Back on the Floor!

Yes, finally!!

I was cleared to return to all activities yesterday, and I celebrated by having a lesson. 9 weeks until the competition, so a lot of work to do.

The lesson last night was very interesting and telling.

It ended up being later in the evening than I usually have a lesson and I was worried I would be too tired, but I was so anxious to get back on the floor I pushed it aside.

It was good that I did.

The start of the lesson was really really rough. We were working on standard since I have a couple coaching lessons this week and we started by reviewing and walking through our gold routines. I really felt like a wet blanket with no strength, and my mind was racing in about 50 different directions as my body tried to figure out what was going on. By the time we finished walking through the quickstep, I was honestly feeling quite panicked, and really couldn’t figure out what was going on.

We took a bit of a break before looking at specific parts of the routines that we will focus on for the coaching.

It turned out that break was what my mind needed to reconnect with my body and to trust that my body knew and was capable of doing what it needed.

After that, it was like the weight I have been carrying on my shoulders for the last 6 months disappeared. I felt my mind relax and organize itself, and as Boss and I prepared to work through one segment of our waltz, everything just came back together.

Actually, it came together better than it has in a longer time than I can remember.

It was like I needed the rough start for my mind to assess the state of my body and once it decided that all the movements were ok, it gave permission.  I could use my full strength and power, was able to move into full hold and to follow what Boss was doing. By the end of the lesson we were even traveling significantly more down the floor than we have in a very long time.

The best way I can describe the feeling is to say I felt free and free to dance. There wasn’t anything holding me back anymore–no hormone issues, no depression, no muscle weakness, no fuzzy head, and no fatigue.

In fact, I felt more energized after the lesson than I was before it–something that hasn’t happened since before I was diagnosed. I had honestly forgotten what that feels like.

I was able to ask my body to do things, and it responded–usually better than I expected, and much more than I have become used to.

Needless to say, I was pretty shocked and overwhelmed. I found confidence in my movement that had been missing for a very long time.

Aside from completely surprising myself, Boss seemed to be completely over the moon. I don’t think he has said he was pleased so many times in a lesson before. Considering how my previous recoveries and issues with treatments have gone, I can’t blame him–this ‘comeback’ is in a class by itself. He commented that I was dancing better than he was prepared for.

A lot of pieces that were only just swirling around in pieces before my surgery seemed to click into place while I was recovering. It’s a testament to how even when you have to take a break physically, mentally your mind may still be working. I could almost feel them all fall into place.

Of course, that’s not to say that everything was easy. It has been 6 weeks since I have really done any activity except light walking in the last 2 weeks. I was getting winded easy, and my pulse was racing. I could feel how out of shape and out of conditioning I am. It’s going to take a lot of work to get that moving forward again. While I could do full power in short segments, I know that attempting even one full routine at that power would be pretty draining. Overall, the lesson was fantastically terrible–a lot of success mixed with hard work that demonstrates there is a lot more to be done.

But its baby steps. The foundation is there. I achieve beyond my own goal in that lesson, in that after the initial ‘trial’, I was able to push myself fully through the rest of the lesson without giving up. While this lesson was hard, the next will be a little easier and I will be able to push longer and further.

It’s like remembering something from childhood–I know I used to be able to do it, but the details are fuzzy.

They are becoming more clear now.

I feel much more optimistic about the coaching on Wednesday, and my ability to get through 2 45 min lessons. The last time this coach was here, the work with him triggered a few things falling into place in standard that had been eluding me, and I am hopeful at something similar may be possible this time too. We (and by ‘we’, I mean Boss) have a good plan for things to work on, and if it is even remotely similar to last night, it’s going to be fun.

Fun. There’s a word I haven’t used in relation to dance in a long time. It feels good. Fun.

After last night’s lesson, I expected to wake up sore, especially in the surgical area, and completely tired and drained today from so much effort last night.

In another surprise, I woke up with tons of energy after sleeping better than I have in quite some time, and while I am moderately sore in the muscles I haven’t used in a long time, my belly and abdomen feel the same as they did before the lesson yesterday.

I am sooooo pleased to not have adverse after-effects! (I was pretty worried).

I expect my upper back, shoulder and leg muscles will be a little more sore tomorrow, but nothing unusual.

As a bonus to all of this, my doctor and I decided this morning to stop the anti-depressants, and see how it goes. The last 3 days I have been feeling symptoms of being over medicated again, and since I am on the lowest dose now, the next step is to stop and see how I feel in 2 weeks once my system has adjusted.  I can always go back if I need them. It’s the last of the medications I had to take to counter-act side effects of the hormone therapy.

In fact, I am now officially back to taking only the medications I was taking before I was diagnosed (actually one less, since one was a hormone supplement), one for insomnia, one for allergies. It’s another way to feel free.

Something else I haven’t mentioned which may be contributing to the increase in energy I am having–since the surgery I have lost 10 of the 40 lbs I gained during treatment, with only small diet changes on my part. Finally, it seems my body is ready to get fit again. It’s something I will need to stay on top of, but it’s the first real weight progress I have seen in over a year, and I finally feel motivated again to keep focusing on it.

In a lot of ways, my life is finally starting to resemble what it was pre-cancer, and I hope the momentum I now have continues to keep me moving forward. I am back to work next week, and looking forward to it. I have almost finished the 5th course for my masters.

And now I feel like I am ready and capable of getting back to fully dancing again.

Even more, I feel like I can really hope again.

It’s been a long time coming.

A plan coming together

Monday seems such a long way off.

On Monday I see the surgeon and should get my clearance to return to activities, including dance. The following week I return to work half days.

Since I have an idea of when I will be returning to dance, I was able to sit down with Boss and put together some thoughts for competing, and how to get back into training.

Among other things, we decided on a competition goal–that is just over 9 weeks away. 9 weeks of working to prepare for a competition that is nearby, but still requires a plane ride. Before that, I may do a solo at a local comp, but I haven’t quite decided on that yet.

We also took a look into the new year, and right now we are looking to attend a bigger competition in the US in the spring. After that, plans are in the works for a unique opportunity, but more on that later.

Even though it is really in the short-term, I am relieved to have a competition goal to work towards. I suddenly feel like I have focus for dance again and I am eager to get started.

We have a plan for the first few lessons to get an idea of how things feel and where I am at.

For myself, my goal is to start with the regular 3 lessons a week, and when things feel good and stable then work to add practices and eventually group classes from there. When I can handle 3 lessons and work, then I will add some more activity. As eager as I am to get working, I am not eager to move too fast and end up injured.

I am finding I have a renewed motivation towards dance. Even though I will have one more surgery in October (after the comp), finally there is really nothing looming on the horizon for me.  I can get back to moving through things as I want to without medical interference.

Among other things, I finally found the word that has been eluding me for about 6 months. The word is ‘effort’. It may seem strange, but through my illness I have gotten use to reducing the effort I put into lessons and practices in order to conserve energy. It’s made me cautious, and it has also limited my endurance and conditioning because I never really push myself.

I have realized that I don’t want to play in this ‘safe’ zone anymore and want to get back to pushing my way through everything I do with my full effort. I really hope I will be able to translate that back into dance. I feel like I have allowed myself to get lazy, and it doesn’t sit well with me.

I think the challenge of competing in only 9 weeks is exactly what I need to help remotivate me. Outside of dance, there is renewed energy in a few different areas of my life as all is connected.

I have different ideas for things I want to do and how I want to approach practice and preparation over the next few weeks. I only hope that Boss will also be on board.

Slowly the plan is coming together.

Why compete?

Why, indeed.

After sorting through thoughts in my last post, I guess I realized I need to figure out what drives me to compete, or rather what makes a competition interesting or worth competing in.

  • Competitions give me a real and tangible goal within a set time period.

I am a very goal-oriented person and having a competition to prepare for gives me something to focus on and a specific time within which to do it.  I need that to feel grounded in my dancing.  It’s not about specific goals within my dancing, but giving something to aim for.

  • Competitions set time frames for measuring progress.

It’s not really about how much progress is made between competitions, but more about having a definitive time to evaluate. It’s an opportunity to record my dancing under pressure and to compare it with previous videos.

  • Competitions help me feel structured in my dancing.

Along with being goal-oriented, I need structure, and really don’t do well if I feel there is no rhyme or reason to what I am doing. Competing gives me that structure–there are levels, others to compare to, things to evaluate.

  • The impact of a competition should reflect the price.

It doesn’t make sense to spend a large amount to attend a small competition, where I may be alone on the floor. It also doesn’t make sense to spend a small amount to attend a large competition that I have to travel to. The two parts need to balance and sometimes this can be the trickiest part. There are never any guarantees.

  • It’s not a competition if I am alone.

In order to compete, there needs to be someone to compete against. There is competitiveness in my nature, although its not always evident and I can say I am not comfortable with it. While I see the value in comparing my dancing against what I did at previous events, there is an element to competing with others on the floor that increases the drive to do well. It’s motivating.

  • Competitions motivate me.

There is something about competing that motivates and drives me more than just performing or social dancing. There is a thrill to it, and in many ways it is the time I feel comfortable acknowledging that I have done something well. It’s when I allow myself to really give myself credit, but it also gives an external justification too. It’s someone who doesn’t see me dancing all the time giving approval (or sometimes signalling problems).

  • Competing is the reward I give myself for hard work.

While I have lots of personal reasons for wanting to work hard, wanting to do well at a competition also plays a part. Competitions are something I earn. I work hard to save the money to attend, so I also owe it to myself to work hard to prepare for them. Competitions are an opportunity to have fun after putting in the hard work to prepare. Because I know I have worked hard, when I go to compete I can just enjoy the full experience, including traveling, the showcases/performances, and knowing I have done well.

Looking at this list, I can see where most of my recent competitions, and even my preparation for them have missed the mark for me. I also see that one of the things I experienced the most in the past 6 months was preparing for my silver test, which is very telling. Once my last competition was over, I felt very lost and aimless until the test prep started.

Part of me is scared about returning to dance without having decided on a competition goal. I am worried that for one reason or another, my next competition will be once again one of the same local competitions I have been doing for the last 2.5 years.

I am very worried deep down that if I can’t settle on some goals, especially for competing, I will lose the motivation I have gained following the surgery, and I will start to question why I dance–a rabbit hole I don’t want to go down again.

I feel like I lost some of the reasons why I dance in recent months, really since my mastectomies and reconstruction and all the issues with the hormone therapy. I got stagnant and I want to break that cycle. More than that, I need to break that cycle. I feel like I call myself a competitive dancer, but I have no right to since I never really compete.

I feel like I am pretending. Perhaps that is the root of the problem.

It’s time to get back on a full competition floor.

A Discovery

I had an interesting lesson yesterday.

When I got to the studio, I really wasn’t sure how the lesson would go. Even Boss remarked when I arrived he could see I was already tired.  It had been a long week at work. I had things (and so did Boss) that I wanted to accomplish so I took things carefully and just saw where they went.

We started by going over a new step in my Gold Quickstep routine, which I found pretty interesting. Unlike other Quickstep steps, this one is the hover corte and it is more about slow control.  It took some experimenting, but in the end it seemed to come together pretty well.

Following that, we started breaking down the Gold Paso Doble. In particular, we worked on sorting out the footwork–which steps are on heels vs those on the toes.  Sorting that out actually helped a lot as for most steps it helped them make more sense, or a little easier to execute.

Once we had gone through the steps, we were able to go through the entire routine 3 or 4 times in a row with slower music.  Somewhere in the middle of those run-throughs, I noticed a chance, something I had felt or done in a very long time.

There just started to be some energy to my dancing and with that came some confidence.  In particular, I do promenade and counter promenade spins (which are a series of underarm spirals) and I was finding my spirals were a little sharper, quicker, and had some more drive.  In our last run through, I even found myself using some drive through some of the steps I wasn’t so sure about before.  Even Boss remarked he noticed a difference. It was a remarkable and unexpected discovery to find in my dancing–again it was like remembering something I used to know and having it bubble to the surface.

I hope these sorts of discoveries will be plentiful as I begin to return back to dance following my recovery.

I am not sure where the sudden spurt of energy and confidence came from, but I will take it when I can.  We ended the lesson running through the Gold Cha Cha routine, and that also went quite well with a little more ‘vibrancy’ than I have felt in a long time.  I know there have been some small changes in diet and supplements so a part of me is wondering if that has an effect.

I have 3 more lessons until my surgery, and I hope that my energy will stay up since it seems to want to return a little.  I know part of the plan is to record all of the gold routines, and Boss told me he would like to use one lesson to discuss ideas for two different showcase routines we have in the works.

I woke up this morning to a surprise 🙂 A while ago I did an interview with The Dancing Housewife Show, and this morning the podcast interview was posted! I hope you enjoy the interview!

It’s a beautiful long weekend in Canada and Happy Canada 150 to all!

Scheduling Pet-Peeves

There aren’t a lot of things that really irritate me.

Having things that affect me rescheduled without a reason, and especially last minute are near the top of the list of those that do.

I can be very flexible and easy-going when it comes to scheduling things in the first place, and I can even be flexible if things have to change–in the right circumstances.

Last Thursday afternoon, I got a message from Boss that said he can’t teach my lesson Monday at 6, but could I do that evening at 6 instead?

That’s it. ‘I can’t teach at 6’.

I had to turn down the last minute reschedule, but that leaves me with a lot of questions about what is going on with my lesson tonight (or rather not going on).  Not a single explanation has been offered for why the lesson has been cancelled, or further information about the rest of the evening’s classes (usually there is a group class Monday night as well).

So I am stuck wondering–is it only my lesson? Was it bumped to accommodate someone else? Is the studio completely closed? Are the group lessons cancelled too? Is this likely to become a regular occurrence?

If I didn’t know Boss better, the easiest presumption would be that he doesn’t want to teach at 6 on Monday. Since I do know better, I know its probably something unavoidable, but at least a basic general explanation like ‘the studio will be closed’ or ‘I will be out of town’ or ‘I have an outside appointment I can’t reschedule’ would go a long way toward me feeling less hostile and as though my time and schedule is not important. Even the added ‘Sorry for the inconvenience’ seems pretty insincere when there is no explanation as to why I am being inconvenienced, or if I am the only person.

He also offered no information on whether there will be practice time available tonight, or if the group classes will happen, both of which I am assuming are cancelled. My plan tonight is to go through the videos from the silver test at home and put together interesting points from them.

Perhaps it is just me who finds this sort of last minute cancellation and assumption that I will be willing to reorganize my plans (in a very short time frame) to accommodate without any reason why really annoying.

Basically, Boss has inconvenienced me, but has not given any reason why I should rearrange my life to accommodate scheduling issues in his.  Its just assumed I will, regardless.

Usually when this happens (and it is not the first time!), I ask all the relevant questions (is there practice, is there group classes, is it just my lesson?), to try and get an idea why this is necessary, but in recent months I have decided to no longer bother.  Why should I have to drag information from someone to make their life easier to know how much I have to rearrange my schedule (usually I am at the studio for up to 3 hours on Monday.  Boss’s message covered one of those).

Perhaps I am just less flexible these days, but I do feel that even a general explanation for a cancellation is at least courteous.  Looking at some of the other cancellations I have had from other professionals lately, there is always something like “the Dr is unfortunately sick”, “the Dr has to travel”, “the hospital re-arranged clinic time”, “we had to accommodate a higher (meaning sicker) priority patient”.  Perhaps that is just a North American sense of entitlement I am used to.

Regardless, it still remains one of my biggest (and I don’t have many!) pet-peeves when it is expected for me to change my schedule last minute for no reason.

Guess I tend to plan things for a reason.

Silver Test

All done!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One-woman Disaster

That is how I feel today.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hopefully, tomorrow will be a better day.

Open Mixed Division

I fully recognize I am probably about to open a can of worms, and bring up potentially controversial issues.

I want to start by saying this is only the result of my own late night insomniac thinking, and none of the examples used are of people or situations I actually know.  They are all hypothetical.  I also recognize that as only a pro/am student, there are perhaps elements of both the professional and amateur world which I do not know.

One of the triggering things for this is the recent announcement that in 2018 Blackpool will hold a separate Teacher/Student division where ‘amateur’ teachers can dance with their students.  This is separate from Pro/Am where ‘professional’ teachers dance with their students.

This announcement is interesting, because according to the British Dance Council Rulebook:

18.

Loss of Amateur Status

(a) A competitor’s amateur status will be deemed lost if:

i. accepts remuneration in cash for the use of their name as a dancer in an advertisement;

ii. declares themselves to be a professional;

iii. passes a teaching entrance examination of any of the ballroom branches of an examining teacher organisation;

iv. acts as a teacher of dancing, with or without a fee, unless under the supervision of a qualified professional;

v. organises dances for personal profit;

vi. participates in a competition or match limited to professionals;

vii. acts as an MC for the purpose of leading dances or calling sets.

viii. adjudicates at a dancing competition

I do note this rule book is scheduled to be amended in January 2018, so perhaps points i, iii, and iv (or others) will be amended.

I want to point out that these are the British rules only.  I know that in the US, from discussions I have seen on forums the only way to be considered a professional is item ii.  In Canada, under Canada Dancesport Rules, amateurs who have achieved specific placings (I think top 3 in the Canadian Closed) may teach provided they pass appropriate exams, don’t charge over a certain amount per lesson, and report all earning from teaching to the CDS (there are other conditions, but those are the main ones).

So, what is my point? And why is it potentially controversial?

It just seems to me that the dance world is really starting to ‘split hairs’ when it comes to the number of different divisions and eligibility required for them, especially when talking about the open level (as a point of note, Blackpool only offers open level events).  There is a lot of dividing going on, at least on paper, in what appears to be an effort to maintain integrity of the words ‘professional’ and ‘amateur’ (although as said above, I recognize this is very simplified).  There are so many different ‘statuses’ of couples competing right now, but are they, and their level of dance really that different?

Usually, when the average person thinks ‘professional’ they think of someone who makes their living by that trade.  In dance, someone who teaches and performs for compensation, and an ‘amateur’ is someone for whom dancing is done purely for the enjoyment of doing it without compensation (and usually paying to do it).

In the dance world, at least in the US as a prime example, this is not the case.  Whether you are an amateur or professional is based solely on what you want to call yourself and what division you would like to compete in.  One does not automatically imply by the title they are better dancers than the other.  In fact, looking just at the number of former amateurs who seem to automatically go to the semi or even final of the pro division, it would imply the level of dancing is fairly even–which begs the question why are there so many divisions?

Let’s break down some of the divisions:

  1. Professional – couple consisting of two partners registered as professionals.  Most likely both teach.
  2. Pro/Am – couple consisting of a teacher registered as a professional dancing with an amateur student who does no teaching whatsoever.
  3. Teacher/Student – couple consisting of a teacher registered as an amateur dancing with an amateur student who does no teaching whatsoever.
  4. Mixed Amateur – (presumably does not apply to open events) a couple consisting of a higher level amateur dancing with a lower level amateur.  eg. an open amateur competing with a silver amateur.  ( I believe only the lower level partner is judged, and the higher amateur does not teach the lower, but may teach others).
  5. Student/Student – (again, does not seem to apply to open events) a mixed amateur couple consisting of two pro/am students. (I admit to not being very familiar with this division, so could be wrong).
  6. Amateur/Amateur – two partners registered as amateurs competing together. One or both of the partners may teach, or neither may teach.

Numbers 2-5 have a further breakdown by age, usually adult (16-35), senior I (36-50), senior II (51+). Some have further divisions.  There are the odd ‘senior’ professional events, but not very common. For the purpose of this discussion, I am going to focus on types 1, 2, 3, and 6.

Currently, all 4 of these couples are unable to compete directly against each other.  The competitive events are completely separate.  Pro/ams do not compete with teacher/student, and pro couples don’t compete with amateur couples.  From what I have seen in some forums, the reason is (or used to be) that it was felt unfair to mix competitors of different statuses.  That amateur couples would be unfairly outclassed by professional couples and that pro/am couples would upstage teacher/student couples.

Personally, I am not seeing this to be the case, and I have seen many arguments that the quality of amateur couples are equal, if not better than professionals.  I think all divisions have both strong, medium and weak couples.  In the end, regardless of status, it is two people dancing on the floor.

A thought that occurred to me though–what stops a teacher/student couple from competing in am/am events?

Consider this. An Amateur teacher is aged 42.  He is no longer competing as an amateur because his partner decided not to continue dance.  Lacking a steady partner, he sees not reason to declare ‘professional’ status, but does compete with his students in the teacher/student division.  However, he has 3 open-level students aged 36, 41, and 48, who all want to go to the same competition and compete in the multi-dance/scholarship events. He cannot compete with more than one student in the same event.  He can compete with the youngest student in the ‘A’ (under 35) event (as it is possible to dance down an age), but only one of his other two students can do the ‘B’ (36-50) event.  Neither student is willing to give up the opportunity for the other.  So, since he is 42, he registers the 3rd student in the senior I amateur event, as both qualify for that age category, and both are amateurs.

Is there anything to prevent this?  I haven’t seen anything on it, but in order to compete in teacher/student as the ‘teacher’ do you have to be also compete with a dedicated amateur partner?  It doesn’t appear to be a necessity, just is the general practice.

When I think of amateur competitions, it occurs to me that there are at least 3 types of couples competing on the floor–couples where neither partner teaches, where one partner teaches, and where both partners teach. Does one type of couple have an advantage over the others on the floor? On the surface it doesn’t seem to.

So, after laying out all this, I can see a case for a new division–mixed open–where the only eligibility is that both partners meet the age requirements, regardless of individual status (pro, am, student).  In this division (let’s use senior I for an example), all open level, there could be pro couples, am couples, pro/am couples and teacher/student couples all competing against each other, provided every individual on the floor was over 35. It would certainly recognize that as much as the dance world is trying to keep all these divisions separate, the lines between them are blurred and there is less of a distinction in level.

But could you imagine the fall-out if an am couple were placed above a pro couple, or if a pro/am couple was placed above and am couple?  What if a teacher/student couple won the event?

I think these questions and potential fall-out are exactly why this mixed open division does not exist and likely never will.  It’s not unheard of in other sports though–think of hockey where both professional and amateur players compete together in the olympics, similarly with basketball.

I want to be clear, I am not advocating for one or the other, or that we get rid of any of the current divisions.  Sheer variety of couples will mean that other separate events will need to be continued–most pro/am couples have large age differences between the teacher and student, for example, and a mixed open division would only be possible for open events.  Certainly not syllabus.

But to me, it’s an interesting question to ask.  Would there be an unfair advantage for one type of couple over the other if this event existed? Would that be negated by knowing what you are registering for (if you know you are registering for an event with a mixed variety of couples, can you then complain the pro couple had an advantage?  I think not–its what you signed up for).

I would love to hear the thoughts of others on this.  As I said, most of this is just some logical reasoning and thought processes generated from the recent announcement of including not only pro/am, but a separate teacher/student event at Blackpool.  I guess the main question that popped to my mind was–why are these separate events?

Perhaps that is just an uncomfortable question that shouldn’t be asked.

But I did anyway.

Feel free to share and give opinions–just please be respectful.

 

Bitter smooth

I don’t know why I still feel upset about stopping smooth, but I do.

Perhaps it is just that I have watched others compete in it recently (in case you are in a dance bubble, Blackpool is on, absolutely fabulous to watch and had Pro/am events in 4 styles and pro American style events for the first time), and that is just highlighting the loss to me.

I am not even really sure why I feel bitter about it, except to know that I do and it is obviously still a very raw wound.

I am not even sure who to talk to about it as the decision was made by Boss not to compete in it anymore and he said he won’t discuss that decision.

I guess in some way, I am bitter because I invested a lot of time and resources into it and now I feel all of that is wasted. There is a beautiful smooth dress in my closet I doubt I will ever wear again, I invested in having the routines choreographed, coaching lessons, shoes and considerable lesson time to get the routines competition ready.

Perhaps it is only that I am stuck somewhere between denial and anger in the stages of grief as I don’t really have an outlet to deal with it. Other dancers still ask me if I am doing it and that is a hard reminder. I keep getting hit harder than I should be when something reminds me.

I think one of the things most significant about smooth was that because we only did open and it wasn’t part of my international program, I felt really free doing it. I could relax and let go in ways I haven’t let discovered how to do in Standard and Latin. And it suited me well. Without realizing it,  it became an interesting outlet and bridge for me that helped make the crazy pro/am dance world make sense.

I Don’t want to dwell on it, and it is usually not my style, so it irks me I still get upset about it. I feel pretty powerless about it and that in some ways one aspect of dance I really enjoyed has now been ruined for me. I can’t seem to watch it without being filled with negative emotions.

II want to move on, but for whatever reason, I can’t.

At least not yet.

Cha Cha Conundrum

It appears I am focusing on latin lately.

It makes sense as now I have 4 of the 5 latin routines for my test and more so than standard I need to try to get them memorized.  For whatever reason, if I blank in standard I can just resort to following (which sometimes may be better!) but I have a harder time doing this in latin.

Working on the latin routines has been, well, strange.

Of all of them, cha cha is definitely the strangest.

It took me most of practice last night just to work out the timing for the routine with Boss’s help.  There seemed to be a lot of steps I really had no clue how to do on my own, and that is a little concerning.  I went in early tonight to practice some before the latin class because I honestly wasn’t sure if I would be able to stay late enough for the class (I did in the end, but I was pretty much a zombie the whole time).  I managed to get through the rumba, minus one step at the beginning, then I focused on cha cha.

One of the most odd things about latin in general, whether rumba, samba, cha cha or Jive is that anything we do in hold seems completely alien to me–like I have never done anything in hold for Latin before.  It’s to the point where I find myself questioning where I am supposed to put my left hand (shoulder, back, bicep?), and I keep stretching my right arm out like for standard (and then constantly reminding myself to drop my elbow–at least I remind myself!). I feel like I am either too close or too far, about to trip Boss or fall over forward.  It’s really bizarre.

And then there is cha cha specifically.  For whatever reason, as I am working on it I can’t seem to incorporate ANY technique I have worked on.  Of course then I remind myself that I can’t really remember the last time I worked on cha cha technique that wasn’t forward lock steps, cuban breaks or time steps–but I can’t seem to put even those into context.  Most of my latin focus lately has been rumba (for the last couple years) or samba (more lately).  Rumba technique has a lot of crossover, but that just isn’t coming into cha cha.

Granted, I really am focusing on working out the sequence of steps right now, but I guess I expected that I should be able to at least do a basic step with some semblance of technique (which isn’t happening right now).  When I try, the best I can describe is that it feels ‘odd’ and like I am trying too hard and off balance.  And that is just the basic step, and other steps feel like there is no hip movement going on and I can’t keep my legs straight.  In short, nothing about cha cha seems to be muscle memory or automatic, but I do vaguely remember a time it was.

I am really confused about this.  I know I can do time steps, whether fast or slow, with no issue on my own, and even with Boss they are not too bad.  But the minute I do a step that is pretty much not lateral side to side (and has forward and back steps), it just gets weird.

I can’t figure out if this the work I am and have done in rumba trying to adapt to cha cha (but not really succeeding with the speed), or if I have really forgotten my cha cha technique. Even New Yorks feel weird and off balance.

It doesn’t bode well for my test, although I probably have higher expectations of myself than Boss does.  At this point though, I feel like the cha cha I do now is actually weaker than the cha cha I was able to do for my bronze test, and it is really uncomfortable to feel.

Samba still has that in/out feeling for technique I have described before, the out being mainly the voltas and some rocks (which are more a I hate how rocks look issue).  I haven’t had a chance to work on it on my own yet, but I am not concerned about it as samba routines seem to come together fairly easily for me.  It will be a project for tomorrow’s practice.

Jive was actually a bit of  a pleasant surprise.  It’s a bit like samba in that the technique comes in and out, but it is more ‘in’ than ‘out’ than I expected.  Practicing it on my own is a bit tricky as in the end the ladies part is a lot of just turning (while the man’s part has hand changes) and without a partner for reference it is hard to know what direction I am supposed to be facing. I still have to work out the timing for it, but that will be the main focus for tomorrow’s practice.  The main thing I need to figure out is where the knee lifts are and making sure I do the rock step on bent knees (which is easier for me than straight as it’s an ingrained habit from my rhythm days that seems to have stuck).  Once I remember that, it came together better.  Endurance still sucks though.

So I am not really sure what to do about my cha cha conundrum.  Really at this point, I don’t think there is much I can do as the test is only two weeks away.  Better to focus on the things I can control, improve, or at least stabilize, rumba, samba and jive, and be prepared for cha cha to be a mini disaster.

Haven’t done the silver Paso yet, but I am hopeful it will be pretty much my old closed silver routine which should come back fairly easy.  I can’t think of any silver steps in Paso that would give me issue, and because it is mostly in hold it is easier to follow than the other latin dances.

I haven’t started working on the standard routines yet, although I have them as I feel latin is where I need to focus–it is more independent than standard.  I have also done a lot of work in standard lately so the steps and techniques are more familiar (and they transfer more through each dance).

I have surprised myself lately with the amount of energy I have had for my own practice–far exceeding what I expected to be able to do.  The side effects from my injection are starting to abate and I even slept through the night last night–first time I can remember in recent history.

So it appears cha cha somewhere went sideways in the last 6 months–literally–side steps seems to be the extent of what I can do.