Mermaid Shish Kebab?

I finally had another lesson yesterday. Last week we were bombarded with snow and there was no way I was going out in that. In NYC things don’t stop, but up here in the boonies we don’t have subways to take us where we need to go. Safety wins this one.

With Lady J I went over Rumba movement. She would like me to be more 3 dimensional with my hips. Hello Cuban Motion, we meet again you ugly thing. I need to just get over my shy/introverted/embarrassed/stubborn self and just do it already. I know I can, it just takes more work than I want to show out in public. I sweat and get all out of breath and my muscles are so sore the next day. That much work is no fun in front of the well put together teachers. Obviously, I need to stop whining, too. Something needs to give and it’s me. I’m bored dancing Rhythm the way I have been and they won’t move me on unless I get certain techniques down. Otherwise known as a vicious circle that’s all my fault.

My current dancing brain/body standoff reminds me of the intermediate rut. Not that I’m implying that I’m an intermediate dancer yet, but the thought still counts. My mom used to talk about it in relation to skiing, and I have since applied it to playing piano and other activities that take practice. Progress requires vulnerability. You may fail. You may fall down. You may suck when you first try but at least then they can fix what’s wrong. If you never get out there and try, they can’t fix it. Isn’t that why I’m there, to get better? Once you’ve been vulnerable and just tried you can then take all the things learned and practice, practice, practice.

Back to my lesson with Lady J. When I settle my hip, I tend to settle too much. Like “I’m taking a rest now” too much. So she reminded me to be a Shish Kebab (the title is now making sense, huh). All the meat or veggies twist on the same skewer. I need to be like that. It was like an epiphany. I did so well that she decided to play with me and choreographed a little introduction for an open Rumba routine. (I assume that’s a good thing that indicated progress? Let me know, because I’m a bit shell-shocked and clueless.) Two slow in place cucarachas then two quicks, closing feet at the end. Then two slow closed feet cucarachas and two quick steps to my partner. Arms are over head, down body and ending over partners shoulders. You can imagine the shock. Lady J is some bad-ass Eastern European type, so she won that battle. Those closed feet cucarachas are a beast, though. That is as unnatural a movement as any I’ve tried. Heels together, thighs zipped, transfer weight, don’t forget the Cuban Motion! Yes, be a mermaid. (See title again) This move needs work because I think I may look like I have a bug crawling up my leg.

I thought that this Rumba intro was just for fun, but no. Clyde saw it and now it’s officially my beginning. His change was that he wants me to grab is face when I walk toward him. This Rumba is going places I never wanted/expected to go. I think I’ve crossed a line that I can’t go back over because it was FUN. Clyde was smiling and having so much fun and so was I. We danced the Rumba for Manager Lady and for every person who walked through the door. (This was excessive for me but he seemed to proud, so I gave in.) I’ve officially reached the level of dancing where people watch me, even those people who are at higher levels. It’s a heady feeling, but don’t worry, I want to scurry into my hidey-hole when I notice they’re looking. No cockiness here.

Clyde and I worked on Cha Cha a bit, too. As I expected the routine is changing again. And they wonder why I never bother to remember them in the first place? The best moment was when Clyde told me that he had underestimated me. I like throwing people off. It’s no fun when people think you can do things. Or is it? 😀

Many Things in Flux

I’ve been ignoring important dance portions of the blog for a while. I’m sorry about that, but it’s been a lot of processing lately. The sort of processing that doesn’t translate well to written words. It still doesn’t, so forgive the ramble.

I’ve guided new teacher Clyde to Rhythm dances. One, because he’s appalled by how awful my dancing of them is. Two, I don’t feel like I can have him tear apart Smooth. My smooth belongs to Teach and it feels too personal for Clyde to comment on yet. This has been working because I feel like I’m improving some in Rhythm. Lady J has been instrumental in this as well. She’s a driller. I thrive on being drilled. That’s the only way to just get it into muscle memory for me. Drill, drill, drill. Cha Cha lock steps across the entire floor forward and backward, cha cha from side to side all accross the floor again. Yes, I could do some of this at home, but there’s nothing like having instant feedback. For the record, I do practice some at home, it’s just not as much as I would like.

So far Clyde, Lady J and I have worked on Cha Cha, Mambo, and Rumba. This week we’re working on Swing (my kryptonite) and Clyde would like to start Bolero, which I am completely on board with. I can’t wait!

Even thought I’m settling in with my new teachers and see the value of having several teachers, I’m still missing Teach a bit. I have a lot of lessons left before I can switch studios, and, therefore, several months before I see Teach again. It also helps that he understands my financial circumstances well. Clyde and Lady J are being much more pushy about my taking more lessons even though I can’t afford any more.

I feel so tentative in my dancing. I feel like Teach left with some of my love of dance. I don’t like that. I always thought that I loved dance for DANCE. For the expression of it. I’ve been completely thrown off kilter.

So, there’s been a bit of depression in the house. It’s been rough going back to work; My daughter has not been getting on my last nerve for too long now with homeschooling; My mother (secondary teacher to daughter and primary caregiver while I work) is doing temp work that makes things more difficult during the week; My doctor wanted to me to try to wean off my antidepressants; I’ve put on too much weight and my doctor is upset; All this has been too much for my anxiety and depression. I’m back on my meds and am feeling much better now.

Hopefully life looks up from here. I completed a Whole 30 without much issue and lost 6 pounds. I hope to keep it together to get back to my normal self. My husband is very supportive of my mental health (not my dancing – he doesn’t understand how linked they are); he has been buying me flowers and doing the grocery shopping. I some of these things don’t have a direct relationship to dance, but Teach left at the wrong time for me. I can sound as selfish as I want on my own blog, right? It was too much, but I’m putting the pieces together with lots of help. I’m starting to enjoy dancing again. And I can’t wait to learn some Bolero tomorrow. Hopefully I’ll be back soon this time.

Good and Bad

I danced my feet off yesterday and had a blast doing it! Feel free to stop here if you don’t want to read my list of good and bad about yesterday, because the first sentence is true. (I’m not just talking myself into it. I’m really not.) I’ll start with the bad because I want to end on a good note. 🙂

The Bad

  • My steamer broke before I could get the wrinkles out of my dress (see last post)
  • I forgot my makeup remover.
  • I forgot my conditioner (to slather on my head while removing pins. It removes all the hairspray if done before shampooing.)
  • The hotel I booked was awful. It was on the edge of being in a bad part of town.
  • The food provided at this event wasn’t very good. When I’m promised breakfast, at that price I expect some hot food. I can’t eat gluten or dairy, and, when I arrived, there were only pastries and yogurt. Booo. They brought out some fruit later. I danced 20 heats on 10 grapes. Lunch was ok, but not that tasty, and too much pasta.
  • Let me be honest. My placement in the one competitive round of Rhythm wasn’t great. 4th (last). I always say that last is good because it gives you something to work on, but in reality, it kind of sucks.
  • Because of the above, I’m going to add this as its own point. The organizers put in two Championships and two Scholarships ONLY for each general style of dance. That means the age categories were weird. 39 and under, 40 and over. That’s it. So I was competing against young ones with trust funds (no bitterness now).
  • There were way too many couples on the floor at once. I got stepped on, hit, ankled, rammed into with each smooth dance. Teach was pissed at all this. To be that tall and not be able to stretch out? Yikes. Rhythm was a bit better because the movement around the floor is less. Still got punched in the face by an overeager arm, though. (The pair was from my studio and apologized profusely. My eye is intact and my false eyelash even remained on!)
  • I didn’t dance well. At all. I had major mess ups in every heat. Perhaps all the pairs on the floor threw me right from the start, but I wasn’t on at all. No stretch in smooth. I was so spooked by all the contact with other people, my head was all over the place. Poor Teach. In Rhythm I applied zero technique. Zero turnout. Zero legs. Zero hips. I’m not sure that competitive Rhythm is for me.
  • The 5 dances with random teacher you’ve never met. This pressure was not good. And I had one teacher deny that she was dancing with me. They had to pause the heat so that someone could volunteer to dance with me. Thankfully, the event coordinator (a dancer, but non-teacher) who knows me raised her hand right away because I was brought right back to never getting picked in gym class. It was embarrassing.
  • My pinkie toes are bruised from those darn rhythm shoes. That floor was a beast to dance on.

The Good

  • When I got to the Hall, everyone jumped on getting my dresses steamed. It was so nice!
  • We danced at Grand Prospect Hall. Look it up. It’s gorgeous!
  • It wasn’t a true comp. It was nice to not have the pressure of going head to head every heat. I was completely relaxed throughout and even had time to encourage newbies.
  • I read some of the proficiency comments and they’re all fairly positive. The funniest comment was on Salsa. I haven’t danced it in over a year, but they threw in a few with the dances with other teachers (maybe they’re newer and don’t do mambo?) The judge commented to be careful of my Salsa timing, it’s not Mambo. I counted this as a Mambo win, because that timing is supposed to be more difficult and that comment meant that I can Mambo without teach, on time. Sorry Salsa – I really should learn you better.
  • It reinforced that I have the best Teach! I only shared him with one other student, and only for smooth. What a difference it makes to have your teacher there to support you during the down times. Not that I abuse that. He needs down time, too, but he hovered over me, wiped my sweat (seriously, who does that?), and brought me water. I almost felt pampered.
  • I placed 2nd in the Smooth Championship. (I was beaten by one of the young ones listed above – my competitive nature is coming out and I want to slay her next time. I’m so bad.)
  • I didn’t let my poor dancing get to me. I was glad to be on the floor and had a blast!

I know there are more bad things listed than good, but the most important part of this was my mental being. And the fact that my poor dancing didn’t put me into a funk of depression is a big good, far outweighing the bad aspects. I’m well prepared for the post dance event doldrums. I know they’re coming and that in itself helps with getting past them. But overall, it was a good experience.

A fun note. My husband came to see me dance for the first time. He had so much fun with everyone that he bought a bunch of raffle tickets in support of Autism. And he won 3 of the 6 prizes! I’m so glad he gave them to me. 😀 One is a coaching with Benito Garcia. I can’t wait! Maybe he’ll change my mind about competitive rhythm. 😉

The Mundane – Shoes

My lady lessons were cancelled last week because of schedule changes which was a bummer because I was looking forward to that time. But the weather was so hot outside that I spent some time with my dance shoes because I need to figure out what in the world is going on there. I need to start wearing the shoes I’m going to compete in during my lessons and they’re all sitting in a bag somewhere in my closet. I’m so glad I did this. I scaled a few fear mountains and used a few new gadgets. 😀

I bought practice shoes sometime last year because Teach likes to mix lessons up between styles and this was putting too much wear on my rhythm shoes. It was also expensive to keep changing heel protectors all the time. Those heel leads are no joke. I don’t know if it’s my weight or my technique, but I have to change them often. My practice shoes were pretty ugly-looking and needed a bit of a brush and some Gorilla Glue on the heels to tack down the suede, but I am so glad I purchased them. They were worth every penny.

I have been in denial about how to wash the scuffs off my satin pumps. Technically they are for standard, but I use them for smooth – I can’t find smooth shoes that fit. Those shoes are precious because 1) They fit on my extra wide feet right out of the box, and 2) they are the most expensive shoes that I own. I read copious articles on shoes and decided to settle in the middle of the street on what everyone had to say. I washed my shoes. Yes, you read that correctly. I washed them (with complete terror in my hear). I did try to keep the suede bottom dry (but I read it’s not necessary) and I wiped them with the grain of the satin using a soft washcloth with Woolite on it. Then I rinsed them. They came out beautifully. I plan to do it again the week of team match.

Shoes for rhythm have been an endless problem for me. My first pair of dance shoes have died. They wouldn’t have worked anyway because they’re black. I should have never bought black shoes, but they fit. Now they’re no more. I have two pairs of light tan shoes staring at me, but my feet are so wide in summer that there is a lot of pain to even walk in them, much less dance. They also don’t match my skin tone well. So I spent some more money and bought another pair for my collection. These are also not perfect, but they’re better than what I won. Problem. They have 3 inch heels. That has not happened before. I’m nervous that I may not be up to par to dance in these by Team Match. So my contingency plan includes a shoe stretcher. I used it on the two pairs that I purchased for cheap first and it worked. I can fit my foot in them! I’m still going to have some swelling and ugly rub, but at least I’ll have circulation. 😀 I plan to do this with my new shoes this week. Any extra room to start helps out.

Every pair of dance shoes comes with a shoe bag, but I’ve found out that this isn’t enough. My shoes then rub together and curl up in weird ways. They also smell despite the cute little potpourri packets that come with some of the less expensive pairs. I washed one of my older pairs just like I did for my pumps, with results that were ok. I bought some more cheap shoe bags from Amazon and am putting a shoe of a pair in a bad bag and then putting it inside the other bag with its pair. Inside it goes a charcoal pack designed for stinky sneakers. Hopefully this will increase the life of these precious shoes.

My little shoe army is now washed, stretched, bushed, packed and ready to go and practice in this week! Has anyone else washed their shoes? Happy dancing!

Organizing

There are some problems with only having lessons every other week. One is that I have a longer time to spiral downward in between shots of logic. The Land of the Endless Perky Bottoms gives you a little lesson sheet that has room for things worked on and comments. The problem is that the correct notes don’t seem to go on it. “Waltz – footwork” doesn’t quite trigger my memory once I get home. With the Team Match looming on the horizon, I really need to figure out what’s going on! Thank goodness I have a decent relationship with Teach. I told him all this and then spent out lessons organizing my brain and giving me solid info on Team Match this summer. Sounds like fun, huh?

Team Match – This is set up like a competition, but it’s not one. It’s an excuse to get all the 5 studios in the chain to get together and compete to get “Top Studio”. It’s one day long – so great for those on a budget, because they have heats for all styles of dance on the same day lessening overall cost. This year every heat is going to be a proficiency heat (judges give tips). There will also be a few multi-dance events which will be ranked. It tends to be much more informal and loud (which I don’t like). At the end of the day you recieve an overall competancy score. I know all studios have different terms for their events, so I thought a bit of description would be nice.

As I said, we just spent 4 lessons over the past few weeks on organizing my brain. I now know what I’m supposed to be working on in 7 dances in preparation for Team Match.

For Smooth I’m working on artuculating my feet, or, as I call it, the middle stuff. What the foot is doing between steps. I’m only dancing Waltz, Fotxtrot and Tango at the match because of time (money) constraints. Each of those dances have an individual thing to work on. In waltz, I need to lower and prep my leg at the same time. In Foxtrot I need more springy knees action, especially in the side steps (I’m still a bronze lady). Tango needs the most work. I need more clarity between closed and open position (fancy way of saying promenade position needs some work). I’m also working on making it look sharper – the freezeframe moments, dancing like it’s a flipbook. So, tango is my current smooth beast.

Rhythm is a bit different for goals. I just started Mambo. My Swing isn’t well practiced. I could go on and on. But basically, for Rhythm I’m working on how to take a step. Yes, learning to walk takes a long time. In Rumba repeating “toe,heel,knee, hip” in my head with each step. Oh! Then remember that on the slow steps it’s toe on the 1, then heel, knee, hip quickly on the 2. And people wonder why I’m crazy?! In Swing it’s the whole pendulum action coming into play. That’s ok, but I also need to stop panicing and stiffening up before the free spins. And arms. Don’t get me started on arms. Cha Cha needs to be sharper with clearer feet. This also has 3 clear picture moments that need to be hit. For mambo, I need to go on the floor and stay on time. The freeze and switch in important too, but staying on time seems to be the real beast here.

Yesterday we went through the mixture of Intermediate and Senior Bronze steps that he’d be using for Rhythm at Team Match. No routines for Rhythm. There’s not point in telling you the names of things because everyone learns different names for things. Now it’s just to practice them. We have to go over our smooth routines next time. I’m also having a lady lesson to help with arms. I hope it sticks this time.

I officially signed up for August 20th Team Match. I’m dancing 42 heats (the most I’ve ever danced!). Now it’s time to practice, practice, practice!

Hope this wasn’t too boring. I wanted another place for all my notes and this blog is it.

 

Dancing in February

I got more than I expected this month. Where do I even begin?

I started with an unexpected coaching lesson. Studio #1 was having a Team Match that weekend and they usually bring coaches to the studios for a bit of extra. Lady V happened to be free for the first of my two lessons so I snapped her up. Well, not really. Teach did that. I freaked out and danced an awful Rumba for her. What ended up happening was Lady V told me that I have talent and then gave me the book on dancing. You know, the “you dance a beautiful social rumba, now we have to fix everything for competing.” Seriously, it was a head to toe fix. I could work a lifetime on the things she taught me. But I’m going to break it down a bit so that I’m not overwhelmed. (Yeah, right.) Keep in mind, this was only for Rumba.

  1. Feet/legs/hips. I am to practice my box religiously using this: One-ball of foot/take step, Two – heel down, Three – push from other foot, Four – settle. Then repeat. Eventually I will be able to do this rhythmically.
  2. Take smaller steps. Side steps should not go larger than shoulders. Apparently I am tall and have now learned how difficult rhythm dances are for the tall, leggy people.
  3. Arms. I totally screwed up here. I told Lady V how I’m not a fan of touching myself. I forgot that someone needs to be touched, so now she made arm styling for me that has me all over Teach. (I exaggerate slightly, but it’s awkward nonetheless.) I can’t describe them here, but it involves grabbing Teach’s waist and having him turn me, etc.
  4. Oh yes, there’s more. Connection. This is something Teach hasn’t really enforced in Rhythm. I think it was going to come at some point, but he has different things he’s focusing on. No problem until the end of the lesson when Lady V said I was BACKLEADING!!!! Let me tell you I stewed on that for two weeks until my next lesson with Teach.

Continuation of the backleading comment. I couldn’t practice all week because my gut was burning about this. I do NOT want to back lead and I was a bit peeved that Teach hadn’t said something about it. I confronted him immediately about it and he put my mind at rest that he would never let me get away with that behavior. He said Lady V must have seen that I was a touch ahead of the music and assumed the backleading, but that it was really my nerves making me follow his lead quicker than should have. I guess this makes sense, but to tell you the truth, I’m still a bit upset.

The rest of the lesson consisted of a lot of awkward arm styling and violations of personal space.

Me: “Um, we’re really close, are you sure this is right?”

Teach: looking at me like I have seven heads “It’s a rumba.”

Okaaaay.

The heat in the studio was broken, so we danced a few Viennese Waltz rounds and a Swing and a Cha Cha to stay warm. It’s the first time I’ve danced in a sweater – that’s how cold it was. It seems like spring is coming now. Since that lesson we’ve even been up in the 60’s with no freezing nights in sight. All the snow that NYC got, we missed. We’ve had maybe an inch this whole winter. I’m a bit sad because there’s something almost warm about being insulated by snow, but I have to say it was nice not having to deal with the transit problems of getting to NYC for lessons during snow storms. Happy dancing all.

January Dance Wrap Up

January had me cancelling half my lessons for illness, both mine and others. You know how things run through a house and no-one gets sick at the same time? This is what happened. I kind of wish we were all sick at once so we could just do it already, but no. So, my last pair of lessons I took when I was almost over my sickness. My problem being that I get dizzy randomly as I’m standing. Obviously I was a bit nervous to dance, but it all worked out. I took two lessons with a break in the middle. It worked perfectly so I could rehydrate and rest a bit.

We discussed what my plans are for this year. I made a decision to not do a competition this year. I really want to dance both Smooth and Rhythm. I can’t afford to do both at one of their competitions. Then I would have to choose between styles and I would never get to Rhythm. So I’m going to shoot for doing a Team Match. This is styled like a competition, but you’re dancing for best studio, not for yourself. The students do get a competency percentage at the end of the day, but that’s just to give us something. I think this is a wise choice because it’s one day (cheaper), and I’ll be able to try out my Rhythm routines. Of course, if I come into money or get a huge raise, this may change. 🙂

During lessons we worked on Waltz and Rumba. We’re upgrading our Waltz routine to a Full Bronze routine. It really means adding a Waterfall to it. This is one of those steps that looks lovely, but is not as easy as it looks. It’s bringing in to play that thought that my upper half has to stay with him, but my lower body has to do it’s own thing. This separation is difficult for me, plus, I’m a bit used to him placing me nicely in the direction where I’m supposed to go. (AKA being spoiled by my pro partner) I think I’m making it seem like I was having a harder time than I actually was. I can do it just fine. I just have to think about these movements for some reason.

As for Rumba, I’m working on Cuban Motion. I think I’m going to be working on it forever. It’s never good enough. 🙂 I can’t even describe what he’s focusing on, to be honest. I know I’m using my knees more and I’m attempting the pretty lines that are required. Obviously, I’m going to need a few more lessons on this.

I have a lot of other things to say, but I’ve written and erased them a bunch of times because it’s not coming out how I want. Maybe I’ll get it right and post it. Or maybe I’ll just comment on all your posts to get it out. I hope everyone has great dancing this week.

Post Comp

My computer has been a thorn in my side, hence my lack of real posts. I’ve had several lessons post comp. They all went well, naturally, since I danced so well for my level. We’ve gone over things and I decided I’m going to focus on the American 9 dances. This seems to be the best thing to do considering the amount of lessons I can take and my budget overall. My Rhythm needs some work since I’ve spent so many lessons on Smooth. Also, all that sexiness is not natural… at all… especially with a man I’m not married to and my teacher to boot. I’m envious of the ladies who just get out on the floor and shake it. Most of my fellow students even claim that Rhythm dances are more natural for them! I have no words for this, only envy. This is not the truth for me. Foxtrot is my happy place.

Other than my computer issues, I’ve been a bit introspective since Comp. Comps bring out some stress and that leads to questions. Questions such as “Why do I do this to myself?” That leads to more thoughts on the benefits of dance for me. The healing that I’ve done that only comes from dance. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about the power of touch.

I’m a nurse. I see the power of touch while I’m at work. I’m the giver of it. I hold hands with patients to give them strength. I rub backs. I give my coworkers hugs when we’re all having a bad day (hugging didn’t happen before dance). Yet I never knew how much I needed the reverse – to be the receiver of touch.

All my adult life I’ve struggled with my weight. I’m currently at the heaviest I’ve ever been (not including pregnancy). Since I wasn’t fat as a teenager and through part of my 20’s, I can see the difference of how people treat you. There is a true fat stigma out there. My personality really takes this hard. If it were just about eating less or exercising more, do you think I’d be like this? I look in the mirror and see the disgusted faces of those who look at me. I’m disgusted by me. I’m gross. I sweat. I have rolls. I’m squishy. I jiggle. The media tells me that I should be proud of my body. Now I feel worse because I’m NOT proud of mine. I’m disgusting.

I’ve always wanted to dance. I couldn’t walk into a studio because I’m disgusting. What if my teacher was grossed out by me? He has to TOUCH me. What if I sweat? What if he notices my back fat?

Little did I know that walking into a dance studio was exactly what I needed. I’m greeted with smiles, hugs, and air kisses by EVERYONE, not just my teacher. They touch my sweat and my rolls and aren’t grossed out by it. My teacher feels accomplished when I end my lesson a sweaty mess and he still gives me a cheek kiss goodbye. He’s never, in two years, hesitated to take my hand or hug me when I’m having a hard time. Today, I can look in the mirror and not feel gross. I see the happy faces that greet me at the studio. I’ve been truly healed by the power of touch.

To end I’m going to post a picture of me at comp. It’s only my back, but I’m not quite ready to put me out there.