A Successful Performance

And two of my open latin routines are on the floor!

Some poeple can grow a human in 9 months. I can’t, so instead I grew 2 latin routines to initial performance level.

The showcase last night went really well, but instead of just talking about it, I am going to show you.

First, we did the open Cha cha then we did the open rumba.

It felt so good to be performing. I really didn’t realize how much I have missed preparing for a goal. We decided to do the cha cha just over a month ago, and added the rumba 3 weeks ago. I was really amazed how much we were able to polish up the routines in that short amount of time – especially as prior to that we hadn’t even tried either in time with the music.

I could go into multiple details about what was wrong with them – little stumbles, legs not quite straight, some strange styling – but that was not what last night was about.

Last night was about getting back on the floor, knowing I worked hard and taking the time to just enjoy dancing and presenting two challenging routines to a local audience who haven’t seen me perform since 2016.

I was approached by one of the local social dancers after the showcase and what she told me really stuck. She told me she really enjoyed watching me perform last night because she could see the pure joy I was experiencing being on the floor.

It really stuck out because she has seen me dance through my entire cancer journey and when it became known I had cancer she was one of the first to approach me and share that she too had battled cancer and won. Her sharing that with me helped me to realize I too could win this battle. Sadly, last night she shared she is once again battling and will be doing a form of chemo for the rest of her life. But to know that seeing me back on the floor and doing what I love meant a lot to her really touched me.

Cancer has not been nice to the dancers in my community. But we keep fighting and supporting each other to overcome it.

2 of 9 routines now on the floor! I am sure the others will follow in the new year after I get back from this upcoming extended work trip.

I reminded myself of something last night I hadn’t realized I had forgotten. It’s easy to always declare new routines ‘not ready’. The truth is that they are never ready, but at some point they need to be put on the floor so the next steps for them can be determined.

Ready for the next steps in cha cha and rumba now.

 

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Masters Post #4 – Tech for promoting niche sports

Last post for my current masters course!

Today I came across an interesting article found at https://grandstandcentral.com/how-niche-sports-can-use-tech-to-go-mainstream-1d4e2101971e

This caught my attention right off the bat because it immediately made me think of dance, for two reasons in particular – how it is becoming easier to access coverage of events – and how this evolution in technology is further weakening WDSF’s argument for pushing so hard to include dancesport in the Olympics.

For a recap on the Olympics issue, here is a link to a great blog post by George Pytlik that sums up the issue as well as the effects this is having on dancesport as a whole. I agree with the points he makes – the changes that have come about and the rift in the dance world due to the pursuit of the Olympic dream by WDSF have already gone too far.

I for one dread the day that is coming soon when we will start seeing numerous posts again about how WDSF is trying to get dancesport accepted into the next games that offers spots to new sports, and the social media fallout and debates that inevitably will come with it.

As you can see from George’s post, one of the main motivating factors that is identified by those who are pushing for this dream is that Olympic inclusion would result in an influx of money and mainstream coverage for dance.

Unfortunately, I just don’t see how this would happen given today’s technology and trends toward cord-cutting and online viewing on demand. In addition, as George also points out, there are many sports in the Olympics that receive almost no coverage, especially if there are no medals in that sport for the broadcast country.

The article I came across today also makes and interesting point that technological advances have resulted in making “niche” sports more interesting, particularly extreme sports which appear to be growing in popularity in general across social media. The more extreme, the more it attracts viewers. The more these sports grow in popularity, the more likely they are to attract spots and coverage in the Olympics over other sports that seem to be fading away – which includes dancesport.

But there is an area where dancesport is becoming more and more accessible to anyone who wants to look for it, and it is not on cable. It’s through social media and streaming sites.

I have already mentioned that I try (as much as work will permit me) to watch the 3 major UK dance festivals every year. When I can, I even schedule my work vacation to correlate with watching Blackpool. I don’t watch them on cable (I haven’t had cable since 2012), I watch them live on www.dsi-london.tv through an annual subscription. DSI London is only one of several live dance streaming ‘channels’ available and that does not even include some live streams available on youtube for free.

And that is just live events. Following any major competition, videos quickly become available and shared through social media channels, often including full finals, for anyone to watch.

Commentary on live feeds in another trend that appears to be becoming more commonplace, enough that NDCA has recently included rules about who can provide commentary during a competition (for example, anyone judging at the competition cannot).

Personally, I think commentary is an area where dancesport in particular could benefit the most in expanding its viewership online. Commentary helps to connect the average person with what they are watching (by explaining what is happening, what is good, what is not so good, and background on couples), and it also can build excitement and anticipation.

As an experiment, try watching a ‘mainstream’ sports event with the sound or commentary turned off – a World Cup clip, for example – and then watch it again with the commentary on. I am willing to be you notice a difference in your viewing experience.

Overall, I would say that in the past two years live streaming of dance events has really started expanding. We now have https://www.dancenetwork.tv/ , an online only channel dedicated to all types of dance, and does include live streaming of ballroom events.

There is no denying that technology is and has brought about many changes in the world, including making easily accessible information and products that previously would not have been. Global media no longer have as much control over what it is we watch and learn about as news broadcasts and cable programming is no longer sole source. If you see something new or interesting somewhere, a search online will quickly provide expanded sources to see, experience and learn more about it.

Dance still needs to be appropriately packaged and marketed to specific audiences. Cable shows such as Dancing with the Stars, World of Dance, and Strictly Come Dancing are always going to be more effective at reaching a more general population than this blog. Dance movies such as Shall we Dance, Take the Lead, Dirty Dancing and Strictly Ballroom all resulted in ‘mini-crazes’ and more people interested in trying dance. It might be time for a new ballroom-based movie…

The point taken from this article is that any sport now has the potential to reach audiences it couldn’t before through today’s technology, and the sky is the limit for what potential future technology could unlock – like virtual reality.

Being a bit of a Star Trek geek, I just had a flash back to an episode of the The Next Generation where Data wanted to learn to dance for Chief O’Brien’s wedding. After consulting Dr Crusher, she suggested he ‘program up a virtual dance partner in the holodeck’. I can think of more than a few people who would find that option appealing for learning dance. Perhaps that will be possible in the future.

Perhaps.

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.

 

 

And suddenly…

Things are making a lot of sense.

Somewhere between my last lesson and the lesson tonight a few things clicked together. The surprising thing is that it is not so much specific elements that has clicked together but more a realization and understanding of the level I am able to work at and that it is much higher than I give myself credit for.

I am not quite sure what triggered this but it seems to be a good thing. My mind has really zeroed in on pulling together a lot of details, processed them and been able to execute them all together.

There was just something about tonight’s lesson that seemed to come together. We weren’t doing anything different from what we usually did, but it just seemed to work much easier. Less time reviewing things and I was picking up the concepts and making the adjustments faster than I expected.

We were focusing on standard tonight, specifically two sequences of steps in waltz and foxtrot that have a lot of similarities. Both end with a lunge, but the entrance to and out of it is different, as is the sway going into the lunge.

It’s really a variation on a theme, but there are enough subtle differences that my mind needs to stay engaged. The nice thing as we moved through each of the sequences is that Boss would give some little directions for improvement and I was able to just incorporate them.

In the end, it was a really productive lesson that just seemed to flow. It was hard work, but it was paying off. We ended with the samba conditioning and while I was certainly tired, it also just seemed a little more refined and put together tonight.

At my last lesson, Boss asked me which latin dance I would prefer for a new sequence for conditioning – cha cha or jive. I originally said cha cha, thinking it might be more technical, but once I thought about it, jive made the most sense. I do the conditioning sequence in time with the music, and it is usually something from one of my routines.

Of all the routines, jive is going to be the trickiest to get up to speed. So, if I work on elements from the routine during conditioning in time with the music then my confidence will also go up in the steps. It’s also quite the cardio workout, there is no denying that!

I think I needed this small breakthrough this week as I had been feeling a bit complacent about dance – although perhaps that isn’t the right word. Perhaps it’s more that I have been feeling like I have been treading water and a little stagnant. It’s not only dance where I had been feeling that way, but a couple of changes seems to have made a big difference overall.

I also had a really productive weekend and cross a lot of things off my ‘to do’ list which has taken some loads off my mind.

It’s interesting how little changes can have big impacts.

Masters post #3 – “Boys” and “Girls” Sports

I came across an interesting article from Prince Edward Island today.

It can be found at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/prince-edward-island/pei-sports-boys-girls-1.4764185

I found this article interesting because it talks about the idea that some sports are more for one gender than the other, and talks about how there are efforts being made to reduce those perceptions and encourage (in particular) girls to participate in sports traditionally thought to be for ‘boys’.

The article looks specifically at baseball as a case study. One of the things that is interesting is that in PEI, baseball is mixed in younger years and become segregated as children age. I have limited knowledge of baseball but my guess is that at that age girls options in baseball become more limited so they are encouraged to move to softball – a sport which appears to be more for ‘girls’.

The other interesting thing that caught my eye in this article is that a lot of girls seem to stop playing sports about the time they hit puberty and while the exact reason isn’t really known (they list some probable causes) I wonder about this a bit. I think we all know that puberty is a pretty confusing and difficult time for both genders, but what I wonder is how reducing sports participation (and activity) impacts the experience. From my own experience, I also stopped participating in gymnastics and swimming around puberty although the reason was more financial rather than desire. Part of me wonders if the difficulties I experienced in my early teens (including a big weight gain) may have been reduced if I had stayed more active. Activity is such a big part of my life now and a huge part of my stress relief.

Putting that aside, I wanted to air some thoughts about segregated sports in general. I do completely understand why it is good to have both male and female divisions in most sport, but competing in a (generally) mixed partnered sport myself, I wonder why there are not more options for mixed team sports – especially for youth.

I am aware of some leagues of soccer in my city that have mixed teams for adults. I am not familiar enough with other team sport associations to know if there are options in baseball, softball, field hockey, lacrosse, or other sports, and I am completely oblivious if any mixed options are available for teens.

I wonder this because I think of the advantages of dance – one of which is that from a young age children learn to be respectful of each other – regardless of gender. Its a lesson that could certainly transfer to other sports, at least in my opinion. Adding to that, it could also provide practical education for things which we seem to be questioning as society as a whole – such as equality between the sexes and gender roles.

If we grow up participating in sports together – as it appears we do when we are younger – perhaps the ideas of treating each other with respect, and equality are not things to question when we get older because it is part of our culture that the sexes always mix.

I am not saying there is no difference between the sexes, clearly there is or else we wouldn’t have them. But what I am saying is that perhaps we focus too much as a society on issues of sex and gender to the point that we almost make too big a deal – leading to segregation and the idea that some sports are for ‘boys’ and other are for ‘girls’.

Perhaps I am also very biased, after all I participate in a sport that should be for both sexes but is currently experiencing a severe shortage of male participants, but when I see an article like the one in the link it gets me thinking and wondering – why do we focus on segregating some sports and not offer more options for mixed teams?

Demand is part of it, I am sure. But that also begs the question – is there a lack of demand because it isn’t expected or offered? Is it because our cultural norm is to have separate teams?

Another interesting thing to note in the article is that some sports, dancesport included, are more popular with both sexes (or the opposite sex, such as field hockey mentioned in the article) in Europe and other places overseas.

Perhaps I have opened a can of worms here but I feel that this is an issue well worth thinking about.

Food for thought.

A New Name

You may notice something different about the blog.

About a month ago I started thinking that perhaps it is time for me to change the name of my blog to reflect that while my journey is not over, the active cancer part of the journey is. I couldn’t think of something at the time, but earlier this week, a name finally came to me. I rolled it around in my head and decided to go for it.

So this blog is now “Beyond Cancer Ballroom Dancer”.

I feel it is fitting because currently my blog is not about dancing through treatment anymore (thankfully) but its more about moving beyond cancer – figuring out how life works again after so much time spent focused on an illness.

And so it is.

I have been a bit quiet lately and for that I apologize. I was getting quite stressed between work, school, and dance and I had to take a step back to reset a little and decompress. I just really needed to take a little time to let my mind calm down so I could think again.

So that is what I have been doing. Focusing on checking things slowly off my ‘to do’ list until I reached a point where I felt like I was back to being a little ahead instead of feeling always behind.

It’s been a really crazy few months. It occurred to me as I was working this weekend that I have actually worked every long weekend since New Year’s, between being on course, being on duty and managing some media requests. It’s no wonder I feel a little like I haven’t stopped. Even the cruise that I was on for ‘vacation’ turned out to not be as relaxing as I hoped when it ended with me forgetting my bag and my ‘recovery’ days getting eaten up being stressed about replacing the things in it and making up for the school work I lost.

I will have a few days off in a couple weeks around the week before the next long weekend and I truly will have the entire Labour Day weekend off. I just need to get through the next couple weeks.

I am hoping tomorrow might be a bit of a funner day at work. As part of my job, I am required to maintain regular qualifications in weapons handling so tomorrow will be spent on the ranges shooting to requalify. Its something completely different and gets me out of the office. I expect to be hot and sweaty but feel like I truly accomplished something. After that, I am going to a dance performance show with a friend and will probably see another I haven’t seen in a long time. I really can’t wait.

I may be a bit absent for a little while yet, but I do promise to write about dance soon. I have been quite busy over the last couple weeks and after the small successes with the latin routines, we are now turning to standard and working in a lot of detail through those routines. The goal is to record them the weekend after next, in time with music, even if not at full strength. It should be interesting.

In the past couple weeks we have also discovered a new challenge for my body related to my knees that I have been actively focusing on fixing. I will speak some more about that too.

In the meantime, I leave you my name change which better speaks to the message I want to convey —

There is life beyond cancer.

A Demonstration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All that from a simple demonstration.

Masters post #1 – The World Cup and women

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

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

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

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

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

With the west.

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

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

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

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

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

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

What a novel idea!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are always two sides to every story.

Emerging

There’s been a change for me recently.

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

It feels good, like baggage I am leaving behind.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yet…

A Review of “The Solo Practice Guide for Ballroom Dancing”

I have been provided an opportunity from Katie Flasher, AKA The Girl with the Tree Tattoo to read her newest book “The Solo Practice Guide from Ballroom Dancing”.

I am a huge fan of hers and of her previous books in the “Dance Diaries” series, and her newest book is by far her best of the three.

Even though it is essentially a ‘how to’ book, it doesn’t read like one and in addition to the strategies and sharing her own experiences the book includes a number of additional resources including worksheets, calendars and videos. Katie has also created a facebook group which can be joined by purchasers of the book to share their own experiences, tips and insights, as well as get updates on the resource website.

The book is exceptionally well thought out and organized. It’s chapters cover Why, Where,¬† and What to include in your solo practice as well as sections on supplemental exercises to consider, and overall mindset–some of the psychological barriers and how to overcome them. Each section follows a logical sequence and Katie does an exceptional job of tying all the chapters together and relating them to the resources she provides.

Being someone who does and has been doing solo practice for a number of years now, many of the strategies Katie outlines in her book are almost exactly the same as those I use myself.

The best thing about the strategies are that they are versatile and adaptable for any dancer doing any style. Rather than give a precise syllabus, Katie focuses on providing tools to help a dancer be more organized and consistent in their solo practice so that they can achieve maximum benefit from it. All of the strategies are based on her own experiences which she adeptly weaves throughout the guide.

One of Katie’s biggest recommendations throughout, which I wholeheartedly agree with and also recommend, is to always keep your instructor involved. Even though you are practicing on your own, your instructor’s input is an essential part of the progress.

Whether you are new to dance or new to solo practice or a dancing veteran, anyone can benefit from the information in the guide. Even for myself, there were a couple of new tips and considerations which I will likely incorporate in my own solo practice.

The bottom line for this guide is that if you follow the tips and strategies in contains you can’t go wrong.

You will only improve.

The book is available for pre-order now at https://thegirlwiththetreetattoo.lpages.co/solo-practice-guide-preorders/