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.

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It only ‘sucks’ for two weeks…

Usually…

We started a new aspect of training in my lessons this week–specifically aimed at increasing my conditioning and cardio endurance. It was something we spoke about prior to my surgery, but hadn’t consistently applied it yet.

We have now.

What we have started doing is essentially the ballroom dance version of HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). The second half of my lesson is spent doing 1:30 intervals of Viennese Waltz or Jive (depending on the day), with 3 minutes spent working on less intense sections of my routines or ‘rest’.

Yesterday we actually tried alternating jive and samba for the intervals, but today we upped the ante with 7 rounds of VW. We had to cut down the time for the final two rounds to only 1 minute, but I got through them.

Barely.

As mentioned, we had to cut down the interval times for the last two rounds, and I barely made it through them. In the second last, my feet just stopped working and keeping time, I finished the last feeling very light headed and had some minor dry heaves.

I still religiously wear a fitbit, so I made a point of checking my pulse. One thing I noticed–the first 4 rounds, my pulse recovered from over 160 to less than 140 before we started again. With the last 3 rounds, my pulse recovered a lot less, and before the final round, it didn’t recover at all and was reading 158 before we started. It was 170 when we finished.

I have done HIIT training before, a lot (but never through dance), so I had an idea what to expect, and I have an idea what to expect. Boss told me his intention is to do this during my lessons for the next little while, since we have them regularly 3 times a week. I am perfectly game as I know my stamina and cardio endurance for dance is not likely to improve much otherwise.

From previous experience, it usually takes about 2 weeks for me to start feeling some improvement. I wouldn’t say things get easier, but I should be able to push harder through the full interval without fading so much.

It’s a little scary how much my endurance has suffered while I have been sick. The extra weight I am carrying isn’t going to help much either, but hopefully the intervals will also help it to keep gradually going down. I have been at a plateau for 4 weeks now, and I hope this might help push me through it.

I am trying to approach the intervals with as much drive as I can. Already, the ‘average heart rate’ for my lessons has increased from 115 to 135, which is a good sign. They are meant to be difficult and exhausting, and truly they are going to ‘suck’ for about 2 weeks before I will start feeling stronger. I just keep reminding myself of that.

I actually really hope that we will be able to continue with the intervals through the lessons. I know that beside being hard on me, they are difficult on Boss too (although less so). If we can keep consistent with them, then I hope when it comes to the competition in a month, I will be able to be more confident in my ability to get through a 5-dance scholarship.

After my lesson, I was even able to stay for latin technique class, which really surprised me. I had a little time to rest and really recover, and the class was less intense than my lesson (I think anything will be now!). I was happy to be able to complete it after such a hard lesson.

Boss and I had a quick talk about the group classes, as I have been trying to regularly attend them. Particularly on Mondays, I have a lesson, then usually I do some practice between my lesson and the group class. I asked what he would prefer–I cut back practice some to make the class a priority, or focus on the practice and skip the class if I am too tired. We both agreed that the class should be the priority for now. It gives me a chance to do drills I would do in practice, and it allows Boss to see things that may need to be worked on in my lesson.

Among the stress of the intervals tonight, I also had a revelation about ‘stretching back’ in standard versus ‘leaning back’ (or falling back). The first one involves stretching back from my shoulders and neck, but still keeping my ribs and chest forward. That is what I need to be doing and need to work on doing more. The second one happens when I stretch my hips forward, but let my upper body fall back from them. It brings my entire upper body behind me, hence the feeling of falling.

As we were working on foxtrot between rounds, I was able to work with this newfound knowledge and explore a bit how much stretching I could do before over doing it. There still seems to be more I can do, but doing it free up Boss some and allows us to work together a bit more in standard. I need to allow this to process more so I can apply it to the other dances.

It’s great to see a definite improvement in an area I have been working on for a while, especially when the rest of my lesson was difficult and I was bordering on exhaustion.

It’s the silver lining in many ways of my mind being freed up as my body physically grows tired. I look forward to seeing what other small improvements might be on the horizon, and seeing where the work on the conditioning takes me.

It should only ‘suck’ for 2 weeks.

Silver Test

All done!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One-woman Disaster

That is how I feel today.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hopefully, tomorrow will be a better day.

Competitive Success

I am sorry for being away so long.

The competition was a huge personal success–which is always the best type.

I will do a review of the competition itself from a pro/am perspective in my next post, but first I wanted to talk more generally about it.

I started on Friday daytime with standard, and was uncontested in everything except my multi-dance.  It was a great run through my Waltz, tango and foxtrot routines and Boss was very happy with my dancing.  Following that, we switched to smooth and had the first run-through of 3 of the 4 smooth routines on the competitive floor.  I caught my heel on my dress during the waltz so bad I had to stop to unhook it, but other than that, the routines went really well and those in the audience loved them.  Boss and I had so much fun we were both quite ecstatic. I don’t think the routines could have gone better.

Friday night was Latin time and again, more fun. The crowd was great and all my routines went really well.  The only ‘sour’ note was during the open paso 1-dance.  The music that was played did not follow the usual paso phrasing, had no highlights and was cut short.  The result was that the choreography didn’t fit with the music and we had to try to keep adjusting.  Complaints were made by multiple dancers and it was fixed for the 5-dance scholarship.  That was the highlight of the evening–I got second of 3 in the open scholarship, but on a personal note, I was able to dance through all 5 routines, including jive with full energy.  While there were little mistakes here and there, I truly felt great about how I was dancing and ended the evening on a high note knowing that I had danced at that competition better than I had since before my diagnosis.  I was truly ‘back’.

Saturday morning began bright and early with more latin that also went equally well.  I still placed at the bottom, but it was very close in a lot of dances, especially rumba.

After a good break, and some coffee, it was back to the hall Saturday night for the standard and smooth scholarships.  The evening started out difficult with the one dance events, and I honestly had to give myself a little bit of a ‘time-out’ because I was finding myself unreasonably anxious.  It was likely due to fatigue, but the good news is that I was able to pull myself together for both the 3-dance and 5-dance scholarships.  Again on a personal note, I was able to dance through the entire 5-dance and only ‘faded’ in the VW. Despite that, I was able to take some points from the 3rd place competitor, which I did not expect in the open event.  I was able to fully rally after the VW and did a great foxtrot and powered through the QS.  It was a real personal achievement for me after so many months of struggling to get through a waltz and tango.

After the standard was a quick change for the smooth and that was about fun, more than anything.  The surprise for that was that I won the single dances, and got second in the 3-dance scholarship, coming very close to first!  I really did not expect that, but was over the moon happy with how the routines went–for the first time competing in open smooth and those routines, I could not have asked for anything better.

I truly could not be happier with how this competition went.  I was very proud of myself before we left for being able to overcome my medical challenges and do the solid preparation that was needed, but I am doubly proud of how I was able to dance–it wasn’t about just ‘getting through’ all the events–it was being able to dance.

The competition did exactly what I hoped it would do.  It gave me a strong indication of where I am and what the next steps should be.  It also let me know that I am at a point where I can really start to ‘dig in’ and get back to focusing on improving my technique and training at the level I want to.  I will meet with Boss this week to discuss the future, focus, goals and the plan moving forward.  I am looking forward to it.

On a different note, I got the text and paper done for my first course of my masters and working my way through the second.  It will keep me busy over the next couple weeks so I am sorry in advance if I don’t post too much.  I hope to get a couple more in this week, but no promises.

I hope you all had a weekend as great as mine!

As ready as ready can be

Last lessons before the competition are done!

Today was about putting together last minute pieces to the smooth VW and ironing out a few ‘odd spots’ that creeped up in some of the routines as we were running them today.

I feel very good about where I am right now.  Will the routines go perfect and be as strong as possible? No, I don’t expect that, but I do know that the routines will go as well as they can and I will be dancing them instead of just trying to ‘get through’ them.

I realized earlier this week that I am actually quite proud of myself for making the health decisions I did last month that ultimately led to me getting back to being ‘myself’.  Because of that, for the last month I have been able to train better and harder than I have been able to in over 2 years, and the difference is incredible.

On top of that, I am right ‘on target’ with my studying for the week, and aside from a break to get the mandatory mani/pedi for the comp, I should be able to finish up all the work for this week before we leave, leaving me able to relax some and perhaps even get a ‘jump’ on next week’s work over the weekend.

I have one of my dresses back and ready to go, and the other 2 should be ready by noon tomorrow.   I know my dressmaker has been working constantly to get all the stoning done and what I saw of the dresses tonight look absolutely fabulous.  I can’t wait to wear them and sparkle all over the floor.

I got the instructions/demonstration for doing my hair today and it kept itself up all day through 2 intense lessons, acupuncture and a lot of sweat.  That’s promising 🙂

I hope everything goes as expected tomorrow, and plan to just enjoy the experience competing this weekend.

After all, I have already won–I am able to dance again!

Smoothing Viennese Waltz

Lucky you, you get to be my study break for tonight!

Actually, compared to the weekend, today has been a bit light on studying as I am taking time to do some of the assignments and allow my brain to process the reading I have been doing.

I also had two lessons today (yay vacation!), both of which went a long way to helping me feel a little more calm about the competition this weekend.  The main thing we worked on was the smooth Viennese Waltz, which is probably the weakest routine right now.  We had an opportunity to work in my gym so we were able to look at the alignment of the routines and figure out where it needed to start and where to travel to.

The other aspect of the routine we were working on was making some small ‘tweaks’ to help it flow a little more smoothly.  We made one major change to one of the routine in one of the long lines, but the other changes have been small.  We still have a little more to work out, but we will have another lesson in the gym on Tuesday and it is wider than the studio for working out routines.

My second lesson was about solidifying the changes in VW, as well as going over some of the small issues encountered during yesterday’s practice in cha cha, samba, and paso.  At the end of the lesson, Boss wanted to go through a section of the rumba for himself and to try a styling change in the sliding doors.  One thing we did discover yesterday was that our rumba routine is a bit long now, which makes me sad as my favourite part is the circulating hip twists near the end–which we will likely not be able to do as comps have a habit of cutting pro/am heats short.

I am finding myself feeling a bit nervous and anxious today, but I am pretty sure it is only side effects of the injection last week.  I have been having more frequent hot flashes and it would not surprise me if I had a bit of a ‘hormone surge’ over the next couple days.  It already seems to be calming down though so that is positive.

I have basically ‘mapped’ out the rest of my week to organize and balance school with the competition preps and get all my readings and assignments done. I feel good about where I am and if all goes well I should be able to relax at the comp and just enjoy it without worrying about other things needing to get done.

Another thing of significance today is that it is my birthday.  Another year older and another year surviving cancer!

Wish me luck in getting all my tasks done!

Details coming together

I made it through practice today without any major disasters!

I could tell I was still a bit ‘off’ and Boss commented at one point that there was something ‘weird’ happening, but I was able to get through the routines without any major mistakes.

The best part is that even though I was struggling by the end of the music, I was able to reset and attack the next dance freshly.  Viennese Waltz was of course the most difficult to get through, followed by Quickstep.  I was able to do the dances in a row without stopping early for one round and with stops almost at the end in VW and QS on the last round.  That is a big step forward for me.  I danced VW the longest I have done in almost two years (although it was a big push and not the best form near the end).

The other I could feel was technical things slowly coming together in standard.  I am reforming habits and slowly adapting.

In latin, we got through all the routines without stopping, even paso.  We were able to record the paso for the first time and other than the need for some shaping, it is looking really good–and we did it at speed! It is finally not feeling overwhelmingly fast.

I also made it all the way through jive and I can feel my mind processing things about it.  I managed to remember all the steps today and on the second run even remembered to keep myself forward and connect with Boss to make the steps work.  Remembering to use tone and tension in all my latin routines is slowly coming along and starting to become regular habit.

There is still a lot of work to do, but considering I wasn’t feeling my best and my mind was fuzzy, it was a small victory for me to do the routines as well as I did.  I am looking forward to my injection on Wednesday and to start re-energizing and having my head clear.

This week I will also have an appointment with a genetic counselor to determine if I a) qualify for genetic testing for the cancer genes and b) if I do, whether I want to do it or not.  35 is the usual cut off age for the testing, but as I was 35 when I was diagnosed I fall into a bit of a gray area.  I am curious to see what the appointment leads to.

I am going to do 4 lessons next week in the build up to the competition in 2 weeks.  I also will be starting my masters.

Looks like a very busy week ahead!

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!