Pulling it all together

It’s a busy week and weekend ahead of me.

To prepare for leaving for the cruise next week, I need to get an assignment done for school. I have been working at it in segments, but each segment is like pulling teeth a little.

It doesn’t help that I seem to be in fuzzy head zone again. I really had hoped that was behind me.

I will get the paper finished, but it is going to be a challenge as it appears work is going to be ramped up some over the weekend while I am on call. I am just glad I am as far ahead as I am, or else I would be in a lot of trouble.

There are two reason for the title of this post though.

The first, I have been struggling in getting two major muscles to work together in a lot of my standard work recently. I had a meeting with my trainer at the gym and discovered it is also an issue when I do squats.

Essentially, when I engage my glute muscles I have a tendency to lose my core. This results in my upper body leaning back uncontrollably and my pelvis thrusting forward, making me feel off balance (because I am). I seem to have a habit of using either one or the other — engaging my core or using my glutes.

My challenge is to get them used to working together — allowing my glutes to drive me forward while keeping my core engaged to control my upper body. I can focus on this while I do my squats to help develop a new habit and muscle memory, and I am already focusing on this when I do my standard side step exercise. It’s coming but needs to be much more consistent to ‘pull it all together’.

The other reason for this post is that tonight during my lesson we were really able to pull together the jive. I finally have the steps more or less down, or at least to a place where I can work on it myself. After reviewing the steps with Boss, we tried sections of it to slow music. The interesting thing was that the first tempo we tried was too slow (not a bad problem to have!), and we had to go with slightly faster to better match the speed I have been spinning at (there are a lot of spins in our jive). It was pretty cool to see even a few sections come together with the music, even at a slower tempo (about 5-6 BPM slower than comp speed). I think the biggest surprise for me was to discover that even at that speed I could tell that I could do my spins faster.

It was great to put the work I have been doing in context. I have been missing that as much of what we have been doing has been working on getting the sequences down in sections, or small areas of technique. There hasn’t really been much opportunity to try to run through any of the routines with the exception of the rumba.

That is also going to change for standard, and already started some tonight. We were working through some of the details in the waltz, and we ended by trying to dance it with the tempo (something we haven’t attempted yet all the way through). Boss’s goal this week is to record the Waltz, Tango, and Quickstep with at least slow music for sending to a coach for feedback (one of the ones I have worked with last fall).

I think Boss is a really really brave man, especially for the Quickstep.

The waltz actually did not go too bad tonight, aside from a couple little hiccups. The first half of tango went well, but then Boss had to make a small change to one step and we ran out of time. I was actually pretty impressed with how both went, so I am not too worried about them.

Quickstep on the other hand…

I just can’t seem to wrap my head around how it is ever going to be possible to do with the music. I just can’t seem to figure out the flow of the steps with the timing although I am sure once we go through it a few times it will start to sort itself out.

Going through all the routines is the main plan for tomorrow’s lesson and then Friday we will record them. Fingers crossed.

After the recording, we are going to start working on the Paso — another dance I am anxious about. There is a lot of styling that just seems like when I do it it will only be awkward and clumsy looking.

I guess we will soon see how it all comes together.

Advertisements

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.

General Musings

I feel like I need to just catch up.

After my lesson yesterday, I realized there are quite a few random and disjointed thoughts swirling around in my head about dance, none of which (on the surface) are ready for their own post. So I thought I would just collect them here and see what comes out.

Yesterday was a review of 2 of the open standard routines, one of which needed some additions to bring it to the proper time. We started with Quickstep (which needed the additions). Of all the dances, Quickstep is definitely the one that changes the most from syllabus to open level. I am finding it intimidating on the one hand, but ready to dive into the challenge on the other.

Following QS, we went through the Foxtrot, which was more a case of me trying to follow what Boss was leading as, like the QS, we haven’t really worked on it or run it together. I think the main point of the first part of the lesson was for Boss to simultaneously review the routines (it had been since before Christmas for both), and determine the places where I need the most work so we can start focusing on them in lessons.

I am going to be away for 3 weeks beginning the middle of March, so until then I will have 4 lessons a week to sort of pre-make-up the time. I am looking forward to the concentrated block.

When I get back from that trip, Boss tells me he hopes to have some news about us dancing together more as he has an injury that will be reassessed. I am eager to hear what he will have to say but don’t hold out for much beyond working together more in lessons. Competing is more or less up to him right now and I don’t seem him as eager to get back on the floor. For me, there is so much to do I am not in any rush myself.

I still haven’t completely figured out how to work through the open routines on my own yet, but I can feel ideas peculating in the back of my mind. Have to let them settle.

After the QS and Fox, we worked a little bit on Tango before going into tango conditioning (which is 4-step, promenade close, drag, back corte repeated for a set amount of time followed by rest till my pulse recovers and repeat). I was surprised that Boss did the entire set with me (which certainly got the pulse up!). Usually I do all conditioning on my own while he monitors time and the technique, although the last couple times he has done the last set with me. I think he is testing out his injury a little and seeing where he is at for conditioning (generally much better than me!).

There is a strength and quality about my movement in standard right now that is new. When we were doing tango, Boss kept asking me if I could feel that I am now ‘using my legs’, but while I can tell there are different elements happening, I can’t (yet) equate or describe what I am doing or where it is coming from. In tango especially, I am willing to bet it is different if I don’t try to focus on doing something and just let myself move. There is definitely something happening in my ‘natural’ movement I can feel my mind trying to latch on to.

In retrospect, the same could be applied to both foxtrot and quickstep. There was something about how I was moving in general that was different (and I think positive), although perhaps not completely consistent that is coming from somewhere (likely some of the exercises I am doing). Like I tried to describe above, I can feel the difference, but I can’t describe it or say what it is I am doing and I think trying to figure it out changes it. Again, I think Boss recognizes it more that I do (and thinks I am better aware of it than I am). It’ s like I just want to work through some things in standard until I can understand what I am doing so that I don’t ruin it by ‘trying’.

Some general thoughts on Latin–

Ever have something seem just a little bit out of the reach of your brain and you keep doing it but you can tell it is just a little off? That was me until a week ago in back steps. Boss had explained them (again) and I had begun work on them, but right away I could tell I was missing a big piece. The way I was focusing on the movement was off. We had gone through several different versions of the same thing–focusing on hip, moving leg, feet, turnout, it just always seemed a little ‘off’. Two weeks we hit on it though–for me, I need to focus on the standing leg and everything else tends to move as it should. Once I centred in on that, the back walks seem to have ‘clicked’ together and what Boss is describing and what I am doing now makes sense.

Love those ‘aha’ moments but man, they tend to make you want to pull hair out getting there!

For latin routines, I am feeling pretty good on the two sections I am working on in both Rumba and Samba and am ready to try to venture out. The technique is of course not fully there, but the sequence and timing is coming more naturally and taking less thought, which is my first goal with the routines. Once I have the movements joined and flowing, I can start pulling apart the technique as we work on them in lessons. I hope to equally be able to do the first part of the waltz when I get back to regular practice on Wednesday.

My schedule was a bit disrupted last week while my father was visiting, which was expected. He has headed back home today, so tomorrow it’s off and running again.

The other thing we have been working on in latin is the connection between us, the action and reaction, and keeping our weight (meaning mine mostly) forward towards Boss. It’s another thing, like the movement in standard that I can feel my mind processing through in the background. Something that needs to become an innate habit and is almost there, but not quite.

In both cases, it is like I am standing on the edge of a cliff, almost ready to jump, but not quite sure if I brought the right harnesses. Eventually, I just need to do it, but there are still too many options and directions to go for me to be completely ready to take the plunge.

It’s a bit of a fascinating time for me in dance, with a lot more going on that I have had in a while. I can feel myself slowly preparing for bringing things to the next level, so that I have a chance of making it work when I get there.

More baby steps, but not bad for recovering.

Finding Balance

Still experiencing an evolving process for working through the open routines.

But getting there.

It’s been a little challenging to find the balance between standard and latin, technique and choreography, and working on my own versus with Boss. I actually had a suggestion for Boss last week that we do less dancing together in my lesson.

It was an interesting conclusion to come to, but I noticed that after we worked on something together in my lesson, when I would go to work through the same thing on my own I kept experiencing difficulties (especially in standard, but also in latin) with alignment and remembering the exact points he wanted me to work on.

It was still necessary to do it with him as where he is positioned also was one of the things I was having trouble figuring out some times and doing it with him gave me a good understanding of context, but the focus when working with him is more on how we move as a partnership than how I move myself. That was what I was missing.

My last lesson was a great balance of both.

We were working on the open waltz and while we haven’t gotten very far into it (I think 8 or 12 bars), I know what I need to do on my own and I can do it. The biggest challenge for me are the rotations and making sure I am rotating from my hips, not just my upper body. So that is what we worked on clarifying on my own (and the alignments).

The interesting thing is that we found a couple of places where I actually try to stop my rotation instead of following it all the way through–partly for control and fear of losing my balance and partly for lack of confidence in how much I can rotate. After doing the rotations a few times I felt much better about it and learned that I can still do the full rotation with control.

It’s back to needing to push myself out of my comfort zone and keep myself there. The lesson showed some classic examples where I stay too cautious and don’t stretch myself to the limits of my abilities.

But slowly I am getting there. It’s going to take a lot more exploration and pushing those limits, but if we continue working in my lessons in the way we did last week, I won’t have any choice but to push myself forward to the next level.

Which is really the point right now, and the biggest challenge I am facing. Overall, I have to admit that the progress on the open routines is moving a lot faster than I really thought it would. Of course, we haven’t started Paso or Quickstep…but I hear there may be some work in the near future on at least one of them.

I feel more focused and grounded now than I have in a long time. Not only do I have time to really explore and learn these routines, I seem to slowly be reaching a great balance to doing so. My motivation is high and I am coming out of the murkiness to a place where things more and more make sense.

A great balance.

Adding Technique

Because we have been working on learning choreography, technique has fallen a little to the side recently.

Part of that is because I am limited in the amount I can do and the amount of time I am spending dancing because of my neck issue.

I saw the acupuncturist yesterday and got a little bit of relief for my neck which has mostly shifted the pain from stabbing burning pain to more of an ache. In some ways it is almost worse, but I have more mobility in the others and I am not experiencing spasms. This freed me up a bit.

We were able to work all the way through the rest of the samba today as well.

Both of those factors together led to some time to talk about two aspects of technique. The first deals with my foot position when moving backward in latin and the other deals with swiveling my hips without moving my shoulders and keeping my weight forward into my partner. Both of these are going to be a big focus for a while.

In particular, the hips movement will be important because so many steps in my new latin routines require exactly that movement and that I am able to maintain my weight forward so that both I and my partner can use each other to execute the steps.

It was a bit refreshing to take a step back from just doing choreography tonight. We were able to dig into the technique of the samba a little. We haven’t run it from top to bottom yet, but I suspect that will be in the near future.

My head feels clearer today and I hope it is the beginning of a period of clarity and sharpness. I could certainly use it.

At my lesson tomorrow, Boss talked a little about potentially working on the waltz or we will finish off the samba. As long as my neck feels up to it, I don’t mind returning to standard for a bit. It will be a nice change.

I still feel scattered, but I know this week is busy and stressful on both work and school fronts, so I am giving myself a break on the dance front. I hope to reset next week when things return more to a normal pace. I have more appointments for my neck which should also hopefully help.

In the meantime, I have a little technique to work on.

Working out a plan

It seems things have settled.

But boy was it rocky to get there.

We have a plan.

I did go to my lesson on Wednesday, but I took some advice from the lovely Girl with the Tree Tattoo and put together my thoughts and frustrations and asked Boss for 5 minutes at the beginning of my lesson to just vent and let it all out.

It turned into a productive conversation that gave more clarity than previous conversations. One of the first things I mentioned was that I felt a little confused about what I was being told because at times it seemed contradictory. The biggest point to come out of that is that Boss is unable to support competing for at least 6 months to a year, and can’t say right now if he will return to competing or not after that.

Well, neither can I. Anything can happen in a year. I know that better than anyone. 2 weeks ago, while waiting for my biopsy result, I wasn’t sure if I would see my 40th birthday.

Life can change on a dime for all sorts of reasons.

All that to say that I know I won’t be competing with Boss for probably at least a year. After that, no one can really say what might be possible. Maybe he will be willing and able to compete, maybe he won’t.

Maybe I won’t be able to compete. You never know.

I don’t work with Boss because he was willing to be a warm body on a competition floor. While competing is one goal of mine, it is not the only one and it is not the most important one either. I work with him because he is able and willing to teach at the level I want and I can take lessons consistently throughout the week. He is also open to communicating, and does both long and short-term planning for lessons. Going to any other instructor, particularly commuting, eliminates a lot of those advantages, particularly being able to work with lessons throughout the week which is the most important thing for me.

Boss did suggest an option that I may consider in the future (for example if he is still unable to compete this time next year), but for now I don’t see it as necessary (not to mention it would be a bit costly).

After all of that, we did come to a plan that works.

I have no issues with not competing for 6 months to a year. I see it as an opportunity to work on my own technique and particularly focus on some details that require more in-depth and long term focus to sort out–things I can’t focus on while preparing to compete. In particular, trying to sort out the issue with my right foot turning out and lacking the strength to stay turned in. Other things include specific techniques in latin, CBMP in standard (I am just starting to scratch the surface on understanding that), and connection in latin.

Boss and I also discussed how I want to structure lessons for the next little while. We agreed that I would stick with 3 a week (as that’s the level I am happiest with), but two would be on things he wants to work on, but the third lesson would be directed by questions, topics that I want to work on (which I will provide to him in advance). I have already given him something for the first one.

My lessons in general will be focused more on individual conditioning and exercises for technique, although I have some routines that have details that need to be worked out. Now is an opportunity to do that. I see all the work I do now will only make my stronger in the future.

The most interesting thing about the discussion we had was that Boss told me he would like me to be more involved in my learning now as I have reached a point where I should be. It’s an interesting concept.

Finally, I had a couple ideas for evaluating progress without competing. First, as we are going to be doing some specific exercises (most from coaches), so I had the idea of filming me doing all the exercises (once we figure out what they will be), and then refilming them in 3 months to play side by side and see if there is any difference.

The second idea was that if I am not competing, then I am saving money. Something valuable I do with it that is still dance related (and cheaper than competing) is to do some coaching lessons. Already the last coach I worked with is going to be returning in February, so I have an opportunity to be able to afford more lessons with him, and Boss suggested a different coach for latin who may be possible to work with in the near-term (I have worked with her before and enjoyed it  a lot).

I am very glad and relieved to have a plan in place, for at least the next 6 months. In June, there will be a time to re-evaluate where everything is at, but until then I am happy with the plan. I have just over a week until my next surgery which will mean some brief time away from dancing. I am glad to have this sorted now.

Competing strong

Sorry for the delay in writing!

I have been busy beyond competing (more on that later) and this is the first opportunity I have had to write about the comp.  I did post some pics on facebook if you follow me there (www.facebook.com/bcballroomdancer).

Overall, this was my strongest competition since before I got sick. Hands down. That’s not to say it was my best dancing, but I felt prepared, my endurance (for the most part was there), I didn’t feel like I was dying after only a couple dances. I felt like I belonged on the floor and that I was competitive, not just dancing as something to do.

I won my closed gold multidance in Ballroom although it was a rule 10 and 11 win (meaning they had to split the tie twice more or less), and I am very proud of that–my first ‘win’ in closed gold! I was also 5th in both open scholarships of 6 couples and even stole a few points from those that placed above me in ballroom.

Ballroom was definitely the stronger of the two styles for me at this competition. Considering the amount of work I have been putting into it, it should have been, and it has paid off. I felt quite strong and confident in the ballroom heats, even though endurance was a challenge. I was surprised to see I received a 1 place mark in VW from one judge in a 5-dance championship that finished with the VW.

There were a lot of positives for me in standard. It took a round to settle down a little and adjust to things like my dress. At the start I was almost too relaxed in trying to keep myself calm and from trying too hard, but hit a good balance for the other rounds. Boss was really happy with how it all went, and I really have no complaints about standard. Yes, there are always little things, and lots to improve, but I was more consistent and solid in standard than I have been in any previous competition. That was a big win for me!

Latin was a much different story, and I am less impressed with my performance there. I had some very high points, and I had some lower ones. In one of my 4-dance gold multi-dances, I didn’t win the event, but I did sweep the rumba. Looking at the videos though, my styling still leaves much to be desired, and I just didn’t seem to be ‘finishing’ all my lines as I danced. My energy level was not where it needed to be for latin and I was having a hard time keeping focused.

So I own the less than stellar latin performance. It was good, but not my best. Among other things, I was having trouble feeling settled in my shoes, and I think the fatigue from standard the day before also played a role and upset my hormones a little bit (I was a hot flash queen that day).

That said, when it came to the 5-dance scholarship, I just went out and had some fun and worried less about trying to be perfect.

One of the biggest ‘wins’ I experienced overall was random strangers making an effort to tell me how much they enjoyed my dancing–seeking me out specifically in the crowd of competitors I was just on the floor with. For me, that is better than a thousand trophies and it happened after events in both standard and latin.

The biggest challenge I faced over the weekend was blisters. My shoes started out feeling wonderful, but then in the last afternoon event in standard I suddenly felt some pain. The result was 2 blisters on each foot, one on the heel, the other in the arch (which seemed a strange place). I put some blister pads on them for the scholarship and covered those with tap, but they didn’t stay in place. By the time I got to the latin scholarship, I had 11 blisters, all of which had popped, some of which were bleeding. I knew that breaking in new shoes would cause some problems (even old shoes can) and had taken some measures and preparations, but my feet seemed to just ‘give up’ in trying to keep skin. Even duct tape didn’t help. I am doing a lot of feet soaking these days.

My shoes are pretty much broken in now, but I won’t be able to tell until all the blisters heel if adjustments need to be made and where. Despite the blisters, they were more comfortable at the end of the comp. I also had issues with my feet swelling and that didn’t help either.

My latin shoes were the strangest to deal with. I had worked with them before I left and they felt fine. But at the comp the heel of my foot kept sliding out and I had a hard time getting the strap tight enough to hold it in place.  I am going to have to revisit them. I am wondering if they are too short in the end even though they are the same size as my last ones–but with a lower heel.

Hopefully in about 2 weeks I can do a good assessment with fresh feet.

The final ‘snag’ in the competition happened at the end of the standard rounds (and thankfully the end!). My dress is stretch velvet and when I am sweaty can be difficult to get the sleeves off.  I friend was helping me and when she pulled the arm I heard a ripping sound! Unfortunately, the dress tore just under the right arm, in the fabric just adjacent to the seam. Because the tear is in the fabric, I don’t know if it can be repairable without being too visible. It may be the end for that dress….an expensive tear!

In all, I am very proud of myself and how I danced this weekend–even latin. I wanted to be able to get through all my dances strongly, which I did, do well in standard (because of the focus we have been giving it), and enjoy dancing in latin. I achieved that. I know Boss is especially happy with the standard and we haven’t had a chance to discuss latin although we know there were challenges there.

The biggest achievement from the competition was being able to feel myself staying strong, and it has given us lots of feedback for the future 🙂

We should be sitting down to discuss the plan for the future over the next couple days, but mainly I am taking it easy right now. The exception, of course was that I had 3 coaching lessons with a standard coach yesterday that were a lot of fun and able to build on the competition. I will write about that shortly.

I will also write a review of the competition for those who might be interested in competing there some day. I would definitely recommend it and I think we are already making plans to return!

Achievement unlocked: Compete strong during recovery!

The little things

I had my first ’rounds’ practice today in more than a year.

There were some small victories I want to celebrate.

I made it through the entire practice without completely dying and using my frame. I even had a little energy left over.

I missed the final quickstep because I had a blister pop quite badly during the foxtrot just before. That’s what happens when you don’t wear competition shoes for 9 months–you forget where the ‘rub’ spots are.

I made it through 2 Viennese Waltzes in the centre of 5 dances for 1:30 without having to stop, and still being able to move through the dance. Boss even commented on how it was better from Thursday. I thought I wouldn’t even get through the start of the second one as I felt I was exhausted after the waltz and tango, but I surprised myself by being able to muster my energy and dance the entire way through.

I did have some difficulties (aside from 3 blisters). My left side tired much quicker than I expected in standard. I was much more tired for the second round of latin than I expected. Once my body tires out, I lose the muscle memories of my routines and start missing things. My upper body also starts to collapse making it harder for me to follow and respond to Boss’s lead.

The rounds gave me an opportunity to experiment with moving my upper body and using my head in standard. It was inconsistent, especially at the beginning, but I think it started to settle out some by the final rounds. It’s something I will need to continue to work on more, and a big part of it is needing to become more comfortable with what I can do.

Overall, Boss also seemed pleased with how things went, although we will have to discuss some points more tomorrow during my next lesson. At least for me, it seems Quickstep is the weakest dance/routine, followed by tango. A big victory was going through the paso routine at full speed (for the first time), twice. The second time I was even able to add some power to my steps and it seemed there was shaping.

The latin routines went well, although the first round was a little rough. We were able to identify spots in 3 routines where we have to agree better on the hands and hold, and it turns out that the cha cha routine is shorter than we expected (we made it through almost 2 full loops in 1:30).

Hopefully subsequent practices will only build on today’s and things will become stronger and smoother as we get closer to the competition. 4 more weeks to go.

I do want to say that I found something today I didn’t fully realize I had lost. The we did today was strong and intense, but underneath, I was enjoying myself more than I had in a very long time. I had a moment where I felt pure joy.

It’s definitely the little things.

Bending the knee

It seems Jon Snow is not the only one reluctant to do this…

We were working on quickstep tonight (which for some reason seems like something I haven’t done in two years), and after starting with some clarification in the fishtail, we moved on to the hover corte, which is a new step for me in my gold routine.

Ever have a night where it seems like your mind and body just won’t work together?

That was me tonight. My mind understood (for the most part) what I needed to do, but my body just could not figure out how to consistently make it happen. That said, I am hopeful that it will be one of those things that once my mind has an opportunity to sleep on it (literally), it will process the information and start working out.

The root of the problem though seems to stem some from my knees, particularly my right knee.

As I have mentioned before, knee issues and knee pain have been an on-going thing for me since before cancer.  I tend towards patella femoral syndrome, which is an issue that takes a lot of time and strengthening to work out.  After 6 weeks off of activity, my knees were feeling pretty good, but of course returning to activity has caused them to flare up some (which I was told to expect). My right knee tends to be the instigator, and my left joins in when it has to compensate.

So what does this have to do with dance?

When my knees get sore, my mind starts to unconsciously compensate by avoiding bending them, and in particular by avoiding allowing me to put my weight on one of them at a time while bent.  It also knows that I tend to be more unstable when standing on a bent right leg.

Particularly in standard, I had been working on moving with bent legs through all my steps and to break myself of the habit of step on mostly straight legs. Part of it is a strength issue, the other is simply breaking habits and giving myself the permission to keep my legs bent. Stepping on a straight leg was one of the biggest issues tonight. What’s interesting, is that it was an issue almost always only when stepping on the right leg and having to rise.

Exactly what my body like to avoid doing.

I had a bit of a thought after I got home tonight and did an experiment that brought interesting results.  One of the things Boss seemed to be pointing out was that I had a reluctance to move my weight completely over my right leg when I know I will be changing direction, preferring to keep my weight more to left, and particularly to tend to thrust my right hip out to the side.

So, when I got home, I tried comparing what happens when I balance on each leg with a bent knee.  The result? I am quite stable and comfortable standing on a bent left knee, and it feels perfectly natural to do so without any help from my hip.  Standing on a bent right knee is a bit of a disaster.  I have to almost consciously think to keep my hip from falling out, and I can feel my foot moving back and forth to try to keep the balance.  I can also stand for a prolonged time on my left, but after 10 seconds on my right, I can feel my hip start to tire.

Well, that tells me where my body needs some concentrated work, beginning with just building endurance for standing on a bent right knee.

It’s an exercise I remember doing at some point 2-3 years ago.

I don’t know if that will help directly with dance (it can’t hurt, I suppose), but on top of that I will have to start forcing my mind to pay attention to how I am stepping on my right in standard–especially in pivoting or rising steps to start breaking my current habit and helping my body rebuild it’s strength.

Speaking of building strength, I have started doing 15 mins of body weight exercises at home every other day, mostly to help my knees (they are all exercises I was doing on direction from my trainer and physio before the surgery). Them plus pushups against the wall seem to be a good place to start with some strength training.

I also stayed to do some practice after my lesson tonight, although I compromised with myself and limited it to 30 minutes just to review my latin routines and some of the hand work I did last week. I also took some time to work on my traveling spins in paso and keeping my elbow in front of me, which was the second half of my lesson on Monday (natural rolls in samba was the first half). I couldn’t do quite as much as I wanted as I was feeling a bit light-headed and getting dizzy, so I erred on the side of caution and stopped spinning when my balance stopped cooperating.

I am finding myself a little more tired this week, but as my body is still adjusting to the stopping of the anti-depressants, and the return to work, its not unusual.  I also had a bit of a harder time sleeping Monday and Tuesday night with a sudden heat wave.  Since it cooled off today, I hope to sleep better tonight.

Speaking of sleep, over the next couple weeks I will be working on reducing the dose of my insomnia medication, another positive step. The reduction is in my control, but it seems that I am reaching the point where it will be possible, since a lot of the insomnia increasing medications are out of my system now. It will be interesting to see how it goes.

A lot of positive things going on, and thankfully nothing unexpected coming up (knock on wood!). There are a lot of gradual increases and I am keeping an eye on things as I go along.

8 Weeks until the competition. At this point, I am not too sure about how the preparation will go.  It seems like we are not quite covering as much in my lessons as Boss hopes, although I am optimistic it will pick up momentum once we get some of the major issues cleared up and out of the way.  Other than endurance in general (which is going to be an issue for some time), there is really only one routine I am completely unsure of (quickstep), one routine I lack some confidence in (especially in my ability to do it at full speed, paso), and a few routines with the odd step I am not sure about.  Its really not a bad place to be considering its been a week since I have started back to activity.

Overall, I am doing good. Looking forward to moving further on this path.

Lots to be optimistic about!