Distributing my energy

As I get closer to surgery, the harder things seem to be.

I was a little under the weather for two weeks, but even as that has past, I still find myself with minimal energy that I am having to distribute as best I can over all my usual activities.  Last week, most of it went to work (major event happened), but this week I am hoping to put more to dance.  I only did my private lessons last week, that was it as far as dance.  I used my practice time to write out routines and clarify timing, but not doing any actual dancing.

That said, we now have a nonfecta (is that word??) of gold routines.  Finished up the last one tonight. Boss told me he would like to record them all this Friday.  It will be a rough recording, but he thinks we can get through them all together without any major disasters (he is so optimistic!!).

He is hoping to turn the attention to the mambo showcase routine we were working on before focusing on the test, so it should be interesting to return to it.  The plan is still for me to work out choreography for a waltz showcase and I do have some ideas for that percolating a lot in my head.

I really hope I have the energy to get through the next two weeks.  It is a long weekend, so I am hoping that will help. I am wondering if this is all cumulative of the fatigue of the hormone therapy.  I never seem to get caught up on my sleep and to feel rested, so I can see where my ‘tank’ is gradually getting lower and lower and never filling up.

In many ways, I am looking forward to surgery as recovering I might start feeling rested again, and it may end up putting hormone therapy to bed for good. It will still be close to September before that decision can be made.

In the meantime, I am just trying to conserve my energy where I can and use it on the activities I enjoy.  Pre-surgery appointment tomorrow.

Slowly checking all the boxes to prepare.

Mosre dance later this week 🙂

Silver Test

All done!

I passed with the comment ‘highly commended’ which is the highest comment.

Sorry I haven’t written, life seems to have been crazy lately!

I have been on call for work and people are calling a lot. We also have a major event happening next week that is filling time.  I feel like I haven’t stopped.  My phone also died so that took time to get a replacement (why is it so complicated???).

I am also strongly considering another major purchase in my life, but more to follow on that.

Back to the test, it went really well–better than I expected. VW was not too bad and Quickstep only got really questionable at the end.  All the routines went as expected.  All my comments were positive or provided great feedback, some of which was pretty expected (like work on getting my feet closed parallel in heel turns).  Overall I was told that I was at a really good level for silver, and the adjudicator even asked if I would be doing my gold test with the group working for October (which I won’t, especially since I won’t be able to dance almost all summer).  It was a surprise, but on the whole I am not in a hurry to do my next test.

So now the silver test is behind me and we are back to working out gold routines. We had a brief conversation on Monday about whether the routines should be strictly by the syllabus as necessary for testing, or more flexible and ‘showy’ for competition.  Since my focus now (one day!) is for competition, that is what we are doing.  Boss decided to adjust some of the previous routines we had done (particularly rumba), but even after that we now have solid sequences for rumba, cha cha, foxtrot, tango and quickstep.  Most of the samba and waltz are done, but Boss said he will make some adjustments to those routines.  That leave paso (probably the trickiest to choreograph) and jive.  We did go over one of the gold jive steps I will need.

My focus really from now until surgery is to get those new sequences into my feet. 3 weeks left, so should be doable.

About to finish my current course in my masters too!  Means in two weeks I should have the syllabus for the next one and hope it is flexible enough my surgery shouldn’t interfere too much. Fingers crossed.

There seem to be a lot of silver linings this week 🙂

One-woman Disaster

That is how I feel today.

But let me elaborate.  It really has not been my day or night.

It started this afternoon at work.  During lunch, my computer randomly crashed twice and told me that the video card was failing.  It made work difficult when each restart took more than 20 minutes to boot up.

Then, I was almost hit by a car on my way to dance. Thankfully almost. I was coming out of my driveway on my scooter and there is a large white panel van that parks on the side of the road just next to our driveway.  The issue is that the way the road is built, and because it has no windows, the van completely blocks the view to the right.  To compensate, you have to look down past all the cars that are parked (about 500 m) to the bottom of the hill and then keep track of the cars you see coming until there is a break.

The issue is that there is an intersection and other driveways you can’t see.  So even though it might look clear all the way down the hill, cars could turn on to the road without you seeing them. That’s what happened tonight.  I was slowly peeking out around the van and discovered a car coming right for me.  So I ended up braking hard, losing my balance and falling over, landing mostly on my scooter.  Missed the car (which stopped and asked if I was all right), and thankfully didn’t hit anything hard.  Cracked the windshield of my scooter in two though when it hit the pavement.  I was able to get it upright and started again, and assessed that I had bruised my shins and had a small scrape on one leg. Mostly I was shaken up.

Following that, I got to dance.  I had received some unexpected news about what to expect for my recovery from surgery yesterday and that has possible repercussions for dance–particularly competing in the fall.  Long story short, it could be 12 weeks after my surgery before I will be able to dance, particularly for any length of time without pain and pulling.  It’s quite different from the 6 weeks I was initially told to expect.  That required a bit of a conversation with Boss, but pretty much at this point I haven’t really gotten to a place where I can completely process this and start to adjust my goals. Again.

The conversation itself wasn’t bad, it was just a disappointing one to have to have.  That said, I still have my silver test this weekend and work to prepare, so it was another lesson dedicated to rounds and running through the routines.  We started with latin tonight, which didn’t go too bad, although jive is still a bit questionable for endurance.  Following that, we moved to standard.  That was going pretty well…

Until I caught my heel on the cuff of my pants during the quickstep and fell over backwards hitting my left hand and hip pretty far.  Also ripped the hem of my pants.  That actually hurt more than falling on my scooter. Go figure.

In general, I was ok, just bruised.  Had to work out my left ankle a little bit, but after rolling up my pants we were able to continue with the lesson and get through the Quickstep.  We followed that with Viennese Waltz.  We did a full minute of that, but I was really dying after 45 seconds.  We ended with a section of foxtrot I was blanking on a bit to review it, but by the second run through of that I could tell I was pretty done.

One comment Boss made tonight and my last lesson is that he is finding my endurance is improving, and the most significant thing is that when I get tired I am better able to compensate instead of just completely sinking and collapsing. It’s good to hear because compared to where I was before I got sick and had treatments I would say I am about half where I was–especially in VW, QS, and Jive.  Cha Cha can also be questionable sometimes.

What’s a little disheartening about that is after up to 12 weeks off to recover from surgery, I am going to have to start over on a lot of things–rebuilding endurance being one of them.  I have been there before though and my focus right now is to try and build as good a base as I can so hopefully there will still be some when I am ready to come back.

I really hope the falls tonight won’t result in me waking up broken tomorrow.  I also wrenched my shoulder trying to open a door (seriously–how does that happen??), burned my hand on coffee and spilled it in my scooter case.  All signs I should have just call it a night.  I didn’t though, I stayed for practice and was able to run through all my routines on my own except paso.  I had a long epsom salt bath after so hopefully that will head off some of the bruising coming my way.

As far as the test, I still feel pretty good about it aside from the endurance issues.  I have most of the routines down and that is helping my confidence. Fingers crossed my body holds out till then.

I discussed with Boss tonight the idea of filming the routines during the test.  It will be up to the adjudicator, but I am hoping we will be able to.  It’s been almost 6 months since we recorded anything, and at least according to Boss there has been a lot of changes.  I toyed with the idea of filming them before the test, but I don’t want things I may see in the videos to distract from the test, or to kill my confidence.  While probably things will look better than I expect, I don’t want to risk that they might possibly look worse.  Better to keep going the direction I am going at this point, and evaluate later.

After the test, I have 4 weeks until surgery.  Mainly, I want to get all the gold routines laid out and if possible filmed so I have them to refer to while I recover.  One of the things I want to have a look at (and should be able to) is to figure out the styling for latin and put together some ideas where needed.

In all honesty, I think that is the main part missing from the silver latin routines, but I am trying not to let myself worry about that.

Hopefully, tomorrow will be a better day.

9 Routines down…

Well at least written out with timing.

The latin routines are going well and getting into my brain.  I was able to review them some on the weekend and was glad to see things had fit.

We went through the paso routine today, which was the one missing routine, after reviewing the timing in the standard routines and a couple steps which I couldn’t figure out on my own.

I spent my practice working through the standard routines on my own, and got through the waltz, tango and most of the Quickstep.  Foxtrot will be for Wednesday, as it’s a supervised practice, and there are a couple steps I am not sure about and need to take the opportunity to go through them.

I feel good about where the routines are, considering the time left until the test.  It’s actually been pretty interesting for me to go through all the steps on my own because some of the steps, while I have done them and followed them, I have either not really known their names or they are new to me. It’s been a new area to explore.

It’s actually been quite a while since I have worked through memorizing and putting under my feet a sequence of routines.  Especially in standard, going through the timing has been a good exercise for me as I haven’t work through standard routines with timing since before or shortly after I got sick.

I haven’t put them together with the music yet on my own, but that will be some of the goals for the end of this week and early next week, although I am not quite sure how it will go.  I think rumba, samba, paso and jive will be ok.  Cha cha could be iffy.  Waltz and Tango should be ok in standard, Quickstep questionable and foxtrot will be interesting in general.

There may not be enough time to get the routines down on my own as much as I would like to, but the foundation will be there for my test and that is the main thing.  There are some technique things I wish were coming a little stronger (as I previously mentioned about cha cha in particular) and there have been some pleasant surprises.

The way I have been able to focus in and memorize the sequences of the silver routines gives me some good optimism for learning the gold routines.  I am hopeful that once the test is done, we can focus in on finishing the rest of the sequences (currently I have Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot, Rumba, Samba), and be able to go through them on my own (so far only the rumba is in my feet).  I hope to have all 9 gold sequences before my surgery, and with some luck to have them videotaped as well so I can refer to them as I am recovering.  Haven’t had a chance to discuss that with Boss yet, but I hope he will be on board.  It’s a conversation for after the test.

Health-wise, I have had a bit of a turn around in the past week.  My energy levels are truly up, and while I have fuzzy-headed moments, they seem less frequent.  The full body aches have dissipated, although I seem to keep ‘tweaking’ my neck. Still not sure why.  I hope this will be the status quo until my surgery, but we will see how it goes.  I am still working some part days during the week, and today was the first time I was able to return to strength training in more than 3 weeks.  As I rebuild my stamina and add more of my usual activities back in, I hope things get better and not worse.

But for now, I have 9 routines to focus on for the next two weeks.

Latin Let-down

I am not sure why I feel so frustrated with my latin technique tonight.

I do have a theory that perhaps it is just the late hour of the class (8 pm is late for me these days), coupled with an extremely busy week at work (it’s not over yet!). The end result being that I feel like I couldn’t do anything right tonight during the class–even though I know that is not the case.  Its almost like a mini ‘crash’ after the class.

Usually I feel pretty good about my latin technique.  While there are some things I struggle with a lot, there are others that come more naturally and no matter what I do, my hips definitely move. The adjustment I have been making to my posture is becoming more ‘mainstream’ but I have to stay on top of it.  I am at the point where I ask myself if I am forward and discover that yes, I am.

Tonight in general I think I was just having endurance issues.  It’s hard to explain but I felt like everything just lacked in strength compared to how it usually feels, and my body just wasn’t as responsive as usual.  It wasn’t a lack of trying, but it just seemed to be ‘off’.

I think because of that, the things that usually frustrated me just ran a bit rampant.  By the end of the class my frustration level just seemed exceptionally high.

One thing that is just a constant source of frustration for me is jive.  I have mentioned before it is like my latin achilles heel dance, as it is the one dance where on the one hand things work out well naturally, but on the other I really have no idea how I do any of it.  And there there are some things which I have no idea how to do and quite honestly it looks ridiculous when I try.  I think I am getting in my own way by trying so hard I am actually preventing my body from moving in the way it needs to.  That’s said, it feels like everything I am doing in jive is really ‘loosey goosey’, when it should be more tight and compact (because of the speed).

Some time jive just feels like the dance I never work on.  The little bit of technique I have done in jive has been a little ‘here’ and ‘there’ and very spread out.  I have never concentrated on it–even at a basic level.

To be perfectly honest, my frustration and feeling of lacking in jive really makes me reluctant to do it right now.  I feel that compared with the amount of time and work I have spent on the other 4 dances my jive is woefully behind.

I am hoping this is just the result of a long week and fatigue and that it will pass in time.

The other thing that keeps popping in my mind is that I might not have the endurance for my medal test.  I am feeling a little overwhelmed with the idea of doing 10 dances in a row because its been so long since I have actually done that.  I guess I am not feeling really confident in my strength right now.

I get my injection tomorrow, and I hopeful that with it some of these frustrations will pass.  I am also a bit stressed that I will have some mood swings following the injection as my body gets used to it again.

It’s hard to know what is real and what is just side effects right now.

Working Lesson

Unfortunately, not a lesson full of hard work, but one where work obligations interfered.

Sometimes, but thankfully not often, my job requires me to put in extra time unexpectedly.  Tonight was one of those nights.  An issue came up almost at the end of the day and I ended up staying longer after work to begin to address it.  I made it to my lesson on time, but had to spend part of the beginning responding to the issue more and waiting for a response.  I had to spend time during my lesson to respond further.  After my lesson, I actually had to drive into work for 10 minutes before grabbing supper and returning back to the studio hoping to practice.  Unfortunately, I still had a little more work to do before I could eat my supper and in the end I got only 15 minutes of practice time.

At least it doesn’t happen too often.

Despite the distractions, my lesson went really well.  It was all standard and almost completely lead/follow.  We were going through routines to begin preparing for my test, so reviewing silver steps in WTFQ.

I was actually a bit surprised at how well I was able to follow.  A few small hiccups (like I completely forgot that there are lock steps in Quickstep–Doh!!), but for the most part not too bad.  Waltz was the best, and Quickstep the weakest, but I was really impressed that I was able to follow almost all heel turns in foxtrot–something I don’t think I would have been able to do about a year ago.

In the end, we seem to have some fairly good sequences for all 4 dances with just a few parts to iron out.  Boss is going to send me the sequences so that when I have time (obviously wasn’t going to happen tonight!), I can work through them on my own to get them in my head before the test.

I am fighting a bit of a cold and hadn’t eaten well today due to running out of time, so I tired out a bit quickly in my lesson.  It was good to do Quickstep though because I haven’t done it in a while.  I feel like I haven’t done any of the faster dances lately (although I have done samba which is a little in the middle), and last week I found myself craving them a little, especially cha cha.

I hope this cold will clear out tomorrow (it seems to be on its way), and that work will settle down some so I have enough energy to get to the latin technique class.  I missed last week as I was just too exhausted to go without feeling like I would be compromising my health.  This week seems to be better in general, despite the cold. Fingers crossed.

I am excited for Blackpool to start next week, but this year I don’t know how much I will be able to watch! I had originally planned to take time off from work, but some really high profile events came up making that impracticable.  I just hope to get a little bit of time at work, or that I will be able to get replays of each day.

BTW, school is progressing.  I am halfway through my current course and ahead of the game despite recent challenges. A few more weeks to go and another course in the can.  My next course will be challenging as I will my surgery shortly after it starts and I don’t know how that will effect it.  On the one hand, I will be at home recovering and it will give me something to do.  On the other, I am supposed to be at home recovering.  Time will tell on that one.

Considering I essentially worked all through my lesson, I am really happy with how much we still got done.  We got through each routine at least twice, and even my position wasn’t too bad.  I may finally be starting to gain some confidence in my standard position.

Hopefully next lesson will be more focused on ‘working’ instead of on work!

Samba and Shoes

Sort of a strange combination, but yet related.

The end of last week was pretty much dedicated to samba.  Boss went through the sequence for the gold routine with me, and we worked on getting the sequence down, then looked at some of the technique in samba.

Samba is a weird beast for me.  It’s a little disjointed in some ways.  I have steps, such as whisks, stationary, bota fogos, and plait where I feel like the technique is pretty put together and I am able to get some bounce action.

And then there are other steps, like voltas, cruzado walks, and corta jaca where I feel like I have no technique happening at all, or I am trying to do some technique and bounce action and my body is just refusing to cooperate.  I am working on the cruzado walks and corta jaca I think I just need to think on a little (haven’t focused on it in a while), but voltas are like an achilles heel for me.  I just can’t seem to get all the actions working together.

That said, I really like the samba routines that Boss puts together.  They are some of my funnest routines, and the gold one is no exception.  I look forward to working on it more.

Secondly, shoes.  As I mentioned, I had been wanting to try working during the latin technique group class in my higher 2.5″ heels with the adjustments I am working on in my posture.  Last week was my second week working in them and I noticed something interesting.

Working on the hunch, in my next lesson I had Boss have a look at my position and latin technique in both shoe heights to see which is better. As suspected, everything was better in the 2″ heels.

What I noticed is that once I went up to the 2.5″ heels, I was unable to move my posture forward because of the height I was at and I was very restricted in how I could use my feet, which translated into much less movement through out my body.

Essentially, the added height limited the range of motion in my feet because it was pushing me up on my toes.  I couldn’t raise myself from my toes further than I was.

This is exactly why I use shorter heels for standard. I just haven’t really noticed it in latin before.

I have pretty short feet (size 6.5 US, or 23 cm), but on top of that, the ball of my foot is very wide.  I have a long arch, but it doesn’t leave a lot of space for the ball of my foot.  Basically, if I was wearing 3″ heels I would be completely forward on my toes only.

This actually makes things easier for me because now I don’t have to try and alternate my practice shoes, I can just work in my 2 inch heels all the time, and continue to strengthen my balance and feet and ankles consistently regardless of the style I am doing.

Of course, now I have to buy some high-quality latin shoes with 2 inch heels verses 2.5, but I have an idea of where I can get them (basically the same shoes I had in 2.5 with a lower heel).

There is no rush on doing this as my surgery will be July 11th, so most of my summer will be spent recovering.

On a slightly different note, my work hours were reduced today.  I just don’t have the energy to maintain a full schedule, so 3 days a week I will work only half days until we can find a solution to get my energy up.  The other two days will be full days.  I am really disappointed with this, but I know it is for the best.  I am not sleeping well and it is leaving me exhausted and like I never feel refreshed in the morning.  It is something that will need to be addressed over the next few weeks, and I hope my work hours won’t get reduced further.  I am tired of having to choose the parts of my life I will participate in, and which ones I can’t because I am too tired.

I am hopeful as I reach the 3-month mark for taking the hormone therapy this magical cessation of side effects that I have been promised will appear.  The end of this month will be that 3-month mark.  Beyond that, I hope that the surgery and not having hormone fluctuations or needing the injections will also improve things.  I just have to get there and I am not sure if I will have the energy.

But at least I get to buy new shoes 🙂

My new favourite muscles

Well, more like a love/hate relationship.

It’s taken a long time and a lot of work, but over the last couples months I have finally discovered and figure out (mostly) how to isolate my upper back muscles around my shoulders.  I have been working on them for a long time, but it’s only recently I have been able to actually feel them move.

On the other hand, now that I know where they are and how to use them, I can’t ignore them anymore, and I can tell when they are not moving right.

This somehow makes things simpler and harder at the same time.

Depending on whether I am doing latin or standard, its necessary to figure out how to move them differently.  I have also been working on strengthening them during my strength training, which is also difficult as they are hard muscles to target.  As I have noticed more awareness, I have noticed though that it is becoming easier to do these exercises right.  Doing this has highlighted the strength difference between my right and left side as I work each side separately, but slowly it is starting to even out.

The progress is encouraging, but I still get frustrated sometimes when I can’t quite figure out what I am trying to do with them.  Sometimes though I move them without realizing it, and that is always a surprise.  It’s interesting how many movements in dance involve them.

On a slightly related note, I keep encountering something frustrating with the muscles/tendons on the right side of my neck.  I am not sure if it is related to my treatment, specifically the radiation (because of scar tissue), but I have noticed that after every lesson, and practice where I am stretching my neck for standard I wake up the following morning with a stiff neck that is just a little too far on side of pain for comfort. I spend the entire next day aching through my neck and unable to fully turn my head to the left.

The odd, frustrating and difficult thing is that when I am working on standard and stretching, I don’t feel anything that tells me I am overextending to the point of minor injury. It doesn’t seem to be getting worse, but it isn’t getting better either.  The thankful thing is that it rarely lasts more than the day after.  I am really not sure how to manage this, but hope that it doesn’t get worse and progress to a worse injury.  I have previously had an issue where the entire muscle seized up for a week and it is something I have no wish to repeat.

Muscles are strange things sometimes.

On a different note, I have figure out why I wasn’t feeling very well over the last couple days, and why I suddenly had a burst of energy last night.  I accidentally missed one and perhaps two of my hormone therapy medication.  I usually sort out all my medications for the week in advance, but last week I didn’t have enough of my hormone therapy because I had to pick up a refill at the pharmacy.  Once I picked up the refill, I forgot to add the missing doses to my medications for the end of the week, and didn’t notice it was missing until this morning.  What I was feeling was likely withdrawal from missing the doses, followed by the side effects lifting.

It was a brief ray of light, but also it’s a little disheartening that today I am back to feeling achy and lacking energy again as my body readjusts to the medication.  It certainly tells me that what I am feeling are indeed side effects.

But at least in the meantime I have new muscles and sensations to explore.

Another Surgery….

I have been quiet while having to deal with some health issues related to the hormone therapy.

I found out today that I will be having a total hysterectomy end June/early July.  The sincere hope is that once my ovaries are gone, my hormones will settle down and I can get back to feeling like myself again.

In the meantime, the hormone therapy has more or less crashed my entire system.  Because stopping the hormone therapy is not an option (the shot lasts until May), I have had to be treated with medication for the side effects.  Almost 4 weeks later, I seem to be finally starting to get to a functional point.

I say functional.  The psychiatrist who is treating me calls it ‘presenteeism’–it’s one step up from absenteeism.  Instead of being absent from my life, I am there, just not really participating.

To be perfectly honest, I have never felt worse in my life–including during chemo, radiation, and after surgery.  And I feel helpless to do anything about it, I can only manage it.

Slowly, the mental health issues are improving, but unfortunately the physical ones are not.  I am exhausted.  I am ready for bed at 6 pm after a full day of work.  It takes almost 12 hours for me to feel refreshed.  When I am awake, my energy is fairly fleeting.  It has improved a little in the last week (likely due to the medication), but it is still very restrictive.  I also ache all over.  If you have ever had aches from a fever, that is what I feel like all the time.  That in itself is exhausting.  Usually by 2 pm I have to take some ibuprofen to take the edge off.  I also have frequent headaches and right now the hot flashes are fairly frequent.

At least now, I have a general time frame to aim for when things might get better.  I say might because there is no way to know how my body will respond to surgical menopause versus chemical menopause, but there is a good chance that without my ovaries causing fluctuating hormone levels, things will stabilize and be more controllable.

This also makes very real for me something I have been avoiding–I will never have children.  It was highly unlikely before, but this makes it an absolute ‘no’. In many ways I am grieving for the children I will never have, and I have to acknowledge and give myself time to do that.

To be perfectly honest, I am not really sure if I ever would have had children or if it was something I wanted to do, but I took comfort in having the option. There is a lot more to that, but there are some things I need to keep to myself :).

I do have some dance news.

After I decided to stop dancing, I did go and advertise for a partner in the area where I live.  The response, I am sad to say was two offers for sex and one guy who was genuinely interested in dance, but who also was looking more for a relationship.  It was disappointing, but not really more than I expected, to be honest.

I had a fairly significant breakdown shortly after making my decision.

As part of that, I spent a lot of time discussing dance and what it means to me with my health care professionals.  They encouraged me to reevaluate and to talk to another dancer in the community.  They also pointed out that since my system was so depressed, no matter how much I might want to, I would never be able to see the good side to dance, only the bad.

It took a lot of talk, both with an amateur dancer who has also had breast cancer and previously danced pro/am herself when her partner was unwell, and talking with Boss, in addition to the health care professionals.

In the end, I decided to start writing.  I wrote about what led me to dance, what I enjoy about it, what I want from it, where I am, where I want to be, what I think of pro/am, how I want to learn–in short, 10 pages about dance, going through everything.

It was the most comprehensive evaluation of dance I have ever done, and it occurred to me that throughout my sickness I have had to reevaluate almost every area of my life–but I have never reevaluated dance.

It was long overdue, and it revealed a lot about what I really want and it is quite different from what I was doing and the direction I was going.

I don’t want to say more on that for now, but the evaluation is on-going.

One of the biggest obstacles I am encountering right now is actually the lack of energy, but I hope it will get better.

We shall see.  But now I seem to have something of a timeline for when this nightmare might end.

And so I fight on…

Competing Criteria

You would think that choosing a competition to go to would be a pretty straight-forward thing.

Apparently not.

Now that I have my masters residency behind me, I am looking to decide on competitions to give me something concrete to focus on.  What I have discovered is that because my focus for competing (when I was sick it was more about just getting on the floor) has shifted, deciding on a competition is not as simple as it was before.  A big part of that problem is that while I know my focus in competing has shifted, I am not quite sure what it has shifted to.

As a pro/am student, when choosing competitions it is easy to focus on the bottom line–what can I afford, what is the best value for my money and when can I afford it.  I feel like that is a big part of what has been driving my decisions for competitions.

But the question I would like to be asking first is: What is the best value for my dancing?

And that is harder to nail down.  Right now, I am doing a lot of shifting and rebuilding.  I am changing levels and that means learning new routines.  I want to focus more on closed events, but at the same time I don’t want to disregard the open events so we are also looking to work with a choreographer to develop open routines.  I am trying to rebuild the strength and fitness I lost while sick, while at the same time (hopefully) also improving my technique and overall dancing.

When looking at where to compete right now, the biggest issue is that Boss and I haven’t really set any competition goals.  We seem to be going about it backwards.  We are looking at competitions, and then setting goals for them.  I think I would rather look at what I want to achieve from a competition and then see what competition will fit that goal–and still be affordable.

One of the biggest issues with this right now is that we are heading into summer when competition are few and far between.  On top of this, competing in the US is pretty much off the table with the increasing prices there and the exchange rate.  Not to mention the political climate and travel unpredictability.

While I may be ready to put routines on the floor this summer, there really isn’t a competitive opportunity to do that.  That will mean shifting the focus a bit and looking either longer term, or shorter term.  Do I try to do a comp at the end of June, or do I wait and do two in the fall?  If I do one in June, my routines aren’t likely to be very polished and it would be basically trialing them at the competition.  How much do I want to spend on doing that?  Do I want to use most of my competing budget to attend a competition (which would be great), with routines that aren’t well polished and not likely to be competitive?  Or would it be better to find a more local competition with smaller events to get those routines on the floor before going out against the ‘big dogs’.

Part of this is that as much as I like to support the local competitions, I inevitably end up competing against the same people, getting the same results, being seen by the same judges.  The pro/am portion of these competitions is always small without much variety.  The same 3 teachers bring out the same 2-3 students in multiple events.  I have become quite disenchanted with that.  I really want to branch out and get on the floor in a new area against new people I don’t usually compete against.

But again, it brings me back to the question–when dance-wise is the best time to do this so that the opportunity is not wasted due to lack of preparation time?  It’s one thing to feel ‘ready’.  It’s another to not have routines or be able to complete a full round on the floor.

Whatever I decide, the one thing I need to be sure of is that it is a decision I can accept.  If not, I will only resent it and that is not good for me or my dancing.  It’s a lot to think on, but the only rush is my desire to have a firm goal to focus on.

Competing, especially pro/am is an investment and as such takes a lot of thought and consideration.  But it is important to remember that it is not just an investment of money–it is also an investment of time, practice, discipline, motivation and personal well-being.

The trick is to figure out what meets the value for all those criteria.