Back on the Floor!

Yes, finally!!

I was cleared to return to all activities yesterday, and I celebrated by having a lesson. 9 weeks until the competition, so a lot of work to do.

The lesson last night was very interesting and telling.

It ended up being later in the evening than I usually have a lesson and I was worried I would be too tired, but I was so anxious to get back on the floor I pushed it aside.

It was good that I did.

The start of the lesson was really really rough. We were working on standard since I have a couple coaching lessons this week and we started by reviewing and walking through our gold routines. I really felt like a wet blanket with no strength, and my mind was racing in about 50 different directions as my body tried to figure out what was going on. By the time we finished walking through the quickstep, I was honestly feeling quite panicked, and really couldn’t figure out what was going on.

We took a bit of a break before looking at specific parts of the routines that we will focus on for the coaching.

It turned out that break was what my mind needed to reconnect with my body and to trust that my body knew and was capable of doing what it needed.

After that, it was like the weight I have been carrying on my shoulders for the last 6 months disappeared. I felt my mind relax and organize itself, and as Boss and I prepared to work through one segment of our waltz, everything just came back together.

Actually, it came together better than it has in a longer time than I can remember.

It was like I needed the rough start for my mind to assess the state of my body and once it decided that all the movements were ok, it gave permission.  I could use my full strength and power, was able to move into full hold and to follow what Boss was doing. By the end of the lesson we were even traveling significantly more down the floor than we have in a very long time.

The best way I can describe the feeling is to say I felt free and free to dance. There wasn’t anything holding me back anymore–no hormone issues, no depression, no muscle weakness, no fuzzy head, and no fatigue.

In fact, I felt more energized after the lesson than I was before it–something that hasn’t happened since before I was diagnosed. I had honestly forgotten what that feels like.

I was able to ask my body to do things, and it responded–usually better than I expected, and much more than I have become used to.

Needless to say, I was pretty shocked and overwhelmed. I found confidence in my movement that had been missing for a very long time.

Aside from completely surprising myself, Boss seemed to be completely over the moon. I don’t think he has said he was pleased so many times in a lesson before. Considering how my previous recoveries and issues with treatments have gone, I can’t blame him–this ‘comeback’ is in a class by itself. He commented that I was dancing better than he was prepared for.

A lot of pieces that were only just swirling around in pieces before my surgery seemed to click into place while I was recovering. It’s a testament to how even when you have to take a break physically, mentally your mind may still be working. I could almost feel them all fall into place.

Of course, that’s not to say that everything was easy. It has been 6 weeks since I have really done any activity except light walking in the last 2 weeks. I was getting winded easy, and my pulse was racing. I could feel how out of shape and out of conditioning I am. It’s going to take a lot of work to get that moving forward again. While I could do full power in short segments, I know that attempting even one full routine at that power would be pretty draining. Overall, the lesson was fantastically terrible–a lot of success mixed with hard work that demonstrates there is a lot more to be done.

But its baby steps. The foundation is there. I achieve beyond my own goal in that lesson, in that after the initial ‘trial’, I was able to push myself fully through the rest of the lesson without giving up. While this lesson was hard, the next will be a little easier and I will be able to push longer and further.

It’s like remembering something from childhood–I know I used to be able to do it, but the details are fuzzy.

They are becoming more clear now.

I feel much more optimistic about the coaching on Wednesday, and my ability to get through 2 45 min lessons. The last time this coach was here, the work with him triggered a few things falling into place in standard that had been eluding me, and I am hopeful at something similar may be possible this time too. We (and by ‘we’, I mean Boss) have a good plan for things to work on, and if it is even remotely similar to last night, it’s going to be fun.

Fun. There’s a word I haven’t used in relation to dance in a long time. It feels good. Fun.

After last night’s lesson, I expected to wake up sore, especially in the surgical area, and completely tired and drained today from so much effort last night.

In another surprise, I woke up with tons of energy after sleeping better than I have in quite some time, and while I am moderately sore in the muscles I haven’t used in a long time, my belly and abdomen feel the same as they did before the lesson yesterday.

I am sooooo pleased to not have adverse after-effects! (I was pretty worried).

I expect my upper back, shoulder and leg muscles will be a little more sore tomorrow, but nothing unusual.

As a bonus to all of this, my doctor and I decided this morning to stop the anti-depressants, and see how it goes. The last 3 days I have been feeling symptoms of being over medicated again, and since I am on the lowest dose now, the next step is to stop and see how I feel in 2 weeks once my system has adjusted.  I can always go back if I need them. It’s the last of the medications I had to take to counter-act side effects of the hormone therapy.

In fact, I am now officially back to taking only the medications I was taking before I was diagnosed (actually one less, since one was a hormone supplement), one for insomnia, one for allergies. It’s another way to feel free.

Something else I haven’t mentioned which may be contributing to the increase in energy I am having–since the surgery I have lost 10 of the 40 lbs I gained during treatment, with only small diet changes on my part. Finally, it seems my body is ready to get fit again. It’s something I will need to stay on top of, but it’s the first real weight progress I have seen in over a year, and I finally feel motivated again to keep focusing on it.

In a lot of ways, my life is finally starting to resemble what it was pre-cancer, and I hope the momentum I now have continues to keep me moving forward. I am back to work next week, and looking forward to it. I have almost finished the 5th course for my masters.

And now I feel like I am ready and capable of getting back to fully dancing again.

Even more, I feel like I can really hope again.

It’s been a long time coming.

Why compete?

Why, indeed.

After sorting through thoughts in my last post, I guess I realized I need to figure out what drives me to compete, or rather what makes a competition interesting or worth competing in.

  • Competitions give me a real and tangible goal within a set time period.

I am a very goal-oriented person and having a competition to prepare for gives me something to focus on and a specific time within which to do it.  I need that to feel grounded in my dancing.  It’s not about specific goals within my dancing, but giving something to aim for.

  • Competitions set time frames for measuring progress.

It’s not really about how much progress is made between competitions, but more about having a definitive time to evaluate. It’s an opportunity to record my dancing under pressure and to compare it with previous videos.

  • Competitions help me feel structured in my dancing.

Along with being goal-oriented, I need structure, and really don’t do well if I feel there is no rhyme or reason to what I am doing. Competing gives me that structure–there are levels, others to compare to, things to evaluate.

  • The impact of a competition should reflect the price.

It doesn’t make sense to spend a large amount to attend a small competition, where I may be alone on the floor. It also doesn’t make sense to spend a small amount to attend a large competition that I have to travel to. The two parts need to balance and sometimes this can be the trickiest part. There are never any guarantees.

  • It’s not a competition if I am alone.

In order to compete, there needs to be someone to compete against. There is competitiveness in my nature, although its not always evident and I can say I am not comfortable with it. While I see the value in comparing my dancing against what I did at previous events, there is an element to competing with others on the floor that increases the drive to do well. It’s motivating.

  • Competitions motivate me.

There is something about competing that motivates and drives me more than just performing or social dancing. There is a thrill to it, and in many ways it is the time I feel comfortable acknowledging that I have done something well. It’s when I allow myself to really give myself credit, but it also gives an external justification too. It’s someone who doesn’t see me dancing all the time giving approval (or sometimes signalling problems).

  • Competing is the reward I give myself for hard work.

While I have lots of personal reasons for wanting to work hard, wanting to do well at a competition also plays a part. Competitions are something I earn. I work hard to save the money to attend, so I also owe it to myself to work hard to prepare for them. Competitions are an opportunity to have fun after putting in the hard work to prepare. Because I know I have worked hard, when I go to compete I can just enjoy the full experience, including traveling, the showcases/performances, and knowing I have done well.

Looking at this list, I can see where most of my recent competitions, and even my preparation for them have missed the mark for me. I also see that one of the things I experienced the most in the past 6 months was preparing for my silver test, which is very telling. Once my last competition was over, I felt very lost and aimless until the test prep started.

Part of me is scared about returning to dance without having decided on a competition goal. I am worried that for one reason or another, my next competition will be once again one of the same local competitions I have been doing for the last 2.5 years.

I am very worried deep down that if I can’t settle on some goals, especially for competing, I will lose the motivation I have gained following the surgery, and I will start to question why I dance–a rabbit hole I don’t want to go down again.

I feel like I lost some of the reasons why I dance in recent months, really since my mastectomies and reconstruction and all the issues with the hormone therapy. I got stagnant and I want to break that cycle. More than that, I need to break that cycle. I feel like I call myself a competitive dancer, but I have no right to since I never really compete.

I feel like I am pretending. Perhaps that is the root of the problem.

It’s time to get back on a full competition floor.

A Discovery

I had an interesting lesson yesterday.

When I got to the studio, I really wasn’t sure how the lesson would go. Even Boss remarked when I arrived he could see I was already tired.  It had been a long week at work. I had things (and so did Boss) that I wanted to accomplish so I took things carefully and just saw where they went.

We started by going over a new step in my Gold Quickstep routine, which I found pretty interesting. Unlike other Quickstep steps, this one is the hover corte and it is more about slow control.  It took some experimenting, but in the end it seemed to come together pretty well.

Following that, we started breaking down the Gold Paso Doble. In particular, we worked on sorting out the footwork–which steps are on heels vs those on the toes.  Sorting that out actually helped a lot as for most steps it helped them make more sense, or a little easier to execute.

Once we had gone through the steps, we were able to go through the entire routine 3 or 4 times in a row with slower music.  Somewhere in the middle of those run-throughs, I noticed a chance, something I had felt or done in a very long time.

There just started to be some energy to my dancing and with that came some confidence.  In particular, I do promenade and counter promenade spins (which are a series of underarm spirals) and I was finding my spirals were a little sharper, quicker, and had some more drive.  In our last run through, I even found myself using some drive through some of the steps I wasn’t so sure about before.  Even Boss remarked he noticed a difference. It was a remarkable and unexpected discovery to find in my dancing–again it was like remembering something I used to know and having it bubble to the surface.

I hope these sorts of discoveries will be plentiful as I begin to return back to dance following my recovery.

I am not sure where the sudden spurt of energy and confidence came from, but I will take it when I can.  We ended the lesson running through the Gold Cha Cha routine, and that also went quite well with a little more ‘vibrancy’ than I have felt in a long time.  I know there have been some small changes in diet and supplements so a part of me is wondering if that has an effect.

I have 3 more lessons until my surgery, and I hope that my energy will stay up since it seems to want to return a little.  I know part of the plan is to record all of the gold routines, and Boss told me he would like to use one lesson to discuss ideas for two different showcase routines we have in the works.

I woke up this morning to a surprise 🙂 A while ago I did an interview with The Dancing Housewife Show, and this morning the podcast interview was posted! I hope you enjoy the interview!

It’s a beautiful long weekend in Canada and Happy Canada 150 to all!

One-woman Disaster

That is how I feel today.

But let me elaborate.  It really has not been my day or night.

It started this afternoon at work.  During lunch, my computer randomly crashed twice and told me that the video card was failing.  It made work difficult when each restart took more than 20 minutes to boot up.

Then, I was almost hit by a car on my way to dance. Thankfully almost. I was coming out of my driveway on my scooter and there is a large white panel van that parks on the side of the road just next to our driveway.  The issue is that the way the road is built, and because it has no windows, the van completely blocks the view to the right.  To compensate, you have to look down past all the cars that are parked (about 500 m) to the bottom of the hill and then keep track of the cars you see coming until there is a break.

The issue is that there is an intersection and other driveways you can’t see.  So even though it might look clear all the way down the hill, cars could turn on to the road without you seeing them. That’s what happened tonight.  I was slowly peeking out around the van and discovered a car coming right for me.  So I ended up braking hard, losing my balance and falling over, landing mostly on my scooter.  Missed the car (which stopped and asked if I was all right), and thankfully didn’t hit anything hard.  Cracked the windshield of my scooter in two though when it hit the pavement.  I was able to get it upright and started again, and assessed that I had bruised my shins and had a small scrape on one leg. Mostly I was shaken up.

Following that, I got to dance.  I had received some unexpected news about what to expect for my recovery from surgery yesterday and that has possible repercussions for dance–particularly competing in the fall.  Long story short, it could be 12 weeks after my surgery before I will be able to dance, particularly for any length of time without pain and pulling.  It’s quite different from the 6 weeks I was initially told to expect.  That required a bit of a conversation with Boss, but pretty much at this point I haven’t really gotten to a place where I can completely process this and start to adjust my goals. Again.

The conversation itself wasn’t bad, it was just a disappointing one to have to have.  That said, I still have my silver test this weekend and work to prepare, so it was another lesson dedicated to rounds and running through the routines.  We started with latin tonight, which didn’t go too bad, although jive is still a bit questionable for endurance.  Following that, we moved to standard.  That was going pretty well…

Until I caught my heel on the cuff of my pants during the quickstep and fell over backwards hitting my left hand and hip pretty far.  Also ripped the hem of my pants.  That actually hurt more than falling on my scooter. Go figure.

In general, I was ok, just bruised.  Had to work out my left ankle a little bit, but after rolling up my pants we were able to continue with the lesson and get through the Quickstep.  We followed that with Viennese Waltz.  We did a full minute of that, but I was really dying after 45 seconds.  We ended with a section of foxtrot I was blanking on a bit to review it, but by the second run through of that I could tell I was pretty done.

One comment Boss made tonight and my last lesson is that he is finding my endurance is improving, and the most significant thing is that when I get tired I am better able to compensate instead of just completely sinking and collapsing. It’s good to hear because compared to where I was before I got sick and had treatments I would say I am about half where I was–especially in VW, QS, and Jive.  Cha Cha can also be questionable sometimes.

What’s a little disheartening about that is after up to 12 weeks off to recover from surgery, I am going to have to start over on a lot of things–rebuilding endurance being one of them.  I have been there before though and my focus right now is to try and build as good a base as I can so hopefully there will still be some when I am ready to come back.

I really hope the falls tonight won’t result in me waking up broken tomorrow.  I also wrenched my shoulder trying to open a door (seriously–how does that happen??), burned my hand on coffee and spilled it in my scooter case.  All signs I should have just call it a night.  I didn’t though, I stayed for practice and was able to run through all my routines on my own except paso.  I had a long epsom salt bath after so hopefully that will head off some of the bruising coming my way.

As far as the test, I still feel pretty good about it aside from the endurance issues.  I have most of the routines down and that is helping my confidence. Fingers crossed my body holds out till then.

I discussed with Boss tonight the idea of filming the routines during the test.  It will be up to the adjudicator, but I am hoping we will be able to.  It’s been almost 6 months since we recorded anything, and at least according to Boss there has been a lot of changes.  I toyed with the idea of filming them before the test, but I don’t want things I may see in the videos to distract from the test, or to kill my confidence.  While probably things will look better than I expect, I don’t want to risk that they might possibly look worse.  Better to keep going the direction I am going at this point, and evaluate later.

After the test, I have 4 weeks until surgery.  Mainly, I want to get all the gold routines laid out and if possible filmed so I have them to refer to while I recover.  One of the things I want to have a look at (and should be able to) is to figure out the styling for latin and put together some ideas where needed.

In all honesty, I think that is the main part missing from the silver latin routines, but I am trying not to let myself worry about that.

Hopefully, tomorrow will be a better day.

Foxtrot Vs Waltz

I discovered an interesting thing tonight.

I honestly probably always knew it, but it never struck me so obviously before.  Perhaps it was just the order I was working tonight.

During my own practice, I worked on getting down the sequence of the silver foxtrot routine (which I was able to do–Yay me!).  Following that, I switched to waltz.  What surprised me was discovering that the footwork and movement in the two dances is actually quite different.  The way I discovered it was that in trying to do my waltz routine, I kept falling into doing foxtrot steps.

It occurred to me that foxtrot has much more progressive movements where waltz has more turning.  In foxtrot I frequently need to pass my feet while waltz involves a lot of opening the legs to turn.  It wasn’t until I had to transition between the two that I realized this.  In fact, when I started the waltz, it took me some time to figure out how to do a natural turn and a basic weave.

The other surprise I had for myself tonight was that while working on my own in foxtrot I kept running out of room without even trying.  I seem to be traveling a lot more than I did before, and even more than I do with Boss (although he has a better idea of how to fill the space we have than I do).  I didn’t even realize I was trying to move, but I must have been.

We worked on the shaping in the paso routine today, as well as some other details.  One thing I will say I am really enjoying about preparing this routines are how detailed and ‘by the book’ we are working.  Believe me, it is surprises how many steps in Paso Doble are done on the ball of the foot.  I feel like I am prancing a lot–although that may be the point.

Following the paso we worked on the foxtrot to work through some of the steps I wasn’t too sure of and to run it a few times, so I could practice it later on my own.  One of the things that Boss kept emphasizing was the difference in how I am moving in standard in general (but foxtrot specifically), and how I am supporting myself from my feet and that is allowing my upper body to be more free.  I guess I am not pulling so much and it’s been a profound difference.  I hope the stability sticks.

For my part, I can say that I am noticing two things more than previously–how I am using my feet, and that I am able to and am developing a good habit of keeping my knees flexed as I move which seems to be helping.  I do feel stronger through my feet and legs.  However, when my endurance runs out, it is still a sudden and huge deficit of strength and everything collapses beyond my control.

I really hope I am able to work through it for the test.  We did the paso routine four times in a row today and by the 4th time my legs had turned to jelly and my balance was wavering.  I felt pretty weak.  I was able to rally for the foxtrot, but consistently after one round of the ballroom my strength would start to fail me.

Boss told me that the plan for Friday is to go through all the routines and do rounds.  I am a little nervous about that, but hope it won’t be as bad as I fear.  I am on vacation from work until Monday, so I should be pretty well rested.

One of the nice perks about being on vacation is that I will be able to watch the final two days of Blackpool–the professional events, which I expect will be pretty amazing!  The dancing so far in all events has been spectacular and I really can’t wait for tomorrow and Friday.

At least doing rounds, I don’t have to worry about confusing waltz and foxtrot–waltz always comes first and there is tango in the middle to refresh my mind.

Fingers crossed it all goes well.

9 Routines down…

Well at least written out with timing.

The latin routines are going well and getting into my brain.  I was able to review them some on the weekend and was glad to see things had fit.

We went through the paso routine today, which was the one missing routine, after reviewing the timing in the standard routines and a couple steps which I couldn’t figure out on my own.

I spent my practice working through the standard routines on my own, and got through the waltz, tango and most of the Quickstep.  Foxtrot will be for Wednesday, as it’s a supervised practice, and there are a couple steps I am not sure about and need to take the opportunity to go through them.

I feel good about where the routines are, considering the time left until the test.  It’s actually been pretty interesting for me to go through all the steps on my own because some of the steps, while I have done them and followed them, I have either not really known their names or they are new to me. It’s been a new area to explore.

It’s actually been quite a while since I have worked through memorizing and putting under my feet a sequence of routines.  Especially in standard, going through the timing has been a good exercise for me as I haven’t work through standard routines with timing since before or shortly after I got sick.

I haven’t put them together with the music yet on my own, but that will be some of the goals for the end of this week and early next week, although I am not quite sure how it will go.  I think rumba, samba, paso and jive will be ok.  Cha cha could be iffy.  Waltz and Tango should be ok in standard, Quickstep questionable and foxtrot will be interesting in general.

There may not be enough time to get the routines down on my own as much as I would like to, but the foundation will be there for my test and that is the main thing.  There are some technique things I wish were coming a little stronger (as I previously mentioned about cha cha in particular) and there have been some pleasant surprises.

The way I have been able to focus in and memorize the sequences of the silver routines gives me some good optimism for learning the gold routines.  I am hopeful that once the test is done, we can focus in on finishing the rest of the sequences (currently I have Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot, Rumba, Samba), and be able to go through them on my own (so far only the rumba is in my feet).  I hope to have all 9 gold sequences before my surgery, and with some luck to have them videotaped as well so I can refer to them as I am recovering.  Haven’t had a chance to discuss that with Boss yet, but I hope he will be on board.  It’s a conversation for after the test.

Health-wise, I have had a bit of a turn around in the past week.  My energy levels are truly up, and while I have fuzzy-headed moments, they seem less frequent.  The full body aches have dissipated, although I seem to keep ‘tweaking’ my neck. Still not sure why.  I hope this will be the status quo until my surgery, but we will see how it goes.  I am still working some part days during the week, and today was the first time I was able to return to strength training in more than 3 weeks.  As I rebuild my stamina and add more of my usual activities back in, I hope things get better and not worse.

But for now, I have 9 routines to focus on for the next two weeks.

Cha Cha Conundrum

It appears I am focusing on latin lately.

It makes sense as now I have 4 of the 5 latin routines for my test and more so than standard I need to try to get them memorized.  For whatever reason, if I blank in standard I can just resort to following (which sometimes may be better!) but I have a harder time doing this in latin.

Working on the latin routines has been, well, strange.

Of all of them, cha cha is definitely the strangest.

It took me most of practice last night just to work out the timing for the routine with Boss’s help.  There seemed to be a lot of steps I really had no clue how to do on my own, and that is a little concerning.  I went in early tonight to practice some before the latin class because I honestly wasn’t sure if I would be able to stay late enough for the class (I did in the end, but I was pretty much a zombie the whole time).  I managed to get through the rumba, minus one step at the beginning, then I focused on cha cha.

One of the most odd things about latin in general, whether rumba, samba, cha cha or Jive is that anything we do in hold seems completely alien to me–like I have never done anything in hold for Latin before.  It’s to the point where I find myself questioning where I am supposed to put my left hand (shoulder, back, bicep?), and I keep stretching my right arm out like for standard (and then constantly reminding myself to drop my elbow–at least I remind myself!). I feel like I am either too close or too far, about to trip Boss or fall over forward.  It’s really bizarre.

And then there is cha cha specifically.  For whatever reason, as I am working on it I can’t seem to incorporate ANY technique I have worked on.  Of course then I remind myself that I can’t really remember the last time I worked on cha cha technique that wasn’t forward lock steps, cuban breaks or time steps–but I can’t seem to put even those into context.  Most of my latin focus lately has been rumba (for the last couple years) or samba (more lately).  Rumba technique has a lot of crossover, but that just isn’t coming into cha cha.

Granted, I really am focusing on working out the sequence of steps right now, but I guess I expected that I should be able to at least do a basic step with some semblance of technique (which isn’t happening right now).  When I try, the best I can describe is that it feels ‘odd’ and like I am trying too hard and off balance.  And that is just the basic step, and other steps feel like there is no hip movement going on and I can’t keep my legs straight.  In short, nothing about cha cha seems to be muscle memory or automatic, but I do vaguely remember a time it was.

I am really confused about this.  I know I can do time steps, whether fast or slow, with no issue on my own, and even with Boss they are not too bad.  But the minute I do a step that is pretty much not lateral side to side (and has forward and back steps), it just gets weird.

I can’t figure out if this the work I am and have done in rumba trying to adapt to cha cha (but not really succeeding with the speed), or if I have really forgotten my cha cha technique. Even New Yorks feel weird and off balance.

It doesn’t bode well for my test, although I probably have higher expectations of myself than Boss does.  At this point though, I feel like the cha cha I do now is actually weaker than the cha cha I was able to do for my bronze test, and it is really uncomfortable to feel.

Samba still has that in/out feeling for technique I have described before, the out being mainly the voltas and some rocks (which are more a I hate how rocks look issue).  I haven’t had a chance to work on it on my own yet, but I am not concerned about it as samba routines seem to come together fairly easily for me.  It will be a project for tomorrow’s practice.

Jive was actually a bit of  a pleasant surprise.  It’s a bit like samba in that the technique comes in and out, but it is more ‘in’ than ‘out’ than I expected.  Practicing it on my own is a bit tricky as in the end the ladies part is a lot of just turning (while the man’s part has hand changes) and without a partner for reference it is hard to know what direction I am supposed to be facing. I still have to work out the timing for it, but that will be the main focus for tomorrow’s practice.  The main thing I need to figure out is where the knee lifts are and making sure I do the rock step on bent knees (which is easier for me than straight as it’s an ingrained habit from my rhythm days that seems to have stuck).  Once I remember that, it came together better.  Endurance still sucks though.

So I am not really sure what to do about my cha cha conundrum.  Really at this point, I don’t think there is much I can do as the test is only two weeks away.  Better to focus on the things I can control, improve, or at least stabilize, rumba, samba and jive, and be prepared for cha cha to be a mini disaster.

Haven’t done the silver Paso yet, but I am hopeful it will be pretty much my old closed silver routine which should come back fairly easy.  I can’t think of any silver steps in Paso that would give me issue, and because it is mostly in hold it is easier to follow than the other latin dances.

I haven’t started working on the standard routines yet, although I have them as I feel latin is where I need to focus–it is more independent than standard.  I have also done a lot of work in standard lately so the steps and techniques are more familiar (and they transfer more through each dance).

I have surprised myself lately with the amount of energy I have had for my own practice–far exceeding what I expected to be able to do.  The side effects from my injection are starting to abate and I even slept through the night last night–first time I can remember in recent history.

So it appears cha cha somewhere went sideways in the last 6 months–literally–side steps seems to be the extent of what I can do.

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.

Latin Let-down

I am not sure why I feel so frustrated with my latin technique tonight.

I do have a theory that perhaps it is just the late hour of the class (8 pm is late for me these days), coupled with an extremely busy week at work (it’s not over yet!). The end result being that I feel like I couldn’t do anything right tonight during the class–even though I know that is not the case.  Its almost like a mini ‘crash’ after the class.

Usually I feel pretty good about my latin technique.  While there are some things I struggle with a lot, there are others that come more naturally and no matter what I do, my hips definitely move. The adjustment I have been making to my posture is becoming more ‘mainstream’ but I have to stay on top of it.  I am at the point where I ask myself if I am forward and discover that yes, I am.

Tonight in general I think I was just having endurance issues.  It’s hard to explain but I felt like everything just lacked in strength compared to how it usually feels, and my body just wasn’t as responsive as usual.  It wasn’t a lack of trying, but it just seemed to be ‘off’.

I think because of that, the things that usually frustrated me just ran a bit rampant.  By the end of the class my frustration level just seemed exceptionally high.

One thing that is just a constant source of frustration for me is jive.  I have mentioned before it is like my latin achilles heel dance, as it is the one dance where on the one hand things work out well naturally, but on the other I really have no idea how I do any of it.  And there there are some things which I have no idea how to do and quite honestly it looks ridiculous when I try.  I think I am getting in my own way by trying so hard I am actually preventing my body from moving in the way it needs to.  That’s said, it feels like everything I am doing in jive is really ‘loosey goosey’, when it should be more tight and compact (because of the speed).

Some time jive just feels like the dance I never work on.  The little bit of technique I have done in jive has been a little ‘here’ and ‘there’ and very spread out.  I have never concentrated on it–even at a basic level.

To be perfectly honest, my frustration and feeling of lacking in jive really makes me reluctant to do it right now.  I feel that compared with the amount of time and work I have spent on the other 4 dances my jive is woefully behind.

I am hoping this is just the result of a long week and fatigue and that it will pass in time.

The other thing that keeps popping in my mind is that I might not have the endurance for my medal test.  I am feeling a little overwhelmed with the idea of doing 10 dances in a row because its been so long since I have actually done that.  I guess I am not feeling really confident in my strength right now.

I get my injection tomorrow, and I hopeful that with it some of these frustrations will pass.  I am also a bit stressed that I will have some mood swings following the injection as my body gets used to it again.

It’s hard to know what is real and what is just side effects right now.

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.