Returning to Dance

Sunday was my first lesson with New Boss.

I will have a lesson with him again this week because he and Lady Boss made some changes to their competing schedule which meant they are here this weekend, but not here a couple weeks in a row in July.

It was really great to get back on the floor and be working again. The first lesson was better than I expected, and even the commute wasn’t as bad as I feared.

He is still evaluating, which is understandable, but it is interesting to see what he has picked up on. One thing that is the most interesting are the number of small idiosyncrasies he picked up on that I didn’t even know I had. Every now and then he would ask me why I did something he noticed I was doing consistently and on purpose that seemed strange to him, and I would have either no idea I was doing it or no idea why.

For example, in rumba I have a habit of automatically stepping to my partner’s right side before the twist in a hip twist, instead of stepping straight towards him. I think Old Boss always led it that way so that is my habit. Another was my starting position when my feet are together – I would stand with one foot slightly ahead of the other in almost a pressed walk position to prepare to move with the free leg turned out (this is also my position when I close the fan). Old Boss neither encouraged nor corrected it, but New Boss had me adjust so my ankles are together, my feet are more closed, my ‘free’ foot is on the inside ball of the foot and my knee is facing forward…plus other body adjustments.

We worked on rumba and cha cha, starting with rumba. He immediately noticed some issues with how I follow (no surprise, Old Boss and I were only beginning to work on it), so we made some adjustments to how I use my arm, such as focusing on relaxing the elbow and not allowing the wrist to collapse and to not grasp his hand with my thumb (another idiosyncrasy).

We worked through a basic pattern (hip twist, fan, hockey stick) to focus on using the body more, especially to turn. We also fixed my hip twist position to face it out to the audience instead of across my partner. We also worked on sliding doors, which led to a conversation about cucharachas – another correction.

From there we moved to cha cha walks which was interesting because I have never done cha cha walks backward before, except in the aida or if needed in a routine. It never occurred to me to practice walking backward lol. I have done back locks, but never with the walks before. That was interesting because we talked about the lock steps, how they are done and worked on them.

One of the main things to come out of the lesson is my general foot position. New Boss was watching me move and he said he felt like every step forward and back I made was like I was doing a series of ‘checks’ instead of flowing movements, and the main reason was because my feet were too turned out to allow full hip movement and it stopped my action. We talked about how checks are good for changing direction (like in the basic), but for moving in a line it is better to close the feet to sixth position to allow freedom of movement in the hip.

That is going to be a big change for me, especially my right foot which loves turning out. Another thing was my tendency to take big steps and swing the foot ahead of my body. This means I have to go with the foot and move my weight almost instantly onto the forward foot for balance instead of allowing the trailing foot to control the movement and stabilize me. I have to work on placing the foot under my hip, which also lets me separate the foot and hip movement instead of stepping with the hip already more or less settled.

So lots of little details to work out, but honestly I prefer focusing on little details than finding I have really big fundamentals to fix. Details I can work with and tells me I do have a good foundation to allow for work on the details. I even have DOMS in my side lower back muscles from the lesson and in my hamstrings and calves – places I haven’t really had it before (usually dance gives me core DOMS or upper body more than anything), which also says I am using my body in a new way – a positive thing!

We haven’t talked about level or routines yet, but as we have only done two dances that is not surprising. I have two more lessons this weekend, so perhaps we’ll try a new dance. I also have lessons the following weekend so by the end of that I hope we will be able to discuss levels, etc.

Mainly my mind is processing all the new information, but I wish this week wasn’t so busy for me work and life-wise. My graduation from my Masters program was today, so I officially hold a Masters in Intercultural and International Communication! For work, I have to spend the next two days commuting almost 2 hours one way to work on an issue taking place at one of our remoter communities.

 

The extra time back and forth will take away from time to practice, so I am fitting in little pieces of work here and there where I can this week. My mom is also in town for my graduation so I am also taking time in the evening to spend with her.

 

Next week should be a better week for nailing down some good practice and working through a pattern for practice.

 

Either way, the good news is I am on the floor!

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A Solid Run-through

Finally!

The last week and a half have been about working to get the routines to the point where we can go through them all without stopping and almost mistake free.

Today we had a rounds practice where we mainly focused on standard and it went extremely well. Not perfect of course, but solid enough to alleviate some of the anxiety around the open routines.

It also helps that we received our heat lists and the most number of dances we have in a row is 5. We don’t always have a big break between, sometimes only 5 or 10 minutes, but it is enough time to recollect ourselves and reset for the next round.

I will also compete in 4 events with semi-finals and 2 with quarter finals. The two with quarter finals are both open scholarships, so I don’t really expect to make it to the semi in those, but I am optimistic to make the finals from the 4 semis because they are closed silver events.

That said, in the end it is all about doing my best – that’s all I can really control. I expect there to be some tough competition in many of the events, and much more seasoned competitors than myself.

We start fairly early both days, 730 on Friday and 8 am on Saturday, both to dance one random single dance I needed to qualify for the scholarships. After each we have about a 2 hour wait for our next group of dances. It means pretty early days to have my hair and make-up all together. We also have a good gap of about 3 hours between our last silver events and our open ones.

With the rounds practice behind me, I am slowly starting to feel myself getting excited for the competition. I have been checking off my ‘to do’ list and am counting the days.

I do have two small ‘hiccups’ to finish working out.

First, a month ago at our first rounds practice I snapped the post on the buckle of one of my standard competition shoes. I took it to the cobbler’s and they fixed it. Last weekend they worked well, but today when I went to put them on, the post was too short to hold the strap. I am not quite sure what caused that, but I have to go back to the cobbler’s tomorrow to ask them to replace it again with a longer post.

Second, I ran into some issues with my new standard dress (but my latin one works great!), in that the body suit was too loose and long which led it to shift as we moved. In addition, the floats were too long, especially on the left to the point where there was risk of stepping on them. I had to go over to the mainland on Thursday to meet the dressmaker so she could make the adjustments while I waited.

First, the ferry was booked full for cars (odd for a Thursday afternoon), so I had to walk on the ferry with my dress to make the timing, which was the only time available to get the dress fixed. I then had to take a taxi from the terminal to the studio. She was able to see the dress on me to figure out where the adjustments needed to be make and started to sew, but her needle hit a stone and broke shortly after. Therefore, she wasn’t able to finish the dress while I was there.

She finished it that night and sent it by UPS Friday morning. I should receive it tomorrow before my dance lesson, which should give us a chance to run some of the routines in the dress.

Needless to say, the next 3 days are going to by busy and bit non-stop, followed by flying to the competition and competing. The week after the competition will be a crazy one at work and then I fly out for 2 weeks of training in Germany. I won’t really get a break until the last week of May.

I really can’t wait to get on the floor again and see how I do.

Hopefully the comp will be as solid as today’s run-through.

It looks good…

Today was almost hip pain free.

I started to feel a dull ache during the last 5 minutes of my lesson, with things feeling tight and tired about 20 minutes before that.

Compared to Monday, its like night and day.

Today in my lesson I didn’t hold much back. I had moments where I could feel myself being tentative because I was expecting what I was doing to cause pain and I was really surprised when it didn’t. Once I got through that first hurdle, doing it the next time was easier.

We even started with open jive and did 2 fairly good run-throughs- one slow and one more medium. We then switched to standard and ran through the silver routines, followed by the silver latin. We ended with the Quickstep and Foxtrot pieces we worked on at the end of Monday’s lesson.

Overall, a much more productive lesson than I have had in quite some time, but I am still being diligent and about icing and heating, physio and massage therapy. There is still 3.5 weeks until the comp and I don’t want to temp fate. I am also not going to be returning to the gym until after, just in case.

Small interesting fact: since I got injured and stopped going to the gym and reduced dance, I have actually lost more than 5 lbs out of the blue, putting me at the lowest I have been since chemo. Interesting that…

I have one more lesson this week on Friday and the weekend will be dance free as the rounds practice is cancelled due to a concert in the hall where it takes place. The weekend off will likely be good in the long run.

The plan is to review some of the latin styling on Friday and then do as much of a run-through as we can in the smaller hall on Monday to see how things feel. Hopefully my hip will continue to recover.

Looks like the competition is on! Words cannot express the relief I felt today throughout my lesson as I realized that I wasn’t getting pain like I was. I am feeling much more optimistic even though I am a little more sore tonight than I was after my lesson. I’ll do another round of ice and heat before bed and continue on with my routine.

Fingers still crossed.

A hope and a prayer

That is what I have right now.

The doctor wanted me to get an ultrasound guided injection, but unfortunately I won’t be able to get in until mid-June. At this point, she is going to try a blind injection tomorrow in the office.

It could work, it might not.

Doing it blindly, she might miss the bursa which won’t help reduce the inflammation and runs the risk of not being effective.

Unfortunately, based on the past week alone, if I am unable to get this hip pain managed soon there is no way I will be able to finish training to compete, let alone compete itself. Its less than 30 days until the competition and their policy is that they will only provide credit towards next year’s event and only with a doctor’s note for a cancellation.

So, competing is down to a hope and a prayer that the blind injection tomorrow has strong positive effects.

There is also still the possibility that its not bursitis at all, but a tendon injury in the area, but given the symptoms, bursitis is still the most likely culprit.

Other than the injection, my biggest ‘help’ is rest and ice – not great options and certainly not ones that feel very productive.

Yesterday, to rest my hip we looked gently at a small section of the quickstep followed by styling in latin. It was productive, but really limiting. We had already decided not to do the rounds practice this weekend, but with the injection tomorrow I have to cancel my lesson as I have to rest for 48 hours to give the shot time to work.

With a hope and a prayer, hopefully I will be back to being at least a little functional by Monday and can breathe a sigh of relief, but in all honesty my anxiety levels until then is going to remain pretty high.

At least I have the option of having my doctor try a blind injection, rather than being left with no option at all until June.

The other thing I have to try to do is not lay on my right side. As I have a habit of sleeping on that side, its a bit of a challenge but even after not doing so last night and a lot of ice there does seem to be a little bit of progress.

Here goes nothing…

Its Definitely the Hip

Bursitis is the likely culprit.

I saw physio yesterday and since I didn’t get much relief after my appointment last week he looked into my hip a bit more. After examining it and seeing how tender I am to touch he is leaning towards bursitis, with tendon issues being the back-up.

At least it isn’t my back, which is a relief since the back exercises I was doing weren’t having much effect.

The way forward is for me to get a cortizone injection tomorrow morning into my hip. From how I react to it, that will determine whether it is bursitis or bigger tendon issues. Basically, if the injection results in things getting better overall, it is bursitis. If the injection has minimal effect, its the tendons. If it is bursitis, the injection could potentially solve the issue or at least minimize it enough to settle it down.

Its hard to know what is causing the issue, but from what I have read once bursitis gets triggered (usually from an injury) it can be hard to settle down. This could be related to the strange pulling I experienced a few times doing standard and other movements back in February.

I am really trying to stay optimistic, but its difficult to do when I have had to really modify and baby my hip during my lesson. Last night we even ended early as working on the rumba I inadvertently leaned back too far into my hip and caused a huge twang that made it difficult for me to even walk after. Any time I rotate my hip causes pain and I am still experiencing a need to limp a bit today.

I am currently sitting with an ice pack on my hip (bursitis like cold, not heat) and really hoping that tomorrow brings some relief for me that allows me to get back to preparing for the competition. So many pieces are coming together so well in all the routines that we are even able to look back at some details again instead of focusing on full routines.

So my fingers are crossed (and toes too!) trying not to expect too much and being ready for bad news that the rest of my prep will be focused on resting and caring for the tendons as best I can.

Here goes nothing…

And then there were 2

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

Not surprisingly, they are jive and quickstep.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which really leaves only one…

Speed

I can feel myself lacking this.

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

Oy. That was a sobering moment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The only place to go from here is faster.

Scattered Pieces

My back seems to be settled.

That is one piece of good news I am happy to take to the bank. Its still a little sensitive and I have to be careful, but it isn’t impeding me anymore.

We had two snow days this week and that was an issue. Because the gym was closed, I couldn’t get my workouts in, although I did do most of the leg one on Monday at home because it is still a lot of body weight stuff. I don’t have weights heavy enough at home for the upper body one. I did catch up on Wednesday and yesterday, and I did get all 3 lessons in this week.

The lessons this week focused on the open foxtrot and open jive, with a smattering of the quickstep to finish it up.

The quickstep was more of a review to get us through to the end of the routine, but the foxtrot was going over the latter half of the routine in detail, which was a good refresher at the same time. I am finding myself being less rigid with my body and allowing myself to reach the limits of my own sway instead of only doing what Boss leads. The quickstep on Monday was a little hard on my back, so I didn’t stay to practice as it was borderline between sore and really angry and I didn’t want to push it.

The jive was another story. There was a lot of review needed for the routine and I initially felt like I had forgotten everything. There are a lot of similar transitions that have really small variations I kept messing up. Once we got through each section a couple times, we were able to sort out the details where I am messing myself up and by the end of Wednesday we were able to run it almost all the way through with only a couple pitfalls here and there to slow music.

We picked it up again today and it was stronger and more together on my part and we were able to do quite a few full run through with slower music. That said, I can’t even begin to imagine doing it even close to full speed at this point – although to be fair, we haven’t even tried mid-speed yet.

What is driving me a bit crazy is that I am still getting hung up in the same two or three places and can’t seem to get them corrected. Its like a new vendetta for me – fix the jive. I also feel generally sloppy and scattered throughout like I am just getting lucky to get through it and the technique is pretty non-existent. I know I feel behind a lot and Boss has commented that I am not using my body, which I have to agree with. I think I am still too focused on the steps and anxious about the speed.

We have about 2 and a half months until the comp and while it seems like a long time, I know it is going to go really quickly. I can feel myself starting to panic a little that we haven’t even tried to go through any of the routines in time with the music for open and the last time we tried to run the silver routines Boss made changes in almost all of them.

I am really worried about my stamina overall, but more so that they just won’t come together in time. I feel like all the routines are in scattered pieces which is really not like me.

I know Boss has a plan and that he tells me he will be ready to share it with me next week. I am looking forward to seeing it on the one hand as I am sure it will help ease my creeping anxiety, but on the other I am a little worried because I know plans are great only until first contact. What if something doesn’t go as planned?

I think I would feel better if I felt the silver routines were more solid overall and that we can run through them without missing steps. There has been an intent to do that, but it has just never happened. I want to focus on the open routines, but I feel like I need time on the silver to be able to do that.

I have one week until I am away for a week on vacation. I am soooooo looking forward to it as among other things, I need the break and time away from work which has been really intense lately. School is so close to being done but there is a lot that is left to do in our final 3 weeks. 3 WEEKS!

I know the break will do me good, but I would like to feel a little less scattered on the dance front before I start vacation.

Just need to pull the pieces together.

Finishing touches

I spent a big part of my lesson learning how to bow today.

It seems so simple. Don’t we all learn it as a kid? Well, apparently not dancesport style.

As we get closer to the performance on Saturday it is time to sort out these little details. The routines we are doing are meant for competition, but this is going to be a bit of a show.

Among other things, we had to figure out what to do for an opening and closing. We kept it simple in the end, but I think it will work. As I said, the trickiest part was sorting out how to make the bow works.

Other than that the main focus was on running through the routines and cleaning up a few areas that needed a little more work.

One of the things we had to do was sort out how I was responding to the lead in a few places. Especially when the lead is on my right side, I have a tendency to lock up and restrict my movement, which then makes is really difficult for Boss to lead me through steps, especially if I have to turn anywhere.

It took some experimenting, but in the end what worked was just relaxing in some spots and letting my arm go, and in others moving to the step when I felt the lead. It will work for now, and I am sure there are other spots we need to work out.

The routines are not going to be perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but they will still look good and be passable. Considering this is the first time we will dance them, I feel pretty good about where they are right now.

I think Boss is pretty happy with them too. He was saying today that on Wednesday he plans to do some work on the other routines as we want to record them before I head to Ottawa at the beginning of the month.

The next two weeks are going to be pretty crazy, but I am just taking it one day at a time and looking forward to the performance this weekend.

Until then, its the finishing touches to build on the foundation we have.

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.