All This Pain Is An Illusion

Remember last week how I mentioned that Sparkledancer had done something bad and was hurting after working on the Foxtrot Hover Cross in our coaching session? That would have been two weeks ago as of the day that this is posted. Well recovering from that injury has taken a bit longer than anticipated, so after discussing it with her, the two of us really cut back on our normal practice schedule to help try and speed up her recovery and not aggravate the injury further. That seems to be helping her a lot, so hopefully we can get back into the swing of normality soon.

I’m mentioning this because it’s been kind of amazing to me how much I am actually recovering from issues I didn’t even realize were dance related until I seriously cut back on how much dancing I was doing. Most of the things I have noticed are with my legs. For example, over the last couple of months, every morning when I woke up my Achilles tendon on my left leg would be super tight – to the point where it was irritating to take steps on that foot until I had gotten all the way down the stairs in the morning and the tendon had loosened up.

Usually I write off minor pains like this as a part of working out so much – after all, keeping myself in the shape I prefer requires me to put in a lot of effort, and I like to push my limits so sometimes it can be on the verge of being painful. These kinds of minor injuries aren’t bad enough to make me stop working out, but I certainly feel them for days at a time in some cases. Since cutting back on my dance practice from at least an hour a day five days a week to less than an hour a day once or twice a week for the last two weeks, the problem with my Achilles has surprisingly gotten better and better, and over the last few days my ankle has been fine in the mornings. Because of that and other minor issues that appear to be fading away, I am wondering if the damage was actually caused by all the repetitive motion that I do while practicing dance.

See, a lot of the practice that I do involves repeating the same figures or sections of the routines over and over again, which reinforces what I was taught in my lessons and helps me get the movements into my muscle memory. This is not like what I do when working out at all, where I specifically design my workout calendar with the goal of avoiding working the same major muscle groups more than once per week. It’s also completely different from how I danced when I spent a lot of time going out social dancing, where I would do all kinds of different movements in a bunch of different dance styles, so there wasn’t so much repetition in any one session. Sometimes when I go out to practice, if I am trying to make significant changes to the way a certain figure looks I can work on just that figure for most of my practice time that session, and then do the same thing for multiple days in a row. That is a lot of repetitive motion!

I guess it never really dawned on me how much that was affecting my body until I backed off like I am doing now, and suddenly my body has a chance to mend itself back together. I can feel a noticeable difference. It’s kind of nice, like an unseen strain has been lifted off of my ankles and knees and shoulders that I didn’t even realize was there.

Obviously I don’t think I can permanently cut back on my practice schedule like this. Putting in the hours to practice every week helps me improve at the rate that I have been improving over the last few years. It’s what my coach expects from me – heck, I know that if I had a different job that demanded less hours from me per week, my coach would push for me to devote more time to practice than I am doing now! That’s what it takes to compete with the big boys, like my coach’s other students do, and he’s pushing hard for me to be on that level as Sparkledancer and I work our way through competing at the syllabus levels so we can finally get to dancing in the Open levels.

Still… I won’t lie, it’s kind of a nice feeling to have all these minor movement irritations slowly fade away, so I’m definitely not feeling guilty at the moment for not having practiced a ton over the last two weeks!

Anyway, that’s just an observation that I had that I thought I would share. Maybe other people who read this have been through the same thing I am going through.

Enough rambling, time to get down to business. Saturday night I ended up going out to a dance party at the City Dance Hall just like I said I would, and also like I mentioned I managed to get out of going to dinner with people beforehand. They wanted to go to some fancy overpriced place that was within walking distance of the City Dance Hall, which is located in a super upscale part of the Dance Kingdom. I feel really out of place when I go to places like that to eat, so I just met everyone at the dance party instead. I am really not a fancy kind of guy.

The organizers of the party had invited an instructor from the area that I have only met once before to come teach a lesson before the actual social dance. I thought it was interesting that he chose to teach a lesson on International Rumba rather than American Rumba. I started out in the line to take part in the lesson, but I didn’t stay in the class for the whole thing. From what I could see though, the instructor only managed to cover some pretty basic figures of the style, and spent a lot of time trying to explain the difference in the timing of the dance from American Rumba. Most people in class managed to dance on the correct time while he was calling out the steps, but when the music was working and the instructor didn’t tell people when to start, that didn’t always hold true.

Now, before you think poorly of me for not being in the whole class, I had a good reason for not sticking it out through the entire lesson – we had just gotten through going over the basic pattern of International Rumba and had moved on to leading the ladies out into Fan Position for the first time when I noticed a pair of arms waving frantically from across the room. It was one of the people I recognized who is an organizer for this dance party, someone whom I had met several times during my service on the Royal Dance Court. I turned to look behind me, figuring that they were waving at someone else, and when I looked back the person insistently shook her head ‘no’ and pointed at me and then waved for me to come over. So I excused myself from my partner and went over there to see what was needed.

It turned out that the music wasn’t working, and they were hoping that I could help them figure out what was wrong with it. Several of the people who I know helped run this particular ballroom club were already over by the music equipment playing with things by the time I was brought over to that area. The older gentleman in the group said that in situations like this he usually looks for the youngest person in the room to ask for help, because they understand technology far better than he does. I thought that was both a funny and smart way to go about the problem. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the youngest person in the room, but I was probably pretty close.

The team had set up one device earlier in the day before the party and tested everything, and their plan was to use that device to play music for the social dance portion of the evening. Since they didn’t want to mess up the playlist already programmed into that device, they were trying to play some music for the class through someone’s smartphone, and weren’t having any luck. That’s when they started to look for someone to help and I got pulled into the mix.

Being moderately tech savvy, I looked around at the setup to see if I could figure out how things worked. The first thing I noticed was that the audio mixer board didn’t appear to be powered on, and I thought that was all there was to it. Easy peasy, right? But when I powered it on there was still no sound coming through the speakers in the room even though we could hear it from the phone that one of the ladies was holding.

I next looked at where everything was plugged in. When I got the lady holding the phone to set it down, I found that the cord from the mixer board was still plugged into the device that was going to be used to play the music for the party and wasn’t actually connected to the phone at all. Another possible simple fix! Well, that didn’t work either… the phone they were trying to use was a newer phone that didn’t have a headphone jack, so there was no way to plug the cable from the mixer board in.

One of the ladies who had been looking at things before I got said that she could help with that issue, so she ran over to where her purse was sitting and dug around inside. She managed to produce an adapter that fit the port in the phone and had a headphone jack at one end. This allowed us to plug the cable into the phone. Huzzah, right? Well… not so much. Even after attaching the cable, no sound came through the speakers in the room, though we could hear things from the phone.

Finally one of the other ladies who had been looking at things before I got there said we could try it with her phone. Hers was an older model that still had a headphone jack. Once we plugged that phone in and picked a test song saved on her phone, everything seemed to be working! Hooray! The ladies who were gathered around spent some time trying to find a few International Rumba songs to play for the remainder of the lesson. I figured I would hang out near them for a few minutes to make sure everything was going good. By this point the class was over halfway done, so I thought I would just go back to where I was in line and then I could try and fake my way through the remainder of the lesson.

I didn’t get a chance though. The ladies who had been working on the music asked me if I would stay nearby to make sure that they could switch the setup back over to the other device with the social dance playlist on it and get that running before I left things completely in their hands. So for the rest of the lesson I stayed up there and just chatted with them until it was time to make the switch. After I plugged things back in the way I had found them when I first got there, we kicked off the first song and had someone run to the far side of the room to verify they could hear it OK. A few adjustments to the volume level were made, but otherwise everything seemed to be working great!

So that was my excuse for not being in the group class while I was there that night. I think that’s a pretty good reason for not being involved, right? I mean, I believe that they would have eventually figured things out without me, so all I really did was speed up the process a little bit by providing a different pair of eyes to look over everything. Hooray!

Skipping ahead for brevity, I got to talking with Apollo before class started last night. He asked me if I had any ideas about what we should work on during class, since he was leaning towards Waltz but wanted to get my opinion before throwing it out there when class started. I told him that I had actually been thinking about Quickstep, since we hadn’t gone through anything in that style for a while. The last few weeks while we had a new Lead in class who was trying things out I had avoided suggesting Quickstep because I wasn’t sure if he had ever done the style before.

My idea was intriguing to Apollo, and he was eager to tell me that he had just started to look at Quickstep recently, though he still didn’t have the routine that he was given memorized. I laughed and said that there was a good chance that I could help him figure that out before class; since there weren’t too many figures available in Bronze Quickstep to choose from when creating a routine, there was a good chance that his routine was pretty close to what my old Bronze Quickstep routine looked like.

The two of us didn’t manage to get through the whole routine before class started, but we verified that at least the first wall was the same before we had to run back down to the other side of the room and join the group. As luck would have it, Lord Junior was also thinking of doing Quickstep that night just like I had been, so that was what we ended up looking at. His thought had been that he wanted to have us all practice some of the different timings that show up occasionally in the Quickstep, so we spent the whole time working toward that end.

While the new Lead that had joined us over the last few weeks wasn’t in class this time around since he was traveling for work, we did have a new Follower join us that night whom I had never met before. This was her first time ever looking at International Standard or Quickstep of any variety She had done some International Latin before, but that was the majority of her ballroom dance training. Lord Junior thought she would be fine during the class, but he decided for her benefit to play it safe and start out with something simple and then make things progressively harder as class went on.

The easy pattern that we were given was a Progressive Chasse to the Right followed by a Backward Lock, a Running Finish ending with a Forward Lock. These figures were chosen because everything but the Running Finish has a chasse-type action (a Lock Step is technically a type of Chasse action). This allowed Lord Junior to have us start replacing the basic chasse portion of the figures with the more difficult Pepperpot timing version. We started at the beginning and swapped out the chasse in the Progressive Chasse to the Right, and when everyone was comfortable we did the same with the Lock Step in the Backward Lock, and so on and so forth until we had all the chasse actions replaced with the appropriate Pepperpot versions for fun.

For the last ten minutes of class we switched gears to look at the Scatter Chasse a bit. We didn’t use the original configuration of figures to get into this. Instead we started out with a Chasse from Promenade Position going down the line of dance, then did two Step and Hop actions, then did a Scatter Chasse to the Right going down the line of dance again, finishing the whole thing up with one last Step and Hop action… and, of course, any extra steps needed for people to stop moving safely.

Most people in class were able to get through this slowly without issue, but in the last few minutes Lord Junior had us all try to music at tempo, and that’s where things fell apart. I was one of the few in class who had gone through all of these actions before, but I couldn’t get through the whole thing if my partner got thrown off, so I had to bail a few times to keep things safe. Safety is rule number one, after all. 🙂

We’ll just leave things there for this week, since I seem to have rambled on for a long time once again. I have been really trying to keep things shorter, I promise! Sometimes I just have too many things to say.

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