It’s a rumba!

At least it has the appearance of one now.

My last few lessons have been focused on working through the choreography for the new open rumba. It’s taken a few lessons due to the intricacies of the steps, but tonight we were able to go through the entire routine top to bottom with slow music without any major hiccups or restarts.

It’s quite an achievement as its a long routine with a lot of details and changes in timing. It’s also a routine unlike any I have done before so I am giving myself a little pat on the back for being able to get it together. A week ago, I was sure it would be at least another week before we got even close to doing it without stop, let alone to the music.

That’s not to say its good to go. There are definitely a lot more details to work out and technical points that are lacking, but the foundation is there and that is a positive step. I also still need to fully work out my timing and become more confident in it.

Even just working through the choreography I am already understanding where work needs to be done. Just to execute the choreography properly requires a lot of trust and connection through the lead and follow. I can’t do all of the steps on my own as I am used to rely on, or at least it won’t really work if I do that. That has led to a bit of a steep curve, but just the need to use it has already starting clicking into place some of the tactile things I need to understand. I feel there has been some growth in that area. Its interesting how a lack of option can affect things.

I find all of it fascinating and I have surprised myself in learning pieces of this. I know where I need to focus some of my own practice and I am eager to start digging into this myself.

Unfortunately, that may have to wait a bit. Once again, my neck muscles are acting up, although it appears to be more related to work and sitting at a computer than dance or anything more physical. Despite that, I am at a point where if I can’t get my neck muscles to relax, they are signalling they are going to seize up again. I saw the doc today and was referred for both acupuncture and physio, but was unable to get an appointment for either until next week. In the mean time, I have some stretches and some pain relievers to try and keep it from locking up on me.

Isn’t that always the way?

I did have a productive weekend that allowed me to catch up on work and school as I had hoped, so my stress levels are much better now. Getting through the rumba has contributed to that so I hope my neck will keep playing nice and allowing me to keep dancing until I can get it fully relieved.

In addition to the rumba, we will be continuing to work on the tango and I was told to expect to start working through the samba next week.

Suddenly, learning 9 open routines doesn’t seem as daunting.

All that from learning a rumba.

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Made it…

…to the end of the week.

I have two days off physically, but mentally I have a lot to do this weekend, including some school and work, as well as some more transcribing of routines for dance. My work week went a little unexpectedly sideways and left me unable to do the things I wanted to get done to deal with emerging things. I am sure it happens at every job.

My work description itself is changing, almost daily at this point and one of the things I have to do is figure out a structure and plan for my office now that I have more people and more responsibility. That is going to take some heavy thinking.

I had hoped for a bit more of a break this weekend, but if I get the things I hope to finished I know that next weekend I will be able to relax more and focus on the things I want to focus on, rather that those I have to focus on.

Moving from work, it was a productive night at my lesson.

We have been working on the new open rumba routine and we have worked through about 1/2 – 2/3rds of it, and Boss told me he intends to try to finish it up next week.

It is interesting what I am discovering just working through the choreography. It has highlighted some gaps in things I haven’t really worked on and essentially provided a bit of a ‘to do’ list, once we have worked through the routine.

Some of the specific things I know I will need to work on is the connection within the partnership, allowing myself to use my partner to execute more challenging parts, and some elements such as rondes and stylistic details.

As we work through it though, I am feeling better about the routines and that they are doable and achievable and not quite as complicated and complex as they might seem.

It ended a rough week on a positive note, and one which I certainly needed.

It helped me make it through.

Transcribing routines

I have a big task before me.

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

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

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

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

I hope it won’t take another 3 hours!

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

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

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

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

Like transcribing videos.

My (REAL) Dance Goals

I have a difficult time admitting to my goals.

I think one of the things that I personally struggle with when it comes to goals is that for some reason I feel they should be complicated and specific by my goals are and always have been really very simple.

I have two. Both are more about the experience and process than any tangible thing.

My goals are simple:

-to enjoy the experience of learning

-to enjoy the experience of competing

That’s it. There are no levels, placings, techniques or other things linked to it. It’s all about the experience of learning to dance and the experience of being on a competition floor. That is what matters to me when it comes to dance. And if I had to rank them (as recently I have had to do), then learning comes first.

To elaborate on each:

-Learning. I absolutely enjoy learning, whatever it is. I like analyzing, challenging myself, discovering new details and learning about myself and my capabilities in the process. It is the most important thing to me when it comes to dancing. I started with virtually nothing. In my past I have done classes in highland dance, country line dance, hip hop, and belly dance but none of them stuck because they weren’t for me (except maybe highland, but that ended because my teacher moved).

One of the reasons none of them stuck–there was no one to share the learning experience with on a one-on-one basis, although if there had been, perhaps it would have been different. As much as I am learning from an instructor and having the opportunity to develop myself, there is an aspect to ballroom where I have to share with others. At some times, perhaps others even learn from me.

The challenge of learning remains the most important part of dance for me and I don’t see that changing. From my perspective, the only thing that would enhance that would be the opportunity to teach that learning to others, as one never truly really learns something until they are able to teach it to someone else (of course I am very passionate about teaching, so perhaps I am biased on that). Teaching seems to be an evolution of learning.

-Competing. Competing is another aspect of learning for me, and it is truly about the experience. About challenging myself to get out there and in 1:30 show what I know and what I am capable of. Its a 1:30 to share what I have learned with others and perhaps inspire them to learn too. Competing has never been about winning or placements for me. It’s been about growth, stretching myself, learning about myself, seeing what I am capable of and getting outside of box I allow myself to be in during my regular life. Competing is the one opportunity I have to get out and feel like I have achieved something, and that is before the placing or marks come it.

Every competitive experience for me is an achievement and represents one moment in my life where I took a risk and got out there and did SOMETHING. The challenge of competing in ballroom is that I have to work with someone else for that achievement. I can’t just rely on myself which is my natural inclination to do. It’s a team effort and the challenge for me is to rise to the expectation of my partner and make him proud (whoever he is, instructor or otherwise) of what we are able to accomplish together. I want to feel as though I belong on the floor with the people I am competing with, and I don’t want to be the person who is automatically considered for last, but beyond that, I just want to be there and enjoy doing what I love to work for.

But that’s it.

I know I should probably have more concrete and specific goals, and ones that are more driven by reality than passion, but in the end it is just not what I want. I don’t want to limit myself. I just want to enjoy what I do.

As far as learning, I have no specific goals because I don’t know what I don’t know. As far as I am concerned, what I learn next or need to focus on is up to my instructor (even if in collaboration with others).  I just want to understand what I am trying to learn.

There are a lot of things I want to experience within the dance world.

 

There are days…

It seems like things are just a little rough for me lately.

I had a fluke thing happen last night, and it means a little more time not dancing and more time healing. I had to cancel my lesson tonight, although I should be able to dance some the rest of the week, although with limitations.

Last night, while I was sleeping, I rolled over and felt a quick pinch over my right hip where one of my scars was from my last incision. I didn’t think anything of it at the time (I was mostly asleep), but woke up this morning to find blood on the sheets and a 2 inch opening in my hip where my scar had healed.

I was thankfully able to meet my surgeon later in the day at the hospital and he had to stitch the wound back together. He told me that he could see where a deep internal stitch had ‘popped’ and it put strain on all the tissue above it, hence the opening. Sometimes something like that just randomly happens and there is nothing I did or didn’t do to cause it or could have avoided it.

At least I only have to cancel one lesson (the surgeon gave his blessing to continue on Wednesday), but it still is just ‘one more thing’. I recognize that 2-3 weeks post surgery usually has a bit of a depressed period before the body rallies but I can’t help but feel there just seems to be an on-going barrage of obstacles between me and dance.

There are days I feel like the universe is trying to tell me that now is just not the right time for me to dance. That I am facing these constant obstacles because I am trying to force something that is just not meant to be at this point in my life.

These are days where I feel as though dance should not have to be this hard. I don’t mean the physical work, but the other obstacles–dancing through cancer, multiple surgeries, financial obstacles, difficulty finding a partner (even a paid one) for competing.  As soon as I overcome one obstacle another seems to immediately pop up, not giving me even the slightest break.

We all have our struggles with dance, and I don’t believe it is easy for anyone. My main hope is that days like these will remain few and far between and that I will continue to find ways to overcome the obstacles in front of me one step at a time.

Perhaps one day things will come together for me in a fortuitous way and I will have a “golden age” of dancing where I can truly explore and experience that I wish without constant blocks.

In the meantime, the obstacles I face do show me how much I want to dance, and for that I can at least be grateful. But there is a limit to what I can tolerate and how much I can keep fighting to do what I love and when I have days like these I realize I am in danger of reaching my limit for that tolerance. I hope I don’t get pushed over the edge anytime in the future.

But, there are days…

Catching up and letting go of the dance control freak

I call this ‘catching up’ because I think these are some thought processes that needed to happen back in September after my last surgery.  I think Boss already reached these conclusions (and been telling me these things), but I just haven’t really had time until now to figure them out for myself (which is needed).

The surgery in July triggered a huge change for me generally. I can’t really explain the full extent of the difference, except that now I can fully live through my days instead of just doing the minimum. The same applies to dance. Prior to the surgery I was in a place where I had to pick and choose what I could do and focus on and what I could do was very limited. Even when I was trying to push hard, everything was less than I expected and underwhelming. I wanted to work hard but couldn’t and was trying to adjust to that. I look at the videos from my silver test and I see a dancer who is exhausted and trying not to show it who doesn’t really reach the limits of anything due to lack of energy.

The return after surgery was bigger than I could even process. I suddenly had all this energy and range of things I could do that previously just wouldn’t work. Even speed was eluding me as I found myself moving faster than I intended. I felt like I was handed all these gifts and I couldn’t figure out which ones to open, and when I did I couldn’t figure out exactly what to do with them. I still haven’t figured it out.

At the time, not sorting through things was ok because I had routines to learn to get ready for a competition which gave me something easy I could focus on and really I was just continuing the work I had been doing in standard, and of course conditioning was very much (and still is) needed.

Before and after the competition, I had coaching from 3 amazing coaches to process, all of which opened up the door of possibilities a lot wider than I expected or perhaps was ready for. All of the lessons showed me I am capable of doing much more than I thought I could do.

One of the things that seems to be a recurring theme for me is that I have become far too cautious. There was a time for that, but it is now over. I can push to my limits again, but I haven’t figured out how to do that or how to be comfortable doing that again.

It’s been a theme in my lessons and I recognize that, but until now I haven’t really been able to figure out what that means for me and how to turn it from a weakness to a strength. I haven’t been able to figure out how to frame it so doing it is no longer feels like a mistake. In short, I haven’t quite figured out yet how to give myself permission to fully explore my limits all the time.

That is the main thing I have been using this time to figure out. If I don’t have the right mind-set and approach it’s not going to work.

It’s been a long time since the work I have been doing in dance has ‘scared’ me. I have been doing a lot of safe and controlled things. Even working on my own, I spend so much time doing things slowly and ‘perfectly’ that a lot of them I never try at proper speed (because you can’t control as much as you can slowly). I have become a dance control freak, and at some point I allowed myself to become afraid of taking risks and being scared. It wasn’t that way when I first started dancing.

I recognize that in some ways, it’s not all a bad thing. There are some things that need that control. But the problem is that I am trying to control everything and it is keeping me from stretching myself. I have become too comfortable in my ‘comfort zone’.

So, I have fully come to the realization (and there were seeds before) that I need to start pushing myself outside my comfort zone on a regular basis to move forward. The biggest obstacle holding me back right now is myself.

I don’t know what I am capable of anymore. I don’t even fully have faith in what others are telling me I am capable of now.

All of this is to say that I have arrived. I have at least begun to understand what needs to be done to work towards new goals. It’s a combination of faith, trial and error, not holding back and facing (again) my fear of failure that tends to paralyze me at the last minute. Instead of asking myself how can I do this perfectly, I need to be asking myself how can I do this more, where are the limits of this.

That’s not to say it’s going to be rainbows and puppies from now on. It’s a big change of mind-set and that takes time, a lot of doing by trying, and a lot of asking myself if I could be doing more.

It also means being more willing to let mistakes happen like losing balance and more trust in myself and Boss. It also means letting go of always wanting to do slow and perfect practice and making sure that anything I do slow, I also do at speed (which is not a regular habit now).

The seeds are sewn and starting to branch out and percolate. I have a week before I can return to dance after the most recent surgery, but I am starting to get restless, so it’s a good sign. It’s also been more than a week since I have had to take my insomnia medication and my sleep continues to improve. I am also only needing strong pain medication at night and should be able to stop even that by the end of the week.

I am healing, both physically and I am catching up on the mental healing that began after my last surgery in July. There is nothing except time in front of me to stretch myself and reach those limits I have been shying away from.

Time to let go of the dance control freak.

Learning to Relax

Sounds simple, right?

I am discovering it is not so much.

One of my biggest challenges in latin right now is allowing myself to relax and let my hips move. Of course, ‘relax’ is a relative term.

I have some new latin exercises, and while I was doing one of them I noticed that I was constantly fighting against allowing my hips to move. In fact, I realized further that I wasn’t really sure when my hips were supposed to be moving and in what timing. I did a little experiment and discovered that when it comes to movements changing direction I either settled on my hip directly, or didn’t settle at all–especially going forward and back.

So now I have a new exercise specific to moving forward, back and to the side with full hip movements. I am still not sure what I am supposed to be doing when I move forward, and I am pretty sure the back movement is a little on the sketchy (meaning bent leg) side, but for now I have to just keep doing it and work against the instinct to stay rigid and controlled (meaning not move).

It’s a battle I am finding in all my latin exercises right now.

I have a new favourite step….NOT!! But I am really am trying to make it one. On my request (yep, I asked for this), I am working on voltas in samba. I am at the stage where either my body moves, or my timing is right. Both don’t happen together yet. It took me two practices just to figure out a good way to work on them, and to convince myself that doing them slowly every time is not going to help that I stop moving my body when my feet move faster.

I am almost trying too hard to make movements happen instead of relaxing and letting them happen.

But, knowing is half the battle.

One area where I am too relaxed is my eyes. I am still dropping them or not raising them at all when I work on latin. My ‘deep concentration’ mode involves staring without focus at the floor, or my feet in the mirror. There are so many layers to this issue, it is going to have to be an entire other blog post.

My one victory this week is that finally, yesterday, I was doing some of my dance exercises and I felt it! My inner thighs started working and engaging! It’s taken more than two weeks of trying and trying to get them to activate in even one exercise. And slowly the work seems to be spreading.

Lessons are going well. Slowly, we are developing exercises, and just over 15 minutes of each lesson is spent on cardio conditioning which I need both for dance and general fitness. Depending on whether it is a standard or latin day, I do 1:30 of an exercise (change steps in waltz, a sequence in samba) full out as much as I can. Then we check my pulse, and time the recovery. When it reaches ‘pre-work’ level, I do it again. Essentially, dance interval training.

With the progress I am seeing now, I hope I don’t take too much of a step back with the break following the surgery next week. It’s a fairly simple surgery, with a (relatively) short recovery and I hope to be back at it again soon. 2 more lessons before then, although I am not sure the up-coming surgery is going to help much with letting myself relax.

I think I will need to explore more in the future the barriers preventing me from fully letting go and risking performing a wrong movement.

In the end, it is about risking relaxation.

How messed up is that?

Working out a plan

It seems things have settled.

But boy was it rocky to get there.

We have a plan.

I did go to my lesson on Wednesday, but I took some advice from the lovely Girl with the Tree Tattoo and put together my thoughts and frustrations and asked Boss for 5 minutes at the beginning of my lesson to just vent and let it all out.

It turned into a productive conversation that gave more clarity than previous conversations. One of the first things I mentioned was that I felt a little confused about what I was being told because at times it seemed contradictory. The biggest point to come out of that is that Boss is unable to support competing for at least 6 months to a year, and can’t say right now if he will return to competing or not after that.

Well, neither can I. Anything can happen in a year. I know that better than anyone. 2 weeks ago, while waiting for my biopsy result, I wasn’t sure if I would see my 40th birthday.

Life can change on a dime for all sorts of reasons.

All that to say that I know I won’t be competing with Boss for probably at least a year. After that, no one can really say what might be possible. Maybe he will be willing and able to compete, maybe he won’t.

Maybe I won’t be able to compete. You never know.

I don’t work with Boss because he was willing to be a warm body on a competition floor. While competing is one goal of mine, it is not the only one and it is not the most important one either. I work with him because he is able and willing to teach at the level I want and I can take lessons consistently throughout the week. He is also open to communicating, and does both long and short-term planning for lessons. Going to any other instructor, particularly commuting, eliminates a lot of those advantages, particularly being able to work with lessons throughout the week which is the most important thing for me.

Boss did suggest an option that I may consider in the future (for example if he is still unable to compete this time next year), but for now I don’t see it as necessary (not to mention it would be a bit costly).

After all of that, we did come to a plan that works.

I have no issues with not competing for 6 months to a year. I see it as an opportunity to work on my own technique and particularly focus on some details that require more in-depth and long term focus to sort out–things I can’t focus on while preparing to compete. In particular, trying to sort out the issue with my right foot turning out and lacking the strength to stay turned in. Other things include specific techniques in latin, CBMP in standard (I am just starting to scratch the surface on understanding that), and connection in latin.

Boss and I also discussed how I want to structure lessons for the next little while. We agreed that I would stick with 3 a week (as that’s the level I am happiest with), but two would be on things he wants to work on, but the third lesson would be directed by questions, topics that I want to work on (which I will provide to him in advance). I have already given him something for the first one.

My lessons in general will be focused more on individual conditioning and exercises for technique, although I have some routines that have details that need to be worked out. Now is an opportunity to do that. I see all the work I do now will only make my stronger in the future.

The most interesting thing about the discussion we had was that Boss told me he would like me to be more involved in my learning now as I have reached a point where I should be. It’s an interesting concept.

Finally, I had a couple ideas for evaluating progress without competing. First, as we are going to be doing some specific exercises (most from coaches), so I had the idea of filming me doing all the exercises (once we figure out what they will be), and then refilming them in 3 months to play side by side and see if there is any difference.

The second idea was that if I am not competing, then I am saving money. Something valuable I do with it that is still dance related (and cheaper than competing) is to do some coaching lessons. Already the last coach I worked with is going to be returning in February, so I have an opportunity to be able to afford more lessons with him, and Boss suggested a different coach for latin who may be possible to work with in the near-term (I have worked with her before and enjoyed it  a lot).

I am very glad and relieved to have a plan in place, for at least the next 6 months. In June, there will be a time to re-evaluate where everything is at, but until then I am happy with the plan. I have just over a week until my next surgery which will mean some brief time away from dancing. I am glad to have this sorted now.

Bitter days

I am miserable.

That’s the only way I can think to describe how I feel right now.

I made a decision, but I haven’t figured out yet how to live with it. It’s a compromise and truly the best decision for Me, but that doesn’t mean I like it.

I am very angry. I am grieving. I am depressed. I feel betrayed by the universe and like I am being punished.  I want to find a way out of this black hole and figure out a way to move forward.

But I am stuck.

The information for the next comp I was aiming for came out today…and it feels like a punch in the gut. Like the universe is laughing at me.

I don’t even know where to direct all this emotion, except at myself. There is no where else to send it. Things are what they are and I have no power to change them.

I want to be happy with my decision, but I am not there yet. I am afraid I may never get there.

I am supposed to have a lesson tomorrow, but I am afraid to go. I am afraid I won’t be able to be as strong as I need to be to get through the lesson without breaking down and everything I am holding back and trying to keep to myself coming pouring out.

I don’t know that I have the strength to continue dancing without competing.

Because that is what I had to choose.

I can’t relocate, and commuting would quickly leave me bitter and frustrated. I know myself well enough to know that.

Dancing on a regular and consistent basis spread out through the week is so important to almost all of my health and fitness goals. Trying to cram lessons into alternating weekends plus commute costs would break me mentally and physically, and make it almost impossible to afford to compete.

So that leaves continuing to work with Boss, without competing and trying to convince myself to be ok with that.

I am not. Yet. I haven’t figured out how to make it work or where to focus.

I feel like a large part of me has been ripped away and all I can do is watch it fester and rot. I don’t know how to heal it. Yet.

I feel manipulated, even though i know I wasn’t. Somehow it seems like everyone else has gotten what they wanted and I am left still trying to figure out where I fit.

My goal is to figure out a way to get back to competing without Boss or extreme commuting. Thats my impossible dream right now. I don’t even know where to begin.

My soul is aching like it’s been slapped and I am trying to tell it that everything will be ok.

I have felt like this before. I survived then, I will survive now.

Just have to figure out how.

Competitive Instructor wanted

No, unfortunately it is not a joke.

I haven’t posted much lately because I have been trying to work through a difficult situation, that is outside my control.

About a week ago, for a number of reasons personal to him, Boss told me he is no longer able to support my competitive goals.

We can still work together and I can still do lessons, but he does not know when or if he will be able to compete again, but it definitely won’t be for quite a long time.

So I am stuck. I have a fabulous instructor I work and progress well with, but with whom I can’t compete.

So what can I do?

My biggest motivation for dance is competing. It gives me something to work for. The routines I learn, I learn so I can compete. I focus on technique so my dancing can be stronger on the floor. I am so goal oriented, I don’t know how to adjust with competitions of the table.

And there aren’t any 10-dance pro/am teachers in the town where I live. My options seem to be commuting to the mainland or the US. That has financial implications, not to mention trying to cram a week’s or two week’s worth of lessons into a weekend–something my body won’t tolerate for long, especially working full-time between those weekend. Flying or having an instructor commute here would have similar difficulties.

I just don’t even know where to begin to adjust to this. Do I work with Boss and compete with another pro? That seems like another nightmare for me.

An amateur partner still remains an impossible dream.

I obviously need to switch gears, but I don’t know where to start. I either need to fix my goals, hope work decides to relocate me (not likely), or try to find a remote instructor.

I think the worst thing about commuting is that is would frustrate me very quickly and that would lead me to stop dancing in itself.

The worse thing about this is that after the biopsy was clear I felt I had finally got all my ducks in a row and could focus on dance the way I had been hoping since I got sick. I really should have known better. Nothing is ever that simple for me. I have to fight for everything.

So, if you know a possible instructor who does 10-dance and can handle a commute or commuting student, let me know. Will also welcome any alternative suggestions for goals besides competing.

I’ll just be here spinning my wheels trying to figure out if I am done dancing until I can relocate.