Please to make your acquaintance…again

14 May

Hi there.

peeking-from-behind-the-curtains

Remember me? It’s been a while, hasn’t it. Sorry I’ve been missing. Life…well, life got a bit crazy the last few months.

My dance teacher left. I know, right? He’s off to exciting new things with opening his own studio. But in a different part of the country, so I can’t continue to take lessons with him. Very sad. I’ve told you before what a big influence he’s been in my life. And now he’s gone. Once I found out he was leaving, I had to take some time to grieve the end of the relationship. And grieve what he won’t be here for in the future. And figure out who I was going to take lessons with after he left. That’s all been done…although the grieving might take some more time. Like the end of any relationship, romantic or otherwise, it’ll pop up especially at milestones. I have a plan going forward for my lessons and my dancing. I’ve talked to my new instructors about what I need from my teachers and how they can help me. While I’m sad to see my teacher go, I’m extremely happy for him. And I’m ready to move my dancing forward with different teachers.

There was some potential for some things to change at work recently too. Luckily they’re not, but that would have added to it as well.

And as some of you know, I’ve been working towards some financial goals the last few years. That’s made me live cheaply and on a cash-only basis. But I’ve kept dancing through it all. And now I’m almost at my goals – I will be by July 1 – so I started looking for an apartment. And I found one! In the building I wanted to be in!

So LOTS of transitions going on for me right now. And too many transitions can paralyze me. Or at least make me withdraw into a suburb of the thinky place. So all that is why I’ve been missing from here.

But I’ve missed you! I’ve missed writing. I’ve missed the feeling I get processing things here instead of just in my brain.

But I’ve had the Stanley Cup playoffs to keep me entertained. Silly MN Wild, losing to the Blackhawks like that. SIGH. Oh well, now I can say ‘Go Toews’ with a clear conscience!

Change and attitude

22 Mar

The Arthur Murray in Santa Monica keeps a very interesting blog. I love reading their articles – always very thought-provoking. The one on the 7th was fascinating to me. In it, David talks about “A genuine smile creates a magical environment. A smile comforts others and opens up the doors of trust, communication, and connection.” He talks about “leaving the negative behind and carrying light so others may see.”

I need to remember this. You see, there’s a lot of change coming into my life in the next six months in many different aspects. And some of it, I don’t yet know what it will look like on the other side. And I can handle change, but that much of it (with so many unknown outcomes) can be a bit much for me. It’s easy for me to get overwhelmed, which looks on the outside as grumpy. So I need to remember to smile and know that the smile will help others and will come back to me and help me.

Basically, I need to keep a positive attitude, trust that all will land in a place that will be great for me, rely on my friends, and smile.

stay-positive

(Oh! And guess what? Jason Bateman won the play-in round. And then he beat the number one seed!!)

 

March madness, the boyfriend way

11 Mar

I like March Madness although I’m not a huge fan of basketball. (C’mon, it’s a winter sport and so’s hockey. So I spent all my time watching hockey not basketball. Plus the squeaky shoes drive me nuts.) I enjoy the brackets and seeing who’s in and who’s out. But it’s not my life by any means.

HOWEVER…

Here is a bracket I can get behind. My friend B does this every year on her blog. I believe we’re in year three now? First it was the movie boyfriend bracket. Last year was the TV boyfriend bracket. This year, in a stroke of sheer genius, it’s the celebrity boyfriend bracket. So all those actors you have crushes on. And HOCKEY players. (What. Hockey players here and on the next season of Dancing with the Stars?!? My life is complete.) And it’s got a play-in round!

So go check out B’s blog. And while you’re there, subscribe so you get notices to vote every week. You can make your case for any guy in the comments section. It gets pretty heated sometimes! What can I say, we’re passionate about our fictional boyfriends.

But please, please, please…vote for Jason Bateman in the play-in round RIGHT NOW.

jason-bateman

(And read the rest of B’s stuff. She’s a great and entertaining writer.)

Refocus…AGAIN

10 Mar

OK, so every year at New Year’s, I try to refocus. But this year, January was super busy with work, then I got the flu. So now I think I’m over the flu (mostly, anyway). And I’ve gained about 10-15 pounds since Thanksgiving.

So starting today, I’m refocusing again. Food and exercise. Must lose those pounds and get back to where I was, ideally where I was right before I broke my foot. I think that was when I was in the best shape – the thinnest and the strongest and the healthiest.

The thing is I’m not very good at the long haul. I tend to get discouraged and quit when I don’t see immediate results. Dancing is the only place where that’s not true. In dancing, I can wait for the long term gain. But elsewhere in life, not so much.

Every Sunday, I do the crosswords in the paper. And the horoscopes are right next to the crosswords, so I read mine(Virgo), just for fun. But here was today’s:

horoscope

A timely reminder right? Each decision, each day. I can do that.

In defense of Cuban motion

27 Feb

I really enjoy reading other blogs. I read some about food. OK, a lot about food. And some about ballroom dancing. OK, a lot about ballroom dancing. I like hearing other people’s perspective. It’s interesting to see how their experience compares to mine. And what’s different.

But every once in a while, I read something that gets to me. And I feel the need to respond. And debate a little.

This happened a few days ago when I read this entry from Facing Diagonal Wall. Go read it and then come back, because otherwise my post may not make sense.

Done? You’re back now? OK good. Let’s continue.

Believe me, I know how hard it can be to learn Cuban motion. When I first started working on it, there were huge mental blocks in my way. HUGE. I was raised NOT to move my hips like that EVER. Plus, I was still a relatively new dancer (early in bronze II, I think). So that was a ginormous thing to try and work through, which I did with the help of my teacher.

But I disagree with what Facing Diagonal Wall says: he states “I know it is an essential part of any Latin dance but let’s be honest, you’ve either got it or you don’t.”

WHAT?

My whole experience with dance and my studio is that you can anything related to dance. You may not be able to do it like a professional, but even the most-challenged dancers can do a version on Cuban motion (or any dance technique or step), and it doesn’t look stupid. It looks appropriate for how they dance.

And I can attest (and my friends can, too) that I cannot move on a non-ballroom dance floor at all. AT ALL. I’m pretty white. I mean, when I started dancing, I was convinced I wouldn’t be good at it because I was so uncoordinated. But with a great teacher, I am able to do these things and do them well. (Helps that I had some undiscovered talent for ballroom dancing, too, but still.)

I wonder if the difference between his (Facing Diagonal Wall) experience and mine is the teaching. And the teachers. Mine could recognize that this was a mental block for me (yet ANOTHER one) and could draw on his experience to know when to push, when to pull me through it, when to switch to something else for a while, and when to just let it rest. And maybe Facing Diagonal Wall’s teacher didn’t have that insight or experience to draw on for whatever reason.

Yes, Cuban motion can be awkward when you first work on a new portion of it. So can any new technique in dance when you first try it. Of course it’s awkward – it’s NEW. It’s a new and therefore not muscle-memory-comfortable way of moving. But eventually it will be comfortable. You just have to remember how the basic step in waltz felt at first – awkward, too, right?

I’m going through it right now as we work on the next level of Cuban motion. (Well, not right now, because I haven’t been able to dance for a week or so because of this stupid flu.) But it’s awkward. And I’m still not sure how to tell what muscles to move where. But I’ve been through enough of these experiences in dance to know that it’s just part of the learning process, I know I’ll get it eventually, and I just need to keep trying and keep working on it. It doesn’t freak me out anymore or derail me.

I’m guessing that Facing Diagonal Wall has some mental block on Cuban motion that he needs to work through. And probably his post was just a rant that we all need to do about dance at times. (My poor friend SP – she gets so many texts from me that are rants about my dancing. So does AD. And they’re both still my friend – that’s amazing. Thanks, guys!) I think he’s stuck in the thinky place on this. And we all know how much I’ve been there, right? I’ve just learned how not to set up a second home there.

So hang in there, Facing Diagonal Wall! I feel your pain. I will say that if you think it’s something you either have or don’t and you don’t have it, you’ll never get it. But I believe (and I’m sure your teacher believes) that you can and WILL learn it. Just remember the four stages of competence: unconscious incompetence, conscious incompetence, conscious competence, and unconscious competence. Also known as initial, awkward, conscious, and natural for you non-nerds.

(Oh my goodness, my teacher would be so proud of this post. Defending Cuban motion, claiming anyone can do Cuban motion, and spouting the four stage of competence! Don’t tell him, OK?)

So, Facing Diagonal Wall, if you have anything to say in response, I’d love to hear it! But meanwhile, just know I’m rooting for you. You’ll conquer Cuban motion yet!

Down with the flu

25 Feb

Remember I said I got a cold last week? Wednesday night, I got a sore throat. Thursday, I was a bit stuffy and kinda achy. Friday I went to work but left at noon because I wasn’t feeling well. When I got home, I took my temperature and had a fever of almost 100.

Over the weekend, I cancelled all my plans, including my dance lessons. (That was tough.) Saturday, my fever got to over 101. Other than going to the grocery store and paying a bill, I literally did not move off the couch the whole weekend.

the-flu

Which would normally tough for me. But I didn’t mind it all, which tells you how crappy I felt.

Yesterday morning, my fever had broken and was normal, so I went to work. I decided to try and see my doctor or go to urgent care if he wasn’t available. Luckily, he had an opening in his schedule, so I went to see him.

Turns out my cold was the flu. Still is, actually. He told me that while he wouldn’t tell me I had to stay home or I’d die, his preference was that I go home and not go to work again until Thursday at least. He’s worried about it turning into pneumonia, strep, or a staff infection. So I’m not contagious, but I’m susceptible to other germs right now.

So I’m home today. On my couch. Thank god for Netflix and Hulu! I watched the whole “The Borgias” series over the weekend (which was really good). Today I started season two of “House of Cards”. Which is really good. Especially the plot twist in the first episode – WHAT WAS THAT.

I’m not antsy yet, which tells me I’m still not anywhere near 100%. The downside is that I’ve had to cancel a bunch of dance lessons, so I haven’t had one since February 12 other than one exchange lesson last week. Two weeks without a lesson with my teacher. And two weeks of no parties or group classes. I miss it.

But I need to get well. I need to not go to dance so I get better faster. I need to be careful about how much I work so I don’t overdo it. Because being sick really gets in the way of living my life.

Chicago outings

22 Feb

Last weekend, I went to Chicago to visit my friends JF and BF and their kids.

My friend SP wanted to go see her friend, too, so she rode with me. I had to work Friday morning (boo) so we left around 1. First stop, coffee and doughnuts! Great way to start a road trip – caffeinated and sugared up. We talked a lot in the car – lots of secrets and analyzing life.

We hit the Illinois border around 7 or so. Both SP and I brought change for the tolls. At the first toll stop, I was shocked – three dollars!?! You can tell it’s been YEARS since I drove to Chicago. Apparently I’ve been flying there for a long time – I was still expecting the forty cent toll. Whoa.

SP dropped me off at my friends’ synagogue and took my car to go the rest of the drive to her friend’s (about 45 minutes). I stayed with my friends for Shabbat which was interesting. I think the only Jewish ceremony I’ve been to was their wedding. My friend JF translated into Catholicism for me, plus the books (I’d call them hymnals but I’m guessing that’s not the right word) were in Hebrew and English both. It was a beautiful service. Then we went to their house.

They moved into this house about a year ago, and I hadn’t seen it yet. Of course, it was gorgeous, and very relaxing.

Saturday morning, we just hung out and watch the Olympics. Then we went to lunch at a pizza and pasta place that I can’t remember the name of. Oh well. After lunch, we were going to go to the Museum of Science & Industry to see their Walt Disney exhibit. But by the time we were done with lunch, it was around 1. It would have taken an hour to drive into the city plus time to park and buy tickets blah blah blah and the museum closed at 4. So we decided it wasn’t worth it. The main reason I went to Chicago was to see them, not the city necessarily, so I was fine not going into the city on one trip.

So instead, JF and I went to a movie which I never do at home. We saw “The Monuments Men” – it was really good. I mean, how could it not be with such a great cast including George Clooney and Hugh Bonneville. And it wasn’t the greatest movie ever, but it was a good story and well done.

Saturday night, we went to dinner at a great Mexican Tex-Mex whatever place called Cozymels. (We had a great debate in the car about whether it was Mexican, Tex-Mex, or something other cuisine.) Excellent food, great table-side guacamole, and lots of good conversation and laughing.

Sunday, SP and I left around 1:30. It took us about 7 hours to get home – silly Wisconsin drivers who go the speed limit and don’t get into the right lane.

All in all, it was a great weekend. I so needed to get out of town, it was great to see JF and BF, and the time in the car with SP was so fun.

Then this week, I got a cold.

Olympic glory

18 Feb

I love the Olympics.

sochi_logo

Especially the winter games. I mean, there’s HOCKEY.

mens_hockey

(side note: my friend B has a great list of Olympic boyfriends. You should go check it out! And keep an eye out for her boyfriend bracket. The annual contest that people get very passionate about.)

And now there’s (almost) ballroom dancing.

ice_dancing

But I found out this year…it’s a lot more interesting and fun when you have someone to cheer for.

The brother of my good friend ND was on the US men’s skeleton team. And ND did a great job keeping people informed on when and where to watch the runs. So many people were cheering so hard! I’ve only met Matt once, but it still felt like I was cheering for someone I knew. And when he won the BRONZE MEDAL…

matt_bronze

…yeah, I got a little teary-eyed. Because even though I hardly know him, I’ve heard so much about his journey from ND. It just made it a little more real and less something you watch. It made the Olympics an actual event to me and not just a TV show. I’m so glad I got an Olympic experience like that.

Relaxing is hard

11 Feb

I took yesterday and today off as vacation days. And they’re really hard days.

I have a hard time relaxing. I always feel like I should be doing something. The idea of just sitting and reading, or watching a movie, or just knitting is very hard for me to grasp.

relaxing
I can’t do this.

You see, before I started dancing, my life WAS just sitting around on my ass not doing anything. I’m much happier now as an active person. And my life now is super busy with work, the part-time job, and dancing. So I don’t get a ton of time to just relax. So when I do get more than a half hour, I’m not sure what to do.

For me, I feel incredibly guilty if I just watch movies or read all day. At the end of the day, I have horrible guilt that I should have done more that day.

But I desperately need these two days. I’m tired from having a crazy January with lots of overtime and dance camp. My boss even noticed that I seemed a little run down and encouraged me to take both days. He knows that I only take time after dance events or if I’m going somewhere. I don’t take time off just to be at home often.

I’ve been talking to my therapist about this issue. I mean, I really should be able to just have a day or a half day of nothing. So for me, it’s finding the balance between getting stuff done and just hanging out.

So yesterday, I went to the gym. Then I read for a while, then I watched movies while knitting. (Thank god for knitting…it really makes me feel like I’m not wasting time.) And by the way – did you know the Ken Burns documentaries are streaming on Netflix now??? I cleaned out some files. I went to dinner with a friend and went to the group class at the studio. All in all, not a bad day. Still felt a little guilty though.

Today, I made brownies and watched a movie. I’m not sure what to do this afternoon. I’d like to go to the gym, but it’s so cold. (One below with a wind chill of 18 below.) I could read more. I could do my taxes – not exactly a day off activity but still needs to be done. I could watch more movies while knitting.

I’m really struggling with what to do with my day that will be relaxing and yet not make me feel like a slug that’s wasted a bunch of time.  I know, first world problem, right? It’s so hard to be me – what to do with all my free time today?

Dance camp

27 Jan

Last week, I went to camp. Dance camp, that is.

Twice a year, our studio hosts dance camp. You can participate at either the two lesson a day level or the three lesson a day level, and you usually have an exchange lesson (a lesson with a teacher other than yours) each day as one of the lessons. The lessons generally are earlier than the studio usually opens. They also have one group class each day just for the dance camp participants. The nice thing about dance camp is by doing so many lessons so close together, you can really make some great progress on your dancing.

I decided to do the three lesson a day level. Figuring it would be a bit exhausting perhaps, I had taken the whole week off work. I have the vacation time, and it’s a good excuse to use it. Plus, I figured it’d be tough to dance then work each day. Unfortunately, work turned out to be way more busy than either I or my boss had expected. So I did have to work, but luckily I got to do it from home except of a few meetings I had to go in for.

So there were two objectives for me for dance camp. (Apparently. You all know that I think my teacher is the expert so I leave those types of decisions to him.) One was using your sides. We worked a lot on stretching your side in smooth dancing and using it to provide momentum down the floor. It was a lot about contrabody movement and pointing your ribcage down the floor. We worked on this I think a little bit each day, primarily using waltz as the vehicle to practice the technique. We also worked on getting your side (bottom rib, really) over your foot in Cuban motion in the rhythm dances. Which pushed my Cuban motion even further than I had been doing it. Which, duh, was kinda the point – taking Cuban motion to the next level. It also applies to swing a bit especially in turns. Get on the foot, get your side over the foot, then turn. (I have trouble with the “then turn”. I tend to turn early.) We had been working since Showcase in November on the swing open. Right after Showcase, my teacher decided that it was the perfect time to take swing apart and really work on the technique. So between that and the work we did during dance camp, I no longer consider swing the bane of my existence! It feels sooo much better. Not awkward. Easier, more controlled. Waiting to turn. More swing-like.

The other objective was learning a chunk of choreography for the Lindy hop routine I’m doing at Showcase in June. Choreography is a great thing to do during dance camp, because you’re going back to it every day. It gets solidified in your brain more quickly. And I’m super excited about this routine – I’m doing it for my dad. He loves to see me dance, he loves to see my teacher dance, and Lindy hop is from his era of high school and college. And my teacher has accepted the challenge and is making this a pretty advanced Lindy hop routine. So advanced, that there’s one step I can’t do yet! I don’t know the name of it, or if it’s even a real step. But basically, we’re in side-by-side position, and we do a grapevine. But in the grapevine, we’re on our heels on the front feet and our toes on the back feet. Basically we twist our centers to get the movement. I can do it without my shoes; I think there’s something psychological about putting all of my weight on one heel of my shoe even for a split second. But I’m practicing it, and if I can get it (which I think I will), it will look so cool!

The group classes were fantastic. I had to miss two of them – schedule-wise, I had lessons during the group class time on two days. But on Monday, my teacher did one on turns – smooth and rhythm. The smooth turns are harder for me because I haven’t worked on technique on those as much as rhythm turns. Plus, everyone else in the class is more advanced than me, which can be difficult for my brain. Wednesday, Abby did one on rhythm arm styling. That was awesome and so helpful. Oh, I had to miss Thursday’s class because I had to call in to work and talk to my boss. So I guess I only did two of them.

I had exchanges lessons, too. One with Abby on getting your side over your foot in Cuban motion. I like her. She’s a lot of fun and a really good teacher. The other two exchanges I had were with David; we’ll be dancing rumba at Super Saturday in a few weeks so it was a chance to work on that with him. They were great lessons. It’s never the same as working with my teacher, plus I find David harder to follow in rhythm than smooth. But it’s always great to hear things in a different way.

So the big question I’m sure you all have is how did my brain handle so much information in one week?

Well, Monday morning, I showed up for my first dance camp lesson. So first thing on my first lesson, my teacher starts with the really deep technique about using your sides for smooth dancing and makes me try some things on my own.

Damn. I forgot about that part of dance camp.

I absolutely hate trying things on my own. It is extremely uncomfortable for me. And it’s worse if other people are in the ballroom which luckily there weren’t. And my teacher knows all that, so I know when he asks me to do so, it’s for a very valid reason and is a necessity. But when he asks, my brain just gets muddled. It’s pretty much a direct and Concorde-speed route to the thinky place.

But…luckily I’ve gotten much better about the thinky place. I think I have a good self-talk script now. I don’t go there often anymore, and when I do, it’s usually for just a brief second. This one took about 5 minutes to start to pull myself out of. But eventually I did. I did a good job of staying out of the thinky place the rest of the week.

I woke up on Tuesday with my inner thighs hurting a bit from working on waltz. But they quickly adapted and weren’t sore the rest of the week. That was pretty much the only physical issue I had, other than my muscles just being used a lot more than they are in a normal week. But my poor brain was a mess. I did end up having to work about 20 hours, so I was constantly switching gears between work and dance. I don’t do that well, especially when both were demanding so much of my brain power. I was pretty mentally exhausted by the end of the week.

So for my last lesson that week, we just did run-throughs. In order of the nine dances, closed then open. (So waltz, tango, foxtrot, Viennese waltz, cha cha, rumba, swing, bolero, mambo. Except we ran out of time for bolero and mambo.) I think it was my teacher’s way of showing what progress had been made during the week. Plus it’s just a nice way to end dance camp.

We started dancing and I noticed it’s easier. Lighter, in a good way. A bit more powerful in my legs. We danced waltz, tango, and foxtrot, and they all felt good. Then we got to Viennese waltz. We danced it closed, and then my teacher went to change the music. Then he looked at me.

My teacher: Cathy, are you OK?
Me: Yes.
My teacher: You sure?
Me: Yes, why?
My teacher: You look like you’re about to cry.
Me: I am. (as I’m tearing up)
My teacher: Why? What’s wrong? (in a very concerned tone, probably thinking oh crap now what?)
Me: That just feels so different. So light, so easy. So very different. So much better. (I’m crying at this point)
My teacher: Yay! Happy breakdowns! (as he gives me a hug)

God knows he’s had to deal with more than his share of negative breakdowns, so this was a nice change for him.

But the point is, I made so much progress last week that even I could notice it. I felt after that like I do after a performance – I know I’m a good dancer, and I want to just learn it all now.

When I did dance camp last, I think I had just started bronze II. And it was a great experience. But to do it as a bronze IV student – so amazing. I can’t wait to do it next January – I’m going to try to keep doing it every January. Because it was a great experience, and I love how I feel about my dancing right now.

(In case you’re curious…I danced 12.75 hours during dance camp: 1.5 hours in group classes, 9 hours in lessons with my teacher, 1.5 hours in lesson with other teachers. And that doesn’t include the regular evening dancing I usually do which was another 3.75 hours I think. Grand total = 16.5 hours of dancing. Yes, I’m a numbers person.)

WHAT A GREAT WEEK!!!

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