Game on!

And so it begins!

Lesson 1 this week is done and was spent working on exercises for standard technique.  Most of them seemed to be ok, but some of them are really a challenge for me as I have a very hard time twisting from my hips without twisting my upper body separately.  Even harder is that I seem to have no way to tell when I have twisted them separately.

I really like working this way though.  Feeling connection between my mind and my muscles and how they all work together and are able to be controlled is one of the things I like most about dance.  I am a tactile person and dance provides lots of tactile data–from the feel of the floor up to the connection with the partner through the hands.  Focusing on specific movements and how my body is moving and working is very meditative for me and it usually calms me. Helps to keep the stress down and clears my head.

I am looking forward to see what exercises the next lessons bring, I am imagining it will be the latin side of the house, but I really don’t know. I am just basically going with things for now and keeping an open mind.

Short post today, but I am working on a paper for school, while on duty for work and keeping up with multiple readings.  My goal is to try and do at least little posts here and there when I can.

I hope things are going well for you too!

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Smooth day

In a couple of ways.

First, thanks to the very low vacancy rate in the city where I live, I was able to find a new roommate. One major stress relief down.

Second, after 5 days off of hormone therapy, I can safely say I feel better and stronger. Much more like myself.

So that leads me to dance.

Today Boss and I ran through 2 of my smooth routines–waltz and tango, and we were even able to get through the smooth routine in time with the music–minus a few spins I forgot about.

It was great to spend some focused time on the routines and to start to feel like I am getting them into my feet.  Tango I have memorized pretty well, but not enough to do with the music.  Waltz is definitely coming along.  We started working on the foxtrot some, but ran out of time before we could really get through it.

I felt really different today working in the studio.  There was just a sense and feeling I haven’t felt in a long time and didn’t know it was gone.  I just felt ‘on’ in a way I haven’t in a while.

That said, I had to cut my own practice short because I ended up with a really intense headache out of the blue.  In the grand scheme of things, it was minor, but still disappointing whenever I have to throw in the towel on something.

At least hormonally, I should have about 2 weeks of being clear and myself before my hormones get all wonky again.  I hope to make the best of it. As the smooth routines are the weakest right now, I hope to focus on them next week and I am even going to suggest to Boss doing 4 lessons instead of 3, one for each dance to focus on them before doing a smooth-focused rounds practice on the weekend.  I want to make sure that I am in the best position for running the routines before the practice. I think the intent is to record the routines to send them to the coach who choreographed them for feedback before the competition in January.

I have my first fitting for my smooth dress tomorrow and I am really looking forward to it, even though it will probably be nothing more than a body suit and underdress.  It’s just good to be moving forward on it and I can’t wait for when all 3 dresses are completely finished (the other 2 are getting a lot of additional stoning).

I will also have a rounds practice for my international style this weekend and I am interested to see how things go with the new latin routines–or rather the variations on the old routines.  The cha cha and samba should be pretty good. Jive is a little iffy, and rumba we made changes to, but only went through it once, so it will be rough.

I am expecting/hoping standard will go well.  I have two new strong focuses–trying to be consistent in the power of my movements and keeping my left side connected with Boss.  If I get at least one of those, it will be a major success.  I have a feeling though that the strength I seem to have recovered over the last couple days will have an interesting effect on the practice.

Here’s to hoping for at least 2 weeks of smooth sailing.

On a random note–I love December.  When I got diagnosed with Cancer I bought an advent calendar to count down the days until my first surgery (the dates didn’t line up, but it worked), and the tradition stuck.

Who can argue with daily chocolate???

Reset

And so it begins.

My lesson tonight was good.  We started looking at some steps Boss wants to add to the open routines as well as sequences for me to start doing as exercises.  We also took some time to review the videos from the competition and look at good and bad points.  We seem to agree on the same points and Boss had a few things to add, such as use of my foot in standard, to set the stage for the next few weeks.

Bending my knees when I need to is another issue I need to work on.  My knees are feeling better after the break I have had and I hope they stay that way.  I am not allowed to run for now, so cardio is going to be elliptical for the next little while at least.

One of the things I was able to figure out this week was some new motivation for fitness and my weight.  I developed some new goal ‘rewards’ for myself and they are more enticing than those I had for myself before.  I think this will be a better plan for me and it is similar to what worked for me before but updated.

I also bought a new fitbit today, the updated version of what I had before.  I am already enjoying the updates and hope it will also be effective as the last.

One of the other things I discussed with Boss was some small changes to my dresses, although mainly about adding stoning.  He agrees with what I have suggested, and I hope the dressmaker does too.  We have to start working on the smooth dress too.

Speaking of smooth, hopefully in the next couple weeks we will start working on it again.  I am going to do some extra lessons since I have some ‘banked’ from being away.  In a way, it is like learning 4 solos and that is how I plan to approach them.

I can feel myself starting to build momentum and I am glad for it.  I have some other thoughts but I will save them for a post after my lesson tomorrow.

Until then, happy dancing!

Post Comp

This will probably be the first post of a few as I work through all the usual post comp processes.

First, I was successful in achieving my goal of getting through all my dances.  It was close though.  I was coughing so hard after my solo I considered scratching the 5-dance.  Thankfully, with a lot of water, cough drops, decongestants and ibuprofen my lungs settled down and I was able to do the full scholarship without coughing, completing my goal.

My solo was hands down the high point of the day.  I felt good and relaxed going into it and it just clicked together.  It was one of those moments where the audience disappears and I was able to just enjoy the moment and performance.  Really strong comments from almost all the judges, and many people from the audience came up to me after to say how much they enjoyed it. My shining moment from the competition.  I posted the video on the Breast Cancer Ballroom Dancer facebook page if you would like to see it.

Next to the solo, it was probably the 5-dance scholarship that went the best.  Whether it was because I felt no pressure, or I was just determined to get it done, things seemed to click together a little bit for it.  That’s not to say it wasn’t hard.  I messed up the quickstep pretty good and almost tripped Boss, but I pulled it back together and was able to finish strong.

I got all of the routines on the floor .  They weren’t without mishaps, and watching the videos they are obviously new routines that still need some of the bugs worked out.  But what was good was that we were able to sort through and figure out what spots we should look at adjusting going forward, because they just don’t quite seem to work the way they were expected to.There is lots to work on before my next competition.

My placings were not great.  I was last in all of my contested heats except one.  It’s a little strange because while I didn’t expect to do well, I didn’t expect to be last either.  It’s been more than a year since I last competed and so much has changed, so I guess I really didn’t know what to expect, especially with new routines in a fairly new level for me (open silver). I am trying not to focus on it too much, but I do have to acknowledge to myself that I am disappointed with how I placed, but mostly because I am also disappointed with how I looked while dancing.

I know that I was giving my all and trying to pull everything together but I was finding myself a little distracted and unfocused.  I am sure the illness contributed to everything but in the end I felt heavy and slow.  When I see the videos, I see that reflected.  There is just some ‘oomph’ missing that I usually see in my dancing, and my dancing lacked the polish I usually like to bring to the floor.

I am also having a hard time reconciling how my body looks now.  If I had to choose a word, I would say ‘square’.  For whatever reason, I have lost a lot of the curviness I used to have before my surgery. My waist just seems to be lacking definition, so from my ribs to my hips I am almost the same size.  I am trying not to let it bother me, but clearly it does.  I only hope that as I lose more weight, things will distribute better and my curves will come back.

One thing I can definitely say is that this competition has given me the bit of the kick in the behind I have been needing.  I have been struggling to find some really strong motivation lately to keep me focused and zoned in.  Placing as I did at this competition and seeing the videos of my dancing seems to have done that.  I have a better idea of what I would like to see and do with my dancing for now, and that is probably the best thing about any competition.

I want to focus in on silver and open silver for a while, and I want to plan to do a large competition later next year to sort of finish it out.  Not sure if that completely ‘jives’ with what Boss is thinking, but I guess I will see.  He and I are going to sit down and go over things next week before I head overseas for work.

That is really my next project.  I leave on Thursday for 10 days overseas for work.  I am going somewhere I have never been before and I am nervous and excited at the same time.  I have 2 days to get everything together, but it also means a bit of an imposed break from dance.  I am thinking at this point a bit of a break and time for reflection might be a good thing.

Stamina and conditioning are two words I know will be centre of focus over the next little while.  Not just for dance, but in general.  I feel heavy and slow in all that I do and I am getting tired of it.  My stamina is affecting my ability to really do all I want to do and I want to work past it.  I keep reaching a ledge right now where I go from ‘ok’ to ‘limp noodle’ like a flip of a switch.  Part of it is still recovering from all my treatments (2 years is what the doctors say I should expect to struggle with fatigue, etc.), but part of it is so much time spent being unable to work at the level I was.  I see lots of hard work on cardio and endurance in the future.

Well, I will have to put this cold to be now.  I have an interview with The Dancing Housewife tomorrow, so I want to be on the ball for that.

I am sure I will have more to say in the next few days 🙂

Thank you all for your support as I prepared to get back on the floor for this competition!  I don’t usually post photos to the blog, but I will make an exception this time and roll back the curtain.  This is a photo of Boss and I being ‘very serious’ after the standard scholarship.  Love my new dresses from Spirals Designs!

ever-so-serious

Pre-comp struggles

Last night’s practice did not go well.

We were working on doing 5 dances in a row, like the 5-dance scholarship I will do on Saturday, and I wasn’t able to make it all the way through to the end of the Quickstep without my legs giving out on me.  I almost made it, but not quite.

That leaves me very worried for Saturday night.

There a few reasons to consider that may have contributed to the struggle–I am STILL fighting this cold, the practice was right before supper and I was very hungry, and I didn’t get a lot of sleep Tuesday night.  I was also having some belly nerve regeneration pain.

It was very disheartening and it continues to be.  The cold is still holding on strong, and is almost worse.  I am upping my carb intake to try and give myself more energy and I am trying to get some quality sleep.  I am hoping the nerve pain will pass soon, but right now any abdominal compressions or bending forward seems to cause pain.

I think I am feeling disappointed right now because prior to this week I was really looking forward to finally once again doing a competition without being sick or injured.  Doing a competition at ‘full steam’.  It looks very likely at this point that it will be the next competition before that will happen.  My goal for this competition has migrated from putting the routines on the floor to just getting through all the dances without having to stop.  Boss even suggested perhaps standing out the Viennese Waltz for my scholarship, but I hope it does not come to that.

I have a lesson tonight, my last before the competition.  I know we will be going over the solo quite a few times, and I am sure we will also go through the other routines as well. I just hope to get through the lesson today and hope it goes better than yesterday.

On a plus note, my dresses are almost ready and yesterday I had my final fitting.  They look absolutely amazing!  I will pick them up tomorrow before we leave, and I can’t wait to get them on the floor!

Bed head hair

Yep, I asked Boss how he wanted my hair for the competition and his response was that his favourite was how my hair was today.  After being sick for 3 days and not brushing it–THAT is his preference (except he wants it to not move).

So apparently to prepare for this comp I only need to roll out of bed and into make-up.  Well maybe not quite that simple but I am glad I don’t have to try to control it.  It is pretty unruly and curly right now.  I figure some texturizing cream, my ‘glued’ gel and ‘freezing’ hairspray and I should be all good to go.

I am still not feeling better.   Today the cold seems to have moved to my ears so it was making me dizzy and hard of hearing.  I did make it to my lesson today, but Boss knew I wasn’t too well so he kept things simple.

We went through all of the routines except the solo in ‘easy’ mode and slow tempos and reviewed a few of the points from my last lesson.  We just focused on specific steps in a couple of the routines that are in good shape and made some small adjustments that were needed in paso and samba.

I made it through everything although Quickstep made my head spin at the end of my lesson.  I even felt better after my lesson, which I see as a good sign.  Hopefully some decongestants tonight will clear out my ears and all will be well.

The plan right now is to do a 30 min run through of all routines on Wednesday, followed by a final lesson on Thursday.  That is flexible depending on how I am feeling.  The one thing that does concern me a little is that I will be doing a 5-dance event in Standard on Saturday night and I haven’t yet made it through all 5 dances without having to stop.  I hope to rectify that on Wednesday or Thursday.

My dressmaker sent me a ‘preview’ photo of the stoning for my standard dress and I am really amazed at how it looks!  I can’t wait to see the full dress and the latin dress as well.  They should be ready Wednesday.  Both dresses are very different from my previous dresses so I can’t wait to debut them at the competition!

Fingers are crossed that I continue feeling better and the rest of the week goes as planned!

Final Preps

We are heading into my last 3 lessons before the competition.

This Sunday will be my last competitive practice before the competition as well.

Looking over everything, aside from endurance issues, I think I am where I want to be.

Yesterday, we focused on the solo, in running it from top to bottom, then breaking down a few parts to bring them up better.  For a break (ha ha!) we finally were able to review the newer Paso routine.  I am really glad we got to review the Paso routine because I do prefer it to the previous one.  After a couple full run-throughs in Paso, it was back to the solo and doing run-throughs.

I also had received the skirt I will wear for the solo, so it was good to try that out and make sure there are no issues and that my shoes, etc. won’t get caught in it.  All was well and despite a bit of a disastrous run at one point, it ended on a high note with a run-through that was not too bad, minus some feet missteps for me almost at the end.

We recorded the final run (cause there is nothing like adding a camera to feeling exhausted!), and I was looking at the video and there are some moments that are quite cool.  There are a couple of moments where I can see I need to do something a little ‘more’ (I appear to be just standing for no reason), but overall it was in a good place for the amount of time we have left.

I am tapering off my strength training this week, so I spent the time I would usually be training doing some light practice just to run through my routines.  I am able to go from top to bottom on my own now in almost all my routines (still some hiccups in the always elusive foxtrot!), and that too is a good place to be.

My dresses will be ready next week and I can’t wait to see them all stoned and blinged up, not to mention to try them before the competition.

I am looking forward to the practice this weekend and hope it goes smoothly without too much failing of endurance.  My endurance does seem to be improving, so that is a good sign.

I have a lesson tonight and I am not really sure what we will be doing, whether work on specific routines, or running through them, so focusing on the solo more.  I guess I will find out when I get there :).

It is hard to believe it is almost October already.  My October looks to be pretty busy with the competition, followed by some travel overseas for work.  If all gets sorted, I actually won’t have any lessons after the competition until October 26th, which will give a good break to reset and reevaluate, but also is time off.  I am expecting some changes to my strength training routine when I get back as well, so it will be a bit of a fresh start.

Still no luck on the roommate search although I do have some meetings next week.  I hope to sort it out before the competition and really before travelling overseas, as my ability to compete in January (and the future) really hinges on finding a new one.  Fingers crossed.

Putting together the pieces

As expected, today’s lesson was focused in on some of the things that needed work from yesterday.

We started by working on the foxtrot and clarifying the third and 4th line and working through them over and over until they felt really solid, had some shaping to them.  There are some really interesting steps in those lines, but to make them work I have to make sure I do my part right.  We were also working on using my power to travel.

After foxtrot, it was on to quickstep.  again the second and third line to put them together and to clarify little but really important details (especially in quickstep where everything is so fast!).  We fixed some of the iffy parts to make them more solid so neither Boss nor I had to worry about falling.

Again my endurance failed me.  The last two times running through the lines my legs just stopped working.  The last time we both felt me just sink as my steam ran out.  Considering we spent most of the lesson just running over and over through two really tough dances full out, it was a bit of an achievement to make it as far as I did before my muscles started shutting down.  It was also ‘leg day’ at the gym, so they worked really hard today!

I will do my regular workout tomorrow, but after that, no strength training until after the competition to let my muscles rest and be at full strength when I need to be at the competition.

We are getting down to the wire, and to the point where it is just run through, run through, run through, and fix the things that can be fixed in the time we have.  Just build the confidence in the routines.

I can also tell that Boss is already thinking ahead to what we will focus on after this competition, which will be more shaping and upper body work.  Putting all the pieces together.

I pick up the skirt for my solo tomorrow so I can start practicing with it, and my dresses are also really coming along.  I am excited to see them!

Endurance

Of all the things I lost while I was sick, my endurance is the thing I miss the most.  Hands down.

It is also the part I am having the most difficulty dealing with–mostly because it really wasn’t an issue before I got sick.  I was one of those people who could and would dance almost an entire social dance with no break, could do multiple classes in an evening followed by supervised practice, 3+hours and it would barely phase me.

Now I am lucky to get through a full lesson some days.  It’s a slow rebuilding process.

But the important thing is that there has been progress.  Between my first competitive practice a week ago, and the one yesterday, I was making it further through my routines and almost making it to the end of the round.  It’s a small change, but enough to feel good about.

I have noticed lack of endurance in my activities outside of dance, especially in my legs.  I think it hasn’t quite dawned on me how much leg strength I have lost.  One of the things to start doing after this competition is to start focusing on rebuilding more endurance–which is something physio also wants to do for my legs.

In general, I did well this weekend, although I did have a very ‘off’ day on Saturday.  I could feel the effects of the reduction in medication and had several hot flashes with nausea throughout the day.  I also felt exhausted and achy, so I gave myself a break and laid on the couch watching Netflix–something I can’t remember ever doing.

I felt better yesterday and today I have had almost no hot flashes and nausea–just a little bit of a manageable headache.  To say I am relieved it underwhelming.  I am tired, but not exhausted and my muscles also don’t ache as much–even after the practice yesterday.

I have a lesson tonight which I expect will be focused on some of the major points from yesterday, the solo and paso doble, which neither Boss nor I remembered yesterday.

I will be back later 🙂

A day of surprise

It’s amazing how sometimes something can happen and it takes some time just to catch up with it.

I got something completely unexpected when I got into work today. I got an email from my doctor that said I have been approved as medically fit by the headquarters.

This means that I am officially allowed to return to full duties, and that I will be posted from the support unit to a ‘real’ position.  It means that as far as work is concerned, my cancer journey is officially behind me.

It’s a bit surreal.  I have had to read the email a few times today just to remind myself it’s true.  It was completely unexpected, but my doctor expedited my file because I am slated to travel overseas for work in October (after the competition) and the easiest way to permit that was to get sign off as soon as possible.  I thought they were exploring other options and did not know they had asked for my file to be reviewed ASAP.  Usually it takes more than 6 months to get sign-off.

That was the start of a very busy day facilitating media interviews and working on products for my upcoming trip.  I will reveal where it is closer to the time and once tickets are bought (no turning back then), but it will be 10 days in a place I have never been–very exciting!

At dance today, we worked on the Viennese Waltz solo, and that started a bit of another surprise.  Boss started by asking me to show him what I had choreographed for the very beginning of the solo.  He liked my idea, and so it became.  We also got the ending together as well.  By the end of the lesson, we were able to run through the full routine a couple times and recorded it.  I can see I was pretty tired, and some spots that need definite work, but the routine is together!  It’s mainly polishing now.

I generally feel better today–whether it was the news that started my day (which I am still processing), or that the solo is now together and doable, or I am a little pumped from having a really productive day at work.  It was only the very end of my lesson I felt my legs turn to jelly, but I didn’t feel exhausted afterward.  My endurance in general still needs a lot of work to rebuild.

My knees also felt better today.  It seems they are happier on the days I work out my legs, and the day after, but start to flare up on the third day.  It will be something to discuss with my physiotherapist.

Hard to believe but next week I will start tapering down my workouts to allow my body to recover to be in top form for competing.  I always reduce my strength training before a competition and just focus on dance so that my muscles are not fatigued on competing day and I am able to be fresh.

To be honest, part of me still hasn’t quite realized the competition is so close.  It’s like I have been working and waiting forever to get to it, and now that it is almost here it doesn’t seem quite real.  Part of that though may be everything else that is going on.  I am sure that soon enough it will seem too close!