Unlocking muscles

I have had an interesting encounter at acupuncture.

Last week I had an interesting conversation with my physiotherapist because I am encountering issues getting my left leg to engage and keep my left knee turned out. Progress for this on the right is going well, but my left just didn’t seem to want to work so I mentioned it to him.

He said that sometimes, an impinged nerve that is a little blocked can stop firing correctly meaning that the message to the muscle I am trying to engage might not be getting through. That can lead the muscle to going to sleep a bit and becoming dormant and more or less locked.

I then mentioned that to my acupuncturist later that evening. She found that interesting and did some dry needling in my hip which is one way to wake up a muscle and get it to unlock and start working again.

If you have ever had dry needling, you probably know what I am talking about. It’s not the most pleasant thing as when the needle is inserted and hits the right spot it sends almost an electrical zing through the muscle which leads it to contract and then let go. At least that is what I feel – the sensation for someone else could be different.

I didn’t fully understand until later in the week what she had been doing and its effects, but I did notice that it did suddenly get easier to maintain my knee out on my left side, and I could feel my hips firing to keep it out as I walked which was something I couldn’t feel before on my left side. Its been an interesting experience.

A small unpleasant side effect of that is that my knees have suddenly realized that they are working differently and they are not sure if they are happy about it. They have been aching more, especially the right, but its not a surprise when making changes to how you move. I hope they will adapt and settle soon though.

Today I had acupuncture again and that led to a new experience. As I have mentioned, I have been trying to work on my styling and engaging the right muscles to move my arms and encountering a lot of difficulty. After repeated trying, it was obvious something was not working right on my right side. I could feel the muscles working as I brought my arm forward but as I brought it back I could feel the muscles ‘let go’. Compared with the left I could tell something was up.

I mentioned it at my appointment, especially as it seemed to be relevant to fixing my neck and shoulders. She did some experiments first having me move my arms as I need to for dance to see what she could observe. She almost immediately noted that when I brought my arm back it appeared I was using the wrong muscles which left me fighting to keep my shoulder down.

She then had me repeat the action with her hand on my shoulder blade and that confirmed her suspicion – she found my rhomboid, which should have been engaging wasn’t doing anything noticeable. That led to some explorations in the muscles around my armpit and shoulder and she found two huge bundles of knotted muscles.

And so started a lot of dry needling and a lot of zings and hiccups as she called them. She did as much as I could tolerate and she felt practical and not too overwhelming in my armpit and then moved on to my shoulder blade and around my traps muscles over the top of the shoulder. She also put a stimulator on my shoulder blade to wake up the muscles.

It was not pleasant, to say the least, and I had sensations of ‘nervyness’ through my shoulders and down my arm. When the muscles let go and relaxed they also feel like they have just done a supper intense workout (which in some ways they have).

It is all worth it though because at the end of my session she had me repeat the movement again and the difference is incredible! I don’t feel like I am fighting to move my shoulder and arms through my right side any more. I don’t feel like I reach a point where I lose control of the shoulder and I can move it both forward and back without having to rely on my arm movement.

Both sides feel almost the same now. Its an amazing accomplishment for me!

If it keeps this way, then I might see some progress through my arms. For now and into tomorrow the entire area is very tender and sore. Muscles that have been locked into one position have relaxed for the first time in a while and they are almost breathing a sigh of relief. It would be a bonus if this leads to some relief of the back and shoulder issues.

Unfortunately I won’t see her again until the new year as she is away next week and I am away the week after until Christmas. I have physio later this week and should have it again next week so hopefully he can build on the success from today before I leave.

It just never occurred to me that some of my issues could be muscles just not working as they are supposed to. My physio said sometimes scar tissue can affect the nerves that fire certain muscles and that can lead to issues like I have encountered. Considering the amount of scar tissue around my shoulder and chest, there is no surprise. The muscle in my hip for keeping my left knee out has a nerve root based out of the damaged disc in my back. In the end it makes a lot of sense.

But the important thing is that my muscles appear to now be unlocked.

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Preparing to perform

So it appears we will be performing in two weeks.

We are focusing on latin and we will do the cha cha routine for sure, but we are also working on the rumba and will probably do that as well.

It’s a showcase for another local studio that Boss’s studio has been invited to participate in. It presented an opportunity for us to perform just before I leave for the rest of the fall, and gives us a goal for getting two routines ready to perform.

It just makes sense, especially since other than a really brief and quick demonstration back in July we haven’t done any competing or performing since last October.

Both routines are actually not in bad shape right now.

The cha cha we are able to get through in time with slow music and the medium music has only a couple of bumps but doesn’t completely fall apart. Since the last time we ran it in full, we have worked out almost all of the bumps, and most of the styling. In the end, the routine has only two major spots where arm styling is a concern and I have been working on them pretty hard.

The big thing we have been focusing on in the cha cha is the lead and follow as that is key to getting the turns on time and executing quite a few of the steps. It’s actually pretty together right now, but needs some polishing and running through a few more times to hopefully lock it down.

I have actually really enjoyed the concentrated focus on the cha cha routine to pull it together and it confirms for me that agreeing to do the performance has been the right thing to do to move some of the routines to the next level before I leave.

We started digging into the rumba on Monday. It’s actually also not in a bad place, but it also has a few bumps to iron out and we really need to go over the styling in detail. We ironed out one of the biggest bumps in the middle of the routine yesterday, taking the whole lesson, but it was time well spent as we were able to go through that section in time with the music several times.

The key to the rumba right now seems to be the timing. Its tricky because it varies quite a bit and there are holds and pauses for development – some of which are one bar, some are two. The trick is remembering how long to develop at what part.

The styling will also be tricky, especially some of the transitional pieces. I already accidentally clobbered Boss in the face yesterday in a combination of not getting my arm high enough and him having his head a little forward. Some of the hold changes are also tricky.

One of my biggest concerns about the styling is that I am not very good at developing some of the lines and some of them need a lot of very specific movements I just can’t seem to make work for me. One of the key parts of the routine has me do a double turn to roll-out into a side lunge stretching away from Boss. When I hit the lunge, I need to make sure I have reconnected with Boss after turning on my own and after I stretch away I am supposed to melt.

I don’t melt very well. I really think we need to considering another way of styling that step, whether it is to stretch it a little longer and then turn in for the transition which is to a pivot to a lunge done together. I hope it is something we look at a bit closer very soon. I know I can do a good stretch because we have done one in a previous showcase routine.

For both routines, it really is about polishing right now, minus a couple of timing and step bumps to work out. For the cha cha, I need to make sure I add more power and speed to my turns, and the rumba is about the timing and not rushing. I don’t feel relaxed about performing, but I am not feeling overly stressed about either routine not being ready.

At least not yet. We will see how I feel in a couple weeks.

The focus on latin and the details has really been interesting over the last week. I’ve really enjoyed what we have been doing and actually been surprised at how things have come together. I feel really good about the work we have done and while I know neither routine will go perfectly, I am starting to look forward to performing. I have missed it more than I realized.

More prep to go.

Lift off on styling

It appears Boss and I were on similar pages about what is needed for styling.

So, when I got to my lesson today, the first thing we started with was discussing arm styling and going through 3 basic exercises for me to add to my collection.

The first thing I noticed is that there is a lot of pulling at scar tissue and some of the movements hurt, although not intolerably. More like there is some very intense stretching going on through the tight muscles and scar tissue in my shoulders and upper chest.

I am optimistic that as I keep working on my arm styling the scar tissue will breakdown a little and free up my motion. There is already a noticeable lack of mobility on the right side, but I am trying to work through it. Until I start, I will never know.

After going through the basic movements we started to look at the cha cha to figure out how and where to apply them.

If I said it was a success, that would be a gross exaggeration. There is obviously a lot of work that needs to be done and of course my arms don’t want to work with my feet. But I have an idea of what I need to do in my head and I am optimistic with some work it will come together.

Oh, and we got through to the end of the second phrase. About 15 seconds of a 2 minute routine. It’s going to be quite a process, although now that both Boss and I have a better idea of how it needs to work, that should move things along a bit better.

Just the little bit of work we did today has me feeling much better about styling. I have something I can work on, so I know it can only get better. I feel like I am doing something productive to fix my styling – I am taking control of something over which I didn’t have any.

It’s certainly going to be a long term project, but since I will be traveling for work this fall and stuck in rather confined spaces without any studios to work in, 2+ months focused on arm work should go a long way.

In the mean time, I am hoping that I have enough time before the performance in Mid-September to clean up my arm work in the cha cha. After that, I can start looking at the other routines.

We finished the lesson today looking at a portion of the jive routine to try to clean it up as well.

It was a productive lesson, but more importantly, its the beginning of fixing the ‘gravy’ in my latin.

Latin Styling

We all have our weaknesses when it comes to dance.

Latin styling is definitely mine, and those demons came out really hard Friday night.

We have been working on the open cha cha routine and the steps and technique along with the lead/follow is slowly coming together really well – even with the music! We have narrowed it down to about 3 places where the transitions aren’t quite working yet and there are a couple places I get slightly behind the music turning. It’s been really good progress overall and is helping my confidence. I am pretty sure we will perform it on the 22nd of September.

BUT.

At the end of the lesson, Boss asked someone to record one section from the routine that is a series of NYs which I have been working on a lot and we have spent the most time working on together. In general, it wasn’t my best execution of the choreography, but it wasn’t bad.

What was terrible was my arm styling. Really, really abysmal. The worse thing is that the second time we recorded it, I was sure I had gotten 90% of the styling on point and executed well. Nope, not even close. The things I had thought I had “nailed” looked terrible. The angles of my arms were off, the positions were off, arms I was sure were straight looked bent and my shoulders looked up even though I was sure I was keeping them down. And those were the arm movements I thought I had done well. The others were a lot of flailing arms trying to figure out where to go.

It was mortifying and disappointing to watch. If I can’t fix my styling, there is no way I can perform that routine in 4 weeks without embarrassing myself.

Styling has really always been a big concern for me. A lot more so than Boss. It’s not something we even really focus on, in fact I can’t remember the last time we discussed it minus about 2 minutes to go over the arm positions for the NY sequence so I could practice it. I do remember doing some exercises in about 2013/2014 before Boss left the franchise. Almost every time I have asked Boss for some exercises or to work on it, it has somehow ended up in an argument.

For Boss, arms and styling are the ‘gravy’ put on top of a routine to polish them. For me, arms and styling are difficult, require work and repetition to gain confidence in the movement and I would prefer to incorporate them sooner in the learning process. The sooner, the better so I can get used to using them and ‘owning’ them.

Inevitably, what happens is not enough time (and sometimes almost no time) is spent on adding the styling and arms to a routine, or when we get to the point where Boss wants to add it, it is not enough time for me to be confident or comfortable with the styling. Usually at that point, we are committed to either performing or competing and I have no choice but to just do what I can and hope it looks ok.

I have worked on it here and there with female latin instructors as it pretty much is the first thing they focus in on after watching videos. It’s usually really routine focused.

For the most part, I have tried to figure it out on my own, but clearly that approach is not working, because I continue to feel terrible about it. In general, I know what the correct arm placements should be, but I either miss doing them right in context with a step or they just don’t look quite right. If I were to really describe it, I would say my arm movements don’t look ‘clean and tight’.

They look like the afterthought they generally are.

And that is a big part of the problem. When it comes to styling, I am way out of my comfort zone with even the most basic movements. Some people are very natural in how they move their arms. I am not. “Natural” for me is pretty clumsy and awkward. Oh, and one sided. I naturally move my left arm more than my right. For example, if I work on rumba basic, without thinking about my arms, my left will move with my hip movements and steps. My right will just hang limply.

Another problem that has come up recently just compounds the issue. As I have been working on lead/follow which uses some arm movements to mimic the connection with the partner, I have noticed that my range of motion is limited in some direction, likely due to the scar tissue around my chest. It’s particularly telling on the right side, which makes sense as it was the side that received radiation. For example, my right arm can only cross my chest about half the distance my left arm can before my right shoulder starts getting pulled up or in a strange direction, and I can’t stretch my right arm up the same distance as my left without my shoulder getting pulled up.

So, I have physical limitations, feel awkward and clumsy, lack confidence in my arm movements and often feel like the arm movements I am doing suit other (smaller and more feminine) ladies fine, but look contrived when I do them (likely due to me feeling awkward, clumsy and lacking confidence). It’s a bit of a vicious circle and I don’t know how to begin to sort it out.

Oh, I am also generally pretty conservative and self-conscious about my size and weight (regardless of what I weigh, I will always be a ‘solid’ woman). I don’t really ‘do’ feminine or sexy, and honestly don’t feel like I should. It’s not my style at all and when I do try, guess what? That’s what it looks like – someone trying to be something they are not. I have a hard time ‘owning’ something I wouldn’t even buy in the first place.

And maybe that is part of the issue. Like other areas in my life, I am trying to make myself fit into the mold that is expected instead of finding the mold that fits me.

I go to a coach to work on styling and generally I am given suggestions for styling for a particular step, but I don’t actually like any of them. To keep things moving (as I usually have only an hour) I chose whichever seems easiest. I might have an idea what I would like to do, but I don’t say that because I am embarrassed or have already convinced myself it’s not right or wouldn’t work. Since I don’t really have any experience with styling, its seems pretty arrogant of me to suggest something and assume it makes sense to someone who has been dancing most of their life. Sometimes, the suggestions do make complete sense or straightforward but I can’t seem to execute them right or figure out how to ‘own’ them.

Interestingly enough, I can’t recall anyone (other than Boss and that has been pretty limited) asking me to describe ‘my style’ or even what I see as ‘the character’ for a particular dance. Truthfully, my answers to those questions are something I keep pretty locked up because I am pretty sure that my answers are not ‘right’.

More often than not, I will go to a coach for styling on my own and together we will work out some arm movements or styling. Then I will work on them and try to get them to a point where I feel they are ‘presentable’ to Boss. Then I show them to him and one of three things happen: a) he doesn’t like them (and his poker face sucks), b) he sort of likes them, but they don’t really work with his part or what he is doing (so we try to adjust) or c) he likes them or accepts them and we try to go with them. Scenarios a) and b) happen the most, but usually when Boss doesn’t like something, in truth I am not crazy about it either (which probably also shows when I do it).

I actually hate showing any ideas for styling to Boss. It’s not because of anything he says or does, it’s completely a fear of rejection on my part. More often than not, if I am showing him something for styling it is because I am trying to put myself ‘out there’ and get out of my safe, conservative box. Therefore, I already feel like I am trying ‘too hard’.

One thing I really hate the most about styling is being told to ‘develop my own’. Why? Its not because I don’t have my own thoughts or an idea of my style, its because I have NO idea how to use styling to project it. When I am left to ‘develop my own’ styling, I just default to the things I see others doing because that is what I know. I really hate getting a routine that comes with the comment “I haven’t included much styling so you can develop your own.” I much prefer seeing what someone else will do, figuring out what I like and don’t from that and adjusting things where I need or want to. It’s easier to work on a ‘paint by numbers’ than a blank canvas for me.

So I have rambled on for quite a while and tossed a number of thoughts and demons into this post. Where does that leave me? I am not really sure. Here are some things I have discovered:

  1. Styling is always going to be hard for me. I have no confidence in how to execute the physical movements, and mentally I have no confidence any styling will look polished and appropriate for me.
  2. Whether intended or not, I feel like Boss avoids the topic of styling or is dismissive because he feels my concerns are unjustified. I feel like styling isn’t an issue for him because he has been doing it all his life and he doesn’t understand how difficult it is for me and how much I feel I need to work on it.
  3. I sometimes feel like time spent working on choreography and technique is wasted because styling that is poorly executed makes the whole package look under-prepared and sloppy.
  4. When I think of how I do styling right now, I feel like I am just madly flailing my arms around trying to ‘hit’ the right ‘pose’. The issue is not so much where I end up, but how I get there. I don’t know how to get there. I can’t think of a single styling movement I do that I feel good about.
  5. I need to stop being afraid to explore and advocate for my style when working with coaches. If I am not comfortable with something or feels like it doesn’t look right, I need to say so instead of hoping it will just magically come together with time.
  6. I need to find a female coach who is willing to go right back to basics on styling and have those ‘hard’ conversations with me. This is more a mental process than a physical one.
  7. I have a very good idea of how I would like to start to work on styling, but feel it would be unreasonable to impose that on a coach.
  8. Boss suggests and would prefer I work with someone who does jazz, modern, or contemporary for styling. I am INCREDIBLY uncomfortable with the idea because I just can’t relate to or connect with any of those styles. It’s a good idea, but I am not at a point where I feel it actually would benefit me yet. At this point, I am 95% sure it would overwhelm and frustrate me. I need to stick to what I know to start with and I know myself well enough that I have to start in my comfort zone before I can push myself out of it.
  9. I have no idea how to even begin to approach this productively with Boss, and by extension trying to find a coach who is willing to work with me on it in a way that works for and feel productive to me.
  10. When it comes down to it, I am just scared of what styling represents. Its putting myself ‘out there’ and honestly it is one of the reasons I dance – because it makes me get outside my comfort zone. I fear though that because I have allowed myself to avoid embracing styling I am missing and failing at one of my main dance goals.

Hopefully just writing all of this out will help me find a way to move forward.

In the end, despite all the coaching and support (and there is a lot!) I have when it comes to dance, I feel very very alone and left to flounder when it comes to styling because I am embarrassed by how hard it is for me – not just to do, but even to talk about. It’s a part of dance where the barriers are mental and I can’t figure out how to even start to break them down alone. I can’t seem to figure out how to initiate a conversation about it without it leading to either conflict or me feeling like I have been overwhelmed with the opinion of someone else.

Its hard to ask for help when you can’t figure out what it is you need.

 

 

Trying to relax

There are many dimensions to that statement for me.

First, I just feel over-stressed today and I can’t really figure out why.  It seems like I have been telling myself to just ‘calm down’ most of the day.  I am feeling better than I have, but I am still quite tired.  I am hopeful the weekend will allow me to rest.

But what I really want to talk about is how this relates to dance.  As I mentioned yesterday, during my lesson even though I was feeling scattered and unfocused there were some significant ‘light bulbs’ that seemed to come on that I wanted to reflect on.  The result of that reflection is a general realization that I need to give myself permission to relax when I dance.

That probably sounds a little strange, but I will try my best to explain–and perhaps I will clear some of the clouds surrounding it in my head too.

First, in standard.  A couple of different comments have come together to make sense of this.  The first was a comment from a coach that I have a tendency to ‘raise my arms too high’.  Among other things, I didn’t think that was really possible, so it took a little bit of thinking and adjusting to figure out what that meant.  The second was one from Boss yesterday that I tend to pull him after turns because I turn my entire body as a block from hip to shoulders (or something similar to this–it was a bit of a half-formed verbalization of something he realized).

Regardless, it led me to making some adjustments to my frame, the first of which was letting the level of my arms come down a little.  The result of this is that instead of having strong rigid tension through my back and shoulders directed across towards Boss, I was suddenly able to provide resistance up towards him.  It was a slight change, but allowed me to be less rigid through my arms and shoulders and freed up my should blades to allow them move–something that I wasn’t really able to do before.  It’s still engaging the same muscles, but it is using them in a slightly different way, and it keeps me from feeling like I have to constantly fight to keep my shoulders down.

This actually led to a conversation with Boss that it is ok to allow my shoulder blades to turn independent of the rest of my body and that in some steps it is actually needed.  The combination of these things actually is leading to a dance position that feels much less tight and rigid and actually easier to control (because I am not completely focused on setting one specific position and then trying to keep my upper body from moving).

I am still concerned I am missing a couple pieces, but I certainly have a little more pieces in place than I did before.

Expanding on that, is a similar issue in latin.  When we were working on rumba yesterday, I was having endless issues with my arms and upper body, to the point where Boss was actually pushing my shoulder down to get me to drop my elbow and relax my arm.  I have a tendency to raise my arms and elbow too high using my triceps instead of my shoulder to do it. Add to that constantly resisting in the wrong direction and it made for a pretty frustrating part of the lesson.

Later in the lesson though, as we were discussing upper body movements in standard I remembered I wanted to ask about one of my arm exercises for latin.  This began a pretty detailed conversation about arm movements and actually resulted in forgetting about my arms (for the most part), and focusing on learning how to just move my upper body from my shoulder blade.  It’s a pretty detailed breakdown of the required movement, but I find that when I use my arms they distract me and usually result in me using the wrong muscles to compensate for a lack of understanding of the correct shoulder movement (and strength).

So the exercise is now about moving one side of my upper body initiating from the shoulder blade, then adding my arms within the limits of that range of motion in a separate movement.  The first thing I noticed when trying this? I can’t raise my arm anywhere near as high as I was even starting it previously.  Again, what I was doing previously was ‘too high’.  We also discovered that I was trying to move my shoulder blade but would stop the movement when I needed to engage movement of my rib cage (because I thought I wasn’t supposed to turn my ribs).  I have no idea how this concept will go, but I am hopeful that it might start to correct issues with my arm styling that have been noted by a couple coaches lately.

Peripherally related to that is the issue I am having with settling my hip in latin.  I either do it too soon or not at all.  The main reason? I find myself fighting ‘settling’ because I am worried I will ‘collapse’ and don’t want to relax into the hip.  Essentially, I am afraid to allow myself to let go.

So the theme for the last week of dance seems to be that for whatever reason, I am getting in my own way by working so hard to try to control my movements that I am not allowing myself to move when I am supposed to (did you follow that?).

No wonder I am wound up and feel tense when I dance.

Bringing the attitude

Or at least trying to.

It’s a new adjustment to one of my exercises for styling in latin (and by extension, smooth).  As I mentioned, I sent some videos of my open smooth from the last competition to the coach who designed the routines and one of the feedback she had was that she loved the drama and acting I was able to do in my routine, but that I needed to work on my arms so they are less ‘floppy’.  Basically, I have two types of styling right now, intentional and accidental.  When I intentionally commit to something, it really shows as it comes out with confidence and moves through my entire body.  Then I have stuff that I do that I just do–often without conscious thought–and that tends to look that way.

So the goal now is to work on making everything more intentional.  A big part of that is adding some attitude to my styling through expression and glance.  So that is the change to my exercise.  I am doing my regular arm exercise, but I am moving them with intention and flair and adding a very strong glance in the direction I am moving my arms.

Seems easy enough, doesn’t it?

Not quite. It feels quite awkward and unnatural.  Because it’s an exercise, I am doing it much more than I normally would in any routine so that also adds to the awkwardness.  Oddly enough, my right arm seems to want to move great, but when I move my left it almost moves backward to what I intend to do.  And now because I am actually glancing I am also looking in the mirror and it is hard not to giggle about how silly it looks sometimes.  It’s going to be a challenge to get into the zone for that, but if it’s not challenging, why bother doing it?

The rest of my exercises seem to be going ok (in fact according to Boss, better than he expected), and I hope that as I do my residency for my masters over the next two weeks I will be able to still get in fairly regular practice time between class time and group work time.  The residency is two weeks and right now just seems like a giant ‘hump’ I need to get over.  I have slowly been preparing though and today I completely cleaned my apartment, did the grocery shopping, laundry and prepared all my meals for the next week. Pretty much what is left is to pack my book bag.

Lots of changes going on in my life right now, but hopefully I can continue to attack them all with the right attitude.

Adding Drama

Not something run of the mill for me.

There is a rather dramatic 16-bar section in our smooth tango, and it doesn’t work unless there is drama behind it.  Otherwise, it just looks staged or worse just plain silly.  So tonight the focus of the first part of my lesson was on working through the styling of that piece.

We ended up making some slight changes to the choreography to fit a little better with our interpretation of the sequence, but in the end, it seems to work really well.  We even made it through the entire tango in time with the music tonight which was a good feeling.

From there, we went on to smooth Viennese Waltz.  This is also coming together, and in the end it is a matter of just keeping both feet moving (in the correct time of course).  The running passage was slightly better today–I almost got it on time–and other than one piece that just didn’t seem to work we were able to do up to that piece, and then from just after it to the end–with the music without any major disasters.  Once we get the middle section together we should be good to go.

I was able to do some practice on my own tonight and I ran through the jive sequence that was giving me grief (it’s coming slowly–except it’s jive and it needs to be fast!) and I am feeling more comfortable with it.  I also ran through the paso.  It’s there at the 90% of tempo, a few small hiccups at 95% of tempo and missing a section when I do it at tempo.  But that is a lot better than it was last week, so small pat on the back for that.  It seems to be finally in my feet at least although I have to count almost every part mentally to keep it moving.  In the end it is a lot like the VW–just keep going.

I also figured out what to do for the extra bar in the cha cha–I am just going to start with a bit of a hold (meaning my feet won’t be moving), and then do the bar I put together straight into the start of the routine.  Not sure what Boss thinks of that yet, or how it works in context with him, but it at least works on my own.  I seem to be out of creative ideas for cha cha right now.

The night ended with another session of ‘Ballroom Boot Camp’ and tonight was the cardio version.  I really enjoyed the cardio version more than the strength training version as it was more challenging.  There were a lot of tricky footwork and agility exercises and it really was go go go cardio.  Two more sessions.

I get a break from lessons tomorrow and only have boot camp, but I have been told that Friday will be a review of the smooth foxtrot and paso as well as a run-through of all the standard routines ahead of the rounds practice on Sunday.

It is back to work for me tomorrow–but that’s ok.  Only 10 days until a real vacation where I am not on-call (as I was over Christmas).  I also start my masters on Monday!

2 weeks to the competition.  This weekend’s practice will be very telling–and I can’t wait!

 

First lessons of 2017

I have already had 4 lessons this year.

Sheesh. Seems to be a lot.  On top of that, I am participating in a ‘Ballroom Boot Camp’ this week, which is extra work.

Yesterday’s first lesson was a styling lesson focused on Cha cha and jive.  It was good to work out some of the points and timing of the styling.  I need to think some on what I do in the beginning of the cha cha though, I have a bar that works and another bar that isn’t quite there yet.

Jive was tricky.  Of all the dances, it seems that I have forgotten the most about jive technique–staying forward, keeping steps compact, using my core to lift my legs. It was a good review though and we worked out some of the styling points in that routine as well.

My second lesson yesterday worked through a few different pieces of standard and smooth tango.  We made some changes in the standard tango last week so we needed to review them and put them in context. In the smooth tango we reviewed some of the changes we made there.  Lots of detail work, but all went well.

The boot camp was fun–it was some circuit training, breathing and stretching.  I am having some issues with my neck right now, which hindered me a little, but I am hoping the tension will let go soon.  It has happened before, but much worse–my entire trapezius went into spasm and seized up.  I couldn’t turn my head almost at all when that happened.  So far, it is not that bad and it does seem to be moving around and changing which is a good sign.  I have been doing a lot of preventative work including heat, voltaren, gentle stretching and trying to avoid anything that hurts.

Today we started with running through parts of the smooth tango, and then it was smooth Viennese Waltz the rest of the time–working through the steps and running them with the music.  We did forget one section, but we did get a lot of progress done.

My lesson tonight was also focused on the smooth VW.  Running through bigger chunks of the routine in time with the music and making some small adjustments as needed.  It’s a pretty intense routine and I have to hand it to those who dance smooth for being able to put all the pieces together in a VW routine.  I am looking forward to running it more in a bigger space and now I know what part of the routine I need to sort out on my own.

Tomorrow we should run through and discuss the styling for the smooth tango.  It’s not that the styling is complicated, but Boss and I need to agree on it in order for it to work.  After my lesson, there is the next session of the bootcamp, which I am looking forward to.

Already a busy and positive start to 2017!

Dance Day

If you’re on vacation, why not dance?

It was a busy but really productive day today in my dance world.

First, I had my styling detail session with Boss, or at least the first session.  We worked through rumba, paso and samba, which are probably the easiest routines for us to work on for styling as a lot of it was either already worked out some, or has a lot of time in hold (paso and samba).  It was really productive though to go through each routine in detail and figure out things like where we connect, where I need to make sure my hands are so we can connect (hard to do an underarm turn if my hand is down!), and to try a little bit of some new things (skirt work!).

Going through the styling details like that also helped cement the routines together and provide some symmetry where we were missing some before.  I finally worked out my shimmy part in samba–I just have to keep my confidence through it!

Later in the day I had a dress fitting for my smooth dress, and it is really coming along well!  It was also Boss’s first time seeing the smooth dress, and he seemed to be pleasantly surprised to like it.  We only had a few details to adjust and sort out, but it is well on it’s way to coming together.  I also got to see all the stones for it, and I got to see some of the stoning progress on my latin dress (which looks So amazing now!).  I am really excited for how all of the dresses are coming together.

In the evening I had a regular lesson, although not at the usual hall due to the holidays.  We spent the lesson working through the waltz routine in little details, fixing the places where I just didn’t seem to keep it together.  We spent the most time on the fallaway and slip pivot to the contra check, and it finally clicked together for me how all those pieces work together and how the contra check is supposed to work.  Because the hall was smaller we were limited to doing small segments at a time, but that worked really well.

It was nice to spend some time on standard today, it’s been a little while as we have been working getting the smooth and latin routines together.  Boss told me today we are making a little bit of a change from what we usually do.  Instead of using the legs to travel, he has me focusing more on using the legs for swing, sway and rotation.  It’s a small change, but I like it a lot.  I feel a little more controlled in moving, and finally I can feel standard starting to take shape beyond just the steps.

We did discover a bit of an anomaly in how I get into position.  I have a habit of stepping too far forward, which puts me too close, but I also tend to lead with my left side forward, which also puts me too far to the left side.  It took a little bit of adjustment and trial and error, but I realized I was doing that because with the loss of sensation through my chest, lower belly and upper thighs, I started using my left hip as my ‘grounding point’ to figure out when I was in position.  Unfortunately, this tends to wrap me too much around Boss’s side, so we were working on finding new ways and a new grounding point and a visual clue to help me out.  What seems to work for now is to make sure I come straight towards Boss, aiming to put the edge of my right side in his centre, and to only take two steps forward (left foot, right foot) and let Boss close the gap if needed from there.  It’s a small change of habit that I am sure I am going to have lots of practice with over the next few lessons.

Boss said today that the intent is to keep working through the standard routines over the lessons this week and I am looking forward to digging into the rest of them some more (waltz is the easiest dance for me to pick up, so the rest should be challenging).

One of the biggest advantages to how I have been feeling lately is that my mind is sharp and focused again and that really showed today.  I can feel all of the information from today processing in my brain and I can tell it’s going to stick.  I have also had more energy lately which is also helping a lot and I am really feeling a lot like my old self.

As I continue to feel better, it amazes me the details that are coming back.  Things that I used to do automatically (like travel, press into the floor, stretch through my whole body) are suddenly coming back–and I didn’t even realize I had stopped doing them.  I just feel so much stronger overall and more connected with myself than I have been in a very long time–and not only in dance.  It’s such a relief.

Even my lessons have been a bit more intense requiring a lot more effort lately and I have been a bit proud of myself for being able to step up.  It seems like it has been a long time since I have had lessons that have been a lot of ‘go go go’ and I am really enjoying that.  I hope that my endurance is also improving.  For the first time in a long time, I feel like I am really preparing for a competition–not just going through the motions.

It’s back to work tomorrow, at least partly, and I have lessons every night the rest of this week, and will have another styling session on Friday.

I keep saying it over and over–but it’s really true now.

I’m Back.

Sinking it in

At this point, a lot of the routines need repetition, repetition, repetition!

We worked on some more details today, first in samba then rumba and ending with a little bit of paso.  I was told we will review smooth tomorrow and go through the smooth Viennese Waltz.

I made a proposal to Boss today which he accepted as a good idea and that was to suggest we take some time, separate from lessons to work through the styling and only the styling for the smooth and latin routines.  The point is to sync our styling together, get rid of any strange things that don’t make sense and make sure that the routines have a strong sense of performance. I want to do it in a focused block for the focus and to ensure nothing gets put aside.  I also don’t really want to put any time limit on it–we do it until we finish.

The biggest problem right now is actually to find time when both of us are available to do it, but the hope is that we will be able to do it over the Christmas break.

The work today in samba was just to clean and work through one small part that just didn’t work well at the last competition.  We got the idea sorted, I just have to work a little bit on the timing for my part.

The work in rumba was focused on establishing and using our connection to execute the steps.  This gives the step a little more ‘snap’ and ‘power’ and contributes the flow of the routine as it works with the hip action.  It also allowed us to clarify the timing in a couple parts and cement the steps in the parts that are newer.  I am very eager to put this routine on the floor.

We didn’t have a lot of time to work in Paso today and I was starting to feel a bit sick near the end of my lesson.  We clarified and fixed a little bit of the timing and choreography so I can start to work through the routine on my own.  I don’t know why, but I find Paso really hard to learn and work on by myself.  It’s the equivalent to the foxtrot in standard–my mind just never seems to want to completely put it together.  Perhaps it is because it is such a strong partnered dance and the frame and strength of the couple is so pivotal to it.

On the health front, I did have my hormone surge yesterday and it was a really rocky and emotional day.  On top of that, I had a terrible time getting to sleep even with medication as my mind was just spinning in twenty different directions.

I also found out yesterday that my medical coverage will not cover the medication that was prescribed by the endocrinologist unless I try another medication first and return to see a dietician.  I am not looking forward to trying the alternate medication as it is known for having terrible gastric side effects, but if I don’t it is like I am condemning myself to being overweight.  I did achieve a small win in that I was allowed to choose the dietician I see and I chose one who specializes in sports nutrition and is a former pro ballet dancer.  I had a brief conversation with her today and already I can tell she will be different from the dieticians I had seen previously.  I will see her early in the new year and I am looking forward to it.

I will start the new medication tomorrow and I really hope it a) works and does what it is supposed to, and b) doesn’t give too bad side effects.

I am looking forward to working through smooth tomorrow.  We have some feedback from the pro who choreographed the routines to incorporate and that should be interesting.

I am already starting to feel better today after the hormone surge of yesterday and I am taking that as a good sign.  I started having some hot flashes in my lessons which made me feel a little nauseous near the end, but my mind is clearing and I am more calm and less agitated.

Fingers crossed everything will continue to improve!