Revisiting old friends

Meaning the latin routines.

I am not sure why, but my energy levels seem to be going from one extreme to the other lately. Monday to Wednesday my energy levels were really high, but then yesterday they seemed to crash and stay down today.

It was another day of struggling through things I normally have no problem with. I am really frustrated with that as the constant change from one extreme to the other makes being consistent with things hard.

Today in my lesson we were able to go through the samba and rumba after a quick review of the final few exercises we didn’t get to on Wednesday.

Still no changes to the exercises, but Boss is taking time to decide what he wants to do. He did come up with a new samba sequence for conditioning using elements from my routine that I need to work on.

Running through both routines went really well, but it is a lot like revisiting old friends and realizing some parts of their lives have changed.

The first tricky thing is to get my mind-set thinking more partner vs solo and that means not being surprised where Boss is, and not going off on my own in the direction I think I need to go.

The second is that as we work through the routines Boss seems surprised to discover there are pieces I either don’t really know or that I am doing something different from what I am supposed to.

This doesn’t surprise me at all because I know exactly where the spots are that I just ‘wing it’ a little because I was never sure exactly what the steps were, and these are the spots where he seems frustrated because I am doing it wrong. Boss has a tendency to imply that I have just made a mistake, not that I am doing something that is now an ingrained habit from months of just ‘winging it’. Over the past few months, he has asked me twice to let him know where the spots are that I am not sure of and told me we were going to review them and for one reason or another it never happened.

And now they are bad habits I have to try to correct. Old friends I am trying to reconnect with.

I am sure I wouldn’t be quite so frustrated if I didn’t feel so wiped by the time I got to my lesson, but work today just seemed to drain me. I got my stitches out this morning so maybe that has effects I don’t realize (not being able to feel where they were or the wound that is healing). My neck and shoulders is also acting up a lot today, with a lot of shooting pains going up the side of my neck from my shoulders without rhyme or reason.

Despite all that, going through the routines did help a lot. Already when I was practicing tonight I noticed myself incorporate the changes and that I was already more aware in my head where Boss at certain points in the routines and what the lead/follow needs to be.

So slowly, I am getting reacquainted with these old friends and figuring out how to reconnect.

They’ll come.

 

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Samba Surprise

Saaay Whaaaaat???

Yes, of all the dances we did tonight, samba went the best. I was even able to do the first 1/3 of the routine with Boss in time with slow samba music. Boss was completely surprised by that.

I was a little less so as I already knew I could do the first 1/4 because of focus practice I had done on it a few weeks ago. I had been able to at least maintain that. The rest of the third following where I usually stop was the surprise for me.

I have slowly been working to try and get to the halfway point, but it is not quite there. After the halfway point there is still pretty much a blank even though we went through the entire routine yesterday (and again tonight).

Considering I am still completely fogged out (this afternoon in first aid I couldn’t remember what number came after 6 in a 10 count twice during CPR practice), my lesson went much better than yesterday. I did ask Boss to break up the lesson into different dances, which he did tonight and definitely helped (although I think he is not too sure).

We started with reviewing the rumba (although not with any music), and after about the halfway point he could see me start to get a vacant stare. We still went through the entire routine before stopping, although the last half is still pretty blank for me. I might be able to reach the full halfway point on my own in practice tomorrow. That’s my hope at least…

One thing that did seem improved in the rumba was the connection, or the consistency of the connection. The work we have been doing is starting to generate ‘triggers’ for me so that I do notice when the connection is missing, and I can feel myself try to re-engage it.

I have to try to work out the timing a bit better on my own tomorrow. I can do it with Boss counting, but when I am on my own the count gets a bit lost without him to lead and prompt my movements.

What I really need to do is go through the steps on my own with Boss correcting and coaching as needed. Once we do that, I am fairly confident I can go away on my own and work out the final pieces and start adding the layers of technique. We didn’t have time to do that today before my brain was full for rumba, so we moved on to the Cha Cha.

The Cha Cha also went better than I expected. There were a lot of blank spots, but there are small sections of the routine that I am starting to do by muscle memory when led, if not quite consciously yet. I am pretty sure Boss could tell when I reached the point where things were no longer computing for me, but we pushed through to the end.

I haven’t worked through Cha Cha on my own yet, so that will be on the docket for tomorrow’s practice. I need to see how far I am able to figure out on my own and I am hoping about half. Some of the footwork gets pretty intricate in the middle, but I do know that usually cha cha is a dance I am able to pick up fairly quickly.

We ended with the samba and were able to go through the first 1/3 twice with the slow music, the second time to make sure the first time wasn’t a fluke. I blanked on a couple of steps, but was able to catch up later. Samba is usually the dance I struggle with learning the most next to paso, so tonight was certainly encouraging.

I hope my lesson tomorrow goes just as well and also has a bit of a surprise in it.

We haven’t done the waltz recently…

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.

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!

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.