The beginning of paso

That’s right, we started on the last latin routine last night.

We started by going through the Waltz and tango so they could be recorded. They went ok in the end, although I forgot an entire short line in the waltz so I am sure that doesn’t look quite so good. Due to technical issues we have to record the tango again. It was a little strange as due to the hall size and how much we can travel we had to start and stop some, but I think the intent was fulfilled.

We then reviewed the jive and began working through it looking at the lead/follow. It was pretty interesting as all the pieces were starting to come together and pieces of it are with the music. That’s quite the progress considering even a week ago I couldn’t quite remember the last section. I finally feel pretty confident in the sequence and I am looking forward to working on it more.

One other thing that happened last night was that during my practice I ran into an interesting problem — in three of my exercises, two in rumba and one in cha cha, I found myself getting frustrated because I couldn’t keep the exercises with the music. The reason — I was moving too fast. It took me a bit of work to slow myself down and use the time to move through the technique instead of just moving the feet to the next beat. It’s actually a really good problem to have.

And then there was paso. We had a general conversation about the styling in paso (hips forward, arm movements from the lats), and then dove into the sequence for the routine. The beginning is probably the most complicated part and we were able to work through it more or less until about 4 or 5 phrases in.

My mind just wants to completely focus on the footwork — whether I should be stepping with straight legs, or on heels or toes — and it is getting in my way right now.

That said, we seemed to be working through it faster than I expected and with a little luck we should be able to get through to the end of the first part in my next lesson tomorrow, which is also my last before I leave.

Well, that is enough procrastinating on school work, so I need to get my paper written to try to relieve some of this stress and so I can get a little excited about my upcoming cruise!

More Paso to follow…

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Heatwave!

My car registered a temperature of 28 degrees (C) outside today.

That is incredibly warm for where I live, even in the summer.

Not being used to the heat, practice and my lesson tonight was incredibly hard. It was like the heat was just draining the energy from me. I even cut my practice a bit short to make sure I had enough energy for my lesson afterwards.

It’s amazing how much such a rapid change in temperature can affect things. Because it was such a quick change, there has been no time to adapt to it.

Despite the heat, my lesson went well. We were revisiting the end of the jive again as we went through it yesterday to finish it up, but there were large chunks that just didn’t stick for me.

It’s always that way for jive it seems. Slowly, piece by piece it will come together. I hope to have it down before I leave for the cruise next week.

Oh, did I mention I am going on a 2 week cruise with my mother and sister? We leave on Wednesday the 23rd and we are going to Northern Britain, Norway, Scotland and Iceland. It should be an interesting and great time, but I also hope to be able to keep up some with my practice and workouts. We are at sea almost every other day, so it will give me something to do.

Following the jive, we went through the rumba together and Boss clarified some points. One of the most interesting discoveries was that some of the work we have done on lead/follow were starting to be incorporated into almost all the steps. It was even a little bit evident in the jive.

What was nice was that I could feel my mind working through things and processing and looking for the right way to apply the lead/follow. That was interesting progress.

We ended by breaking down and looking at the beginning of our waltz, working through it in detail to give me some focus when while I am practicing on my own.

We were going to do conditioning tonight, but with the heat, it just didn’t seem like a good idea. I, for one, was certainly struggling, so we kept working on the waltz.

It’s not likely the heat will end anytime soon, but with some luck I should be able to adapt to it over the next couple days. My main task before my next lesson is to try and work through the jive to get all the steps into my brain so we can move on to the paso.

That’s a different type of heat.

Ok, Let’s Twist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perhaps this might fix my other twist.

Almost got the steps

But I admit to being a little concerned about everything else.

I am getting closer to having the steps down in 6 of the 9 routines. The jive is much more solid and coming. Today during my lesson we finished going through the quickstep and the waltz. I really hope they stick.

But while the steps are slowly coming together, a lot of the routine are obviously lacking the technique needed to pull them off. The worse is jive by far, but I have strange moments when working on samba that it is pretty obvious there are pieces missing.

It’s understandable as the focus has been on the routines and getting the steps down, although there have been some areas of technique we have looked at, especially in latin.

I don’t think I am completely without any technique or anything like that, but I have reached a point in a few of the routines where I can tell I should be doing more and I find myself trying to figure out how to do it.

It’s not necessarily a bad thing.

For example, when working in cha cha, I can feel myself starting to focus a little more on the turns because as I speed it up I have to work harder to execute them. Some of it is triggering things I feel I used to know, like using my ribs to make the turn happen, but I don’t know if that is just something I do, or if it is something I should do.

One thing we have been focusing on lately is twisting of the hips. I feel like there is a little bit of a disconnect there for me because I have been asked to do it, but we have never discussed how to do it and I feel like I do it differently every time. I also feel like because I am figuring it out, I am also limiting myself because I don’t want to do it wrong.

In standard, I find myself questioning how I am rotating almost constantly. Because we were working on that some in the new year, I am cognizant of it, but it’s enough that I spend almost every step wondering if I am rotating wrong.

All this to say I hope the technique, or a review of the technique catches up soon. Some of the routines I can’t even imagine doing slow with the music right now, let along at full speed and with Boss. Quickstep and Jive are at the top of those lists. I am sure they will come though.

Next week is going to be a challenge. I am working crazy hours teaching for work and I don’t know if I will even be able to make it to 2 of my lessons. I am hoping to be able to mitigate things as best I can, but the entire week is going to be a bit exhausting. Following that, I am working on the east coast of Canada for another week.

I can’t help but feel like there are going to be some missed opportunities and that until I return in June my lessons are going to be a lot of review (mostly because there is not any time to develop new concepts — which is completely fair).

It’s just left me feeling like I need to scramble some, and I really can’t explain why. Perhaps it is simply that I don’t want all the travel in May to set me back like I felt happened with the travel in March and April.

Regardless, I am determined to get the steps for these routines down and feel comfortable with them so we can start focusing on the technique and really move them forward. It’s been a big jump to do these open routines, but there is some light at the end of the tunnel. The summer is going to be telling in many ways.

After the steps, time for the next layer.

Noticing changes

And good ones.

The first thing I can say is that I feel more motivated than ever these days, but to go along with that I actually have the energy to back it up. That is the biggest change I have noticed recently, and it has trickle down effects.

When I go to work now, I finally feel like I can push my hardest to do what I need to do and I feel like I am reaching my max as I work. It’s been a long while since I felt that. I have also noticed small changes that are significant, like my spins are getting faster and I have a little more control over things.

I also don’t need as much sleep. Instead of needing 8-10 hours a night, I tend to average 6-7 and I don’t feel exhausted during the days. When I get home from dance now I don’t feel like it’s a rush to get to bed.

I seem to finally have the first section of the jive in my head, and it only took reviewing it over 3 lessons. I was able to get through it 3 times during practice today.

In my lesson, we went through a new section for the quickstep, leaving us about 4 full steps from the end, so we should finish it on Friday. Boss also gave me a new sequence from waltz for conditioning, which is certainly more challenging than just change steps. It consists of a fallaway followed by a reverse turn then a natural turn. It requires a lot of thinking to figure out the alignment and with the changing rotations it takes a lot of control.

I was also able to review the tango during practice and it is not too bad, I really need to dig into it a bit more. I was also able to work more on the cha cha which I am slowly putting to music, currently with the tempo reduced by a rate of 6 (no idea what it means, but that’s what my mp3 player says). I hope to be able to work to -5 or -4 by Sunday.

I am working on the same goal with the samba, although it’s a -5 right now. I hope to start on the rumba on Sunday too, although I hope no more than a -3.

I am starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel for the routines, although we haven’t started paso or foxtrot yet.

One of the other changes I have seen is a small increase in speed. I don’t feel quite so heavy and slow right now and I can feel my body starting to react and move faster.

Overall, things seem to be looking up. I hope I can maintain the momentum I currently have over the next couple weeks while work intensifies with teaching and some more travel. It’s going to be a challenge, but I feel up for it.

Yet another one of the little changes.

It’s all exercises

I was going to call this post something else, but as I worked through my thoughts a different theme emerged.

I can’t really say yesterday was a great lesson. I was pretty exhausted from a crazy week at work so easily getting frustrated, and my lesson was right before a social dance that wasn’t scheduled when the lesson was scheduled so Boss was distracted, people were showing up and things like that.

We focused on going through the exercises, which was needed, but my head wasn’t in the right place to make it an easy exercise for either of us. I had come to the studio earlier to at least do my exercises and try to clear my head from work, but I think work and jet-leg just all caught up with me.

The theme for the review of the exercises was that I need to move my hips more in latin, but also move more in general. I feel like I am moving them a lot (almost too much), but according to Boss I am not moving them much, and I am not applying the movements I do from my exercises to my dancing. OUCH. I know he meant well, but…

That last part hit a nerve I didn’t know was a little raw, but again it could have been the fatigue. I’ll talk about that a little later.

We began working through the exercises and Boss changed two of them, the rocks I do at the gym (now they are on straight legs), and we changed my “cross” exercise to opening out. In my back walks he wants me to work on stepping further back, but honestly I am not really sure how to do that because I already feel I am walking as far back as I can without losing my hip technique.

We might need to revisit the exercises again soon.

We spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out what is going on in my standard side steps and trying to get me to engage my glute muscles when doing them. It was a bit painful the amount of time it took to figure out how to move my body the way Boss wanted me to while using the right muscles. I still have serious doubts I am doing it right.

The sliding doors we are breaking down some of the movements a little more to sharpen it up. It will be interesting to see how that goes with the music.

It wasn’t that Boss was critical (far from it, he even mentioned that one of the reasons I am not moving enough is because I am controlling my movements so much), but it just seemed like everything we tried to do in the lesson my body refused to cooperate with which led to frustration on my part.

It could be a different ballgame when I go to incorporate the changes on Monday. I did the rocks today at the gym (yes, finally got back to strength training!), but I need to give the new version some time to settle as they are all over the place.

I expect much the same with the other exercises. I just need to take some time to work through them myself and see how they go. I hope we will have time to review them before I leave next in 3 weeks.

We ended the lesson by reviewing the new piece in samba in more detail and with me working through the steps on my own. We didn’t get as far as Boss wanted, but at least what we did do I should be able to continue on my own and add to the first half. For whatever reason, the samba is taking the most time to learn with only quarters of the routine coming together at a time. At least we are about 3/4 now.

Returning to the comment that hit a nerve. I was a little surprised to be sensitive about it, but it hit a nerve because we have been focusing on learning choreography, not technique, and there are very few and rare times in my lesson where I feel like I actually dance. Even less common are times when we fully dance together. I think maybe once we did the rumba before I left for Europe.

In short, I haven’t incorporated the work in the exercises into my routines because I haven’t really found any opportunities to do so. When I practice on my own I do try but I am also finding difficulty finding spots where the exercises apply. They are fairly focused, with two of them on specific steps, one on a specific movement which I don’t have a lot in my routines.

When I am working focused on choreography, remembering the steps tends to be my focus with technique secondary. But that said, I know I try to use my technique, but obviously I am missing a lot of spots where Boss would like to see it.

What doesn’t help is the underlying apathy I have trying to keep myself motivated. It’s not that I don’t have any goals, I just don’t feel any rush to achieve them. There is no timeline for me. As far as I am concerned, I have unlimited time to learn these routines and all the technique that goes with them. So I am taking my time, and perhaps more than Boss is used to me taking or needing to learn and incorporate new things.

I guess in the past 6 months since Boss had to reduce the amount of time he dances I have developed my own plan and pace and have become a bit resigned to things.

Don’t get me wrong though — I do very much enjoy my lessons and the progress we are making on the routines and choreography!

But since there are few opportunities, or even expectations (at least until Boss mentioned it yesterday) to do full out dancing, I guess I lack the incentive to really focus on that part of dancing right now. Anything I do on my own always seems limited compared with what I could do with a partner.

So, I have been focusing on the areas where I guess I feel is my wheelhouse right now: doing my exercises and learning choreography.

I am probably not explaining myself very well. In the end, the comment hit a nerve because I feel like I have been waiting for an opportunity to do exactly what he commented on — finding a time to incorporate the exercises into my routines. And I can’t explain why I feel like I am waiting except to say that I generally feel like everything I am doing right now is an exercise.

THAT is what I have been trying to figure out. Quite honestly, sometimes the reason I write here is to help me figure out what I am thinking.

I haven’t incorporated my exercises into my dancing because I feel like everything I am doing right now is a series of individual exercises. Even the choreography. There hasn’t been any time to stop doing exercises and just dance and see how it all comes together.

That’s what’s missing, and that’s why it hit a nerve.

The other comment about needing to move more, I do understand where he is coming from. It’s a constant battle for me to let go of the control because we spent years working to have me develop it. I feel constantly paranoid that if I let myself move, then it’s going to be too much. I don’t think I understand the difference between what I used to do that we had to correct so much and what he is asking me to do now.

I think he wants me to move more while maintaining the control, but I just don’t really know how and still can’t tell the difference between the right moving more and the uncontrolled moving more.

I wonder if maybe we need to do some run-throughs and take videos to just take a moment to evaluate and see where I am at. For ME to see where I am at and what Boss is talking about. Maybe even my practice needs to be recorded. I just don’t know.

When I practice my latin routines, I feel like I am moving a lot. In fact, I don’t do them to the music so I can make sure I allow myself to move.

There is a definite disconnect there. Most likely I am trying too hard. I also know there is a lot of tension and focus when I am working on my own, and it is rare I let myself relax into what I am doing. Perhaps that is all part of it too.

The hall has been crowded for practices lately as well, making it hard to even dance on my own full out without having to dodge other couples.

I am hopeful that tomorrow morning things will be a bit quieter and I can get through my routines.

Comments are comments. Its funny sometimes how something relatively small can have a big impact. I think the comments from yesterday’s lesson also highlighted my feeling like I am failing and slacking off on dance because I have no timelines to meet. I just feel like I am not doing enough right now, but that could be just the inconsistency due to the traveling. That feeling is going to make any comment that implies I am not doing something play right into my worst fears right now.

I may have to write some more about those in my next post.

For now, I am just going to continue doing exercises.

Back to Square One

But in a good way.

Tonight is the first night since I returned that I can confidently say I am where I was, or even a little bit ahead of where I was before I left.

I actually got to the gym today at work, so that was a good start. I was able to do my gym dance exercises for the first time and they went well.

My lesson also went pretty well, with the exception of a messy bit at the end, which I will get to later.

We were working on tango, specifically adding the second half so I can work on the entire routine on my own. It went well and by the end of the lesson I was able to work through the new section on my own, and during my practice tonight I was able to put it all together.

My standard frame seemed to be much better tonight than it was on Monday and I could feel my brain a little more relaxed and focused for the work. Boss remarked almost immediately that my right side was more engaged, so I took that as a good sign.

We were able to work through pieces of the routine with slow music, which led to discovering a need for Boss to clarify the timing in a couple line steps.

We ended the lesson with conditioning in change steps and it honestly started out as a bit of a disaster. I felt like jelly. I just couldn’t seem to settle into the steps, and I couldn’t seem to keep control over what I was doing. Even my brain seemed scattered and running all over the place to try to figure out what I needed to do.

In hindsight, I think my core was exhausted some from the return to the focused work. Part of my gym exercises is about 3 minutes of figure 8 work for latin. I could definitely feel my abs tiring when I was doing it and it was a bit of a fight to get to the end. My balance actually was off all afternoon, which also makes sense.

I guess the good thing is that I was able to pull it together some, although pretty inconsistently, for a couple of the last rounds.

We were also able to review and clarify one of my exercises to give it more focus, which is something I need in all my exercises right now, and which we are slowly going through.

My own practice tonight went well too. Better than it has since I returned. Besides my regular exercises, I was able to go through all 6 routines I am working on right now, and rumba and tango I can do from top to bottom, Samba we need to clarify the new piece, but Waltz, Cha Cha and Quickstep are ready for new pieces to be added.  Boss told me he wanted to finish both a standard and latin routine this week, and we have tango finished now, and he had forgotten we had already finished rumba (so I am not sure if that counts).

I am pretty happy with where I am at. Boss even remarked on watching me work through the cha cha and seemed pretty happy with how it looked. None of the routine are with the music yet, but I am trying to at least attempt to do them with a consistent count. My next goal, after getting the footwork down is to tighten up the timing for myself and make sure that the holds are right and that the sections that move keep moving.

My next lesson is Friday, so we will see what that will bring. I expect the review of my exercises as Boss mentioned a few times tonight he wants to go through them all, and quite honestly I could use a couple changes just to freshen things up.

But it’s good to be back to square one.

Interesting side effect

Something interesting happened tonight.

I had a crazy day at work (which wasn’t unexpected after 3 days away!), after which I went to the studio to practice and for my lesson.

Practice went better, there was just something different about it today I couldn’t quite put my finger on. It continued during my lesson, but really came to light during the conditioning today which was samba.

It seems that my time away, and time away from dance allowed some things to click that had been sitting in limbo. Like the physical break allowed my mind to process things. In particular in the samba conditioning, I finally seemed to be able to put together the body movement with some sharpness–something I had been trying to do before I left.

There was a different freedom to what I was doing I can’t really fully explain. Almost like something that was holding me back had relaxed and let go. Boss even commented that it was the best dancing I had done all night (which I was more than willing to agree with).

We started with a review of the standard routines and I could tell from the beginning I just wasn’t feeling “settled” with standard. It just felt off and like something was missing. It was a quick review though and I think it improved as we progressed. We did do some of the tango with the music today so that was a good step.

I think I am ready to move to new sections in the standard routines, but I will leave that up to Boss.

Boss also told me today that he noticed it is time to progress some of my exercises, so Wednesday we are going to have a look at those, as well as the new section in samba we began on Friday.

We also went through the few spots in the cha cha and rumba I couldn’t quite remember, so hopefully I am good to go with them to solidify them to prepare for adding another piece in cha cha (the rumba I have the entire routine memorized, more or less now), and to review the jive, which I have nothing of on my own right now.

Of course, then there is foxtrot and paso, neither of which we have looked at yet, but slowly the routines that seemed impossible are slowly getting in my head and feet.

What I didn’t expect while I was away, was to come back to find that some of the things that seemed just out of my grasp before I left have come together. Still a lot of work to be done.

But that’s a side effect I can live with 🙂

Getting back in the groove

Its a slower process than I would like.

But, the main thing is that I am getting back into the swing of things.

I am quite honestly disappointed in the amount I have lost and forgotten in the time that I was away. When I tried to run through the latin routines on my own on Friday, there was a fair amount of gaps which required a lot of review during my lesson. Today, however they went a little better with only a couple of spots where I am still in the dark.

I did review the standard routines today and they were better, although tango is missing a lot of the technical work we had done. I am hoping a quick review of them in my next lesson will bring them back up to speed.

Despite the gaps, we did work on progressing the samba further by trying to add another section for me to work on. Parts of it stuck, but a lot of it didn’t although we didn’t work through it completely so I could work on my own. I imagine some time this week we will review it again to let it get locked down.

Aside from the gaps in routines, my feet are also protesting the return to work by cramping up on me during latin, especially rumba.  They haven’t done that in a while, so it was a bit of a surprise, but I am continuing to work through it knowing that my feet will strengthen. I am still congested from having bronchitis but it is much better overall. I am optimistic it will continue to improve, and if not I have an unrelated medical appointment later this week.

I am also working to break in some new practice shoes, so I have some small ‘hot spots’ that are like pre-blisters happening, but nothing major. The shoes are almost broken in, so the spots are less each time I use them.  My plan is to alternate them with my other practice shoes so each has time to dry out. I was finding that using one pair of shoes meant that by the end of the week my shoes were clammy and damp.

I have 4 full weeks from now until I am away again for work although that is a short trip–5 days total and in Canada.

4 weeks to try to reset again and get back into a solid pattern of work. Tomorrow will see me return to strength training and regular practice.

Every journey starts with a single step and so I am prepared to begin again and move forward.

The time away was good for me overall. I had some time to get some perspective on a few different things and I can feel myself still working through it all. Among other things, I realize that I am still working to adapt to the full return to work and balancing that with school and dance.

I do feel that I have moved from recovering to rebuilding and that is a very positive place to be. As tricky as recovering was, the path for it was pretty linear. Rebuilding seems to have more options for how I can go about it and that is what I need to figure out.

As far as dance, for now until my life settles in June, my plan is to keep working as I have been and my goal is to develop much better consistency, even with the amount of traveling I will be doing.

I am ready to get back into my groove.

I just need to figure out what that is now.

Rumba-ing in the Right Direction

Tonight’s lesson had an unexpected high note.

We started by reviewing an exercise section for the jive at my request so that I would have something from jive to work on while I am away. Following that, I needed 3 small clarifications in cha cha to tighten that up.

Once those little things were out of the way, Boss wanted to work on the rumba to go through it with me dancing on my own all the way to the end. It took most of the lesson, but I was able to go through both the new section and the entire routine on my own. Boss even found a few different areas to give some coaching for technique to work on while I am away.

Since we had some time left at the end of the lesson, Boss decided to give the full rumba a try together with the music. It wasn’t flawless, of course, but it didn’t fall apart either. We had enough time to run it three times in a row from top to bottom.

Unexpectedly, I have one entire open routine I can actually ‘run through’!

Now the real work on the routine will begin–cleaning it, making it consistent, and styling. The work we already did on connection was already starting to show, but there is obviously a lot that still needs to happen.

Not to mention there are 8 other routines to finish learning to get to the same point. None of them are at the point where I can run through them fully on my own yet, and 2 (almost 3 if you count jive), I am not able to work through on my own yet at all (including the 2 most difficult).

But it’s a starting point. First one routine settles in, then others follow.

I am off for 3 weeks in Europe tomorrow for work and a mini-vacation at the end. It’s going to be a busy time, but I am really hopeful that I will be able to find some time to run through things for dance, as well as some strength training. I already feel a bit paranoid I will lose all of the progress I have made recently while I am away. Fingers crossed it doesn’t degrade too much.

I actually managed to get everything done I wanted to before I leave. I have a school paper due this weekend, which I finished just before dance tonight, I have a group project due while I am away but my group (many of whom are also away at the same time due to Easter) and I agreed to work ahead on it, so it is almost finished too. I got all my work stuff completed as well, although that had me at work after dance last night to finish it up.

I am even packed, which is pretty good for me since I don’t leave until noon tomorrow 🙂 .

The only small potential hiccup I am watching is a snow storm coming through one of the airports I am going to transition through. I am hoping it will be cleared out by the time I get there tomorrow afternoon.

I don’t know if I will be able to post much while I am away, but I do promise to catch up when I get back.

I am going to ride my rumba high for a little bit.

And hope everything isn’t too different when I get back.