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.

 

 

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The Return and End of Smooth

Stopping dance proved to be disastrous for my health.

The day after I decided to stop, I had a complete breakdown and ended up at the ER.  I didn’t think it was possible to get worse than I was, but believe me, it was much much worse.  With everything else, the medication I was on gave me violent mood swings as levels of brain chemicals went up and down until a stable level was achieved.

It was the longest and most difficult 3 weeks of my life.  I really thought I might die, and to be honest, I wished the cancer had killed me.  It was a very very dark time.  On top of everything else, stopping dance actually made the grief I am going through over losing my fertility even more poignant, because I felt as though I had absolutely nothing left to hold on to. I had created a giant hole in my life that I could no longer fill and the little bit of joy and meaning I had in my life disappeared.

But somehow I got through it.  It took a lot of talk with mental health experts, time for medication to kick in and dose adjustments, and a complete reevaluation of my life and dance.

On top of the medical staff, I also (with their encouragement) talked with other dancers in the community (pro/am and amateur), non-dancers and Boss.  I took more than a week to go through and write out all of my thoughts on dance–what was important to me, what I wanted to do with dance, what I felt was missing, what needed to change, and where dance fit into my life–or where I wanted it to fit.  I wrote because that was the best way to express myself and let it all out.  It took me a week and was more than 10 pages, but it helped me find a place for dance in my life–even pro/am.

It took a while, because my energy levels have been quite non-existent and it took some lessons of just talking things through with Boss before I was ready to come back, and we were able to agree on changes that worked for both of us, and hopefully will help to address the issues I was struggling with.

There will be two significant changes to the structure of my lessons.  First, one lesson a week will be devoted to working on showcase/performance routines.  This is to give me an opportunity to be creative and collaborative in dance, something I was missing a lot.  Second, half a lesson every other week will be spent on ‘dance appreciation’.  Time to discuss dance, look at videos of different levels and styles, and develop my ability to think critically about dance and recognize various aspects of it.

My practice is changing as well.  I will still do some drilling, but it will not be the sole focus on my practice, it will be about 2/3rd of it.  The rest of the time will be spent on working through steps and routines as I want to.  The goal of that is to mix time spent drilling, which is more meditative, repetitive, and not requiring a lot of thought, with other aspects of dance that require me to ‘figure out’ and think through what I am working on.

I am also scaling back everything I am doing.  I will be focusing only on international style, and full gold routines for competing.  I will not be competing in smooth anymore.  Boss had wanted to turn the smooth routines into showcase routines, but to me it would be rubbing salt in the wound to work on the routines, but not be able to compete them.

And so ends smooth for me.

It is yet another casualty to cancer.  In all honesty, it hurts a lot, but at the same time I am grateful to still have some way to dance.  My relationships have also taken a huge loss and been damaged through the difficulties of the last month and I do fear they may never really mend.

I saw the surgeon and my hysterectomy will be likely end June/early July.  It will be 4-6 weeks of recovery off of dance and work.  It will be another slow and careful recovery.  The small silver lining is that with a little luck (and I am definitely due!) it will alleviate many of the symptoms from the hormone therapy as I will no longer need ovarian suppression and my hormone levels should fluctuate less allowing my mental health to stabilize.

In the meantime, I wait for a solid date for my surgery and attempt to hold my life together as best I can until then.  Every day is still a struggle, but the past week has seen me become a bit stronger and able to return to strength training.  This week allowed me to return to dance.

I am scared that everything will fall apart again before all of this is finished.  It’s taking a lot to control the depression and anxiety, and I am still in constant pain.  The hot flashes are happening in cycles indicating my ovaries are not as suppressed as they should be.  I have to have another shot in May, but the surgeon told me her goal is for it to be the last one. I truly hope so.

I am taking things one day at a time and trying to live my life as best I can.  I am so far able to work and keep up with it.  Strength training makes me feel better, not drained or exhausted and I am seeing genuine improvement in strength for the first time in almost a year.  In the middle of everything, I managed to finish the first 3 courses of my Masters, and am now working on my 4th.  So far, my lessons have been positive and also leave me feeling better than when I arrived.

I have slowly returned to myself and hope to maintain it.  I have lost much in the last month and I continue to grieve for my fertility–something I expect will continue until after the surgery when it is truly gone.  Things are rocky, difficult, but manageable.

At least for now.

I am back.

Eyes up

This is my new challenge.

As I mentioned previously, when I do my exercises and personal practice, I find it meditative and tend to go a little inside myself and just focus on the sensations of my body moving.

Unfortunately, when I do this I tend to focus my eyes on nothing and typically cast my eyes (and my head) down towards the floor.  It’s a habit which comes back to haunt me a little as when I concentrate, that is my ‘default’ mode.

Yesterday in my lesson, we went through all of my exercises as Boss had already noticed a few things that needed to be addressed.  Number one on his list was that I need to do all my exercises keeping my eyes and head up, with my chest lifted–just as it has to be when in standard position.  Latin exercises are more focused forward.  The biggest thing is to keep my gaze up from the floor.

This shouldn’t be hard to do, but for some reason it just doesn’t quite gel with what I do naturally, so it takes a lot of conscious thought.  But habits are build through perseverance so time to keep on myself and develop a new one.  This will also help with my endurance for maintaining my standard position in the long run.  It certainly is learning a new way to concentrate and focus internally.  It should be a good challenge (like I don’t have enough already!).

For the most part, it seems the exercises are going well, even though it’s only been a week I have been working on them.  Some of the biggest changes came in latin exercises focused on rumba walks (hardly a surprise!) and bota fogos.  It’s good to know that things already seem to be rebuilding.  Boss mentioned we might start working on some sequences this week, but honestly I am in no rush.  I like what we are doing now.

Boss asked me to provide him with some feedback for things I am not sure of on the exercises, but I told him I wanted to wait until after Wednesday’s practice to give myself time to evaluate, and settle into more consistent practice.  I find if I don’t give myself time then things get confusing as my body hasn’t figured out what it is doing in the first place before I start making changes.  I am quite happy with how things are feeling already (as far as consistency) and there are really only a couple exercises our of 18 that continue to vex me.

So now I will add in keeping my eyes up and see how that changes things.  Part of the issue is just being comfortable with myself and not trying to ‘hide’ inside myself too much as I work.  On the one hand, it is great how focused I get, but on the other….

I need to be able to dance ‘out’.

As ready as ready can be

Last lessons before the competition are done!

Today was about putting together last minute pieces to the smooth VW and ironing out a few ‘odd spots’ that creeped up in some of the routines as we were running them today.

I feel very good about where I am right now.  Will the routines go perfect and be as strong as possible? No, I don’t expect that, but I do know that the routines will go as well as they can and I will be dancing them instead of just trying to ‘get through’ them.

I realized earlier this week that I am actually quite proud of myself for making the health decisions I did last month that ultimately led to me getting back to being ‘myself’.  Because of that, for the last month I have been able to train better and harder than I have been able to in over 2 years, and the difference is incredible.

On top of that, I am right ‘on target’ with my studying for the week, and aside from a break to get the mandatory mani/pedi for the comp, I should be able to finish up all the work for this week before we leave, leaving me able to relax some and perhaps even get a ‘jump’ on next week’s work over the weekend.

I have one of my dresses back and ready to go, and the other 2 should be ready by noon tomorrow.   I know my dressmaker has been working constantly to get all the stoning done and what I saw of the dresses tonight look absolutely fabulous.  I can’t wait to wear them and sparkle all over the floor.

I got the instructions/demonstration for doing my hair today and it kept itself up all day through 2 intense lessons, acupuncture and a lot of sweat.  That’s promising 🙂

I hope everything goes as expected tomorrow, and plan to just enjoy the experience competing this weekend.

After all, I have already won–I am able to dance again!

Smoothing Viennese Waltz

Lucky you, you get to be my study break for tonight!

Actually, compared to the weekend, today has been a bit light on studying as I am taking time to do some of the assignments and allow my brain to process the reading I have been doing.

I also had two lessons today (yay vacation!), both of which went a long way to helping me feel a little more calm about the competition this weekend.  The main thing we worked on was the smooth Viennese Waltz, which is probably the weakest routine right now.  We had an opportunity to work in my gym so we were able to look at the alignment of the routines and figure out where it needed to start and where to travel to.

The other aspect of the routine we were working on was making some small ‘tweaks’ to help it flow a little more smoothly.  We made one major change to one of the routine in one of the long lines, but the other changes have been small.  We still have a little more to work out, but we will have another lesson in the gym on Tuesday and it is wider than the studio for working out routines.

My second lesson was about solidifying the changes in VW, as well as going over some of the small issues encountered during yesterday’s practice in cha cha, samba, and paso.  At the end of the lesson, Boss wanted to go through a section of the rumba for himself and to try a styling change in the sliding doors.  One thing we did discover yesterday was that our rumba routine is a bit long now, which makes me sad as my favourite part is the circulating hip twists near the end–which we will likely not be able to do as comps have a habit of cutting pro/am heats short.

I am finding myself feeling a bit nervous and anxious today, but I am pretty sure it is only side effects of the injection last week.  I have been having more frequent hot flashes and it would not surprise me if I had a bit of a ‘hormone surge’ over the next couple days.  It already seems to be calming down though so that is positive.

I have basically ‘mapped’ out the rest of my week to organize and balance school with the competition preps and get all my readings and assignments done. I feel good about where I am and if all goes well I should be able to relax at the comp and just enjoy it without worrying about other things needing to get done.

Another thing of significance today is that it is my birthday.  Another year older and another year surviving cancer!

Wish me luck in getting all my tasks done!

Now, I can ‘dance’

I had a bit of a revelation last night.

Since my focus for this upcoming competition is not just on ‘getting through the routines’, there is a completely different focus now.  Now I can actually ‘dance’ the routines–and it seems like it’s been a long time since I have been able to do that.

It’s created a really positive ‘switch’ in my mind and one that I think I needed.  Last night, we were working through rumba, samba and paso and beginning with rumba this revelation suddenly came to the surface.  Especially with rumba as there are times when I can really move through the timing.

Needless to say, I am suddenly just enjoying how I am dancing much more than I have in a very long time.  Or rather I feel like I CAN enjoy what I am doing without having to worry that my legs will give out or I won’t be able to control something. It’s very liberating.

One of the biggest switch is that now when I ask my body to use a little bit of power, it responds.

We were working on Paso last night, in particular a step called ‘the twists’ which involves me moving around Boss then doing a heal turn before moving around him again. It’s a step that moves a lot and involves a lot of shaping when it is done right.  It also involves changing the ‘epicentre’ of the rotation from one partner to the other.  We were working on this switch last night and for whatever reason, I felt very free in what I was doing as well as strong throughout the movement.

Yesterday seems to be a start of a bit of a reawakening that I think has been coming since I stopped the hormone therapy last month and started to get my hormones under control.  I was feeling some small side effects from the injection yesterday–such as nausea, headaches and light-headedness, but already today I can feel myself experiencing the same recovery of energy I had after the last injection.  Definitely a huge relief being only 1 week from competition.

If I were to summarize how I am feeling, I would say that I really just realized that going to this competition, I can actually compete, instead of feeling like ‘filler’ on the floor.  I am trying to keep control, but I can certainly say that excitement for the competition is starting to build–in a good way.

There is still a lot to do to finish the preparations for this competition, but already I feel more prepared and ready for this competition than I have since 2014.

I am ready to dance.

Ending on a ‘high’ note

Well, I got through the week.

Finished the bootcamp both Thursday and Friday night and also had a lesson on Friday just to tie things up neatly.

The lesson on Friday was mainly a review of my standard and latin routines ahead of the rounds practice tomorrow.  The standard routines went well, although they were just a run through of the steps in practice hold.  After them, we worked on the Paso Doble, which is finally started to come together–at speed.

There were a couple glitches along the way which we had to work out, usually with one of us on the wrong foot (mainly me) but we were able to run it from top to bottom at speed without stopping which is encouraging ahead of the practice tomorrow and two weeks before a competition.

After Paso, we ran quickly through the cha cha to try out the change I made to the beginning (which worked!), but this is where we started to run into a bit of trouble.

I had been feeling a little ‘off’ since Wednesday and the feeling has gotten gradually worse since then.  It’s hard to explain but I can almost feel my hormone levels creeping up and today I turned into a bit of an emotional wreck–a sure sign.  My head feels all fuzzy and behind and this is what started happening in cha cha–I just felt slow and detached from what I was doing.  Boss found I wasn’t quite ‘with it’ and I wasn’t using his connection to do my steps.  I have to agree it was like I was stuck in my own world.

After cha cha, we worked on jive, and this just went from bad to worse.  I kept mixing up the steps (even though less than a week earlier I knew them), I wasn’t forward enough and as such I just wasn’t connecting through the steps and they just weren’t working.  I wasn’t even able to really follow the lead I was getting.

It was super frustrating to feel myself lacking focus and essentially unable to pull it back–especially after the rest of the week had been so great.  It makes me more than a little nervous about the practice tomorrow because I know that today I feel even worse and I don’t see tomorrow as being better.  I am due for my next ovarian suppression injection on Wednesday and I have a feeling the effects may have worn off a bit through the last week.  I feel very scattered and tired when I want to be focused and energetic.

Unfortunately, all I can do at this point is take tomorrow as it comes, and accept that things might not be as strong as I would like them to be.  In one way, this is a good opportunity to see how I do when I am feeling like this.  One thing I do know is that after my injection, I will feel better and my energy and focus will return.

I finally saw the dietician today and we had a great discussion.  We suggested some small changes I can make and I will see her again next weekend.  For the most part, what I am doing makes sense, it just needs a few tweaks here and there to try and get things working again and for the weight to come off.  Having steady hormones will make a difference for sure.

I also had a dress fitting today for my smooth dress and it is looking so great!  Some of the stoning is done and the final touches of the sewing is all set to go now.  I am waiting on some stones to arrive for it and my fingers are crossed they arrive in time!  My other dresses are really coming along as well–my dressmaker has been stoning up a storm–especially on the latin dress.  I am definitely going to sparkle at the competition.

So that is how my week has ended and I hope it starts with a good practice tomorrow.

Wish me luck!

First lessons of 2017

I have already had 4 lessons this year.

Sheesh. Seems to be a lot.  On top of that, I am participating in a ‘Ballroom Boot Camp’ this week, which is extra work.

Yesterday’s first lesson was a styling lesson focused on Cha cha and jive.  It was good to work out some of the points and timing of the styling.  I need to think some on what I do in the beginning of the cha cha though, I have a bar that works and another bar that isn’t quite there yet.

Jive was tricky.  Of all the dances, it seems that I have forgotten the most about jive technique–staying forward, keeping steps compact, using my core to lift my legs. It was a good review though and we worked out some of the styling points in that routine as well.

My second lesson yesterday worked through a few different pieces of standard and smooth tango.  We made some changes in the standard tango last week so we needed to review them and put them in context. In the smooth tango we reviewed some of the changes we made there.  Lots of detail work, but all went well.

The boot camp was fun–it was some circuit training, breathing and stretching.  I am having some issues with my neck right now, which hindered me a little, but I am hoping the tension will let go soon.  It has happened before, but much worse–my entire trapezius went into spasm and seized up.  I couldn’t turn my head almost at all when that happened.  So far, it is not that bad and it does seem to be moving around and changing which is a good sign.  I have been doing a lot of preventative work including heat, voltaren, gentle stretching and trying to avoid anything that hurts.

Today we started with running through parts of the smooth tango, and then it was smooth Viennese Waltz the rest of the time–working through the steps and running them with the music.  We did forget one section, but we did get a lot of progress done.

My lesson tonight was also focused on the smooth VW.  Running through bigger chunks of the routine in time with the music and making some small adjustments as needed.  It’s a pretty intense routine and I have to hand it to those who dance smooth for being able to put all the pieces together in a VW routine.  I am looking forward to running it more in a bigger space and now I know what part of the routine I need to sort out on my own.

Tomorrow we should run through and discuss the styling for the smooth tango.  It’s not that the styling is complicated, but Boss and I need to agree on it in order for it to work.  After my lesson, there is the next session of the bootcamp, which I am looking forward to.

Already a busy and positive start to 2017!

Dance Day

If you’re on vacation, why not dance?

It was a busy but really productive day today in my dance world.

First, I had my styling detail session with Boss, or at least the first session.  We worked through rumba, paso and samba, which are probably the easiest routines for us to work on for styling as a lot of it was either already worked out some, or has a lot of time in hold (paso and samba).  It was really productive though to go through each routine in detail and figure out things like where we connect, where I need to make sure my hands are so we can connect (hard to do an underarm turn if my hand is down!), and to try a little bit of some new things (skirt work!).

Going through the styling details like that also helped cement the routines together and provide some symmetry where we were missing some before.  I finally worked out my shimmy part in samba–I just have to keep my confidence through it!

Later in the day I had a dress fitting for my smooth dress, and it is really coming along well!  It was also Boss’s first time seeing the smooth dress, and he seemed to be pleasantly surprised to like it.  We only had a few details to adjust and sort out, but it is well on it’s way to coming together.  I also got to see all the stones for it, and I got to see some of the stoning progress on my latin dress (which looks So amazing now!).  I am really excited for how all of the dresses are coming together.

In the evening I had a regular lesson, although not at the usual hall due to the holidays.  We spent the lesson working through the waltz routine in little details, fixing the places where I just didn’t seem to keep it together.  We spent the most time on the fallaway and slip pivot to the contra check, and it finally clicked together for me how all those pieces work together and how the contra check is supposed to work.  Because the hall was smaller we were limited to doing small segments at a time, but that worked really well.

It was nice to spend some time on standard today, it’s been a little while as we have been working getting the smooth and latin routines together.  Boss told me today we are making a little bit of a change from what we usually do.  Instead of using the legs to travel, he has me focusing more on using the legs for swing, sway and rotation.  It’s a small change, but I like it a lot.  I feel a little more controlled in moving, and finally I can feel standard starting to take shape beyond just the steps.

We did discover a bit of an anomaly in how I get into position.  I have a habit of stepping too far forward, which puts me too close, but I also tend to lead with my left side forward, which also puts me too far to the left side.  It took a little bit of adjustment and trial and error, but I realized I was doing that because with the loss of sensation through my chest, lower belly and upper thighs, I started using my left hip as my ‘grounding point’ to figure out when I was in position.  Unfortunately, this tends to wrap me too much around Boss’s side, so we were working on finding new ways and a new grounding point and a visual clue to help me out.  What seems to work for now is to make sure I come straight towards Boss, aiming to put the edge of my right side in his centre, and to only take two steps forward (left foot, right foot) and let Boss close the gap if needed from there.  It’s a small change of habit that I am sure I am going to have lots of practice with over the next few lessons.

Boss said today that the intent is to keep working through the standard routines over the lessons this week and I am looking forward to digging into the rest of them some more (waltz is the easiest dance for me to pick up, so the rest should be challenging).

One of the biggest advantages to how I have been feeling lately is that my mind is sharp and focused again and that really showed today.  I can feel all of the information from today processing in my brain and I can tell it’s going to stick.  I have also had more energy lately which is also helping a lot and I am really feeling a lot like my old self.

As I continue to feel better, it amazes me the details that are coming back.  Things that I used to do automatically (like travel, press into the floor, stretch through my whole body) are suddenly coming back–and I didn’t even realize I had stopped doing them.  I just feel so much stronger overall and more connected with myself than I have been in a very long time–and not only in dance.  It’s such a relief.

Even my lessons have been a bit more intense requiring a lot more effort lately and I have been a bit proud of myself for being able to step up.  It seems like it has been a long time since I have had lessons that have been a lot of ‘go go go’ and I am really enjoying that.  I hope that my endurance is also improving.  For the first time in a long time, I feel like I am really preparing for a competition–not just going through the motions.

It’s back to work tomorrow, at least partly, and I have lessons every night the rest of this week, and will have another styling session on Friday.

I keep saying it over and over–but it’s really true now.

I’m Back.

Smooth Viennese

That was the focus of tonight’s lesson.

We got it to a really good point today where we were able to run through it a couple times without any major issues.  We haven’t tried it with the music yet, but I don’t think we are far off from it.

I like smooth Viennese Waltz.  There is just something about it that appeals to me–perhaps it is just the flow of movements at high speed. Perhaps it is this routine too–the choreography has some really neat and unexpected elements that borrow from another dance–and not one you would expect.  No spoilers though 🙂

We also fixed a passage in the tango that needed a little bit of adjusting so it is not quite so rushed and flows a little smoother.  Slowly things are coming together.

I spent an hour at the gym today working through the Paso like I needed to do.  It was good that I did it as I discovered a couple places where no matter how hard I tried, I am just not able to do the choreography in time with the music–not even close.  I mentioned one of the places to Boss and he was able to make a small fix which helps a lot (so I don’t feel like I am chasing after the music), but I haven’t had a chance to mention the other place yet.  I will have to put that into an email for him so I don’t forget.

I was also working through some of my rumba styling and steps in the squash court (the gyms were being used and they are usually an isolated place with a wood floor), and one of the other dancers who also works in the same place I do (and uses the same gym) popped in to ask me if I was practicing rumba (yay–she could tell!!), and was wondering what I was preparing it for.  It’s really funny how small the world is some times.

The other thing I have been working on myself is one section in samba.  The styling for this section is absolutely killing me.  Nothing a do feels ‘right’.  It all seems too contrived or forced.  I think one of the biggest problems though is that I am not comfortable with the steps–not the mechanics of doing them, but just being comfortable in my own skin doing them.  It’s 12 beats of shaking and shimmying on my own and I am trying to get comfortable and confident about it, but I am just not there yet. I just have to keep doing it over and over until I am comfortable–but the problem is I feel self-conscious about it when there is an audience.

My latest ‘mini-project’ is spins.  I am working on just doing them as much as possible to a) build up my dizzy tolerance and b) build up my confidence and strength in them.  Basically, whenever I go into my kitchen I make myself do 10 spins each way.  That’s enough at a time for now, although I am thinking of switching to 20 on one foot per time to push my tolerance more.  I used to be a lot stronger at them and I really want to be again.  Especially in paso I need to get my spins faster and stronger for the choreography to work. Consistency. That is the name of the game right now.

One more lesson this week tomorrow.  I don’t know what Boss has planned, but I hope it will be a review of everything–especially smooth.  It would be good to run through all the routines with the music.

I started my new medication today and so far so good.  We will see what tomorrow brings.  My hormone levels are definitely going down as I am feeling much more calm and clear headed lately and much less emotional.  Thank goodness.

1 month to the competition and all 13 routines seem to be in a good place and coming together.  Next week should also bring an update on my dresses and I am really looking forward to that!  I wasn’t able to do a fitting this week because my dressmaker was sick, but I hope she is feeling a lot better!

It really amazes me the difference in how I feel this week from last.  I am capitalizing on those good feelings as much as I can!