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.

Another Surgery….

I have been quiet while having to deal with some health issues related to the hormone therapy.

I found out today that I will be having a total hysterectomy end June/early July.  The sincere hope is that once my ovaries are gone, my hormones will settle down and I can get back to feeling like myself again.

In the meantime, the hormone therapy has more or less crashed my entire system.  Because stopping the hormone therapy is not an option (the shot lasts until May), I have had to be treated with medication for the side effects.  Almost 4 weeks later, I seem to be finally starting to get to a functional point.

I say functional.  The psychiatrist who is treating me calls it ‘presenteeism’–it’s one step up from absenteeism.  Instead of being absent from my life, I am there, just not really participating.

To be perfectly honest, I have never felt worse in my life–including during chemo, radiation, and after surgery.  And I feel helpless to do anything about it, I can only manage it.

Slowly, the mental health issues are improving, but unfortunately the physical ones are not.  I am exhausted.  I am ready for bed at 6 pm after a full day of work.  It takes almost 12 hours for me to feel refreshed.  When I am awake, my energy is fairly fleeting.  It has improved a little in the last week (likely due to the medication), but it is still very restrictive.  I also ache all over.  If you have ever had aches from a fever, that is what I feel like all the time.  That in itself is exhausting.  Usually by 2 pm I have to take some ibuprofen to take the edge off.  I also have frequent headaches and right now the hot flashes are fairly frequent.

At least now, I have a general time frame to aim for when things might get better.  I say might because there is no way to know how my body will respond to surgical menopause versus chemical menopause, but there is a good chance that without my ovaries causing fluctuating hormone levels, things will stabilize and be more controllable.

This also makes very real for me something I have been avoiding–I will never have children.  It was highly unlikely before, but this makes it an absolute ‘no’. In many ways I am grieving for the children I will never have, and I have to acknowledge and give myself time to do that.

To be perfectly honest, I am not really sure if I ever would have had children or if it was something I wanted to do, but I took comfort in having the option. There is a lot more to that, but there are some things I need to keep to myself :).

I do have some dance news.

After I decided to stop dancing, I did go and advertise for a partner in the area where I live.  The response, I am sad to say was two offers for sex and one guy who was genuinely interested in dance, but who also was looking more for a relationship.  It was disappointing, but not really more than I expected, to be honest.

I had a fairly significant breakdown shortly after making my decision.

As part of that, I spent a lot of time discussing dance and what it means to me with my health care professionals.  They encouraged me to reevaluate and to talk to another dancer in the community.  They also pointed out that since my system was so depressed, no matter how much I might want to, I would never be able to see the good side to dance, only the bad.

It took a lot of talk, both with an amateur dancer who has also had breast cancer and previously danced pro/am herself when her partner was unwell, and talking with Boss, in addition to the health care professionals.

In the end, I decided to start writing.  I wrote about what led me to dance, what I enjoy about it, what I want from it, where I am, where I want to be, what I think of pro/am, how I want to learn–in short, 10 pages about dance, going through everything.

It was the most comprehensive evaluation of dance I have ever done, and it occurred to me that throughout my sickness I have had to reevaluate almost every area of my life–but I have never reevaluated dance.

It was long overdue, and it revealed a lot about what I really want and it is quite different from what I was doing and the direction I was going.

I don’t want to say more on that for now, but the evaluation is on-going.

One of the biggest obstacles I am encountering right now is actually the lack of energy, but I hope it will get better.

We shall see.  But now I seem to have something of a timeline for when this nightmare might end.

And so I fight on…

Smoothing Viennese Waltz

Lucky you, you get to be my study break for tonight!

Actually, compared to the weekend, today has been a bit light on studying as I am taking time to do some of the assignments and allow my brain to process the reading I have been doing.

I also had two lessons today (yay vacation!), both of which went a long way to helping me feel a little more calm about the competition this weekend.  The main thing we worked on was the smooth Viennese Waltz, which is probably the weakest routine right now.  We had an opportunity to work in my gym so we were able to look at the alignment of the routines and figure out where it needed to start and where to travel to.

The other aspect of the routine we were working on was making some small ‘tweaks’ to help it flow a little more smoothly.  We made one major change to one of the routine in one of the long lines, but the other changes have been small.  We still have a little more to work out, but we will have another lesson in the gym on Tuesday and it is wider than the studio for working out routines.

My second lesson was about solidifying the changes in VW, as well as going over some of the small issues encountered during yesterday’s practice in cha cha, samba, and paso.  At the end of the lesson, Boss wanted to go through a section of the rumba for himself and to try a styling change in the sliding doors.  One thing we did discover yesterday was that our rumba routine is a bit long now, which makes me sad as my favourite part is the circulating hip twists near the end–which we will likely not be able to do as comps have a habit of cutting pro/am heats short.

I am finding myself feeling a bit nervous and anxious today, but I am pretty sure it is only side effects of the injection last week.  I have been having more frequent hot flashes and it would not surprise me if I had a bit of a ‘hormone surge’ over the next couple days.  It already seems to be calming down though so that is positive.

I have basically ‘mapped’ out the rest of my week to organize and balance school with the competition preps and get all my readings and assignments done. I feel good about where I am and if all goes well I should be able to relax at the comp and just enjoy it without worrying about other things needing to get done.

Another thing of significance today is that it is my birthday.  Another year older and another year surviving cancer!

Wish me luck in getting all my tasks done!

Ending on a ‘high’ note

Well, I got through the week.

Finished the bootcamp both Thursday and Friday night and also had a lesson on Friday just to tie things up neatly.

The lesson on Friday was mainly a review of my standard and latin routines ahead of the rounds practice tomorrow.  The standard routines went well, although they were just a run through of the steps in practice hold.  After them, we worked on the Paso Doble, which is finally started to come together–at speed.

There were a couple glitches along the way which we had to work out, usually with one of us on the wrong foot (mainly me) but we were able to run it from top to bottom at speed without stopping which is encouraging ahead of the practice tomorrow and two weeks before a competition.

After Paso, we ran quickly through the cha cha to try out the change I made to the beginning (which worked!), but this is where we started to run into a bit of trouble.

I had been feeling a little ‘off’ since Wednesday and the feeling has gotten gradually worse since then.  It’s hard to explain but I can almost feel my hormone levels creeping up and today I turned into a bit of an emotional wreck–a sure sign.  My head feels all fuzzy and behind and this is what started happening in cha cha–I just felt slow and detached from what I was doing.  Boss found I wasn’t quite ‘with it’ and I wasn’t using his connection to do my steps.  I have to agree it was like I was stuck in my own world.

After cha cha, we worked on jive, and this just went from bad to worse.  I kept mixing up the steps (even though less than a week earlier I knew them), I wasn’t forward enough and as such I just wasn’t connecting through the steps and they just weren’t working.  I wasn’t even able to really follow the lead I was getting.

It was super frustrating to feel myself lacking focus and essentially unable to pull it back–especially after the rest of the week had been so great.  It makes me more than a little nervous about the practice tomorrow because I know that today I feel even worse and I don’t see tomorrow as being better.  I am due for my next ovarian suppression injection on Wednesday and I have a feeling the effects may have worn off a bit through the last week.  I feel very scattered and tired when I want to be focused and energetic.

Unfortunately, all I can do at this point is take tomorrow as it comes, and accept that things might not be as strong as I would like them to be.  In one way, this is a good opportunity to see how I do when I am feeling like this.  One thing I do know is that after my injection, I will feel better and my energy and focus will return.

I finally saw the dietician today and we had a great discussion.  We suggested some small changes I can make and I will see her again next weekend.  For the most part, what I am doing makes sense, it just needs a few tweaks here and there to try and get things working again and for the weight to come off.  Having steady hormones will make a difference for sure.

I also had a dress fitting today for my smooth dress and it is looking so great!  Some of the stoning is done and the final touches of the sewing is all set to go now.  I am waiting on some stones to arrive for it and my fingers are crossed they arrive in time!  My other dresses are really coming along as well–my dressmaker has been stoning up a storm–especially on the latin dress.  I am definitely going to sparkle at the competition.

So that is how my week has ended and I hope it starts with a good practice tomorrow.

Wish me luck!

Adding Drama

Not something run of the mill for me.

There is a rather dramatic 16-bar section in our smooth tango, and it doesn’t work unless there is drama behind it.  Otherwise, it just looks staged or worse just plain silly.  So tonight the focus of the first part of my lesson was on working through the styling of that piece.

We ended up making some slight changes to the choreography to fit a little better with our interpretation of the sequence, but in the end, it seems to work really well.  We even made it through the entire tango in time with the music tonight which was a good feeling.

From there, we went on to smooth Viennese Waltz.  This is also coming together, and in the end it is a matter of just keeping both feet moving (in the correct time of course).  The running passage was slightly better today–I almost got it on time–and other than one piece that just didn’t seem to work we were able to do up to that piece, and then from just after it to the end–with the music without any major disasters.  Once we get the middle section together we should be good to go.

I was able to do some practice on my own tonight and I ran through the jive sequence that was giving me grief (it’s coming slowly–except it’s jive and it needs to be fast!) and I am feeling more comfortable with it.  I also ran through the paso.  It’s there at the 90% of tempo, a few small hiccups at 95% of tempo and missing a section when I do it at tempo.  But that is a lot better than it was last week, so small pat on the back for that.  It seems to be finally in my feet at least although I have to count almost every part mentally to keep it moving.  In the end it is a lot like the VW–just keep going.

I also figured out what to do for the extra bar in the cha cha–I am just going to start with a bit of a hold (meaning my feet won’t be moving), and then do the bar I put together straight into the start of the routine.  Not sure what Boss thinks of that yet, or how it works in context with him, but it at least works on my own.  I seem to be out of creative ideas for cha cha right now.

The night ended with another session of ‘Ballroom Boot Camp’ and tonight was the cardio version.  I really enjoyed the cardio version more than the strength training version as it was more challenging.  There were a lot of tricky footwork and agility exercises and it really was go go go cardio.  Two more sessions.

I get a break from lessons tomorrow and only have boot camp, but I have been told that Friday will be a review of the smooth foxtrot and paso as well as a run-through of all the standard routines ahead of the rounds practice on Sunday.

It is back to work for me tomorrow–but that’s ok.  Only 10 days until a real vacation where I am not on-call (as I was over Christmas).  I also start my masters on Monday!

2 weeks to the competition.  This weekend’s practice will be very telling–and I can’t wait!

 

First lessons of 2017

I have already had 4 lessons this year.

Sheesh. Seems to be a lot.  On top of that, I am participating in a ‘Ballroom Boot Camp’ this week, which is extra work.

Yesterday’s first lesson was a styling lesson focused on Cha cha and jive.  It was good to work out some of the points and timing of the styling.  I need to think some on what I do in the beginning of the cha cha though, I have a bar that works and another bar that isn’t quite there yet.

Jive was tricky.  Of all the dances, it seems that I have forgotten the most about jive technique–staying forward, keeping steps compact, using my core to lift my legs. It was a good review though and we worked out some of the styling points in that routine as well.

My second lesson yesterday worked through a few different pieces of standard and smooth tango.  We made some changes in the standard tango last week so we needed to review them and put them in context. In the smooth tango we reviewed some of the changes we made there.  Lots of detail work, but all went well.

The boot camp was fun–it was some circuit training, breathing and stretching.  I am having some issues with my neck right now, which hindered me a little, but I am hoping the tension will let go soon.  It has happened before, but much worse–my entire trapezius went into spasm and seized up.  I couldn’t turn my head almost at all when that happened.  So far, it is not that bad and it does seem to be moving around and changing which is a good sign.  I have been doing a lot of preventative work including heat, voltaren, gentle stretching and trying to avoid anything that hurts.

Today we started with running through parts of the smooth tango, and then it was smooth Viennese Waltz the rest of the time–working through the steps and running them with the music.  We did forget one section, but we did get a lot of progress done.

My lesson tonight was also focused on the smooth VW.  Running through bigger chunks of the routine in time with the music and making some small adjustments as needed.  It’s a pretty intense routine and I have to hand it to those who dance smooth for being able to put all the pieces together in a VW routine.  I am looking forward to running it more in a bigger space and now I know what part of the routine I need to sort out on my own.

Tomorrow we should run through and discuss the styling for the smooth tango.  It’s not that the styling is complicated, but Boss and I need to agree on it in order for it to work.  After my lesson, there is the next session of the bootcamp, which I am looking forward to.

Already a busy and positive start to 2017!

Dance Day

If you’re on vacation, why not dance?

It was a busy but really productive day today in my dance world.

First, I had my styling detail session with Boss, or at least the first session.  We worked through rumba, paso and samba, which are probably the easiest routines for us to work on for styling as a lot of it was either already worked out some, or has a lot of time in hold (paso and samba).  It was really productive though to go through each routine in detail and figure out things like where we connect, where I need to make sure my hands are so we can connect (hard to do an underarm turn if my hand is down!), and to try a little bit of some new things (skirt work!).

Going through the styling details like that also helped cement the routines together and provide some symmetry where we were missing some before.  I finally worked out my shimmy part in samba–I just have to keep my confidence through it!

Later in the day I had a dress fitting for my smooth dress, and it is really coming along well!  It was also Boss’s first time seeing the smooth dress, and he seemed to be pleasantly surprised to like it.  We only had a few details to adjust and sort out, but it is well on it’s way to coming together.  I also got to see all the stones for it, and I got to see some of the stoning progress on my latin dress (which looks So amazing now!).  I am really excited for how all of the dresses are coming together.

In the evening I had a regular lesson, although not at the usual hall due to the holidays.  We spent the lesson working through the waltz routine in little details, fixing the places where I just didn’t seem to keep it together.  We spent the most time on the fallaway and slip pivot to the contra check, and it finally clicked together for me how all those pieces work together and how the contra check is supposed to work.  Because the hall was smaller we were limited to doing small segments at a time, but that worked really well.

It was nice to spend some time on standard today, it’s been a little while as we have been working getting the smooth and latin routines together.  Boss told me today we are making a little bit of a change from what we usually do.  Instead of using the legs to travel, he has me focusing more on using the legs for swing, sway and rotation.  It’s a small change, but I like it a lot.  I feel a little more controlled in moving, and finally I can feel standard starting to take shape beyond just the steps.

We did discover a bit of an anomaly in how I get into position.  I have a habit of stepping too far forward, which puts me too close, but I also tend to lead with my left side forward, which also puts me too far to the left side.  It took a little bit of adjustment and trial and error, but I realized I was doing that because with the loss of sensation through my chest, lower belly and upper thighs, I started using my left hip as my ‘grounding point’ to figure out when I was in position.  Unfortunately, this tends to wrap me too much around Boss’s side, so we were working on finding new ways and a new grounding point and a visual clue to help me out.  What seems to work for now is to make sure I come straight towards Boss, aiming to put the edge of my right side in his centre, and to only take two steps forward (left foot, right foot) and let Boss close the gap if needed from there.  It’s a small change of habit that I am sure I am going to have lots of practice with over the next few lessons.

Boss said today that the intent is to keep working through the standard routines over the lessons this week and I am looking forward to digging into the rest of them some more (waltz is the easiest dance for me to pick up, so the rest should be challenging).

One of the biggest advantages to how I have been feeling lately is that my mind is sharp and focused again and that really showed today.  I can feel all of the information from today processing in my brain and I can tell it’s going to stick.  I have also had more energy lately which is also helping a lot and I am really feeling a lot like my old self.

As I continue to feel better, it amazes me the details that are coming back.  Things that I used to do automatically (like travel, press into the floor, stretch through my whole body) are suddenly coming back–and I didn’t even realize I had stopped doing them.  I just feel so much stronger overall and more connected with myself than I have been in a very long time–and not only in dance.  It’s such a relief.

Even my lessons have been a bit more intense requiring a lot more effort lately and I have been a bit proud of myself for being able to step up.  It seems like it has been a long time since I have had lessons that have been a lot of ‘go go go’ and I am really enjoying that.  I hope that my endurance is also improving.  For the first time in a long time, I feel like I am really preparing for a competition–not just going through the motions.

It’s back to work tomorrow, at least partly, and I have lessons every night the rest of this week, and will have another styling session on Friday.

I keep saying it over and over–but it’s really true now.

I’m Back.

So how about a dance post?

Despite everything that has been going on, I have been able to get some dancing in, and the activity actually helps some with the symptoms.

I haven’t gotten in as much dancing as I would have liked, but something is always better than nothing.

I did have a rounds practice on Sunday, which was fairly interesting considering I was having intermittent moments of dizzyness and light-headedness and had to stop more than I would have liked.

Aside from that though, there were moments when things seemed to be finally coming together. After the first round in standard, Boss told me to focus on keeping my core connected with him and that made for some interesting 2nd and 3rd round dancing.  The result was that I was more aware of when my left side opened up away from him so I felt like I was spending every dance fighting with myself to keep my core where it needed to be. Boss told me yesterday he thought that was great because I kept noticing and correcting when I opened up. Ah, the differing perspectives.

Boss and I had a brief discussion yesterday about the practice on Sunday and there were two things of note that came out of that.  The first was that Boss told me most of my standard routines are pretty disastrous because my footwork sucks.  But then he told me it was ok since I just seemed incapable of rolling through my foot properly.

*sigh*. There is nothing I hate more than being told I am incapable of doing something which I have neither been told I need to work on nor given direction on where in my routines I should be focusing on it.  How can I be capable of something I am not really aware of having to do?  I am not even sure what specifically he is talking about when he says ‘footwork’ and ‘rolling’.

The other discussion was a bit more interesting.  Boss expressed frustration that I seem to have developed a habit of going really big on some steps and then tightening up small on others.  It’s like I let the gas out then apply the hand break while still revved up every now and then.  He found it fairly strange that I seemed to just stop traveling at certain points in routines, but then start moving again at others.

This makes perfect sense to me. Besides the fact that I haven’t really been encouraged to travel during my routines in quite some time (and honestly have forgotten a bit how to do it), when I come to a step that I am not quite sure of, or I don’t trust myself to be able to control the momentum, I immediately start to ‘err’ on the side of caution because I don’t want to screw up and hurt myself or Boss.  So those steps get small.  Then when I reach a step I am more confident in, I go back to putting everything I have into doing it.

I wasn’t fully consciously aware that I was doing that, but I wasn’t surprised when he mentioned it.  We did a section from our Waltz that the steps needed to be clarified on and it ended with a Wing to a Fallaway.  I am never sure how much I can step during the Wing (and apparently I move far enough), but Boss made a point of showing where I can take the opportunity to move more once we get into the fallaway.

It’s enough to give me something to think about and put into my own practice until the next time we do rounds (which could be in 2, 3, or 4 weeks–I haven’t been told yet).  Together with the focus on the connection and keeping my left side turned in, that gives me two very solid things to focus on during those practices, now that I am much more grounded in the choreography.

The other thing I heard yesterday that I don’t think I ever thought I heard was that I was doing CBMP when I wasn’t supposed to and that was complicating some of my quickstep steps.  Go figure–I have spend months trying to make sure I am using CBMP when I need to that I have apparently overdone it.

I have an extra lesson this week to make up for the one I missed last week, and I suspect my lessons will focus on the smooth routines for the next little while.  The tango and foxtrot are coming together a little bit (tango more than foxtrot), and I think there is an intent to pull the waltz together too.  Boss mentioned an idea of doing a rounds practice with just smooth in a few weeks, so we will see what happens with that.

The other thing of dancing note that happened recently was a bit of a strange conversation with one of the amateur couples.  They recently started coming more and more to the studio for their own practice and last Friday they were there not only for my lesson, but also had to share space with me while I did a practice after.  Their initial comment was ‘Wow! You work just as hard as Boss does’ (which was a little bit insulting considering the level of their surprise at that), but then on Sunday they clarified that they had no idea that I worked so much and so hard on my dancing.  They have been dancing in the community for quite some time, but their experience seeing me work has been only since I was sick, not before (as I practiced in a different hall).  It was an interesting conversation which ended with them expressing some genuine respect that I work 100% all the time–even on my own.  Perhaps it’s a mini pro/am victory of sort for the community. (The community where I live has a general lack of understanding and respect for pro/am dancers and we are seen as being ‘carried’ by our pros and ‘not real dancers’–I have been told that by amateur dancers).

I continue to be frustrated about my health but it does seem to finally be settling down (fingers crossed).  The one thing I am finding most difficult is that my mind is fuzzy and foggy all the time and I can’t seem to remember simple things.  It means a lot of repetition and makes me worried about the idea that I am supposed to perform one of the smooth routines (dance still to be confirmed) in less than 2 weeks.  Normally, that wouldn’t be a big deal, but since I can’t seem to retain much these days….OY.

But tomorrow is a new day, and hopefully a stronger, more clear-headed one.