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!

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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.

 

An off week

I am back to dancing this week.

That said, while the week started strongly, yesterday and today (although less today) I was just off. I can’t even really describe why.

Yesterday, I did a little bit of practice to try and get my body back into the habit of moving again and almost from the beginning it just didn’t feel right. My entire body felt like it weighed twice what it does and getting any part of it to move too far too much effort.

It was disappointing because Monday I had energy and a good return. Even Boss commented on my strength of movement being unexpected. We covered a lot in that lesson including a lot of detailed work on the silver tango sequence. We even ended with normal HIIT conditioning using change steps.

Wednesday’s lesson just was off. I felt like I had a headache, but didn’t, that I was dizzy, but not quite, and had some vertigo. I also had some very intense hot flashes to the point I had to separate from Boss and wait for them to pass. We went over the new foxtrot open routine and filmed Boss’s part. After that, we reviewed the silver foxtrot sequence.

Because of how I was feeling, we didn’t do the conditioning last night and ended with the foxtrot.

Tonight was also a bit low key, but still productive. We reviewed the open routines for Waltz, Tango and Foxtrot and I wrote them down so I have them and can start preparing to learn them. We had a good conversation about my thoughts while I was healing and finished with the samba HIIT conditioning exercise. Beginning in January, we will start progressing the conditioning as I seem to have stabilized with what we are doing now, so it is time to start reducing the rest time between intervals.

Despite my lessons being less intense this week, there was a lot of productivity. I think what I was feeling yesterday and today are just the usual 2-week post surgery slump that tends to happen. I am confident I will strengthen as I work through next week and continue to recover.

One small disappointment from this week is that on Monday I discovered I cannot dance in contact until my chest finishes healing. The friction (which I cannot feel) causes the delicate incisions on the reconstruction to open and bleed. I have to be careful sleeping not to cause damage. I am hopeful that it will finish healing by January, but it is hard to say as it is a difficult place to heal.

Until then, I will need to work on my own or out of body contact (or in latin). There are certainly no lack of options.

A good week back, even if I feel like I am off.

Catching up and letting go of the dance control freak

I call this ‘catching up’ because I think these are some thought processes that needed to happen back in September after my last surgery.  I think Boss already reached these conclusions (and been telling me these things), but I just haven’t really had time until now to figure them out for myself (which is needed).

The surgery in July triggered a huge change for me generally. I can’t really explain the full extent of the difference, except that now I can fully live through my days instead of just doing the minimum. The same applies to dance. Prior to the surgery I was in a place where I had to pick and choose what I could do and focus on and what I could do was very limited. Even when I was trying to push hard, everything was less than I expected and underwhelming. I wanted to work hard but couldn’t and was trying to adjust to that. I look at the videos from my silver test and I see a dancer who is exhausted and trying not to show it who doesn’t really reach the limits of anything due to lack of energy.

The return after surgery was bigger than I could even process. I suddenly had all this energy and range of things I could do that previously just wouldn’t work. Even speed was eluding me as I found myself moving faster than I intended. I felt like I was handed all these gifts and I couldn’t figure out which ones to open, and when I did I couldn’t figure out exactly what to do with them. I still haven’t figured it out.

At the time, not sorting through things was ok because I had routines to learn to get ready for a competition which gave me something easy I could focus on and really I was just continuing the work I had been doing in standard, and of course conditioning was very much (and still is) needed.

Before and after the competition, I had coaching from 3 amazing coaches to process, all of which opened up the door of possibilities a lot wider than I expected or perhaps was ready for. All of the lessons showed me I am capable of doing much more than I thought I could do.

One of the things that seems to be a recurring theme for me is that I have become far too cautious. There was a time for that, but it is now over. I can push to my limits again, but I haven’t figured out how to do that or how to be comfortable doing that again.

It’s been a theme in my lessons and I recognize that, but until now I haven’t really been able to figure out what that means for me and how to turn it from a weakness to a strength. I haven’t been able to figure out how to frame it so doing it is no longer feels like a mistake. In short, I haven’t quite figured out yet how to give myself permission to fully explore my limits all the time.

That is the main thing I have been using this time to figure out. If I don’t have the right mind-set and approach it’s not going to work.

It’s been a long time since the work I have been doing in dance has ‘scared’ me. I have been doing a lot of safe and controlled things. Even working on my own, I spend so much time doing things slowly and ‘perfectly’ that a lot of them I never try at proper speed (because you can’t control as much as you can slowly). I have become a dance control freak, and at some point I allowed myself to become afraid of taking risks and being scared. It wasn’t that way when I first started dancing.

I recognize that in some ways, it’s not all a bad thing. There are some things that need that control. But the problem is that I am trying to control everything and it is keeping me from stretching myself. I have become too comfortable in my ‘comfort zone’.

So, I have fully come to the realization (and there were seeds before) that I need to start pushing myself outside my comfort zone on a regular basis to move forward. The biggest obstacle holding me back right now is myself.

I don’t know what I am capable of anymore. I don’t even fully have faith in what others are telling me I am capable of now.

All of this is to say that I have arrived. I have at least begun to understand what needs to be done to work towards new goals. It’s a combination of faith, trial and error, not holding back and facing (again) my fear of failure that tends to paralyze me at the last minute. Instead of asking myself how can I do this perfectly, I need to be asking myself how can I do this more, where are the limits of this.

That’s not to say it’s going to be rainbows and puppies from now on. It’s a big change of mind-set and that takes time, a lot of doing by trying, and a lot of asking myself if I could be doing more.

It also means being more willing to let mistakes happen like losing balance and more trust in myself and Boss. It also means letting go of always wanting to do slow and perfect practice and making sure that anything I do slow, I also do at speed (which is not a regular habit now).

The seeds are sewn and starting to branch out and percolate. I have a week before I can return to dance after the most recent surgery, but I am starting to get restless, so it’s a good sign. It’s also been more than a week since I have had to take my insomnia medication and my sleep continues to improve. I am also only needing strong pain medication at night and should be able to stop even that by the end of the week.

I am healing, both physically and I am catching up on the mental healing that began after my last surgery in July. There is nothing except time in front of me to stretch myself and reach those limits I have been shying away from.

Time to let go of the dance control freak.

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!

Competing strong

Sorry for the delay in writing!

I have been busy beyond competing (more on that later) and this is the first opportunity I have had to write about the comp.  I did post some pics on facebook if you follow me there (www.facebook.com/bcballroomdancer).

Overall, this was my strongest competition since before I got sick. Hands down. That’s not to say it was my best dancing, but I felt prepared, my endurance (for the most part was there), I didn’t feel like I was dying after only a couple dances. I felt like I belonged on the floor and that I was competitive, not just dancing as something to do.

I won my closed gold multidance in Ballroom although it was a rule 10 and 11 win (meaning they had to split the tie twice more or less), and I am very proud of that–my first ‘win’ in closed gold! I was also 5th in both open scholarships of 6 couples and even stole a few points from those that placed above me in ballroom.

Ballroom was definitely the stronger of the two styles for me at this competition. Considering the amount of work I have been putting into it, it should have been, and it has paid off. I felt quite strong and confident in the ballroom heats, even though endurance was a challenge. I was surprised to see I received a 1 place mark in VW from one judge in a 5-dance championship that finished with the VW.

There were a lot of positives for me in standard. It took a round to settle down a little and adjust to things like my dress. At the start I was almost too relaxed in trying to keep myself calm and from trying too hard, but hit a good balance for the other rounds. Boss was really happy with how it all went, and I really have no complaints about standard. Yes, there are always little things, and lots to improve, but I was more consistent and solid in standard than I have been in any previous competition. That was a big win for me!

Latin was a much different story, and I am less impressed with my performance there. I had some very high points, and I had some lower ones. In one of my 4-dance gold multi-dances, I didn’t win the event, but I did sweep the rumba. Looking at the videos though, my styling still leaves much to be desired, and I just didn’t seem to be ‘finishing’ all my lines as I danced. My energy level was not where it needed to be for latin and I was having a hard time keeping focused.

So I own the less than stellar latin performance. It was good, but not my best. Among other things, I was having trouble feeling settled in my shoes, and I think the fatigue from standard the day before also played a role and upset my hormones a little bit (I was a hot flash queen that day).

That said, when it came to the 5-dance scholarship, I just went out and had some fun and worried less about trying to be perfect.

One of the biggest ‘wins’ I experienced overall was random strangers making an effort to tell me how much they enjoyed my dancing–seeking me out specifically in the crowd of competitors I was just on the floor with. For me, that is better than a thousand trophies and it happened after events in both standard and latin.

The biggest challenge I faced over the weekend was blisters. My shoes started out feeling wonderful, but then in the last afternoon event in standard I suddenly felt some pain. The result was 2 blisters on each foot, one on the heel, the other in the arch (which seemed a strange place). I put some blister pads on them for the scholarship and covered those with tap, but they didn’t stay in place. By the time I got to the latin scholarship, I had 11 blisters, all of which had popped, some of which were bleeding. I knew that breaking in new shoes would cause some problems (even old shoes can) and had taken some measures and preparations, but my feet seemed to just ‘give up’ in trying to keep skin. Even duct tape didn’t help. I am doing a lot of feet soaking these days.

My shoes are pretty much broken in now, but I won’t be able to tell until all the blisters heel if adjustments need to be made and where. Despite the blisters, they were more comfortable at the end of the comp. I also had issues with my feet swelling and that didn’t help either.

My latin shoes were the strangest to deal with. I had worked with them before I left and they felt fine. But at the comp the heel of my foot kept sliding out and I had a hard time getting the strap tight enough to hold it in place.  I am going to have to revisit them. I am wondering if they are too short in the end even though they are the same size as my last ones–but with a lower heel.

Hopefully in about 2 weeks I can do a good assessment with fresh feet.

The final ‘snag’ in the competition happened at the end of the standard rounds (and thankfully the end!). My dress is stretch velvet and when I am sweaty can be difficult to get the sleeves off.  I friend was helping me and when she pulled the arm I heard a ripping sound! Unfortunately, the dress tore just under the right arm, in the fabric just adjacent to the seam. Because the tear is in the fabric, I don’t know if it can be repairable without being too visible. It may be the end for that dress….an expensive tear!

In all, I am very proud of myself and how I danced this weekend–even latin. I wanted to be able to get through all my dances strongly, which I did, do well in standard (because of the focus we have been giving it), and enjoy dancing in latin. I achieved that. I know Boss is especially happy with the standard and we haven’t had a chance to discuss latin although we know there were challenges there.

The biggest achievement from the competition was being able to feel myself staying strong, and it has given us lots of feedback for the future 🙂

We should be sitting down to discuss the plan for the future over the next couple days, but mainly I am taking it easy right now. The exception, of course was that I had 3 coaching lessons with a standard coach yesterday that were a lot of fun and able to build on the competition. I will write about that shortly.

I will also write a review of the competition for those who might be interested in competing there some day. I would definitely recommend it and I think we are already making plans to return!

Achievement unlocked: Compete strong during recovery!

Disappointing myself

I am not, but it doesn’t stop me from feeling like I am.

It’s been a rough week for me.

My hormones started acting up on the weekend, giving me vivid and disturbing dreams and effecting my sleep. That made me tired overall. Coupled with that, this week has been ‘hot flash’-a-palooza with hot flashing coming 2-3 an hour–something else that has been sapping my energy. The amount I am sweating makes it hard to stay hydrated and that leaves me with a headache that won’t seem to go away.

All of that drain on my system has left me emotional, unfocused, unable to concentrate and unmotivated. Not to mention exhausted. It’s been a bad combination when the last thing I do every day is dance, since work gets first crack at my energy (and it has been using a lot of it).

It’s meant very difficult lessons, especially Wednesday and last night–to the point where I feel they have been pretty much unproductive.

I did start feeling a bit better yesterday and I slept much better Wednesday night, but work on Thursday literally had me running all over the place. It would have been an exhausting day for anyone.

Backing up a little, Monday’s lesson seemed to go ok. We worked on some pieces in foxtrot and waltz that needed cleaning and we did 7 rounds of Viennese Waltz. We actually worked on improving VW as we were doing it, focusing on fixing the sway, amount of travel, rotation and other things. Even though I was tiring, the way I was doing the dance seemed to improve throughout the lesson. I left the lesson feeling things clicking into place–not just in VW but for other standard dances.

Wednesday, we started out with a discussion about future competitions because I had noticed something (will elaborate in my next post) that warranted considering a change in approach after this competition coming up.

After that, we looked at latin, beginning with adding a piece to our cha cha so it is a bit longer. We managed to get the piece worked out, but my mind and my body were not quite communicating. We would work on a step and Boss would show me how to do it, but my body just refused to do it. I just left it for something for me to work on myself. After that, we had to look at another piece where our arm styling didn’t quite match because Boss wanted to do a hold for a bar, but I hadn’t planned for it so we kept missing it.

Then Boss told me he didn’t like the styling I was doing on one of the steps just before that piece and that hit me hard. I had spent more than 30 mins in a practice trying to figure out something to do for that step that wasn’t just me flapping my arms around, and I had been working on that styling for more than a month. Boss showed me some options for what he would prefer and honestly, I hated them all. They were too busy–exactly what I had been trying to avoid–and his main point was he didn’t want me holding my hands in one position. I spent another 30 mins during practice trying to come up with an option somewhere between and still have nothing.

The whole thing really shouldn’t be so difficult to fix, but it made me really upset and now I have no idea what to do.

After that, we worked out a section of paso where our arms weren’t matching and that went ok, except now coming out of that section I keep doing something strange (funny how arms can mess up the feet!). That I should be able to work out.

We ended the lesson working on a step in paso called ‘the twists’. I had thought I was actually doing pretty good on this step, but apparently I am not really. We didn’t get much time to focus on it.

I stayed for practice after, but other than trying to work out the cha cha hands (which I didn’t want to do, and seemed to just be spinning my wheels over), I couldn’t seem to find a single thing I wanted to work on. So, I did a lot of nothing. I worked over the beginning of the cha cha, reviewed the hands for paso and stood around a lot trying to figure out what to do. I just felt frustrated in general with my lack of focus and that upset me more, and I felt like my lesson hadn’t been very productive and then it was followed by an even less productive practice.

Thursday got even worse. As I said, I felt better Thursday morning, but by the end of my work day I could feel I was exhausted. I seriously considered canceling my lesson that night and just going to bed, but with Wednesday’s lesson being so bad, and only so many lessons until the competition, I figured that going and doing something would be better than skipping and doing nothing.

I am pretty sure I was wrong about that.

I could feel my mind being unfocused and scattered before I arrived. We started with a follow-up to our conversation on Wednesday, and that led to Boss telling me that during our VW rounds on Monday, while I started out better, I was tiring much quicker than during the previous week and the rounds practice on Sunday, and that I had to find a way to do better.

I was a little surprised because I had thought that overall the rounds had gone better on Monday and that I had been stronger. I know I was putting everything I had into them. It wasn’t a good way to start a lesson that would include more intervals.

Then the real problems started. we went back to working on the twists in paso and trying to get me to do all the movements I need to do. It was a disaster. Boss would tell me what I needed to do, I would agree, we would do it and nothing would happen. So he kept asking for more. I would try to do more. And nothing would happen. No matter what I tried to do, my body absolutely would not respond to what I was asking. Even simple things like keeping my head out or stepping on a straight leg–nope, wasn’t happening.

I just kept getting more and more upset the more we worked on it and Boss kept getting more frustrated because nothing was happening. Eventually, we just left it.

Then we went to start the VW intervals. Before we even started my mind was screaming it was a terrible idea. But I really wanted to try and do something productive in my lesson.

It was a huge mistake. My body stopped working after about 15 seconds. My mind shut down after 30s. At 45s, there was really no reason to continue, and I truly think that if I had finished the entire 1:30 round I would have collapsed. I literally felt myself shut down.

I was devastated. I had to leave the hall to collect myself because at that point I felt like a complete failure. My main goal for myself before this competition is to increase my endurance so I can get through a 5-dance event. And I can’t even do the exercises needed to begin to address that.

I was honestly ready to just go home, even though there was still 30 mins left to my lesson.

I stayed, and we worked on reviewing the cha cha and working out the new piece a bit better, and a step in jive, spanish arms, I had been struggling with. By the time we finished, the spanish arms seemed to be in a better place, but again I kept being unable to do what Boss was asking me.

Needless to say, I didn’t stay for the group class, and went to bed early last night.

I am hoping that writing out some of my frustrations will help settle me down. I have a lesson again tonight and I want to get through the VW rounds. I want to do something productive in my lesson and be able to work like I usually do.

I just don’t know if my mind and body are going to cooperate for that today.

I don’t work today, so that will help and I slept about 10 hours last night. I seem to be having less hot flashes today, although it is still early. I was going to practice at the hall today, but a big part of me is still saying ‘practice what?’ Even running through all my routines wouldn’t feel very productive right now.

So I am going to just do my lesson and see how it goes. If I am going to get anywhere close to being ready for this comp in 3 weeks, I need to get past this training hump and wall. I need to chalk this up to a bad week and move on.

Next week will be a bit disjointed. I am traveling for work, so I will have lessons with Boss only on Monday and Friday. I won’t have rounds practice on the weekend either as I will be away visiting a friend for Thanksgiving. Perhaps the break is what I need.

I think the thing that is disappointing me the most right now is that I was getting back into ‘full training mode’ and feeling really really good about it and this week is a huge set back from that. And I feel powerless to do anything about it. I try to push myself like I used to and instead of responding, my body shuts down. I don’t know how to deal with that. It’s worse because my mind seems to be shutting down with it, leaving me with nothing to even fall back on.

I am also concerned (and pretty much suspect) that Boss will decide it is all too much and start scaling back everything we are doing. I don’t want to do that as I need my body to adjust and get used to doing more.

I think that is one of the biggest issues. It’s been 2 weeks since there was a significant change in my activity levels (both work and dance), and it feels like I am sitting on an edge with a choice–I can retreat (which feels like giving in), or I can keep pushing and force myself to adjust. I think while I was sick, I gave in too much and my body and mind expects that.

As I said in a previous post–usually only the first two weeks suck. Well, this is week 2 and my body has pretty much thrown in every wrench it can think of to get me to back down.

And it is the fact that I am considering doing so that is disappointing me. Because that would be giving up.

And I know I am stronger than that.

The little things

I had my first ’rounds’ practice today in more than a year.

There were some small victories I want to celebrate.

I made it through the entire practice without completely dying and using my frame. I even had a little energy left over.

I missed the final quickstep because I had a blister pop quite badly during the foxtrot just before. That’s what happens when you don’t wear competition shoes for 9 months–you forget where the ‘rub’ spots are.

I made it through 2 Viennese Waltzes in the centre of 5 dances for 1:30 without having to stop, and still being able to move through the dance. Boss even commented on how it was better from Thursday. I thought I wouldn’t even get through the start of the second one as I felt I was exhausted after the waltz and tango, but I surprised myself by being able to muster my energy and dance the entire way through.

I did have some difficulties (aside from 3 blisters). My left side tired much quicker than I expected in standard. I was much more tired for the second round of latin than I expected. Once my body tires out, I lose the muscle memories of my routines and start missing things. My upper body also starts to collapse making it harder for me to follow and respond to Boss’s lead.

The rounds gave me an opportunity to experiment with moving my upper body and using my head in standard. It was inconsistent, especially at the beginning, but I think it started to settle out some by the final rounds. It’s something I will need to continue to work on more, and a big part of it is needing to become more comfortable with what I can do.

Overall, Boss also seemed pleased with how things went, although we will have to discuss some points more tomorrow during my next lesson. At least for me, it seems Quickstep is the weakest dance/routine, followed by tango. A big victory was going through the paso routine at full speed (for the first time), twice. The second time I was even able to add some power to my steps and it seemed there was shaping.

The latin routines went well, although the first round was a little rough. We were able to identify spots in 3 routines where we have to agree better on the hands and hold, and it turns out that the cha cha routine is shorter than we expected (we made it through almost 2 full loops in 1:30).

Hopefully subsequent practices will only build on today’s and things will become stronger and smoother as we get closer to the competition. 4 more weeks to go.

I do want to say that I found something today I didn’t fully realize I had lost. The we did today was strong and intense, but underneath, I was enjoying myself more than I had in a very long time. I had a moment where I felt pure joy.

It’s definitely the little things.

Searching for the ‘on’ switch

Things seem to be settling down.

On the other hand, there are new challenges to face, but I am ok with that.

Today, something Boss remarked on is that it takes me about 15 minutes into my lesson before I start moving my upper body in standard and rotating like he asks me to do from the beginning. It’s been pretty consistent that it takes at least 1 round of routines, if not two before I seem to switch ‘on’ and start moving the way I am supposed to.

I have a couple theories for this, since it has been drawn to my attention.

First, especially on Wednesday, I don’t really have time before my lesson to switch my mindset from processing things from work to processing dance. I go from work to home, feed my cats, pick up my dance bag, grab something to eat and go to dance. I have more time on other days, but there does need to be a bit of a mind change.

Second, once I get to dance and into my lesson, it really does take at least one round for my mind to gather and start processing and remembering everything I need to do beyond remembering the steps in the routine. It’s like I need the first round to confirm for myself that I know the steps of the routine, then once I know that I can move beyond the steps to other aspects.

It’s something I notice I do during my own practice as well.  The first round is to review the steps, everything else comes after that.

It’s an interesting dilemma, and I am hoping that now I am aware of it I might be able to move past it. Presumably, once I feel more confident that I know the steps of the routine, I will be able to start focusing elsewhere without that review.

The other thing Boss asked me to do is move and rotate my upper body more. To worry less about what my feet are doing and to focus more on what my body should be doing, and doing more of it.

I had to give some thought to this and I came to an interesting conclusion–what I usually do when it comes to sway and CBM is basically follow what Boss is leading–and that’s it. What he is asking is for me to move beyond what he is leading–to see it as a signal only to start changing–and to take my own initiative to follow through the entire movement.

It’s actually similar to what I had to learn in the steps–especially going forward. In forward steps, I need to do some driving of the movement, so once we start moving forward I need to put some drive into the steps to keep us moving and traveling. It’s especially important in promenade when my path is fairly clear and not blocked by Boss.

It’s a completely different mindset from what I have done previously in standard to more or less embrace and use rotation to move. When I first started dancing standard, one of the things I worked on was not moving my upper body to help build stability in my frame. Now I have to get beyond that.

It’s going to take some time and work, but the seeds have been planted, and I have finally figured out what is being asked of me. Now, the challenge is almost to reach a point where I am rotating too much.

Finally, there was one other major point to tonight’s lesson, and that is to give my mind a physical ‘anchor’ to focus on when I need to close my left side back towards Boss after being open. It seems to be effective in achieving what he needs me to do and my guess is that it’s simply using the dominantly tactile focus of my brain. Give me something I can physically feel to focus on, and generally it works.

The interesting thing to come out of tonight’s lesson is that I can already feel my muscles reacting to being used in a different way. Since that was the goal, I take it as a good sign. My body is tired and achy in general, but not in the exhausted, I don’t want to move way. It’s the general tired and achyness you experience after doing a good workout.

It’s actually the balance I have been wanting to find. I am getting better at not only reading my body through this recovery, but also responding and knowing when to push it and when not to.

For example, after my lesson I stayed to practice today. I had hoped to do a full hour, but after 35 minutes my balance was consistently wavering and my focus was disappearing. My knees were also starting to ache. So, I stopped for tonight. It was the right choice to make and instead of feeling exhausted, I feel appropriately tired.

This thought actually brought to my attention how important my post-dance routine is to the entire process. Since returning after my recovery, I have been developing a bit of a routine.

Before I head home, I take time to process what I did. Usually I do this through driving, which I find very relaxing and head clearing. Some times I drive for over an hour before heading home–but that seems to be when I am able to examine the questions and points brought up in the lesson and consciously work through them.

Once I get home, I have about a 30 min soak in a tub with 3 cups of epsom salts while listening to music and reading my kobo. After that I shower and wash my hair. After the shower is knee pampering (voltaren and tiger balm), brushing my teeth, drying my hair, and if needed, icing my knees. Depending on the time and how I feel, I sometimes go straight to bed to read more, or watch something on netflix to clear my head (or write for you guys!).

It’s almost strange to think that all of these things post-dance contribute to dance, but the time and ritual seems to give my brain the time it needs to catch up and process what it needs to.

It’s interesting what you discover, when you give your mind an opportunity to slow down and discover it.

Hopefully, I will discover the ‘on’ button and get it switched sooner in my lessons next.

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.