Confidence

Usually when you see that in a title it’s because it is lacking.

I am actually finding the opposite. Last night I realized that I am slowly regaining my confidence back.

The odd thing is that I hadn’t even been really aware that I had lost it. But I suppose like most things you don’t realize something until you can see a big difference. I lost it gradually, but at yesterday’s lesson I realized there has been quite a change.

We were focusing on the rumba and cha cha yesterday as we continue to prepare for the showcase in two weeks. I can’t even really explain what I noticed was different except to say that I felt myself looking up more and feeling confident in bringing the routines to the next level. I was beginning to perform the routines instead of just working through the steps.

I felt better about how I looked doing the routines.

I am not sure what is triggering the change but part of it is having a performance to focus on. Another part of it is likely that I have been able to lose some of the chemo weight. Its appears to be a combination that just works.

I am not going to knock it. Instead I am just going to roll with it.

It helps that the routines seem to be coming together really well. We may have also decided on music yesterday, just from what we were using to practice.

We started by ironing out some of the details for some of the line features in the rumba. I have a roll-out to a lunge I wasn’t very sure of, especially the movements after the lunge. We were able to to get that working together, and the transition to the next step. It leaves only one more section to work out, and the routine will be in really good shape.

We also worked a little on the cha cha, working through the beginning and reviewing the section we worked on last week. We were able to run through 2/3rds of the routine before we ran out of time, at speed. It was also working well.

It puts us in a great place for the performance in 2 weeks. It’s been a while since I have felt this good about my dancing. It is making me look forward to what is next.

And hopefully more confidence will emerge.

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Latin Styling

We all have our weaknesses when it comes to dance.

Latin styling is definitely mine, and those demons came out really hard Friday night.

We have been working on the open cha cha routine and the steps and technique along with the lead/follow is slowly coming together really well – even with the music! We have narrowed it down to about 3 places where the transitions aren’t quite working yet and there are a couple places I get slightly behind the music turning. It’s been really good progress overall and is helping my confidence. I am pretty sure we will perform it on the 22nd of September.

BUT.

At the end of the lesson, Boss asked someone to record one section from the routine that is a series of NYs which I have been working on a lot and we have spent the most time working on together. In general, it wasn’t my best execution of the choreography, but it wasn’t bad.

What was terrible was my arm styling. Really, really abysmal. The worse thing is that the second time we recorded it, I was sure I had gotten 90% of the styling on point and executed well. Nope, not even close. The things I had thought I had “nailed” looked terrible. The angles of my arms were off, the positions were off, arms I was sure were straight looked bent and my shoulders looked up even though I was sure I was keeping them down. And those were the arm movements I thought I had done well. The others were a lot of flailing arms trying to figure out where to go.

It was mortifying and disappointing to watch. If I can’t fix my styling, there is no way I can perform that routine in 4 weeks without embarrassing myself.

Styling has really always been a big concern for me. A lot more so than Boss. It’s not something we even really focus on, in fact I can’t remember the last time we discussed it minus about 2 minutes to go over the arm positions for the NY sequence so I could practice it. I do remember doing some exercises in about 2013/2014 before Boss left the franchise. Almost every time I have asked Boss for some exercises or to work on it, it has somehow ended up in an argument.

For Boss, arms and styling are the ‘gravy’ put on top of a routine to polish them. For me, arms and styling are difficult, require work and repetition to gain confidence in the movement and I would prefer to incorporate them sooner in the learning process. The sooner, the better so I can get used to using them and ‘owning’ them.

Inevitably, what happens is not enough time (and sometimes almost no time) is spent on adding the styling and arms to a routine, or when we get to the point where Boss wants to add it, it is not enough time for me to be confident or comfortable with the styling. Usually at that point, we are committed to either performing or competing and I have no choice but to just do what I can and hope it looks ok.

I have worked on it here and there with female latin instructors as it pretty much is the first thing they focus in on after watching videos. It’s usually really routine focused.

For the most part, I have tried to figure it out on my own, but clearly that approach is not working, because I continue to feel terrible about it. In general, I know what the correct arm placements should be, but I either miss doing them right in context with a step or they just don’t look quite right. If I were to really describe it, I would say my arm movements don’t look ‘clean and tight’.

They look like the afterthought they generally are.

And that is a big part of the problem. When it comes to styling, I am way out of my comfort zone with even the most basic movements. Some people are very natural in how they move their arms. I am not. “Natural” for me is pretty clumsy and awkward. Oh, and one sided. I naturally move my left arm more than my right. For example, if I work on rumba basic, without thinking about my arms, my left will move with my hip movements and steps. My right will just hang limply.

Another problem that has come up recently just compounds the issue. As I have been working on lead/follow which uses some arm movements to mimic the connection with the partner, I have noticed that my range of motion is limited in some direction, likely due to the scar tissue around my chest. It’s particularly telling on the right side, which makes sense as it was the side that received radiation. For example, my right arm can only cross my chest about half the distance my left arm can before my right shoulder starts getting pulled up or in a strange direction, and I can’t stretch my right arm up the same distance as my left without my shoulder getting pulled up.

So, I have physical limitations, feel awkward and clumsy, lack confidence in my arm movements and often feel like the arm movements I am doing suit other (smaller and more feminine) ladies fine, but look contrived when I do them (likely due to me feeling awkward, clumsy and lacking confidence). It’s a bit of a vicious circle and I don’t know how to begin to sort it out.

Oh, I am also generally pretty conservative and self-conscious about my size and weight (regardless of what I weigh, I will always be a ‘solid’ woman). I don’t really ‘do’ feminine or sexy, and honestly don’t feel like I should. It’s not my style at all and when I do try, guess what? That’s what it looks like – someone trying to be something they are not. I have a hard time ‘owning’ something I wouldn’t even buy in the first place.

And maybe that is part of the issue. Like other areas in my life, I am trying to make myself fit into the mold that is expected instead of finding the mold that fits me.

I go to a coach to work on styling and generally I am given suggestions for styling for a particular step, but I don’t actually like any of them. To keep things moving (as I usually have only an hour) I chose whichever seems easiest. I might have an idea what I would like to do, but I don’t say that because I am embarrassed or have already convinced myself it’s not right or wouldn’t work. Since I don’t really have any experience with styling, its seems pretty arrogant of me to suggest something and assume it makes sense to someone who has been dancing most of their life. Sometimes, the suggestions do make complete sense or straightforward but I can’t seem to execute them right or figure out how to ‘own’ them.

Interestingly enough, I can’t recall anyone (other than Boss and that has been pretty limited) asking me to describe ‘my style’ or even what I see as ‘the character’ for a particular dance. Truthfully, my answers to those questions are something I keep pretty locked up because I am pretty sure that my answers are not ‘right’.

More often than not, I will go to a coach for styling on my own and together we will work out some arm movements or styling. Then I will work on them and try to get them to a point where I feel they are ‘presentable’ to Boss. Then I show them to him and one of three things happen: a) he doesn’t like them (and his poker face sucks), b) he sort of likes them, but they don’t really work with his part or what he is doing (so we try to adjust) or c) he likes them or accepts them and we try to go with them. Scenarios a) and b) happen the most, but usually when Boss doesn’t like something, in truth I am not crazy about it either (which probably also shows when I do it).

I actually hate showing any ideas for styling to Boss. It’s not because of anything he says or does, it’s completely a fear of rejection on my part. More often than not, if I am showing him something for styling it is because I am trying to put myself ‘out there’ and get out of my safe, conservative box. Therefore, I already feel like I am trying ‘too hard’.

One thing I really hate the most about styling is being told to ‘develop my own’. Why? Its not because I don’t have my own thoughts or an idea of my style, its because I have NO idea how to use styling to project it. When I am left to ‘develop my own’ styling, I just default to the things I see others doing because that is what I know. I really hate getting a routine that comes with the comment “I haven’t included much styling so you can develop your own.” I much prefer seeing what someone else will do, figuring out what I like and don’t from that and adjusting things where I need or want to. It’s easier to work on a ‘paint by numbers’ than a blank canvas for me.

So I have rambled on for quite a while and tossed a number of thoughts and demons into this post. Where does that leave me? I am not really sure. Here are some things I have discovered:

  1. Styling is always going to be hard for me. I have no confidence in how to execute the physical movements, and mentally I have no confidence any styling will look polished and appropriate for me.
  2. Whether intended or not, I feel like Boss avoids the topic of styling or is dismissive because he feels my concerns are unjustified. I feel like styling isn’t an issue for him because he has been doing it all his life and he doesn’t understand how difficult it is for me and how much I feel I need to work on it.
  3. I sometimes feel like time spent working on choreography and technique is wasted because styling that is poorly executed makes the whole package look under-prepared and sloppy.
  4. When I think of how I do styling right now, I feel like I am just madly flailing my arms around trying to ‘hit’ the right ‘pose’. The issue is not so much where I end up, but how I get there. I don’t know how to get there. I can’t think of a single styling movement I do that I feel good about.
  5. I need to stop being afraid to explore and advocate for my style when working with coaches. If I am not comfortable with something or feels like it doesn’t look right, I need to say so instead of hoping it will just magically come together with time.
  6. I need to find a female coach who is willing to go right back to basics on styling and have those ‘hard’ conversations with me. This is more a mental process than a physical one.
  7. I have a very good idea of how I would like to start to work on styling, but feel it would be unreasonable to impose that on a coach.
  8. Boss suggests and would prefer I work with someone who does jazz, modern, or contemporary for styling. I am INCREDIBLY uncomfortable with the idea because I just can’t relate to or connect with any of those styles. It’s a good idea, but I am not at a point where I feel it actually would benefit me yet. At this point, I am 95% sure it would overwhelm and frustrate me. I need to stick to what I know to start with and I know myself well enough that I have to start in my comfort zone before I can push myself out of it.
  9. I have no idea how to even begin to approach this productively with Boss, and by extension trying to find a coach who is willing to work with me on it in a way that works for and feel productive to me.
  10. When it comes down to it, I am just scared of what styling represents. Its putting myself ‘out there’ and honestly it is one of the reasons I dance – because it makes me get outside my comfort zone. I fear though that because I have allowed myself to avoid embracing styling I am missing and failing at one of my main dance goals.

Hopefully just writing all of this out will help me find a way to move forward.

In the end, despite all the coaching and support (and there is a lot!) I have when it comes to dance, I feel very very alone and left to flounder when it comes to styling because I am embarrassed by how hard it is for me – not just to do, but even to talk about. It’s a part of dance where the barriers are mental and I can’t figure out how to even start to break them down alone. I can’t seem to figure out how to initiate a conversation about it without it leading to either conflict or me feeling like I have been overwhelmed with the opinion of someone else.

Its hard to ask for help when you can’t figure out what it is you need.

 

 

A Routine Victory

We got through 4 of the 5 latin routines tonight with slow music.

The one we missed was jive, but only because we ran out of time.

We started by reviewing each of the routines then we went through them, first at a slower speed then slightly faster.

We got through all of them without major disaster except paso which needed a pause, but we were able to pick it up again.

It went better than I expected (although I am not sure why I expected disasters) and certainly there are places and elements to work on – like arm transitions and the fact that I have a habit of just barreling along without waiting for the lead or really having any idea of what Boss is doing in some places (so being really surprised to discover some of my turns are underarm for example).

I found for myself some interesting results from the solo practice I have been working on. For example, I have really been working on the NY sequence we have in Cha cha and today it went much better than I expected in context, so much so that the first time I was so surprised I almost stopped. I really had to give myself a pat on the back for that. In addition, there was one spot I couldn’t seem to figure out on my own, but as soon as we put it in context, it clicked that I was missing a step in the timing and I was able to fix it in my practice after my lesson.

I like lessons like today that just put things together for me, but also reveals the places that just aren’t quite there yet. It also helps with building a bit of confidence in my steps and that I know them, which in turn lets me relax a bit about the steps and turn my focus elsewhere like how to move my body instead of my feet.

I think I needed the lesson today. I had been feeling a bit down and like I was working hard but not getting anywhere, although that was probably because of the infection I was fighting (which thanks to antibiotics my energy levels are coming up). The boost from today has been a long time coming.

My ballet experiment is almost over. One more lesson tomorrow. I have to say I like it, and am trying to figure out how I can fit it in my schedule in the fall. They already told me they would work with the time I am away for work. It would be once a week in the fall. It’s sort of like a combination of a strengthening and stretching in one. I will write more on it after the lesson tomorrow.

For now I am going to take my little win.

A New Chapter

I’ve been thinking a lot about dance lately.

It started before the cruise and has continued into this week.

I think the time away from competing, as difficult as it has been, has been good for me. I can genuinely say that I am enjoying being able to take the time to dig into the details of the routines and steps and movements that I am doing. I’ve been able to connect with my body and dance in a way I didn’t expect.

And I really really like it.

That’s not to say I don’t want to compete anymore, absolutely I do!

But I am not in a rush to do it. I also don’t find I have a need to do it as much as I felt I did before.

What I crave most from dance right now is the experience of it. Yes, competing is part of the experience, but it is no longer the main goal for me.

Right now, I want to see how far I can continue to develop and grow through dance. I want to keep developing those details, keep pushing myself, keep working to see what I can do.

I want to inspire others to dance and to be an example for other dancers to look up to. I have overcome a lot to be where I am right now and I know life is going to continue to throw obstacles at me, whether in dance or other areas of my life. That is just how life goes. By meeting those challenges, that is how we grow and get stronger.

I have grown a lot and come so far in dance, and there is so much more of this journey left.

But right now I feel my focus in dance needs a slightly different focus. I want to focus more on development.

For the past 8 months or so, my dance journey has been focused on me and my development. I haven’t really been able to do that since before I got sick because there was always a competition or test or performance I was preparing for. During that time, that prep and focus on tangible goals was what I needed.

I am surprised to discover that I don’t really need that sort of focus anymore.

I do still have a need and desire to compete and perform, but it is not as pressing. When I do it, I want to do it to show my progress, and mostly it’s to show that progress to myself. I feel that competitions, and by extension performance (I would much much rather compete than perform) are necessary to help give a limit to break up phases of development. They give a timeline for taking a step back, evaluating, and refocusing.

For the past year, I have enjoyed working with Boss more than I have during the 5 years prior to it. We really have come into a solid grove with how we work, and it really is at a higher level than I ever really thought possible, in consideration of the struggles we had trying to get and stay on the same page before that. There is an element of mutual respect I never expected.

It makes me optimistic and eager to see where Boss’s teaching will lead me next.

I am so grateful that I discovered pro/am, despite the unique challenges it presents. Without it, I likely would have stopped dancing a long time ago and I would definitely not be where I am now. The opportunity it provides me is unmatched.

I don’t know what the future holds. I expect at some point my career will take me to a new location and that will mean new dance experiences. For now, I intend to embrace the opportunities Boss gives me as best I can. I don’t know what all those opportunities will be, but I do know I will continue to get fitter, healthier and feel better — which finally brings me back full circle to the main reasons I started dancing in the first place. Before I found dance, I was very lost and broken.

Through dance I have become strong and confident. I would never have beaten cancer without it. Words cannot express my gratitude for those who have been part of my dance journey, especially Boss who never gave up on me, even when I seemed determine to give up on dance, myself, and to make it as difficult as possible.

This has been such a long time coming.

It’s time for a new chapter in dance for me. I am not quite sure where it will go, but I know it will be great and ideas are already forming. Once I can get them organized into some sort of sense, I will present them to Boss and see what he suggests.

I’m excited for this new chapter and where it will lead me.

Time to start writing.

Settling into a groove

Finally.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s a good grove to be in.

What’s next?

I am really growing to hate that question.

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

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

It does. A lot.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

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.