2.5 weeks

That’s it until we leave for Emerald Ball!

I honestly can’t believe it is coming so close. It still seems like there is so much work to do, and we haven’t really done any run-throughs due to my injury.

So far so good though. The hip is behaving with only a little bit of tweaking here and there – mainly in paso. Thankfully, that is the dance I do the least overall at the comp so hopefully that will bode well.

Today we reviewed a couple of places in foxtrot and waltz to look at some of the line figures and make some small adjustments. Following that, we looked at some spots in the Paso where I have a habit of over-compensating to shape and break my left side.

We ran through it a couple times and on the very last run-through at the very end I got the smallest tweak going into the twists that end the routine. It was fleeting, but enough to put me on edge.

We finished with jive, which honestly is the routine that is concerning me the most. For some reason, I can’t seem to keep the routine in my head and I have yet to get through it without forgetting one major part or another. The biggest issue is I get into my own head getting worried I will miss a part coming up and then end up skipping over the previous section.

I need to mainly get out of my head in jive.

I also keep missing the first turn and ending up facing the wrong way by confusing it with a later turn. There is just a bunch of little pieces in jive that aren’t quite coming together leading me to panic some and then forget what I am doing.

We did try it at full speed today and up until the very end it went well. It then became really obvious that we haven’t really done the end of the routine at full speed as all of a sudden everything both of us were doing got behind. We really just need to go through the entire routine about 10 times without stopping to nail it down.

I have one more lesson this week, and then this weekend Boss and I will run through the routines in the other hall on our own (as most of the others at the practice will be competing at the Canadian Closed Comp in Calgary).

Monday I pick up my new dresses. I haven’t seen them since the last fitting so I am really curious to see what the final result will be – especially since slowing down on activity I have lost almost 10 lbs without trying. I am hoping it won’t have too much of an impact on the fit overall.

Next weekend we should have a full rounds practice with the other competitors so that should set us up nicely for the comp!

A busy 2 weeks ahead!

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A Glimmer…

Of hope. But so far only a glimmer.

I got the shot blindly on Friday and from there I spent the weekend sitting on my left side doing pretty much nothing. I noticed a little bit of an increase in range of motion, but not much else.

This morning there was a definite improvement. I could walk without pain on every step, I could do back breaks without pain and many of the things that were causing huge issues last week.

I still had some pain at the extremes of movements and it was up and down throughout the day. I am still icing alternating with heat regularly and taking ibuprofen.

I had the doctor’s blessing to try dancing again today, so I did, although nothing full out and fairly slow. I tried some of the steps that gave me definite grief last week (jive swivels being one for sure) and I wasn’t getting any pain.

We started the lesson going slowly through the jive and working on the styling. I would get a very minor ‘zing’ every now and then, but for the most part things were pretty steady. About halfway through my lesson I started to get some aching on my right side, but no pulling or zinging.

After the jive, we switched to quickstep to review the steps of the last line that we started reviewing last week. Switching seemed to be a good idea, although I was still getting some aching through my left side, especially on the heel turns.

We finished with the foxtrot to go over the final piece of the routine to clarify the loop back to the beginning.

I am sore and probably where I was the day this started 2 weeks ago. Needless to say, I didn’t stay to practice and as soon as I got home I put ice on it, followed by a hot epsom salt bath.

I will ice and alternate with heat more as the evening goes on. Hopefully the injection will keep working to counter some of the inflammation from my lesson. I have physio tomorrow and massage therapy again on Wednesday. The plan for tomorrow is a lot of rest. Hopefully physio can offer some stretches or exercises to help keep things getting better.

I still haven’t completely decided whether to compete or not. I want to give the injection longer to work and see how the effects last this week. The decision will be made after rounds practice on Sunday. If I can do it and things are ok, then I should be good.

But if I get to rounds practice and I can’t get through it, then it is time to cancel competing.

But at least for now there is a glimmer of hope.

And then there were 2

2 routines that we still haven’t been able to get through top to bottom at speed with the music without a major disaster.

Not surprisingly, they are jive and quickstep.

That’s not to say the others are perfect by any means, but they are well on their way to being respectable on the floor.

That said, jive and quickstep are coming. Jive was the focus of today’s lesson and already it is going better than it was. We did get through it today once with slightly slower music.

I will say that spending almost entire lessons on either jive or quickstep can be pretty exhausting, especially when the majority of the lesson is spent running the routines or large sections of it. Its a good test of conditioning, which isn’t bad, but definitely still needs a lot of work.

I will say that I am not as concerned about either routine as I was even a week ago. I can see the progress and we are “this close” to having them together.

This week we switch from weekend lessons to weekend rounds practices with other dancers. They are the same practices we used to do way back when, so they will be really good for letting us know where we stand overall, especially in terms of endurance and conditioning.

I am looking forward to the rounds because they will give a consistent and steady run-through of all of my routines each week, which is what we really need right now. I am finding a little that as we move to focus on one routine the others suffer some. The rounds practice will help to keep them together.

Tonight’s lesson was pretty hard. We started with the open rumba which went really well then focused in on the open jive. It was already flowing better than last Friday, and I wasn’t mixing up the steps as much as I was then. It was just really obvious when my endurance starting lagging.

I should mention I have a black eye right now. I was at the gym working out and when I went to return some weight plates to the weight tree a person working at a pulley machine next to it let go of the handles without maintaining any control and it swung out and hit me hard on the corner of my left eye. I have a lovely blue goose egg I can see out of the corner of the eye and the swelling is irritating. It made it a little hard to concentrate tonight, but I am glad I got the lesson done.

We switched from open jive to silver jive to give a bit of a break (yep, that qualifies as a break!), before returning to the open jive for a couple more full run-throughs, first a little slower, then at regular speed. Some small mishaps, but we did get all the way to the end and learned the routine is 1:30.

We finished by running through the paso from top to bottom 4-5 times with only about a minute break between each one.

Unfortunately, that’s when a bit of trouble started with my body. I can’t really describe what it going on except to say I was experiencing a tight and sore feeling in my right hip. To me, that means either my back or my minor glute muscle is acting up again. Thankfully, I have physio tomorrow.

I finished my night by running through all the silver routines on my own with the music, and then some spot work in the open quickstep, jive and a change in the rumba I needed to just review for myself. My hip was pretty ok for the most part, but I did end up stopping 10 mins before I intended because my hip just got too sore.

I guess, truthfully, the jive is almost in the same place as the other open latin routines, perhaps about one lesson behind.

Which really leaves only one…

Over-thinking

I am getting in my own way.

I am at a point now where I am trying too hard to put everything together and capture all the little details in every thing I do. Beyond that, I am trying so hard that in some instances I am overdoing things – because my body is already what its been trained to do naturally.

Its slowing me down and making me heavy at times. I am thinking so much as I dance that my mind can’t keep up with the music. It is also making me tense through my upper body.

I just need to relax and trust that my body will do what it is trained to do.

It sounds easy, but truthfully, I am not very good at letting go. I can’t see what my body is doing and because I am so used to a lot of the movements I don’t necessarily feel my body doing them.

At my lesson tonight the problem first showed up in the open samba. Once Boss pointed out that I should just relax a little and focus on my feet instead of my body things seemed to get better. I also felt a bit faster and lighter overall. The trick was to shift my focus from my body to my legs.

Later in the lessons we reviewed the silver latin routines and the same issue seemed to be creeping up. Again, my focus was on my body and that was making me heavy, especially in my feet. Once I lightened up, it seemed to go smoother.

My body is also really starting to know the routines well – again if I would just trust it to move. I was running through all the silver routines on my own today and with the exception of Quickstep (which is still confounding me), they are really coming together on my own. I could really feel where I am getting in my own way. I ran through them all with the music except tango and foxtrot (I didn’t have any music for them with me), and once I stopped trying to think through every step they started running smoother.

What really surprised me was that once I let go of thinking too much, I suddenly found myself remembering small little details I didn’t have time to think of when I was trying to think of everything.

Funny how that works.

In general, my solo practice felt more like I was taking ownership of the routines tonight. They felt more solid and less like I was scrambling. I definitely felt more confident working through them (except the before mentioned quickstep). My next goal is to slowly start adding the open routines to my self-practice to get them also to the same level of confidence. I was there with them before and I can get there again.

If I just stay out of my own way.

Speed

I can feel myself lacking this.

On Friday after my lesson I worked on running through the silver routines, and in particular I tried to do the latin routines with the music.

Oy. That was a sobering moment.

In all the routines, except for rumba (and even moments there), I generally felt really heavy and slow. In cha cha in particular it felt like I was constantly scrambling to get my legs moving.

It was a little disappointing because I know that once upon a time I prided myself in being able to run all my routines in time with the music and speed used to be one of my greatest assets in latin.

Now I just feel like I am constantly behind and no matter how hard I try my legs just wouldn’t keep up. My body wouldn’t move and I felt a bit like a lead block. It was honestly the first time I tried to do any routine in time with the music in quite some time, so I am looking at it as a first step which will get better every time I do it.

That said, the major victory for the week was getting through the open paso in time with music up to speed without any major stops or disasters. It was rough, the styling was pretty much non-existent, but we were able to do it a few times at the end of my lesson on Friday.

The other small victory this week was that I was finally able to work through the silver standard routines on my own. I haven’t tried to put them to the music yet, but I was have constant issues just putting all the steps together in time with the music. The silver quickstep is still a bit of an issue, but at least there is a starting point.

Yesterday we focused on standard in the bigger hall during my extra lesson. We started with running the silver routines which went really well, and they we walked through the open paso and samba to see how they fit in a bigger hall for the alignments. After that, we ran through the open waltz, tango and worked some on the open quickstep to finish the lesson.

One of the issues we are encountering right now is that both our open waltz and tango had lines that were too long for the hall. We have had to cut a few steps out of each line and to realign the start a little to make them fit. Its still a bit of a work in progress, and I am sure we will finish adjusting the routines this week.

The open quickstep didn’t go too bad, but the main issue was that neither I nor Boss had worked on it in a while, so it was just rough. Its top of the list for my lessons this week.

The one routine where speed is really concerning me is jive. I just can’t imagine the routine at the speed it needs to go.

That’s actually one of the issues I am finding right now – in my head all of the routines in are slo-mode. My head can’t visualize them at the speed they need to be because in all honestly its been quite a while since I have really done any routines at the proper speed in some of the dances. The dances themselves have become slow in my head and that is not helping me get up to speed.

But the hardest part of fixing a problem is recognizing there is one. At least I have done that.

The only place to go from here is faster.

Upping the Ante

Tonight’s lesson was about Paso.

When the coach was here, he made some small changes to the paso and we worked through the routine from top to bottom, but we didn’t have a chance to go over it with Boss.

Tonight we worked through the first half of the paso to incorporate the changes, the coaching and to work on it with the music.

There were some details to work out in the alignment and some places where I needed to rotate more to make it all work. Once we got the details worked out, we focused on running through the first part with the music at speed.

Tonight was the first time we tried any part of the paso at full speed. That said, other than having to adjust a lot to moving faster initially, by the end of the lesson it wasn’t going too bad. There are definitely some rough patches, but it was doable.

We recorded it at the end of the lesson, and the video doesn’t look as bad as I thought it might. I am clearly tired, but there are some good things happening. It looks promising. Next up is to do the same with the second part to put it all together.

My last few lessons have really upped the ante on our preparations. We are dancing more in lessons and running the routines where we can. In total, I am spending a lot more time in my lessons working hard and more intensely. Generally, I like it.

Of course, with any increase in activity there are some trickle down effects. My body is definitely feeling it. After Monday’s lesson, I was surprised to find my left knee a bit swollen and it was aching so bad when I was trying to sleep I had to get up to put some voltaren on it. The voltaren seems to be working and keeping the pain at bay.

I also stayed for the 90 minute group class today – 45 latin, 45 standard. It went well, but again I could feel the fatigue.

This week in itself is a bit of an adjustment week for me. Its the first week doing full strength training, dance, practice, ballet, the group class and an extra lesson which is going to be the ‘new normal’ until the competition, more or less. I expect my body will take a little while to adjust, but really hope it will adjust. I am doing my best to take care of it best I can making sure it is getting good rest, epsom salt soaks, voltaren and trying to listen to what my body is telling me.

And that is how we are upping the ante.

Catching Up

I’m back!

I wasn’t really away that long, but I have been so busy I have been away from writing. For that I apologize.

I’ve been bogged down with work and finishing off my masters degree and I am happy to say that work is giving a bit of a break and my final assignment has been submitted!

Last week was a much needed vacation, although it was not without its own drama when airline delays meant we missed our cruise ship and had to be rerouted over two days to the first port! We joined the ship only 2 days late and had a great time from there, but it was hectic to say the least.

This week I had a great opportunity to work with one of our Canadian pro latin vice champions over 6 lessons and honestly it was a lot of what I needed. He is amazing to work with and I highly recommend if you have an opportunity.

I lost a lot of training momentum while I was deployed this fall and then with the Christmas break, first my hip then my back injuries, menopause issues affecting my concentration and focus, snow days and Boss getting the flu – well I just haven’t been able to really organize myself and get back into a regular groove of things. I also completely changed my strength training routines to better support weight loss and my goals, and finished my masters with a very high intensity course requiring a lot of my time to get through.

I am not completely comfortable with where I am personally when it comes to preparing for this competition. I don’t feel like I know even the sequence of my routines (which is very unusual for me) and when I do learn them, I seem to keep forgetting them. My own practice has been almost non-existent because I don’t feel structured or like I have a plan when I go to do it (also unusual for me).

But now with a lot of the outside pressures out of the way, I am looking forward to spending the next 50 days or so focused on preparing for Emerald Ball. Training itself is ramping up with extra lessons and starting to focus on rounds and run-throughs.

Despite my concerns and disappointment in myself, there are some silver linings. Among other things, I was able to work through 6 pretty intense lessons without my strength and stamina failing me too much. I was actually quite surprised and impressed with myself for that. I was able to take away a lot from my work with the coach and it helped to solidify some of the routines I was really unsure of – like paso. That has helped me feel better overall about where I am.

The main thing I really need to nail down for myself right now is some structure to organize myself until the competition. I know Boss has his own plans and they’ll get us there, but I do feel like I am not pulling my own weight and doing my part – at least as much as I am used to doing – and that is slowing us down. I know myself well enough though that once I figure out a structure, it should fall into place from there. Boss and I are going to try to get that established tonight so I can start fresh next week.

I have a lesson tonight and one again tomorrow (in a bigger hall so we can look at the alignments for our routines). I think the plan tonight is to go over the silver routines and try to dance them through, ideally getting through all of them in one lesson. That would be nice to achieve because we haven’t been able to do that yet, but I also expect that we might not get there. We’ll see how it goes.

From there, its about catching up.

Quickstep

My lesson today was more than an hour on quickstep.

That’s a feat in itself.

It was good though because we were able to completely review the routine and work through some of the trouble spots.

Quickstep is interesting because while you need to know your steps, you also don’t really have the time to think about them, so you have to trust your feet know what they are doing as you move along.

My feet are not quite there yet.

One of the most revealing things from today was realizing that the quickstep routine is quite fragmented in my mind. I know it in sections – the sections I practice to fit in the smaller hall we normally work in. Today we were in a bigger hall that is closer to regulation size and that meant working to keep the routine moving – and immediately highlighted that once we switched to a new section my brain kept expecting to start.

I suspect there may be a similar issue in the other standard routines as well. One of the ways we will be fixing that is working in the bigger hall twice a month until competing – that should highlight all those gaps pretty quickly.

The other thing I noticed in quickstep, which I did notice in the work we did last week, was that there seems to be a lot of things coming together for me in standard right now. Its like my mind processed them over the break and they just make sense. There are a lot of ‘aha’ moments going on – especially when it comes to moving my body in standard.

For example, something that seemed to constantly elude me was my promenade position. I could hold it when I was standing on my own, but somehow whenever I put it into context it just didn’t manifest in the same way. Something was off, but I could never figure out why the two felt so different when they were meant to be the same. Somehow it pulled together for me and I know what I need to do to create the same feeling. For me, its more about thinking of pulling my left shoulder and elbow back instead of just facing forward. Somehow this thought locks the position into place. I think this has come from the tango work I did in Ottawa for some reason.

Its not consistent yet, but my mind is starting to consistently remind myself and check when I turn to promenade to see if the right feeling is there. I can feel muscle memory starting to develop. Working in quickstep today was really helpful as I feel like that is the dance where the position is the most crucial overall – without a strong position, the entire dance will fall apart due to the momentum and speed. It needs that support.

I had asked to work on quickstep specifically because I felt it was the one standard routine we just don’t quite have together yet. We haven’t really done any of it to the music and we haven’t yet gone all the way through it without a mini disaster.

Because quickstep is the last dance we do in standard and we are most tired when we do it (not to mention the momentum and pace of it), for me its really important that we have it down solid and feel confident and comfortable with it. Of all the routines, this is the one I need to know inside and out so that when I get to that point in a comp no matter how tired I am I know it is there.

Basically, I feel like if I can do the quickstep routine, then I can do any of them. The rest is almost gravy.

I predict a lot of quickstep in the future – although the progress seems to be moving quickly since we are concentrating on it. I also know that every adjustment we make in quickstep will translate into the other dances – especially the waltz and foxtrot.

Some other areas where my mind seems to be pulling things together are in my feet position (closing them just seems to happen easier now), keeping my knees bent, power, and my upper body position in general. Somehow it all seems different and better. I am not sure if its perception or perhaps just a change in focus in my mind.

Regardless, it seems like there has been a fundamental jump forward for me in standard and I am looking forward to see where it goes.

Quickstep is only the beginning.

Seeing Standard Come Together

We recorded some videos yesterday.

Exclusively standard, we recorded the Waltz, Foxtrot and Tango line by line to make the best use of the hall.

We haven’t recorded these new standard routines at all except for 2 or 3 individual steps, so it was the first time to see the work I have been doing come together.

The waltz (which we have been working on the most) looked the most polished. I can truly say that I am proud of how the waltz looked and I was really surprised by parts of it. Probably for the first time in a very long time I could see a distinct improvement in standard. It was really great to see!

The foxtrot was not as strong, but it also showed great improvement, especially the first half we have worked on a lot recently. The last half needs work, but it is not a complete disaster. It’s passable, but obvious that it hasn’t been looked at a lot.

The tango was a different story. I couldn’t seem to settle into it, and the position change for tango from waltz and foxtrot really threw me off. We had been working a lot of position in the swing dances and one thing that really helped me and kept me grounded in those dance was stretching back into Boss’s right hand with my left shoulder blade. In tango, because the position is different, that ‘anchor’ just wasn’t there and that caused me to not feel like the position was ‘locking in’. It was obvious watching the videos that my position was all over the place. It was also obvious that I wasn’t completely confident with the steps and in places you could tell I felt a little like I was chasing Boss through the dance.

We started on the quickstep, but it quickly became apparent that it wasn’t ready to be recorded in time with the music as we haven’t really worked on it and we have never tried it at speed. We agreed to make it a project for this week in my lessons and to aim to record it next weekend along with some of the latin routines.

Today at my lesson, quickstep was indeed the theme. We managed to work through the first few lines to the third corner in time with the music, looking at details here and there as necessary. Honestly, the hardest part was getting started and into the first line as I kept miscounting steps. Once we got going, it seemed to come together a bit better.

We finished today with a new conditioning sequence for jive. It’s a challenging sequence with steps straight from my routine, including what is probably the most difficult part of the routine with a combination of turning sailor shuffles and simple spins. It is already coming together better than it was on Friday when I just learned it and I can tell that it is stressing my system (in a good way) more than the samba. It takes longer for my heart rate to recover and it is working my body in a different way.

On a final note today, I had my 6-month follow-up with my oncologist. It went really well and quick, with only one “Are you Kidding?” note when he asked if I would like to try the hormone therapy again now that my ovaries have been removed. I think he realized pretty quickly that I wouldn’t even consider it and switched his messaging to acknowledge that I did try it for more than 6 months and I did have a very toxic reaction, which did justify leaving it behind. The good news is that I will see him again in 6 months and after that I will switch to yearly follow-ups with him with check-ups with my family doctor in between. One more step forward.

I haven’t written much as work has continued to be crazy busy and that combined with school and trying to prepare to be away has left me pretty stressed. I am off 4 days this weekend and I cannot wait. It’s the first full weekend off I have been going pretty full tilt with work since I returned from the cruise and I can tell that the break is completely needed. With the long weekend the week after and no duty in sight, I will have three 4-day weeks in a row before a really busy push to the end of September. After that, it looks like I will be in Ottawa for a few days before getting ready for the extended work trip after that.

Boss has also asked me to consider doing one of the latin routines in a showcase event with one of the other local studios. I am thinking about it, but I am not sure any of the latin routines will be ready in time and I am hesitant to add to my stress levels trying to push to prepare it. Part of my doubt is that I am really not sure where any of the latin routines are at as far as doing them at speed with the music because other than rumba, we haven’t tried any of them. This week we should have a chance and I will make my decision from there. It would be nice to do a performance before I leave.

So perhaps next week I will be able to write about how the latin is coming together.

A Routine Victory

We got through 4 of the 5 latin routines tonight with slow music.

The one we missed was jive, but only because we ran out of time.

We started by reviewing each of the routines then we went through them, first at a slower speed then slightly faster.

We got through all of them without major disaster except paso which needed a pause, but we were able to pick it up again.

It went better than I expected (although I am not sure why I expected disasters) and certainly there are places and elements to work on – like arm transitions and the fact that I have a habit of just barreling along without waiting for the lead or really having any idea of what Boss is doing in some places (so being really surprised to discover some of my turns are underarm for example).

I found for myself some interesting results from the solo practice I have been working on. For example, I have really been working on the NY sequence we have in Cha cha and today it went much better than I expected in context, so much so that the first time I was so surprised I almost stopped. I really had to give myself a pat on the back for that. In addition, there was one spot I couldn’t seem to figure out on my own, but as soon as we put it in context, it clicked that I was missing a step in the timing and I was able to fix it in my practice after my lesson.

I like lessons like today that just put things together for me, but also reveals the places that just aren’t quite there yet. It also helps with building a bit of confidence in my steps and that I know them, which in turn lets me relax a bit about the steps and turn my focus elsewhere like how to move my body instead of my feet.

I think I needed the lesson today. I had been feeling a bit down and like I was working hard but not getting anywhere, although that was probably because of the infection I was fighting (which thanks to antibiotics my energy levels are coming up). The boost from today has been a long time coming.

My ballet experiment is almost over. One more lesson tomorrow. I have to say I like it, and am trying to figure out how I can fit it in my schedule in the fall. They already told me they would work with the time I am away for work. It would be once a week in the fall. It’s sort of like a combination of a strengthening and stretching in one. I will write more on it after the lesson tomorrow.

For now I am going to take my little win.