And suddenly…

Things are making a lot of sense.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

A Routine Test

At least an informal one.

It was a bit of a surprise when I arrived at my lesson today that Boss told me he wanted to see me walk through the steps of all the standard routines and the samba and rumba by myself.

I hadn’t reviewed them, except for samba, in some time, so I was surprised and felt a little unprepared. I also was not feeling well and exhausted from work.

Despite that, I was actually surprised by how well it went. There was at least one spot in each routine I was not clear on (but I knew that and exactly where they were), but the work I had been doing in memorizing the steps in the routines showed and for the most part I was able to move through them from top to bottom without any major mishaps.

After we finished running through all the routines Boss wanted to see, we went over a couple of the spots where things were not clear to try to clarify them in the tango. We were able to sort out another sequence for me to work through on my own during my solo practice.

Wednesday Boss told me he hopes to run through each of the latin routines to slow music. I am a little nervous about it, but I know we have already run through most of the jive, rumba and samba. We have also do large pieces of the paso. It’s really the cha cha I am not sure of.

Regardless of that, I am looking forward to seeing how it goes. Perhaps there are some surprises waiting.

Yet another test of routines.

Surprising myself

Every once in a while I discover I can do something I didn’t think I could.

Today it happened twice.

First, we were working on running through the jive routine at my lesson. After running through it once, we tried it a couple times with slow music, and finished trying almost to speed.

It went a lot better than I expected, although of course there were still some rough patches, especially the last run-through.

What surprised me was a couple of things that went much better than I expected. In particular, I was able to do my spins, even the 1.5 one in time with what speed we were working at. There were even a couple of spots where I have to be careful not to rush and get ahead.

There were a few really rough spots where my head and feet just couldn’t keep up, but when we finished working on the jive I could feel my head rapidly working to process everything I was taking in — spots to adjust, where Boss is position, where to use Boss to execute a move, where I really need to work through the choreography more.

Overall, it was really productive and I am hoping we will go through it again a couple more times later this week. More so than working on pieces, jive is a dance that I find I need to just ‘do’. It’s a dance where I just have to make myself do it at speed so I can stop thinking so much and just do it instinctively.

The other place I surprised myself today was during conditioning. I was trying out the new samba sequence which I spent my break times during work learning today. I wasn’t sure how it would go in time with the music, but it did surprise me that it went really well. Each time that I did it I was able to adjust and pull it a little more together, tighten up the technique some.

It’s going to be messy for a couple more weeks, but I asked Boss to hold off on giving me feedback for a couple week to allow me to work through the things I need to myself. He agreed, and we will see how that goes. I have a feeling there is crossover between what I note myself and what he wants me to work on, but we will see what he has to say in a couple weeks.

This week was also my second week back at the standard technique group class. It’s been a bit of a scramble to try and catch up, and there is some overlap with exercises from what I do at the gym and in my lesson. We are working on some body movement and preparation for turning right now and being really directionally challenged it’s a struggle. I don’t have time to let my mind process during the class, but at least by the end of it I could feel some pieces starting to fall together. We will see what results that bring to my standard.

I am also almost done my course for school. It is by far the most intense and I cannot wait to finish. With it behind me and feeling my energy lift a bit, I am looking at my schedule and seeing where I can add back a little more. There is a latin technique class on Thursday, but I don’t think I am quite ready to add that back yet.

As a compromise though, I have decided to add some time on Thursday evening to do the sequence self-practice I used to do on Sundays (which are now replacing my Monday practices to fit in the technique class). If I reach a point where I can keep up with adding that without my energy fading, then adding the latin class will be the final add for me. That would leave Tuesday and Saturdays as ‘rest’ days, and keep me active 5 days a week.

It all depends on my energy levels and I will have to keep an eye on them and be honest with myself if it seems I am overdoing things.

One thing I will say, the best part of tonight was doing some new and different things. The new conditioning sequence felt so refreshing and it’s a new challenge to work through. Boss also tells me he has some new exercise sequences for me and already started working through the New York sequence in the cha cha routine for me to focus on myself. My plan right now is to keep the exercises I know we are keeping and slowly add the new ones as he does.

With new things come new surprises.

Can’t wait to see what’s next.

Revisiting old friends

Meaning the latin routines.

I am not sure why, but my energy levels seem to be going from one extreme to the other lately. Monday to Wednesday my energy levels were really high, but then yesterday they seemed to crash and stay down today.

It was another day of struggling through things I normally have no problem with. I am really frustrated with that as the constant change from one extreme to the other makes being consistent with things hard.

Today in my lesson we were able to go through the samba and rumba after a quick review of the final few exercises we didn’t get to on Wednesday.

Still no changes to the exercises, but Boss is taking time to decide what he wants to do. He did come up with a new samba sequence for conditioning using elements from my routine that I need to work on.

Running through both routines went really well, but it is a lot like revisiting old friends and realizing some parts of their lives have changed.

The first tricky thing is to get my mind-set thinking more partner vs solo and that means not being surprised where Boss is, and not going off on my own in the direction I think I need to go.

The second is that as we work through the routines Boss seems surprised to discover there are pieces I either don’t really know or that I am doing something different from what I am supposed to.

This doesn’t surprise me at all because I know exactly where the spots are that I just ‘wing it’ a little because I was never sure exactly what the steps were, and these are the spots where he seems frustrated because I am doing it wrong. Boss has a tendency to imply that I have just made a mistake, not that I am doing something that is now an ingrained habit from months of just ‘winging it’. Over the past few months, he has asked me twice to let him know where the spots are that I am not sure of and told me we were going to review them and for one reason or another it never happened.

And now they are bad habits I have to try to correct. Old friends I am trying to reconnect with.

I am sure I wouldn’t be quite so frustrated if I didn’t feel so wiped by the time I got to my lesson, but work today just seemed to drain me. I got my stitches out this morning so maybe that has effects I don’t realize (not being able to feel where they were or the wound that is healing). My neck and shoulders is also acting up a lot today, with a lot of shooting pains going up the side of my neck from my shoulders without rhyme or reason.

Despite all that, going through the routines did help a lot. Already when I was practicing tonight I noticed myself incorporate the changes and that I was already more aware in my head where Boss at certain points in the routines and what the lead/follow needs to be.

So slowly, I am getting reacquainted with these old friends and figuring out how to reconnect.

They’ll come.

 

Ups and Downs…

I had a really good lesson today, but it took a while to get there.

We started by reviewing the exercises I have been doing for about the past 6 months.

I was really finding myself frustrated as we went through these, and honestly I can’t really figure out why.

We were going through them and Boss was giving feedback and some points for adjustment for them. For the most part they were good, but in all honesty I have been doing most of them for so long at this point I am just bored with more than half of them and the idea of doing them for perhaps another 6 months just seemed too much.

Of course, they are not perfect and there is always room for improvement and new elements to add. But I really feel I need a way to refresh my practice to keep me motivated or I worry it will just get harder and harder to do it. I know that I have been hoping for some changes since April.

Boss does plan to make some changes, but he is still planning out for himself exactly what changes he wants to make and what elements he still wants to focus on. The majority of my practice exercises are latin-based because standard work we will be doing more during lessons and together.

The second half of my lesson went much better. We started reviewing the latin routines tonight beginning with the cha cha and finishing with the samba, or at least most of it.

I can’t remember the last time we worked through the cha cha from top to bottom. In fact, I am pretty sure we haven’t done the full routine, only the segments we did as I learned the choreography.

I was pretty surprised how well it went and just from that run through I felt myself pick up on a lot of elements I have been searching for in my own practice. We were able to clarify a couple of areas where the steps weren’t quite clear, and for myself I was able to pick out places where I need to work through the lead and follow a bit more to make sure I am engaging my muscles to work with Boss.

That is an interesting new element to my solo practice. About a month and a half ago I started to notice that when I practice my latin routines on my own I started engaging my muscles and kinetically simulating how the lead and follow should work. It’s not consistent through the routine, but there are certain places where I can feel it working. It’s especially noticeable for me in the rumba, and hope it will keep translating to the other routines. I now have a lot of different places to add this in the cha cha, just from the run-through today.

We finished with samba, and that too was really useful. The most interesting thing about samba was that a lot of it was able to be done with slow music, and as we moved through it I could feel it click together like I hadn’t before. It also surprised me how well it went. We got almost to the end before we had to stop. The lead and follow seems to be more there in the samba than I expected, but it could be the work we did in the cha cha just before it that triggered my mind to be attuned to it.

Despite the rough start to the lesson with the exercises, it really finished on a high note. My energy is definitely back and improving. I had a little bit of a ‘high’ at the end of my lesson and what we finished with felt really good. I could feel my mind churning to assimilate the routines and all the information and try to absorb it like a sponge. It left me looking forward to my next lesson when we will continue the review.

So a little down, but a lot of ups.

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.

Jive frustrations

But first something positive!

As I mentioned, I had my first appointment with a chiropractor last week to try and see what can be done about my on-going neck issues. In short, from about my mid-back up to my neck, nothing is really moving and everything – joints, muscles – are just pulled like bow strings. It’s been like this pretty much since my DIEP reconstruction which is not a surprise considering they pull everything down in the front which affects the back.

The chiropractor seemed optimistic, but he was pretty clear that until some things start moving, its almost impossible to tell what is unhappy versus what is just too tight. He decided to start with 4 adjustments in my mid-back, most being on the left side. When he finished he told me to go about my usual activities, but not to be surprised if I was a bit sore the following day and keep an eye out for other side effects.

Well, I wasn’t sore. What did happen turned into a shock to the system. The following day I was working through my dance exercises at the gym and discovered when I went to work on my hip rotations that I could suddenly move my left hip as much as my right without any extra effort.

This is HUGE! I have been frustrated and struggling throughout the months I have been working on moving my hips more with trying to get my left hip range of motion to equal my right AND without having to move my left shoulder to do it. Whatever the chiropractor did, it freed up my left hip.

Call me converted. I am curious to seen what my appointment tomorrow will result in.

The difference is so much that later Friday evening when I was doing my exercises at the studio I was having some trouble reacting to how much my hip was moving and twisting.

And then there is jive…

This routine is going to take a while to figure out. I went to do it today and basically any step that involved any sort of turn (which is about 80% of them) just wouldn’t work out. I tried a different type of turn, I tried turning the other way, I tried a different count or entry but nothing made it work. So, of the 6 or 8 phrases we worked on, I can remember all the steps to 2 of them.

I was able to do it on my own when we finished with jive during my last lesson. Both Friday and today it is like there are giant holes in my memory. Boss told me to look at the video from the choreographers, but that just confused me further.

So, there is going to need to be some time spent on jive in my next few lessons until I can get myself through the routine at least slowly. And it is going to be frustrating the whole way through.

I am ready though. I got through samba, I can get through jive.

Speaking of samba, I have a new MP3 player because my ipod shuffle is losing its battery power. The bonus feature in my new MP3 is that it allows me to slow down or speed up songs. So, today I started working on the cha cha and samba in time with the music slowed down. Cha cha went better than samba, but its a start. I will do the same thing with rumba as well next week.

Next week should be a return to working on the standard routines, so hopefully we can finish up waltz and quickstep (we did tango, but I just hope I remember it and the changes). Last up is the foxtrot which we have gone over once, but I think the last time was just after Christmas or even before.

Tomorrow is also my 6-month follow-up with the oncologist. Not expecting any surprises, and hopefully it will be a quick in/out followed by see you in another 6 months.