss said at my lesson yesterday, I have been ‘bitten’ enough by questions being misinterpreted that I don’t feel I can ‘ask anything’ about technique–or anything really. I just don’t want to risk opening a giant can of worms.

So I wait and hope things will resolve themselves, and try not to let myself get too impatient or frustrated.

I can either ask questions or I can’t.

I don’t see how it can be both ways.

Racing thoughts

Ever feel like there is so much going through your mind you can’t quite catch it all?

That is what I felt like after dance last night.  Not necessarily a bad thing, it just seemed like a lot of pieces ‘clicked’ into place.  At the same time, I am not entirely sure that what has ‘clicked’ is right.

It started in my own practice. One of the exercises I had been struggling with just seemed to come together.  In the process, I tore the suede off of both my heel protectors on my shoe, but I glued them back on after practice.  It was back steps in standard.  For whatever reason, everything I had been struggling to do came together and I was able to move through the steps in one fluid movement instead of broken up into pieces.

When I got to my lesson, I still had some exercises to go through that we didn’t get to at the last lesson, but Boss wanted to have a look again at what I was doing in samba and cha cha lock steps, to make an adjustment to how I am stepping forward.  Essentially, my goal now in stepping forward in both exercises is to focus on keeping the leg as straight as possible and my upper body over it.  I hadn’t been focusing on it before, mostly because I was focusing on other things (and thought I was supposed to do differently), but once I did it a couple of times, it just made sense.  In my mind I was actually thinking ‘why didn’t you just say so’, but sometimes that is just how things go. I am not really sure if the same idea applies to rumba, or if I am already doing it.

After the exercises, we were working on a section in tango that is basically a contra check between two different fallaways.  What was interesting about it was that it gave me an opportunity to experiment a little with my position to get a better idea of what is closer to right, versus well into wrong.  By the time we finished, I had a much better idea of what I needed to do, but also what I could allow myself to do, such as settling down into my knees for stability.  I have a habit of ending leaning back when I close my feet, and not noticing until I stop moving.  I noticed though that part of the problem was I was closing my feet completely together instead of offset which affected my balance.  Once I started off-setting them, the issue got better.  Still have to keep an eye on it though.

My right foot is slowly coming in line, but I have to stay on top of it to keep it from turning out. Overall, more than a few pieces fell into place for tango.

After tango, we worked on the section in waltz we have been doing with a spin turn to turning locks to the right.  Mostly I was doing it on my own to try to get some better control over what I was doing, and to figure out a little bit of the alignments, but we were also doing it together.  In contrast to what I am doing in latin, one of the challenges in waltz is to NOT straighten my knees too much and to keep them bent and flexible.

The other challenge is trickier.  I am still warring with myself about how much I can do.  I can tell I am still being cautious most of the time–even when I intend not to be–and I am still trying to find what I would call a ‘new’ comfort level.  Usually what happens is I push myself outside my comfort zone, then freak myself out, and scale it back.  Trying to find that balance is still eluding me, but in many ways I guess knowing is half the battle.

Later on last night, I had a bit of a revelation, although it could be completely wrong.  I was going through my rumba routine in my head, and thinking about how it would work with the lead and follow.  Somewhere it occurred to me that perhaps when my hip goes back and my upper body goes forward, then the resistance through my arm from my should should follow what my upper body is doing.  I don’t know if it’s right or not–it could be the opposite of what I need, but what is significant to me is that I am finally starting to connect the lead/follow with movements my body makes, instead of just guessing.  I am just not quite sure which movement should determine the direction of the follow–my hips or upper body.

It’s interesting how things seem to just suddenly come together.

The Return and End of Smooth

Stopping dance proved to be disastrous for my health.

The day after I decided to stop, I had a complete breakdown and ended up at the ER.  I didn’t think it was possible to get worse than I was, but believe me, it was much much worse.  With everything else, the medication I was on gave me violent mood swings as levels of brain chemicals went up and down until a stable level was achieved.

It was the longest and most difficult 3 weeks of my life.  I really thought I might die, and to be honest, I wished the cancer had killed me.  It was a very very dark time.  On top of everything else, stopping dance actually made the grief I am going through over losing my fertility even more poignant, because I felt as though I had absolutely nothing left to hold on to. I had created a giant hole in my life that I could no longer fill and the little bit of joy and meaning I had in my life disappeared.

But somehow I got through it.  It took a lot of talk with mental health experts, time for medication to kick in and dose adjustments, and a complete reevaluation of my life and dance.

On top of the medical staff, I also (with their encouragement) talked with other dancers in the community (pro/am and amateur), non-dancers and Boss.  I took more than a week to go through and write out all of my thoughts on dance–what was important to me, what I wanted to do with dance, what I felt was missing, what needed to change, and where dance fit into my life–or where I wanted it to fit.  I wrote because that was the best way to express myself and let it all out.  It took me a week and was more than 10 pages, but it helped me find a place for dance in my life–even pro/am.

It took a while, because my energy levels have been quite non-existent and it took some lessons of just talking things through with Boss before I was ready to come back, and we were able to agree on changes that worked for both of us, and hopefully will help to address the issues I was struggling with.

There will be two significant changes to the structure of my lessons.  First, one lesson a week will be devoted to working on showcase/performance routines.  This is to give me an opportunity to be creative and collaborative in dance, something I was missing a lot.  Second, half a lesson every other week will be spent on ‘dance appreciation’.  Time to discuss dance, look at videos of different levels and styles, and develop my ability to think critically about dance and recognize various aspects of it.

My practice is changing as well.  I will still do some drilling, but it will not be the sole focus on my practice, it will be about 2/3rd of it.  The rest of the time will be spent on working through steps and routines as I want to.  The goal of that is to mix time spent drilling, which is more meditative, repetitive, and not requiring a lot of thought, with other aspects of dance that require me to ‘figure out’ and think through what I am working on.

I am also scaling back everything I am doing.  I will be focusing only on international style, and full gold routines for competing.  I will not be competing in smooth anymore.  Boss had wanted to turn the smooth routines into showcase routines, but to me it would be rubbing salt in the wound to work on the routines, but not be able to compete them.

And so ends smooth for me.

It is yet another casualty to cancer.  In all honesty, it hurts a lot, but at the same time I am grateful to still have some way to dance.  My relationships have also taken a huge loss and been damaged through the difficulties of the last month and I do fear they may never really mend.

I saw the surgeon and my hysterectomy will be likely end June/early July.  It will be 4-6 weeks of recovery off of dance and work.  It will be another slow and careful recovery.  The small silver lining is that with a little luck (and I am definitely due!) it will alleviate many of the symptoms from the hormone therapy as I will no longer need ovarian suppression and my hormone levels should fluctuate less allowing my mental health to stabilize.

In the meantime, I wait for a solid date for my surgery and attempt to hold my life together as best I can until then.  Every day is still a struggle, but the past week has seen me become a bit stronger and able to return to strength training.  This week allowed me to return to dance.

I am scared that everything will fall apart again before all of this is finished.  It’s taking a lot to control the depression and anxiety, and I am still in constant pain.  The hot flashes are happening in cycles indicating my ovaries are not as suppressed as they should be.  I have to have another shot in May, but the surgeon told me her goal is for it to be the last one. I truly hope so.

I am taking things one day at a time and trying to live my life as best I can.  I am so far able to work and keep up with it.  Strength training makes me feel better, not drained or exhausted and I am seeing genuine improvement in strength for the first time in almost a year.  In the middle of everything, I managed to finish the first 3 courses of my Masters, and am now working on my 4th.  So far, my lessons have been positive and also leave me feeling better than when I arrived.

I have slowly returned to myself and hope to maintain it.  I have lost much in the last month and I continue to grieve for my fertility–something I expect will continue until after the surgery when it is truly gone.  Things are rocky, difficult, but manageable.

At least for now.

I am back.