What Doesn’t Kill You Makes A Fighter

Friday nights this month are American Waltz. Apparently lots of people really like Waltz, because more people than I am used to seeing have been attending these classes with us. This past Friday we went over some things I consider to be pretty basic: the Natural and Reverse rotations with an under-arm turn, and then we went back and reviewed the Open Change Steps that had been covered last week. When we were running through the steps, I was given a line going down the long wall to practice on, which was toward the edge of the floor where it meets some carpet. With the amount of people in class who, for some reason, didn’t want to stay in their line going Stronger(WhatDoesntKillYou)1down the floor, there were a lot of times when I was right on the edge of the dance floor, and a couple of times when I even had to step off the floor when rotating, just to give the guy behind me enough space so that he didn’t run into me and whoever I was dancing with at the time. He was an older gentleman, and was struggling with understanding how much rotation was required to make things these steps work, which is how he ended up getting so far off his line when moving around. The funny thing was, the lady that came with him (his wife? Girlfriend? I’m not quite sure) did not like to rotate all the way either. I like to believe that I am fairly strong, and I really try to show the ladies I am dancing with where they need to end up when we are working on figures in a class, but as we would go through the Natural rotation and I would go back on my right foot and then try to rotate so that I would end up facing diagonal center, she would just stop moving right when her back would be facing center. Every time she came through so I could dance with her, she would do the same thing, even if I put slightly more pressure on her back during the turn to show her I wanted her to turn a bit further. It was weird. Sometimes I guess people are set in their ways, no matter how much you want them to do something different.

On Saturday I ended up at the City Dance Hall for the open social dance that was going on there. The party was Spring-themed, so the music the DJ played all night all seemed to be centered on rain. There may have been songs about flowers and sunshine mixed in, but when I was actually paying attention to the music, all the songs seemed to talk about rain. The night started out with a class on Samba, taught by one of the Ladies of the Dance Kingdom I had never seen before. She went through some figures that could be done in one place, which was good because there were a lot of bodies in class, so travelling would have been chaotic. As it was, when she asked the ladies to rotate to the next partner during the class, it was a bit of a cluster since no one tried to implement some sense of order to the rotation. The number of Stronger(WhatDoesntKillYou)2people attending the party also made being on the floor crazy during the actual dance. It was really packed full! I had to pull out all the things that I knew about floorcraft every time I stepped out on the floor just to keep from running into people. Keeping other people from running into me was a different story entirely, and I wasn’t entirely successful at that… I must say though, there is something about being out on a dance floor with that many other bodies moving around you that is kind of a rush – it gets your adrenaline going, and your blood pumping, and everyone you look at has this slight look of terror on their face, as they are having fun but also worried about crashing. It’s pretty exhilarating! In the middle of the party they attempted to do an East Coast Swing mixer. I’m not sure if you’ve ever been part of one of those before, but they have all the Leads form a circle (or oval, since the room is longer than it is wide) in the middle of the room with their backs to the center. The Follows all then jump in with a Lead, and people start to dance until they are told to switch, and then the Follows rotate around the outside of the circle. Well, with the number of people in the circle, it was difficult to do any dancing unless we staggered so that one Lead went inward toward the center and the guys on either side of him moved out closer to the wall. This seemed to throw off the ladies as they rotated around the room, so they ended up just jumping in with whatever guy they could see who was free next to them.

Good times, of course. By the end of that night, I was exhausted.

Due to (what seems like) everyone who I know interested in dance volunteering to help at a dance competition in the area this coming weekend, my coaching session with Sir Steven and Sparkledancer was moved to yesterday. We continued to work on refining our showcase Pasodoble routine. There was a change made to the Ronde that Sparkledancer does to help make things easier for her… and more dangerous for everyone else. Now in place of her lifting and holding her leg out straight as she twirls it around, she is bringing her knee up to make a triangle against her standing leg before doing something that looks a lot like a snap-kick as she twirls around. I made a comment about how it was good for her to learn how to do something like this, just in case ninjas decide to try to interrupt our performance. I thought it was hilarious, but I don’t think either of them felt the same as I did. Really, what if it happened? Take the International Foxtrot class going on behind us on the other side of the room for example. Where Stronger(WhatDoesntKillYou)3would we have been if some of the people in that class turned out to be ninjas? We would have been woefully unprepared for them had we not altered what Sparkledancer was doing with her leg! Now I can be confident and breathe easier. We also had to run through things to ensure that our movements were kept aligned, even when we split apart. Sir Steven actually pulled out some painter’s tape and taped a line down the floor for us to use as a guide. I found out that while we did things like the Promenade/Counter-Promenade runs, Sparkledancer would stay in a straight line in the center along the tape, and I was actually rotating around her. Now we are working on keeping a center line in the middle that both of us trade places around, and continuing to keep that line in the middle between us as we split apart from it and move down the floor separately, hopefully ending up being the same distance from the line and each other as we do. I wonder if I would be able to practice this at home with a mirror, or would that screw with my mind because it would always look like I was moving equal distances on both sides?

So how do you all prepare for a showcase performance? I think I may be going a bit overboard. A while back I think I mentioned that I put a lot of effort into building more muscle, and the cost of doing that was a loss in flexibility. This was especially noticeable in my shoulders. Well, I’ve completely changed my workout routine to try to fix some of this before the date of performance. Now I’m up to doing five days a week of cardio-style workouts, down to three days a week of resistance training (because I can’t get rid of it entirely or else it make me sad), and two days a week to really work on my flexibility. Yes, I know math, and that does add up to more than the seven days that are available in a normal week; that was not an oversight on my part. There are two times of day that are available to me for exercise (before and after work). So, with all this physical activity planned, plus all the time I spend dancing either in classes or at parties or just practicing, I feel slightly more worn out than normal. I have even started going to bed earlier in the evening, which anyone who knows me would say is really strange because I’m normally such a creature of the night. Will all of this work pay off? We’ll have to see. I know reducing the mass of muscle in my body is the only way to truly reclaim the flexibility I lost, but I must say that I have grown quite attached to having that added bulk on my frame. Maybe when the performance is all said and done I can go back and work on building it up again… maybe I could even improve on the results I had already gotten. Of course, then I would have the same problem with losing some flexibility in doing so. It’s a vicious cycle.

So, is this a lot of effort to put in for a single performance, work that I could be putting into something else? Possibly. Maybe by the time I finish the first month of this regimen I will be so worn out that I will give up pushing myself so hard and switch back to something of a more normal routine for me. We’ll see how it goes!

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3 Replies to “What Doesn’t Kill You Makes A Fighter”

  1. I don’t think you need to give up muscle mass to gain flexibility. It’s just a matter of balance. My teacher tells me I have a really strong and flexible back but it’s still hard for me to maintain the correct frame consistently because my strong, flexible muscles just aren’t used to being strong and flexible in that way. I just have to retrain them to move, stretch, contract, etc. in different directions than they’re used to.

    1. It should help me with some things, because there is just mass in the way when I try and do certain movements that didn’t used to be there. I used to be able to clasp my hands behind my back, driving my knuckles down toward the floor, and fold my palms together. Now that there is just more mass of muscle in my back, my palms will not go together all the way. It’s not that I’m not flexible, it’s just there is a bunch of stuff that gets in the way that prevents things like that. Does that make sense? For a lot of things, people would still think I am really flexible. I can still do a lot of Yoga poses without having to do anything different. But there are certain movements where the muscle just bunches up and then it can’t move anymore because there’s too much of it to go anywhere else, so it gets in the way. 🙂

      1. Yeah, maybe time to switch up the workouts to work on lengthening the muscles you have instead of building on them. Keep it all up! Even if it feels like overkill for one event, you still reap the longterm benefits. Good luck with your showcase!

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