Digging in

We are starting to blend working on steps with technique.

I had a lesson Thursday night which was a bit of a hybrid.

First, we worked on the jive and adding another small section for me to work on while I am away. If all goes well, I should be able to have it down so I can learn the final piece when I get back, leaving only Paso and Foxtrot to learn.

Once we had gone through the new section a couple times, Boss decided to try the jive with slow music (almost half speed) and see how it went.

It actually went well, and better than he expected. It certainly went better than I expected!

Actually, once it was put in context with Boss it made a lot more sense than what I have been working on. There was one spot I wasn’t doing right (it’s much easier than my version–whew!!), and one spot that I couldn’t quite get to in the timing, but even Boss remarked that he wasn’t quite ready for me to have the steps down as well as I did.

And, it’s actually quite a fun little routine. I can’t wait to try it a little faster, but I am nervous about it at the same time.

The second half of the lesson was focused on one of the promenade footwork pieces in tango.

We have worked on it before, but we were working on my position and tightening it up a bit and making it look sharper. Promenade position continues to be a bit of an achilles heel for me, but it seemed like I made a little bit of progress.

One of the more difficult things I am struggling with right now is best described as trying to balance as a couple vs balancing on my own. It requires me to keep my energy and position forward into Boss so that he can do the same to find a point where we more or less balance against each other.

I always feel like I am going to push Boss over (which is actually more or less what I am supposed to feel like). It’s still a bit of trial and error though because there is such a small window where it isn’t too forward or too back.

In the tango, there is one piece in the sequence we were working on that it is crucial we do this or one or both of us will lose our balance. By the end of the lesson I seemed to have gotten more consistent with finding it, but I could still feel the doubt in my mind every time we worked through that section. I am sure it will come with time and confidence.

At the end of the lesson, one of the other students recorded the sequence of us doing it in time with regular tempo music. I was pretty surprised at how it looked. The sharpness really stood out, and there was only one place where I have to have a look at my timing as my feet were quite out-of-sync with Boss. Overall, that is going to be a pretty impressive section in our routine.

Digging into a couple sections in my routines really went a long way to helping me feel more productive in my work and helping me to understand a bit more of the context to the full routine rather than just my part. It’s funny because a lot of the things we have worked on are coming out when we dance together, often without me realizing it (or Boss sometimes), which is a pleasant surprise.

When I get back from my work trip next week, Boss told me we are going to start digging even more into the routines as we finish up going over the steps for the 2 we haven’t looked at yet and I am looking forward to that. I have 7 lessons between when I return from this trip and when I leave for my next just after the long weekend in May. I hope that I will be able to get the sequence of steps for all 9 routines down enough that I can keep working through them while I am away.

After that second trip, I should be here all summer and I am looking forward to it. I just realized it is the first summer since I was diagnosed where I am not on any therapies, not recovering from any surgeries, and not biding time waiting for a surgery. It’s the first summer that is completely my own. What a concept!!

It should leave lots of time for digging before the fall.

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Ok, Let’s Twist

I think I finally figured out what Boss has been asking me to do.

Better than that, I can actually feel when I do it and when I don’t.

It took the entire lesson to figure it out, but now that I have, it should be easier to start incorporating it and finding the places it should probably go.

Another mini-mountain semi conquered. I was even able to incorporate it into my samba conditioning but it took until the very last set to figure it out.

We also went through the samba, cha cha and jive together today, which was really helpful. We didn’t do any with the music, but just going through them together helped me to figure out a little better where Boss is during the steps. It helped me to identify a couple of places where I am turned in the wrong direction, but overall it seemed to go good.

Boss was already starting to identify some places that will need work, and he commented that one of the reasons I am having such a hard time getting the routines up to speed is because I am not using my power enough, and I am not twisting my body enough.

Fair enough. The twisting we have been going over and I just tonight starting to figure out that piece.

The power piece — well that is a whole other story, and one I will save for a little later this week. For now, I will say he is right and it is something I have noticed and have been thinking about.

Now that I have figured out the twisting, it gives me something to focus on while I am working through my routines. I certainly left my lesson intrigued.

At chiro today, the Dr. made some adjustments to my feet and right side of my pelvis and hip to try and see if he can’t get my right foot going in the right direction. He gave me a stretch to do on top of it and pretty much we will see what effect it has. Already, I can feel a difference and I have noticed an increased range of motion when turning inside. It’s optimistic for standard, which we are going to look at on Wednesday.

Perhaps this might fix my other twist.

Foxtrot Vs Waltz

I discovered an interesting thing tonight.

I honestly probably always knew it, but it never struck me so obviously before.  Perhaps it was just the order I was working tonight.

During my own practice, I worked on getting down the sequence of the silver foxtrot routine (which I was able to do–Yay me!).  Following that, I switched to waltz.  What surprised me was discovering that the footwork and movement in the two dances is actually quite different.  The way I discovered it was that in trying to do my waltz routine, I kept falling into doing foxtrot steps.

It occurred to me that foxtrot has much more progressive movements where waltz has more turning.  In foxtrot I frequently need to pass my feet while waltz involves a lot of opening the legs to turn.  It wasn’t until I had to transition between the two that I realized this.  In fact, when I started the waltz, it took me some time to figure out how to do a natural turn and a basic weave.

The other surprise I had for myself tonight was that while working on my own in foxtrot I kept running out of room without even trying.  I seem to be traveling a lot more than I did before, and even more than I do with Boss (although he has a better idea of how to fill the space we have than I do).  I didn’t even realize I was trying to move, but I must have been.

We worked on the shaping in the paso routine today, as well as some other details.  One thing I will say I am really enjoying about preparing this routines are how detailed and ‘by the book’ we are working.  Believe me, it is surprises how many steps in Paso Doble are done on the ball of the foot.  I feel like I am prancing a lot–although that may be the point.

Following the paso we worked on the foxtrot to work through some of the steps I wasn’t too sure of and to run it a few times, so I could practice it later on my own.  One of the things that Boss kept emphasizing was the difference in how I am moving in standard in general (but foxtrot specifically), and how I am supporting myself from my feet and that is allowing my upper body to be more free.  I guess I am not pulling so much and it’s been a profound difference.  I hope the stability sticks.

For my part, I can say that I am noticing two things more than previously–how I am using my feet, and that I am able to and am developing a good habit of keeping my knees flexed as I move which seems to be helping.  I do feel stronger through my feet and legs.  However, when my endurance runs out, it is still a sudden and huge deficit of strength and everything collapses beyond my control.

I really hope I am able to work through it for the test.  We did the paso routine four times in a row today and by the 4th time my legs had turned to jelly and my balance was wavering.  I felt pretty weak.  I was able to rally for the foxtrot, but consistently after one round of the ballroom my strength would start to fail me.

Boss told me that the plan for Friday is to go through all the routines and do rounds.  I am a little nervous about that, but hope it won’t be as bad as I fear.  I am on vacation from work until Monday, so I should be pretty well rested.

One of the nice perks about being on vacation is that I will be able to watch the final two days of Blackpool–the professional events, which I expect will be pretty amazing!  The dancing so far in all events has been spectacular and I really can’t wait for tomorrow and Friday.

At least doing rounds, I don’t have to worry about confusing waltz and foxtrot–waltz always comes first and there is tango in the middle to refresh my mind.

Fingers crossed it all goes well.

So how about a dance post?

Despite everything that has been going on, I have been able to get some dancing in, and the activity actually helps some with the symptoms.

I haven’t gotten in as much dancing as I would have liked, but something is always better than nothing.

I did have a rounds practice on Sunday, which was fairly interesting considering I was having intermittent moments of dizzyness and light-headedness and had to stop more than I would have liked.

Aside from that though, there were moments when things seemed to be finally coming together. After the first round in standard, Boss told me to focus on keeping my core connected with him and that made for some interesting 2nd and 3rd round dancing.  The result was that I was more aware of when my left side opened up away from him so I felt like I was spending every dance fighting with myself to keep my core where it needed to be. Boss told me yesterday he thought that was great because I kept noticing and correcting when I opened up. Ah, the differing perspectives.

Boss and I had a brief discussion yesterday about the practice on Sunday and there were two things of note that came out of that.  The first was that Boss told me most of my standard routines are pretty disastrous because my footwork sucks.  But then he told me it was ok since I just seemed incapable of rolling through my foot properly.

*sigh*. There is nothing I hate more than being told I am incapable of doing something which I have neither been told I need to work on nor given direction on where in my routines I should be focusing on it.  How can I be capable of something I am not really aware of having to do?  I am not even sure what specifically he is talking about when he says ‘footwork’ and ‘rolling’.

The other discussion was a bit more interesting.  Boss expressed frustration that I seem to have developed a habit of going really big on some steps and then tightening up small on others.  It’s like I let the gas out then apply the hand break while still revved up every now and then.  He found it fairly strange that I seemed to just stop traveling at certain points in routines, but then start moving again at others.

This makes perfect sense to me. Besides the fact that I haven’t really been encouraged to travel during my routines in quite some time (and honestly have forgotten a bit how to do it), when I come to a step that I am not quite sure of, or I don’t trust myself to be able to control the momentum, I immediately start to ‘err’ on the side of caution because I don’t want to screw up and hurt myself or Boss.  So those steps get small.  Then when I reach a step I am more confident in, I go back to putting everything I have into doing it.

I wasn’t fully consciously aware that I was doing that, but I wasn’t surprised when he mentioned it.  We did a section from our Waltz that the steps needed to be clarified on and it ended with a Wing to a Fallaway.  I am never sure how much I can step during the Wing (and apparently I move far enough), but Boss made a point of showing where I can take the opportunity to move more once we get into the fallaway.

It’s enough to give me something to think about and put into my own practice until the next time we do rounds (which could be in 2, 3, or 4 weeks–I haven’t been told yet).  Together with the focus on the connection and keeping my left side turned in, that gives me two very solid things to focus on during those practices, now that I am much more grounded in the choreography.

The other thing I heard yesterday that I don’t think I ever thought I heard was that I was doing CBMP when I wasn’t supposed to and that was complicating some of my quickstep steps.  Go figure–I have spend months trying to make sure I am using CBMP when I need to that I have apparently overdone it.

I have an extra lesson this week to make up for the one I missed last week, and I suspect my lessons will focus on the smooth routines for the next little while.  The tango and foxtrot are coming together a little bit (tango more than foxtrot), and I think there is an intent to pull the waltz together too.  Boss mentioned an idea of doing a rounds practice with just smooth in a few weeks, so we will see what happens with that.

The other thing of dancing note that happened recently was a bit of a strange conversation with one of the amateur couples.  They recently started coming more and more to the studio for their own practice and last Friday they were there not only for my lesson, but also had to share space with me while I did a practice after.  Their initial comment was ‘Wow! You work just as hard as Boss does’ (which was a little bit insulting considering the level of their surprise at that), but then on Sunday they clarified that they had no idea that I worked so much and so hard on my dancing.  They have been dancing in the community for quite some time, but their experience seeing me work has been only since I was sick, not before (as I practiced in a different hall).  It was an interesting conversation which ended with them expressing some genuine respect that I work 100% all the time–even on my own.  Perhaps it’s a mini pro/am victory of sort for the community. (The community where I live has a general lack of understanding and respect for pro/am dancers and we are seen as being ‘carried’ by our pros and ‘not real dancers’–I have been told that by amateur dancers).

I continue to be frustrated about my health but it does seem to finally be settling down (fingers crossed).  The one thing I am finding most difficult is that my mind is fuzzy and foggy all the time and I can’t seem to remember simple things.  It means a lot of repetition and makes me worried about the idea that I am supposed to perform one of the smooth routines (dance still to be confirmed) in less than 2 weeks.  Normally, that wouldn’t be a big deal, but since I can’t seem to retain much these days….OY.

But tomorrow is a new day, and hopefully a stronger, more clear-headed one.

Reset

And so it begins.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until then, happy dancing!

Post Comp

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ever-so-serious

Pre-comp struggles

Last night’s practice did not go well.

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

That leaves me very worried for Saturday night.

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

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

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

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

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

Bed head hair

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Preps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Putting together the pieces

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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