New Old Home?

I’m sure you’ve all been on the edge of your seats waiting for this blog. I know it’s been a long time coming. I started about 5 posts and never finished any of them. I just couldn’t get my thoughts together. So here’s the short story. I finished at my studio and went to where Teach is and we’re together again. I was tired of the commute to NYC and just tired of NYC in general – the people, the prices, just everything. If you want more of the low down please keep reading.

I’ve cut my travel time in half. I had a 3 hours door to door commute to the NYC studio. The drive to the new studio is 1 hour 35 minutes. Yes, it’s a long time, but not nearly as long as going to NYC. The studio is in an adorable little town in NJ. Parking is free and plentiful (at least early in the afternoon when I went). It was nearly blissful.

The studio itself is decorated just the same as the studio I go to now because it’s owned by the same people/corporation. The size of the floor is smaller and a different shape, but I think I could still learn how to dance there. (please notice sarcasm) They have another small room with a barre for kids classes and lessons.

Being back with Teach has been… interesting. When I left NYC I was starting to get used to Clyde. His choreo was interesting and full and I felt like I was really dancing. I recognized none of the steps, but it was nice to follow and simply dance without thinking about every little technical thing that clouds my mind. Going back to Teach was a bit like having an intense, wild affair and then your husband allows you back. I wish I could think of a different illustration. Needless to say, there’s a little sparkle lacking.

Teach also has other responsibilities being the manager of the studio. He doesn’t teach nearly as much and he’s required to schmooze a bit more. I’ve found our lesson start times are a little loose because he has the responsibility of greeting all the students and signing up everyone for more lessons, etc. He always gives me my full time, but I’ve waited in the corner for 10 minutes past start time waiting. He’s a talker.

Yesterday’s lesson marked a milestone for me. I’ve been very vocal about how I’m Forever Bronze. I don’t feel like I’m in good enough shape or a good enough dancer to move on. I also feel like I want a good foundation and that will help me later on. Plus, the S word implies something. It implies you know what you’re doing. I don’t feel like I know what I’m doing yet. Other than asking whether Clyde moved me up to Silver (*gulp*) yet on my return to him, Teach has been good about not saying the S word, but implying that Clyde may have been teaching me those kinds of routines and throwing some S level patterns at me every once in a while. We’ve been dancing around the issue for two months now! (pun intended) You can likely guess what happened at yesterday’s lesson.

I realized the prior week that I was bored. My dancing is boring. I couldn’t take another day of arm styling my rumba walks. I needed some new mental stimulation. I told this to teach and asked him to do something new with me. I figured he would teach me a bit more Quickstep (which I’ve added because of my new lady teacher, Dimples, recommendation) or finally add Bolero to my repertoire. instead he started teaching me a fun new Foxtrot routine. I knew immediately what he was doing.

Teach: You know what this is, right?

Me: Yes, I’m not stupid, just don’t say it out loud.

Teach: You like it, though?

Me: YES!

Teach: I’ve been waiting for so long for you to be ready. (if he were a dog his tail would have been wagging so hard it would be going in circles)

He then went on to teach me the new, dreaded Foxtrot basic for the next 1 1/2 hours. Complete with technique on frame, directionality, feet, ankles, legs, and timing. It was blissful.  Even when he had me walk like a dinosaur and told me that my body needed to wring out like a washcloth. The end of the matter is that I’m starting Silver in Smooth. I don’t know about Rhythm yet. To be honest, I’m not sure what the difference is between the two. Now I just have to wrap my head around and come to terms with it. That may take a little time. Happy dancing everyone.

 

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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.

 

Fall Classic Was…

…a success! I had a wonderful time. Let me lay it all out for you guys.

Fall Classic is my dance studio’s competition among the 4 studios in the chain. This year it was 3 days long (a mistake, as far as I’m concerned). American Smooth on Friday afternoon, International on Saturday, American Rhythm on Sunday, plus sit down dinners, pro shows, etc. I could only afford to do a one night package with 24 heats, so I chose to do only American Smooth. It broke into 18 single dances, 1 3-dance Championship, and 1 4-dance Scholarship. For the Championship and the Scholarship I competed against my age group, but they mixed it up a bit during the single dances. Teach danced every heat – 180 heats that afternoon.

On Friday I drove down early for my hair and makeup appointment. I could fake the makeup, but I’m hopeless with hair.  Plus, a mini face lift isn’t a bad idea before going on the dance floor. 🙂 I buddied up with a nice lady from another studio. That’s how I cope with crowds, I find a safe person and just stick to them like glue.

I had enough time to go to the judges classes that I thought I wouldn’t have time for that morning. I’m really glad I made that session. I don’t know many famous dancers, so forgive me for forgetting the names of the judges. We learned about continuity of movement from one judge. Then one of the teachers taught us how to Kizomba. I’d never heard of it either. Let’s just say that it was a naughty dance and these white girl hips weren’t getting the movement just right. The last session was my favorite. He was an American Rhythm dancer who used to get injured all the time. He now coaches professionals on how to avoid injury. He had us test our balance and showed us how such small movement of the feet and ankle can have such large impact on our body and what our body tells our partner. It was fascinating. What made it even better was that Teach was there and as I was trying to figure it out Teach would explain to me – it was like getting another lesson.

On to the actual comp. I had all of your wise words in my head before I went on to my first heat. You didn’t steer me wrong. It was fine. I made mistakes and kept going. I listened to the music, smiled, and just danced. The nerves were minimal – there, but not overwhelming. The demons were burning in hell where they belong. I saw some judges smiling at me and I felt like I won right there. That’s the point, right? That you enjoy dancing and that others receive enjoyment from watching you.

Teach was dancing with 5 of us and we worked him hard with all those heats. He was a sweaty mess by the time the Championship rounds hit. Later on he told me he couldn’t even feel his legs the last few Championship rounds. The thing is, this made me step it up. At this point I knew he had to be hurting despite what he was telling me when I asked him. It made me realize that at these moments he’s more than my teacher, he’s my partner. This is a team sport and a team effort. If I could have carried him around the floor myself, I would have. Let me tell you, my frame was up and light and I was flying around that floor. I did everything in my power to make it easy for him. It worked. He remarked on it later.

Results. Do I even care? I learned and achieved so much. I see why these events are so important for amping up your dancing. But since you should know: I kicked booty. I placed 1st in all my single dances but two that I placed 2nd in. I won with firsts in all dances both the Championship and the Scholarship. I have no words, but I have two trophies that I have no idea what to do with. Where do I go from here? I’ll find out more tomorrow at my follow up lesson.

Ta, Ta fellow dancers!