A Demonstration

I performed a demonstration with Boss last night at a charity fund-raiser.

We did a waltz routine which he choreographed on Wednesday and taught to me an hour before the event started.

The floors at the hall were a type of rubber and not wood, so needless to say they weren’t the easiest to dance on. Because of that, and a small space we were able to keep our dancing compact and the routine included a lot of line figures.

It went really well and seemed to be really well received. We were one of 5 couples doing demonstrations of different styles of partnered dancing (ballroom, west coast swing, blues, salsa, and fusion) to demonstrate how connection works through dancing, the theme of the fundraiser.

Doing the demonstration was fun, but it made me realize that I actually don’t remember the last time I performed (other than the competition last year), and what surprised me more was that I missed it.

Even though it was more or less a low-key demonstration it was fun and nice to go out and connect with an audience and share dance with them.

Aside from the demonstration, it was also fulfilling to learn a routine with some advanced steps in an hour and be able to perform it later that evening at a high level. I think that speaks to and gives insight and confirmation for myself just how much I have grown, even since my last competition.

It was a boost I needed after an insane week at work that involved pants publicly splitting, needing antibiotics, and watching my workload surge to the point I will need a couple hours this weekend to catch up and get back on track.

It also got the wheels turning in my head on the assignments for my current school course which I also desperately needed.

All that from a simple demonstration.

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Masters post #1 – The World Cup and women

As I mentioned, as part of my current course for my masters I have a requirement to write 4 blog posts on stories in the media.

I have chosen to write about my thoughts on the following CTV media story Russian women push back at shaming, which was published on July 15th, the day of the World Cup Final.

You all know that I am an avid fan of watching ballroom dance, but the other sports tournaments I go out of my way to watch are the World and Euro Cup. I don’t follow soccer any other time, but watch as many tournament games as I can. I like the dynamics of soccer and the fact that in many cases the winner is not chosen so much by skill or strategy (although it certainly helps!), but by elements of luck at play. You can never really predict what is going to happen.

This is much like this article, which is actually one of several that have been published by different outlets throughout the World Cup that attempt to highlight what many feel are archaic Russian values towards women.

As the title suggests, this article speaks about the public shaming that has been a theme throughout the World Cup which at it’s worse suggests that Russian women are shamelessly seeking “liaisons” with all the foreigners come to play and watch the tournament. From there, what often follows in these stories is an examination of Russian values towards women and how ‘behind the times’ they are with the west.

With the west.

That is a phrase that grinds me a little. Who are we in the west to say that our values are superior and that any society that doesn’t hold them are backwards or behind?

Going a step further, my first thought on seeing these stories is “Why is this news?”

Granted, the Burger King offer was certainly not a shining moment of marketing. The comments made by Pletnyova and Besedin are extremely off side.

But I have a hard time thinking that the behaviours, attitudes towards them (both for and against), and commentaries are much different from what could be observed at any international sporting event — even in the U.S. or Canada.

On top of that, there seems to be an assumption that any woman seen interacting with foreign fans (such as the one in the photo with this article) is doing so with the sole motivation of developing a sexual relationship.

Like anywhere, I am willing to bet some are, some aren’t, and some are just ‘going with it’ to see what happens. Overall, I would hazard to guess the main goal for everyone is to have fun, whether with other Russians, Europeans, South Americans or otherwise.

What a novel idea!

This is news to those of us in the western world because for the most part it plays into the stereotypes and prejudices we already have of eastern European society and values. This is the type of commentary and controversy we expect to see — that women are shamed and repressed and live in a country akin to the 1950s where few are allowed to work or hold powerful positions. We in the western world enable this to be news.

It would be naive to think that a major tournament could take place in Eastern Europe, particularly Russia, without any sort of examination of society. Similar stories appeared around the Olympics, especially leading up to them.

I think instead of focusing on the surface message of this story, there are messages much deeper if we want to see them. There are some similarities, not just differences. Russia has feminists (which is generally known), but the story of Mariam strikes me as an everyday story — two people met through chance and formed a relationship. It just happens one is Russian, one is Mexican.

Sporting events, such as the World Cup do provide opportunities for global engagement and interaction. That is one of the aims and goals of most international events. Hosting one inevitably brings a magnifying glass onto the hosts. In many ways this is a reason to bid to host an event such as this. It’s a chance to highlight one’s country, including those any issues which may be abundant in that society. But instead of comparing West vs East, maybe what we need is a better understanding of Eastern European culture as a whole – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

I argue that understanding is strongly lacking in North America, and there is little desire to learn beyond what mass media tells us (which often is exactly what we want to see and hear).

It’s too bad. We certainly have our own good, bad and ugly too. Makes me wonder if the shoes were reversed how a tournament hosted in North America would be covered by Russian Media.

All of this to say – be willing to dig below the surface of news stories about other societies.

There are always two sides to every story.

Sway

And so it begins.

In all honesty, I have been secretly hoping that somehow I could just work through standard without having to actually figure out sway.

The problem is actually not with sway itself, I do do it, but it is more with the way to which is it referred in dance — namely ‘left’ and ‘right’.

I am really directionally challenged. Even natural and reverse turns I can’t really associate with the directions they turn. I know one goes one way, and the other goes the other way. One starts with one foot going back and the other starts with the other foot.

It’s just not how my mind works to think of turns. It’s one of the reasons I have so much trouble leaning visually. I can’t seem to translate what I see to what I need to do. Looking in the mirror is even worse.

So today in my lesson we were going through one of the exercises I am doing for standard which we call a continuous hover cross (no idea what others call it). I have been able to work through the footwork and rotations, so today Boss asked me to start adding in the sway.

And so the trouble started.

He showed me what sway I need and where it changes telling me it starts with right sway then changes to left (or vice versa, already can’t remember). What sticks with me is that it starts with my left side up (meaning the elbow I am looking at in closed position), followed by a switch.

I am not quite sure that is what Boss meant. There is some sort of rotation needed for sway, apparently from my knees, but I also know my top line tilts one way or the other. The change of the top line is what I can easily understand and see.

Boss could see my confusion and I couldn’t really explain to him while working through that step what I need to understand and make it work so I can focus on it.

But perhaps I need just some basics to get my mind working to figure out how I can refer to the sway positions that I can then relate to my body position.

The other problem is that I am not even sure how many sway positions there are. Somehow I think there are more than 2.

Somehow, I am going to need to sort this out.

Emerging

There’s been a change for me recently.

It has taken until now to fully understand what it is. It’s actually quite simple — I am finally beginning to emerge past my illness. It’s finally starting to be in the distance of my rearview mirror, instead of sitting in my rear window.

It feels good, like baggage I am leaving behind.

Part of it is that I feel as though I am moving forward instead of just trying to get where I was. It’s not that I am back where I was, but that I am just taking a different road to some place new.

It’s interesting, new, and unexpected. Not that I really thought I could go back, but just that I didn’t think forward would come so soon.

I am seeing progress in a lot of different areas of my life and that momentum is what is pushing me forward. I feel as though I am ready to take on new challenges again and to conquer new goals.

I feel strong again, mentally and physically. That’s the biggest difference in the last few weeks. I feel grounded and content. I like where I am now.

Oncologists are still going to be part of my life for at least a few more years, but my appointments with them are pretty straight-forward and not much different from an appointment with my regular doctor.

I am not on any regular medications and haven’t been for so long when I had to pick up a temporary prescription lately the pharmacist remarked he didn’t know I was still here!

It was the same when I saw my family doctor about my neck and shoulders this week – he remarked it had been a while since he had seen me (granted he’s my alternate as my usual doc is on maternity leave).

It occurred to me that I no longer organize my life according to doctor appointments (and until that occurred to me, I hadn’t realized I was doing that!).

I have thought about changing my name on here. When I first created the blog and chose my name I wanted something that talked about my journey but that could also be still used when I was ready to change it. That is why the address is “bcballroomdancer”. I am a dancer who lives in British Columbia, Canada.

I don’t think I am completely ready to make that change yet, but the time will be coming soon. I still have things to offer those who are dealing with breast cancer, its treatments, and side effects, and my own journey is not over (I still have side effects myself) and I don’t want to lose those things.

Do you have any thoughts? I would love to hear them. Perhaps you have an idea for a name that still represents my journey, but is more obvious I have survived?

I feel like I am coming out of my cocoon, but I am not quite sure I am a butterfly.

Yet…

An experiment

Ballet.

Yep, for the month of July I am taking adult beginner ballet twice a week.

I have had one class so far and it was interesting. We are starting with covering the basic positions and got to 4th. We did some demi plies and tendues.

I am doing better than I thought I would. The main thing I have to watch is to not let my right foot roll too far forward in some of the positions and put too much pressure on my knees. I actually have a pretty good turnout (on both sides!) which also surprised me. I am very interested to see how this goes.

I decided to try this as Boss has been recommending it for a few years now and finally I found a brief workshop that happened to work with my schedule. It’s a good way to connect with my muscles and use them in a slightly different way, as well as create body awareness in places I have very little and develop some movements that will help, especially with latin.

I love how structured the class is at the school I am working at. Baby steps the entire way, but important steps. Slow and steady. Right up my alley.

There is even potential to continue in the fall, depending on what happens with work and how the rest of the month goes. After all, it been only one lesson.

I just decided I wanted to do something different that scared me a little, and ballet seemed to fit. It’s a challenge and something fresh. So far, a great decision.

I also decided to experiment in another area of dance – a new standard dress working with a new designer. I love all of my competition dresses I have had, but I wanted to get outside the box and little and see what someone new might suggest. I was able to meet with the new designer over the weekend and I am waiting now to see what she has come up with. She has some interesting ideas I would have never considered so I am curious to see how it turns out. Yet another thing that is a bit outside my comfort zone and scares me a little.

I think I need to stretch myself with these things. I have gotten a bit too comfortable lately and while that is not a bad thing by any means it does limit growth. Even in my lessons with Boss there is a bit of a theme of me staying in my comfort zone (especially in standard) when I really need to push myself out of it and start challenging myself a little more. It’s not that what I do is ‘easy’, but I am comfortable with the challenge I have been presented and that I can overcome it without too much time.

I did have a lesson tonight that also surprised me. One of my new exercises is focuses on a sequence of New York variation in cha cha from our open routine. 2 weeks ago Boss gave me a little bit of direction for it, and then left me to work out the rest. I have been working on it in detail trying to focus on the points he mentioned, but I didn’t feel like I fully understood what he was looking for.

It appears I did, for the most part, without even realizing it. What started as an intention to just ‘go through the exercise’, actually turned into being able to work through the entire sequence in detail in time with the music together with Boss. There were a few points to work through in the beginning, but once I figured out what was needed I was able to adjust and adapt and pull the piece together.

It’s a key section of the routine I managed to progress quite a bit in less than two weeks. Now I have further details and adjustments to work on when I do my exercises for the next few weeks, and I know I can do it at speed. A real surprise overall!

The other thing I asked from Boss, now that I am feeling fairly stable with all but 3 of my routines, is some direction for working on them further on my own. I am hoping that will help relieve some of the stagnation and feeling of being unproductive and only focused on steps when I work through routines on my own. I feel like I have pieces here and there were I apply things, but it is quite jumbled and all over the place with no consistency, so essentially I have asked Boss to help me organize my practice better.

Finally, next week I begin a new course for school and this blog will be part of it! For this course I have to write 4 blog posts reflecting on a story in the media related to a sport and it’s impact on society. I am still waiting further details, but the posts will appear here, so stay tuned and thanks for participating in my education!

It looks to be an experimental summer!

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.

A Costly Loss

I lost my backpack in London.

It was a stupid mistake. I had placed it on an overhead shelf on the bus that took us from the ship to the airport and then forgot to grab it when I left the bus.

It still hasn’t surfaced and I am pretty much out of hope that it will.

With it I lost my computer with all my school files, dance videos, records, budget sheets, music and documents, an MP3 player, e-reader, apartment, work and scooter keys, fitness bands, and the charging cable for all my electronics.

At least I had my passport in my pocket along with my wallet and phone and was still able to get home.

I was also delayed more than 2 hours for my final flight and didn’t get home until well past midnight. I had to wake up my roommate to let me in the apartment. Thank goodness he was home!

Needless to say, my first day home was spent acquiring new versions of what I had lost. I have a paper due for school this weekend, so priority one had to be a new laptop. So far it has been the costliest replacement, although I haven’t looked into replacing my scooter key yet…

Since I had to buy a new laptop, I took the opportunity to try to address the issue I have been having with my neck by getting a larger size one than what I had, returning to the size I had before. Since I am not looking down as much to work or working so compactly, I am hoping that will at least give some relief to my neck and shoulders as I move forward.

I have had two lessons since I returned, both yesterday and today. We are working on putting together the last two routines (paso and fox) and Boss filled me in on his plan moving forward. It’s a good plan, but ambitious. I can tell it is still evolving some, which is perfectly ok with me. I am interested to see how it plays out.

One of the things I am most looking forward to is spending the entire summer at home without any surgeries (minus a very small nipple revision later this week that is done in office) or other obstacles. For the first time in almost 4 years I have a nice block of time to really focus on what I want to do. I can work consistently and can’t wait!

The fall is already looking busy. As of right now, I will be away for 6 weeks just before Christmas for work. I am looking forward to it and hope it does come to pass.

For now, I am definitely jet-lagged and feeling the full effects even though I seem to be adjusted back to my own time zone. My trip was pretty intense just with all the touring we did, so I can’t say it was restful, but it was amazing to see all the different places. 4 more countries to add to my list of places I have been.

I am giving myself the week to be a little more low-key before fully ramping back into the swing of things. Getting my paper done is my main priority this week and resting up some. I am almost done the most intense course of my degree and believe me I am counting down the days. Despite the setbacks, I am still fairly on track and now that I am home I can focus on it more.

I will try to write some more tomorrow or Wednesday as I have some post-vacation dance thoughts to share. As usually seems to be the case, the time off of dance seems to have led to some processing and a few pieces coming together from the step back.

Until then, I will mourn the loss of my bag, and move on.

Quick cruise update

Greetings from the Atlantic!

I am on day 12 of my 14 day cruise and currently sailing from Inverness to Edinburgh. Following that we sail back to Southhampton to start the journey home.

It’s been a pretty amazing trip despite some small bumps. All of the ports have been amazing and I really recommend everyone take an opportunity to cross Iceland off any bucket list they may have.

I managed to get my group project for school done about a week early, so that is a load off! My weekend when I get home will be my next paper but I should be in a good place for it.

The first week at sea I was pretty diligent about eating, practice and weight training, but have relaxed a little the last couple days.

I am a little concerned because I seem to have upset my back and am getting pulling sensations down my legs, especially the right side when I sit or lie. It’s been 2 days now and can’t seem to get relief. I am hopeful it will settle once I get back to normal at home.

That’s all for now, back at things when I get home late Friday night, and a full summer yo build consistency without any travel.

At least so far.

Blogger Appreciation Award

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I have recently been recognized for the Blogger Appreciation Award, and I want to take a moment to complete the rules of:

  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you.
  2. Use the award image.
  3. Write a paragraph of something positive about yourself.
  4. Nominate and notify as many bloggers as you wish.

So for number one, I was nominated by DWall of Facing Diagonal Wall , with an overwhelming description of my blog and what he likes about it. I think it was a bit overwhelming because as much as he enjoys and admires my blog, his blog was one of the first ballroom blogs I stumbled across and strongly contributed to me beginning to write here. When I found his blog, I read a few posts and related to it so much I went back to the beginning and read they entire blog in almost one sitting. Having been doing pro/am and experienced the franchise system, I understood a lot of what he was writing. At that time, I was going through chemo and it got me thinking that blogging might be as an outlet to air some of my frustrations, work through the stress and provide information for others struggling like I was. And so this blog was born.

Something positive about me–like DWall said in his post, I am a fighter. I have been through a lot and still keep smiling and pushing forward. When faced with choices between fighting on or giving up, I always choose fight, even if I have to change my tactics and retreat a little before finding that way forward.

There are two other bloggers I want to nominate, both of which also contributed to inspiring me to start my own blog and share my story. I follow both of them regularly and never miss a post.

The first is Adventures in the Dance Kingdom by The Thesbian. I love his cast of characters and lego figure photos he includes with every post. I can’t imagine the time it takes to plan and stage each photo. He writes about being a male amateur competitor and some of the quirks and quarks that come with that and shares his journey and interactions with other in his Kingdom in great detail. He has embarked on a new journey recently with his competing and I wish him and SparkleDancer luck!

The second is The Girl with the Tree Tattoo. I really hope to meet this amazing lady some day. Her blog and experiences, while she focuses on a different style, very much echo my own. We both have moments of self-doubt we overcome and we both are struggling to pro/am competitors and all the challenges that includes. She is an avid writer (with 2 ballroom dance e-books out!), and very passionate about her blog and dancing. She is very open and regularly posts videos and photos, something that I am much less inclined to do. I love how she always puts herself out there.

I am so very humbled and encouraged to see that my writings (and occasional rants) are enjoyed by so many in so many ways. As things start to settle in my life (in theory), I plan to try to write a little more often as I continue my journey with Boss in dance and recovering and surviving. You all help keep me motivated and inspired.

Happy reading 🙂

Transcribing routines

I have a big task before me.

Before I can start working on routines, I have to have them written out. So, with the new latin routines I just received I have to take the time to go through the video and write down what I see the lady doing to make it relevant to me. Then I have to go through again and figure out how the timing fits with what I have written.

I have transcribed the rumba so far. It took me more than 3 hours to write out a 2 minute routine. There was a lot of going back and forth over the same 10 seconds of video to double check things like what foot was moving or supporting (I can be directionally challenged, so this means a lot of double checking), and then figuring out the best was to describe the movement I see in the video.

Since these are open routines, few of the steps are fully recognizable, although many are variations on popular steps. The problem is ‘sliding doors variation’ doesn’t really tell me anything.

This weekend I hope to get through either the cha cha or samba. I haven’t decided which yet as cha cha may be easier, samba is trickier because I have a harder time recognizing steps.

I hope it won’t take another 3 hours!

On the standard side, we are working through the open tango. We were able to more or less walk through it tonight from top to bottom with a couple hiccups here and there. I have the steps written out, but already there are slight variations as we work through the routine. I am waiting for the final version from Boss with the timing as that will help me start to work through it on my own.

Anyone else finding this week really long? I don’t know why, but I find it hard to believe it’s only just Friday. On the other hand, I feel like I still have a lot to do before returning to work next week! Perhaps it is just that this has been a productive week for me, but quite repetitive doing similar things every day (bit of school, bit of dance, going to the gym, repeat). My body can feel the extra activity I have been doing this week as well and it is definitely tired.

I actually expect that I will feel pretty exhausted by the end of next week, but that it will get better after that as I adjust back to my full routine.

Just keep breathing and on top of the things I need to do.

Like transcribing videos.