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Tada gan iarracht 2014
By seannettaPremium member
On Thu Jan 02, 2014 11:34 AM

Why hello there. Welcome to my 2014 diary, wherein I'm free to whine all I want about my terrible, hard life of dance and related woes...

I'm only partially kidding, of course -- I whine a lot about dance and my poor tired body and my stress levels and a lot of other things, but venting is just my way of sorting out what is really one of the greatest loves in my life. I'm very, very lucky to have the time (sort of), the health (most of the time) and the income (well, minus the part where I actually save for more responsible things) to pursue dance so thoroughly at my age (almost 35), and to have several friends who are enablers in this regard. I hope in 2014 I can remember that -- that all this is supposed to be fun. You're all free to give me a little kick in the ass if I don't.

So, let's start things off with a little summary of where I'm at, dance and health-wise, which will hopefully help me to sort out some goals and also serve as an introduction for anyone new reading this.

I am...

...An Irish dance teacher. I've been teaching for about a decade now, and although I've taught kids in the past, I am focusing on recreational adults right now, as well as coaching a competitive prelim student when she's not with her TC. For my adults, I've obviously got to keep things fun, but I believe in challenging them a bit and also making sure I teach good and healthy technique. My challenge right now is getting them ready for a performance in a month, with a somewhat complicated a-cappella hardshoe routine that's going pretty well but needs a definite kick into high gear when we meet again on the 13th. And my prelim student needs a lot of encouragement, as she's not placing particularly well in competition, but fixing her issues requires a lot of ground-up work that I hope we can progress in 2014 without her getting too discouraged.

Seeking TC certification used to be an immediate goal; while I haven't given up on that notion entirely, I need more time and money and help from far-flung TCs and ADs than I have at the moment, so I am OK with putting that on hold for now.

...An Irish dancer. I've been dancing for almost 24 years! I often feel really old in my class -- because, comparatively speaking, I am. I think the next oldest person in that class is maybe 21, with the majority in their early and mid-teens. And I cannot keep up with them, it's true. But I CAN dance with impeccable timing and rhythm and posture, and my jumps are rather powerful, and overall I do not too shabbily for an old lady in a prelim/champ class. When I actually make it to class, that is. Because I don't have a specific goal for my own Irish dancing anymore, it's the first class to go if I get busy. I'd like to keep better attendance in 2014, if I can, because I've actually been seeing the first significant improvement in my dancing in a long while.

...A Highland dancer. For only 4 years now, though it feels like longer. I'm about to move up into Premier (the highest competitive category) in February, and the thought is more surreal than terrifying, really. I'm scaling back on competing, I think, because it will take more time and effort than I possess to even look like I belong on that stage with the girls in their early twenties who've been perfecting their highcuts since the age of 4. But I'll do the occasional competition to keep myself motivated, because I need motivation right now. I improved very quickly due to my previous dance experience, but have now reached the point where I need to do a hell of a lot of work to see even a minute improvement. It is tedious and frustrating, and hard to stay cheerful about endless glute exercises just so my second position can look a little bit better. Sigh.

Right now, though, I'm most concerned about a duet I'm competing in a choreo competition in mid-Feb. I'm choreographing most of it myself, which is a nice new challenge, and I want it to look good up against all the other premier girls doing duets, so I expect to become anxious about all this very shortly.

...An Ottawa Valley-style stepdancer. If you're not sure what that is, check out this competitive performance. No, I can't dance like that but I try my best. I LOVE making crazy rhythms with my feet, but my stepdance classes often get short shrift 'cause I'm just doing it for fun. Maybe I'll compete someday, I dunno.

...The co-director of a cross-Celtic performance troupe. I really love performing best, and we get some good little gigs with our group. Looking forward to getting new costumes, teaching new members some of our choreos, and just generally stepping things up in 2014.

...A physiotherapy patient. I finally took my problems (mostly heel spur pain, but also arch pain, and calf pain, and shin pain) to a PT in the spring of 2013, and it's really changing my life. I whine a lot about what this PT puts me through, but she's challenged me to use targeted exercises to strengthen the weaker parts of my body (basically everything except my lower legs) and it's miraculously making me stronger and less pain-ridden. Well, it's not miraculous -- it's just hard work. Like, really hard. Sigh. But I vow to stick with it in 2014 and be a stronger dancer as a result.

So there you have it -- where I'm at as we start off this new year. Regular whining to commence shortly.

123 Replies to Tada gan iarracht 2014

re: Tada gan iarracht 2014
By seannettaPremium member
On Sun Jan 05, 2014 06:57 PM
The fortnight of sloth and gluttony is unfortunately coming to an end, and I must sadly return to reality tomorrow morning -- most definitely heavier and slightly more out of shape, but also slightly more relaxed and better rested.

I am actually super anxious about work tomorrow. I have a very stressful job that works best when I just do it without thinking about it too much. Two weeks off has given me too much time to think about it and wonder why I'm employed in a position that allows for no breaks and no stopping to breathe and many more decisions in a day than I prefer making. But I suppose that's why I have my dance obsessions -- to serve as a handy distraction.

I am looking forward to returning to routine, I must admit. As much as I like lazing in bed with a book and eating breakfast at noon, I also feel good when I'm more productive.

So let's start being productive, shall we? Tomorrow: no teaching, but a dance rehearsal for a performance next week. Other than that, I should try to do a few arm/ab exercises when I get home and run through my Highland duet choreo once or twice before bed.

This week in general: be thinking about the rest of the duet choreo, get back into healthy eating habits again (I already have some lunches made, so off to a pretty good start), and make sure I don't slip back into not sleeping much. Here we go.
re: Tada gan iarracht 2014
By seannettaPremium member
On Wed Jan 08, 2014 09:34 AM
How am I faring, back in reality? Well, let's do a summary.

--Averaging 6 hours of sleep a night so far (not good -- need to get that up to 7)
--Nearly died in physiotherapy yesterday morning (well, OK, not even close, but the exercises were particularly hard -- "I used to give this one to my Cirque du Soleil patients!" my PT said rather gleefully at one point)
--Duet choreo coming along, but am feeling anxious about getting it up to snuff in time (D-Day is Feb 16th)
--Have had belly and head troubles the past few days which have made me feel achy, tired, nauseous and generally out of it, which has definitely impacted my dancing
--My eating patterns have been super weird because of the aforementioned health woes
--In general, not really feeling like I'm back in the swing of things yet -- but it's only midway through the week, I suppose

Tonight is my night off and I have to cook lunches and run some errands and complete a few other boring tasks, so I'm not predicting much time left after that, but I want to add one more part to the duet since we're rehearsing again on Thu.

And in general, I have to start thinking about my Highland exams. They're not til May, I think, which is good because dance-wise I don't really want to think about my exam steps until after the choreo competition. But I should probably start thinking about theory (sigh) before that. Maybe I can start making flashcards this weekend.
re: Tada gan iarracht 2014
By seannettaPremium member
On Fri Jan 10, 2014 10:46 AM
I've decided to just accept that this week has been largely unproductive and weird for me. In the beginning, five loooong days ago, I had pictured myself springing back into action after my break, getting things done and being super active and eating well and magically finding an extra hour in which to sleep.

Without going through a dull list of my ultimately petty annoyances this week, I'll just summarize with the statement that it's been nothing like my unrealistically rosy outlook of 5 days ago. And so what? It's the first week of January, and the weather has been miserable, and nobody wants to be at work, and what's the harm in hiding under the blankets with another cookie, just this once?

"Just this once" -- that's the key statement right there. But I have confidence I can sort myself out better next week, as the weather outlook is better, and my body will no longer be in shock from being cruelly yanked out of its slothful holiday existence.

One semi-accomplishment, though, is that my duet choreo is looking...not bad. My teacher filmed it last night, and for the most part it moves the way I had pictured in my head. We just look very timid and sloppy dancing it, though, and the music demands big movements and big extensions. We've got a month, and I know it'll get presentable, but it needs some serious technical work now that we're getting more comfortable with the footwork and so on.

This weekend marks the effort to fulfil a kind of informal resolution of mine: to get boring chores out of the way on Saturdays so that Sundays do not feel like such a slog. We'll see how that goes, as my biggest talent in life is procrastination. But I'm looking at a to-do list kind of like this...

--couple of errands
--plan menus & buy groceries
--cook lunches
--clean apt
--package up a gift for my grandma
--finish up some board-of-directors work
--do my physio exercises
--finish duet choreo and send notes to my partner

--teach a private lesson
--work on choreo for Monday night adults

We'll see how it goes...
re: Tada gan iarracht 2014
By seannettaPremium member
On Mon Jan 13, 2014 10:38 AM
All those items on my to-do list? CHECKED! I managed to have a weekend that was full of my three magic ingredients: 1/ Fun, 2/ Relaxation and 3/ Productivity. This is rare, folks. And it probably only happened because I had not much on the go, and it was pretty much too miserable to be outside (I can do without the puddles on top of deadly ice, thanks, as I'm now too afraid to walk anywhere, and have stiff muscles from tensing my body as I slowly shuffle my way down the precarious sidewalks).

Last night, chores done, choreography completed and to-do-list checked off, I decided to go to a late movie. Yes, it would mean less sleep, but I can never fall asleep early on Sunday nights because I'm always too anxious about the workweek that's about to start. I figured I'd fall asleep pretty quickly upon my return. Well, that was true, but the radiators on overdrive in my apartment, plus thinking too much about some stuff in my life, plus a weird and disturbing dream that I literally woke myself up from in order to prove that it wasn't true (I have the weird ability to do that on the rare occasions I have bad dreams), meant a night of tossing and turning. Ugh, not a way to start a Monday.

Tonight, then, my sole goal is to get to bed IMMEDIATELY after returning home from teaching dance, because tomorrow I have to get up at 5 for physio. Sleep in general has to get better this week, but then my productivity drops because often the 10pm-11pm hour is prime getting-stuff-done time for me. I'll figure that out as I go along, I guess.
re: Tada gan iarracht 2014
By seannettaPremium member
On Tue Jan 14, 2014 09:47 AM
Well, I sorta went straight to bed last evening, but spent another night tossing and turning, unfortunately. My problem is the heat of my apartment, which is abundant in warmer temperatures. Yes, I know, that makes no sense. But now that we're in the midst of a relative heat wave (2 degrees, woo!), I will be sweating in my sleep until the next cold snap, sigh.

In my adult class last night we spent the entire 90 minutes going through the a-cappella choreography, bit by bit. I think it's going OK, but I admit to being a little bit nervous that we only have 4 classes left to prepare. I know the audience is going to love it no matter what, but I'd like to see -- or rather hear -- everything get a bit crisper and more together. My fault, partly, for insisting that a mixed-ability group of adult dancers do a hardshoe routine with no music with which to anchor themselves. But I'm proud of how hard everyone is working.

Physio this morning eschewed the fancy equipment -- because the equipment room was drying out from a flood. So I mostly went through the mat and ball exercises I do on my own at home (when I actually get around to doing them, that is). My PT and I noticed a general weaker left side when it comes to holding turnout -- it may be from practising things on my right side too much, it could be tightness in the hip on that side, or it could be a "structural issue," apparently. But we'll be working on it more, and I want to get better at doing my homework in order to help this process along, so I'll slot in some exercises for Wed night after work.

Tonight is a performance, so I won't have much time for anything else and I'm really desperate to get a good night's sleep. But we'll say that my goals for wed are my exercises, a runthrough of my duet choreo, and maybe a read-through of the Highland national theory syllabus if I have time, and also a runthrough of my exam steps because I still don't know all of them that well. Maybe then I won't be in rough shape when I miss Highland both this week and next.
re: Tada gan iarracht 2014
By seannettaPremium member
On Thu Jan 16, 2014 11:57 AM
There are some days I reach a kind of stasis that's almost debilitating, and it's usually when I'm tired or moody or just in need of some quiet time. The issue for me is recognizing when I should indulge in sloth, and when I need to push myself to do something because that something ultimately makes me feel better.

That was the state I found myself in last night after work...I ran errands, cooked a dinner, sat down to eat it, and then...I just couldn't do anything. But when this happens, I find myself in a downward spiral where I can't enjoy not doing anything because I feel guilty for avoiding my PT exercises or whatever, and I just sink lower and lower into my seat while making half-hearted promises that I'll get up any minute now...

It's funny -- doing things makes me feel productive and happy (within reason, of course), but sometimes I feel incapable of starting to do anything. I always feel good after a run, for example, but getting me out the door is a production and a half.

I won't beat myself up over one day, though -- as long as it doesn't become a habit. Tonight is Irish, for the first time in several weeks, so I'm about to get a good ass-kicking which I probably need. When I get home, I'll commit to a few arm & ab exercises before bed before sitting down -- 'cause sitting down is dangerous.
re: Tada gan iarracht 2014
By seannettaPremium member
On Fri Jan 17, 2014 10:31 AM
Today it's my left foot singing the blues. I know that sudden activity after a period of slothfulness carries with it an increased risk of injury, yes. But I didn't think one not-particularly-hard Irish dance class, after several weeks off, would mess me up. Sigh. My left achilles is experiencing sharp pains when it contracts or twists. I felt fine until I got up to get off the bus last night, so I'm not sure of the real culprit, but it's really annoying. Hoping it's just an irritation that'll go away soon, 'cause I got stuff to do. And I'm also hoping the toenail of my left foot will just go ahead and fall off soon (it does this all the time; I've permanently damaged the nailbed), so that the pressure of the loose nail pressing into my skin goes away. All this to say that I'm hobbling and unimpressed this morning.

I got through class OK, with lots of fumbles. My softshoe is still pretty strong, but my hardshoe is awful. I've said this before: regular exercise alone, particularly the kind of exercises I do for my lower body, can help me maintain my softshoe strength even when I'm not dancing. But hardshoe -- there's no substitute for just practising, and that was painfully clear last night. My TC, after my 2nd attempt at a somewhat new treble jig: "Well, it was still bad, but at least I could recognize the step this time." Gah, I deserved that, even if I have nowhere to practice hardshoe except in class itself.

I also realized last night, sweaty at the end of class, that I haven't really sweated enough lately. Over Christmas break I really didn't do anything at all, and over the past couple of weeks I've slowly been back to class but I'm either teaching or going through choreo. I came to the rather horrifying conclusion that for someone who dances so much, I actually don't think I'm getting enough exercise right now.

I have to remedy this, even though my instincts tend toward the slothful and the sidewalks have been too icy-treacherous to run on. We're also about to head into another deep-freeze in my city, which certainly won't want to make me do anything except hide under multiple blankets. In short, it is really hard to be active in the post-Christmas winter slump! But it's a necessity. So...more emphasis on my PT exercises is needed. I don't have any room in my apartment whatsoever so cardio at home is out of the question. But let's cross our fingers for clear enough sidewalks to run on, and I want to make better use of downtime in dance class to work on something by myself, just to keep moving. And I can practice stepdance at home in my socks.

This weekend...Lots of dance on Sunday, when I'll go straight from a performance group rehearsal to teaching a private and then to a duet rehearsal. Because that day is so packed, I'm aiming for super-productivity tonight and tomorrow amongst the appointments and social stuff I have planned. I hesitate to draft up a schedule lest I break it and then feel guilty, but I'm feeling in general a bit more motivated now, so I have better hopes for my ability to get things done then I did a couple days ago. Provided my achilles behaves.
re: Tada gan iarracht 2014
By seannettaPremium member
On Mon Jan 20, 2014 10:54 AM
Another weekend of pretty good productivity and relaxation time, woo! No need to bore you all with the details of my to-do list, but I made it through appointments, email-replying, errand-running, meal-planning, cooking, apartment-scrubbing, laundry, 2 dance rehearsals, some dance brainstorming, exercise, friend-visiting and couch-loafing. The only thing I did not get to is knitting, which is hardly a huge priority but I am hoping to finish a scarf for myself before it's April and too warm to wear it.

I've decided to not even think about my Highland exams -- both the dance portion and the theory portion -- until after my choreo competition on Feb 16th. I'm just too preoccupied right now with that and my own students' performance on the 15th. Once that's done, I'll still have almost 3 months or so to study, so I should be OK.

Speaking of the duet, I'm a little worried about it right now, to be honest. I mean, I have faith in my partner's and my ability to pull it together in time, but I really wish we had another month. It's getting there, but it's really sloppy right now. Considering we are up against some amazing technical dancers in this competition, we need to look really sharp. I am not expecting to actually beat any of those technical dancers, but I want us to look like we belong on that stage.

To that end, I've got to figure out a better way to practice when I'm not at the studio with my partner. There is no room in my apartment, but I think I can work on small sections that need work technically. I should be able to practice my holds, for example. Or my rocks. That kind of thing. So every single night (with a few exceptions) from now 'til the competition, I will pick one small thing to work on.

Now we've reached the part of this entry where I need to complain about my poor overworked feet...I had a litany of various aches after Thursday's Irish class and after weekend practice. I spoke in my last entry about an achilles pain, but the pain actually migrated closer to the outside of my ankle, so now I really have no idea what's going on. And the pain on the outside of my right ankle has returned from a month or so ago, mysteriously. AND then the joint of my big toe began aching too...But that might be because I've been compensating on that foot for my stupid toenail that needs to fall off already. And thus concludes my litany of foot woes. I shall take them to my PT tomorrow morning.
re: Tada gan iarracht 2014
By seannettaPremium member
On Tue Jan 21, 2014 09:46 AM
Today's assignment from my PT: go home every night and jab my fingers under my ankle bone. Sure, I'll get right on that. Seriously, though, this brings up the question of how one is supposed to intentionally inflict pain on oneself. Because there's no way I'll be able to dig in with as much gleeful force as my PT did this morning -- it had me squirming, and I think the body has too many automatic reflexes to self-administer such treatment.

Nevertheless, it is apparently a key task in un-jamming up my ankles & feet -- "jamming" being of course the very scientific explanation for what's wrong with me. As I approach my 35th birthday this week, I think it's high time to just accept that roughly two and a half decades of jumping up and down (on mostly concrete in my early years; we didn't know any better) can't NOT have a detrimental effect to the most worn-down parts of my body. As my PT said to me, "if this is just the result of you jumping a lot, there's only so much we can do." Translation: "if you're foolish enough to keep hopping around at your age instead of taking on a lower-impact activity like swimming, I'm washing my hands of you."

I don't think my foot problems will ever be fully fixed -- you can't fix bone spurs anyhow, and the more I dance the more I'll aggravate the periodic shin, achilles and ankle problems that pop up. All I can do is listen to my body as best as I can, treat my PT sessions as tune-ups and take my exercises seriously. How much longer will I be able to do this? I have no idea. I'm hoping it'll become obvious one day, like the ghost of Irish dancing future comes to me in my sleep and shows me my 80-year-old self with artificial knees. In the meantime, I hop away.

Last night, my Irish adults really stressed me out because THEY were really stressed out. I tried to close the feedback loop of it's-almost-performance-time panic by being methodical and patient and encouraging with our rehearsal of the a-cappella piece, but I'm not sure if it was all that successful. I came home last night feeling really wound up about it and had to kind of putter around my home for a while before I could go to bed -- thus I only got 5 hours of sleep and am pretty bleary this morning.

I think we'll be fine -- the piece is in no way sounding bad, and there are several parts where it's even sounding great. I just find adults in general get super high-strung about performing if they're not used to it, which is totally understandable. I need to calm a few of them down over the next two weeks, those who had particularly wild looks in her eyes last night.

Tonight: a board meeting, so no dance. I expect to get home at around 9 or so, so I should have time to pick a few things in my duet choreo to work on before bed. And aiming for an on-time bedtime tonight is absolutely necessary too. Crunch time, dance-wise, is approaching, and sleep definitely helps to make me feel a little less "GAH!" about all this.
re: Tada gan iarracht 2014
By seannettaPremium member
On Thu Jan 23, 2014 10:41 AM
Right now I am eating a delicious barley risotto that I made last night, from a cookbook on Israeli cuisine I got for Christmas. I really enjoy cooking and trying new recipes, when I have the time...And that's the key: when I have the time. I hate cooking when I get home from dance and it's 10pm and I just want to watch TV and go to bed, so unfortunately I often come to view food prep as a chore more than anything else.

That's why my free Wednesday nights are so precious to me: time in the middle of the week to just go home after work and relax. Well, sort of relax, anyway -- I had goals for myself last night, of course.

On a free night, I still only have about 3 hours to play with, if I want to get to bed at a decent hour. So hour one was cooking & cleaning last night. Half of hour 2 was eating and responding to a couple of emails. The other half was split between 15 minutes picking apart a couple of pieces of my duet, and 15 doing some PT exercises. Then I gave myself an hour to just loaf.

15 minutes spent on dance may not be a lot, but I'm finding this new approach of just practicing one thing working pretty well. I've really tried to clean up the technique of the first 30 seconds of the dance (tighter positions, less wobbly holds, etc), and being mindful of presentation (where my head and eyes are directed, and so on). I don't know about you, but when I'm learning a choreo, or teaching one, I never dance full-out. It's necessary because a) you can't dance full-out something you don't know, and b) there's so much repetition when you're learning that you need to preserve some energy. But this can become a bad habit over time -- if I'm not practicing in front of anyone, why dance full-out? Because I need to, obviously, and that's my focus this week at home.

Tonight I have to teach my own Irish class, because my TC has a concussion. (She slipped and fell on ice; can I just mention how TIRED I am of this freezing cold and icy winter already?) I don't mind, but it means I dance less, of course. I'll do whatever exercises I assign the class with them, and try to fit in a few runthroughs of my own dances, but mostly I'm teaching tonight. Staying to lock up means missing the bus I usually take, so I'll be home later, too. Straight to bed with me, then.
re: Tada gan iarracht 2014
By seannettaPremium member
On Fri Jan 24, 2014 11:40 AM
I had a good 7 hours of sleep last night. So really, I had no reason to feel low-energy and sort of cranky as I left the house this morning. Some work things were bothering me, I guess, but mostly it's this gosh-darned weather. I like to think of myself as a hardy Canadian, capable of withstanding whatever the climate throws at me. I love having 4 distinct seasons. I like snow. I even like being out in colder temperatures -- WITHIN REASON.

That's the key right there -- this weather has been unreasonable. Call it the "polar vortex" or whatever; I just call it miserable. I am tired of it taking 10 minutes to put on all the clothes I need to get outside. I am tired of my eyelashes sticking together with frost. I am tired of not being able to feel my face or getting an "ice cream" headache from a strong, bitter wind. Once I get inside, I do not want to go outside again. Ever.

And I think all of this is affecting my mood -- yesterday I felt tired and listless. I also felt like I was fighting off a virus of some kind, as my throat was scratchy and I found it really difficult to concentrate and get things done. Luckily I feel slightly better today, but still tired.

But this explains why I really didn't do much last night in class. I had intended to fit in some of my own practice amongst teaching my own class, but a) I didn't really feel like it, and b) of the 4 others who showed up last night, 3 of them were the youngest and most inexperienced dancers of the usual bunch. So I really felt like I needed to engage with them the whole time. They're good little dancers though, so I didn't mind.

This weekend: busy day of Robbie Burns-related performances tomorrow, plus trying my new tactic of trying to cram as many boring chores into Saturday as possible. This is especially important because Sunday is my birthday, and I'm a firm believer in treating oneself on one's birthday. For me, this will mean doing absolutely nothing except enjoying brunch with my friends. Have I mentioned how brunch is my favourite meal of the day? I'm looking forward to it. Not so much the age I will be turning (35), but not much I can do about that, is there? Someone at work today honestly thought I was turning about 25. I'll gladly take that compliment into the weekend..
re: Tada gan iarracht 2014
By seannettaPremium member
On Mon Jan 27, 2014 11:32 AM
I am 35! I feel like I should have some grand, philosophical or reflective life statement to put forward, like a thesis statement of my latter dancing years. But I'm not coming up with anything particularly inspired. I am old, as far as dancer years go. But I do not feel old, most of the time. I admit to having a little mini freakout over non-dance related age issues (savings, a future family, my purpose in life -- the usual), but when it comes to dance, I just keep going. Even if it's perhaps not the best life choice to pursue not one, not two, but THREE high-impact dance forms that will almost certainly result in some permanent lower-limb damage down the road.

I had a lovely weekend, all in all. It didn't start out so well though -- I was unfocused and decidedly lacklustre at a Saturday morning Burns' Day performance, and then had to visit 3 grocery stores to get what I needed to cook, and then the plumbing in my bathroom stopped working while I was trying to simultaneously cook and clean and get ready for an evening performance...I was all ready to have a meltdown, but then everything just magically fell into place: the plumber arrived promptly and I cleaned while he worked, and I got myself out the door on time. And thankfully, our performance with a pipe band for a rather fancy Burns' supper was really great. I felt energized afterwards -- well, until I got home and realized how tired I was.

All of that running around paid off, though, as I spent my birthday eating brunch and appreciating the generosity of my friends and then loafing around doing not much at all. It was lovely, although by the end of the night I began to get a little antsy, thinking, "Isn't there something I should be doing right now"? Well of course there was -- there were exercises to be done and duets to be practiced...But I was firm about giving myself the day off.

Now it's back to reality, sigh, with things ramping up a bit as the big competition/performance weekend looms...As I do not have physio tomorrow (or this week at all -- which means I really must do my exercises on my own), I don't have to rush so quickly to bed tonight after teaching, so I aim to respond to some emails and do a couple arms or abs exercises. And I should practice stepdance once or twice, as it's been 3 weeks since I last flailed away in class.
re: Tada gan iarracht 2014
By seannettaPremium member
On Tue Jan 28, 2014 10:35 AM
The a-cappella dance rehearsal last night went pretty well; I am feeling better about the performance in a few weeks. One thing I have to let go of is the notion that how it will look & sound on the night of the performance is how it currently looks & sounds in my head. Of course it won't; my class is made up of adults of different ability levels, some new to Irish dance, some who are great at rhythm and some who just aren't. But this performance is meant to showcase all of them, and the audience is prepared for that, and all I can ask is that they remember their steps and try to have some semblance of a good time. I think that with one rehearsal left, we're in pretty decent shape.

When I got home, I did one runthrough, with as much attention to technique as possible, of my duet. And then that was followed by a scant 10 minutes of PT exercises (better than nothing, right?). Tonight is stepdance (oops, didn't practice that) and then Highland. I'm giving myself a pass from home practice of the duet since we'll do it in class tonight, and a pass from exercises 'cause I have to stop by the grocery store and cook dinner after dance.

And that concludes my scintillating update of the day. It's rather good I don't have much to say -- I'm feeling quite calm, actually. It's only Tuesday, though...
re: Tada gan iarracht 2014
By seannettaPremium member
On Wed Jan 29, 2014 10:47 AM
I always know a class worked me particularly hard when I'm barely conscious the next morning but still register quite clearly that my legs ache. That happened this morning -- a general feeling of "ow," then I turned off my alarm, apparently (I have no memory of this), rolled over, and went back to sleep until a time that running around was necessary to get out the door. Apparently my legs wanted to rest longer.

Neither stepdance nor Highland felt particularly hard at the time, but I suppose that 3 factors were in play: 1) It had been 3 weeks since my last class in each, 2) I hadn't danced full-out for the full 90 minutes in Highland for a while, as we've been mostly working on choreo, and 3) There were only 5 of us in class, so dancing continuously with no break. And I could probably add a #4 too: that my teacher has been especially focused on turnout these days, so I leave most classes feeling like I've wrenched my legs inside out. In fact, my teacher is especially fond of walking over to me as I attempt to feebly hold a 2nd aerial position, grabbing my leg, turning it outward until I kind of feel like it's going to twist right out of my hip socket, and proclaiming, "Yes! That's what I want!" Yes yes, I have a good natural turnout in that position. No, I possess no ability to actually hold it there. I'm working on it, I promise...

In stepdance, I think my teacher is running out of things to teach me. She actually asked me what I want to learn next. We move through steps and dances so quickly in stepdance that I really should ask to review something from last year that I've already forgotten. But she mentioned that if I found a piece of music I like, she could choreograph something for me. That's a really fun idea, so I'm going to go scour my Celtic music collection for something that might work.

Tonight, I have the night off unexpectedly -- I thought I had duet rehearsal but my partner can't make it. So, I will practice my duet at home, focusing on little technique things. I will also do a full 30 minutes of PT exercises.
re: Tada gan iarracht 2014
By seannettaPremium member
On Fri Jan 31, 2014 11:32 AM
Wednesday I was pretty good, managing to get off my couch long enough to do both some duet practice and also all my PT exercises.

Thursday...not so much. I naughtily skipped Irish to go to a concert with a friend instead, feeling guilty but assuaging that somewhat by assuring my TC I would practice on my own time, because due to a few commitments I won't be in class again until the 20th. I seriously have to honour that promise, because as I've mentioned previously, my Irish technique goes out the window rather quickly when I don't practice. I can't do anything full-out at home, nor work on much technique, but I can at least get way more comfortable with my steps than I am right now. I will do it! I will!

This weekend: I'd like to start running again tomorrow. It, shamefully, has been more than 2 months since I last did so. But it's not merely my laziness that has kept me off the roads; it's also been the pre-Christmas frenzy, and also the awful weather (I can do cold, but not minus-thirty cold, and I can run on snow, but not like a foot of it, and I can run even on some ice, but not the skating rink that served as our sidewalks for several weeks...). I'll start with a leisurely 5K and see how it goes.

I'd also like to have another Saturday of super-productivity, as Sunday might be rather full with dance rehearsal and a friend's birthday activities.

Tonight, though: after errand-running and meal-planning and grocery-buying, tonight I rest. Maybe I'm getting old, but my new favourite Friday night is at home curled up on my couch, watching TV. I know, I'm probably the most exciting person around...
re: Tada gan iarracht 2014
By seannettaPremium member
On Mon Feb 03, 2014 11:48 AM
Sometimes, when I explain all my dancing obsessions to complete strangers, I get a little bit embarrassed, almost. Or, at least, I find it all difficult to explain. Let's face it: Highland, Irish and Ottawa Valley stepdance are not the hippest of activities to pursue. Not that I really care about that, but I'm used to watching the expression on people's faces go through the same predictable changes as I talk: first a frown of trying to understand, then a lightbulb flash of remembering what Irish looks like, then a half-frown of bemusement as that person is clearly thinking of curly wigs and sparkly dresses and trying to picture me in both those things, then a very careful forming of words like "oh, that's, er, interesting..."

(An aside: in my 24 years of doing this, it's been interesting to note how the ID identifiers of "outsiders" have changed...When I was a kid, it was "Oh, you mean you do the dance with swords?"; when I was in my late teens and early twenties, it was, "Oh, like Michael Flatley/Riverdance?"; now, it's "Oh, so you wear one of those weird wigs?" People always pick the most obvious visual standout or stereotype of any little-understood activity, of course, and that's nothing new, but I do find it too bad that no one ever comments on the dancing itself, that the image of ID has come to overshadow everything else. I firmly believe that everyone should be able to wear what they want, since ID has never had a true traditional uniform as such, but at the same time I think it's a problem when all the general public wants to talk about is what dancers are wearing, and few in the ID world -- with the very happy exception of most DDN members -- seem able to talk about it sensibly without getting upset or defensive.)

ANYWAY. What I actually meant to talk about is me, at a brunch on Sunday with a few people I didn't know, trying to explain how dance takes up most of my spare time without sounding crazy.

Me: "Yeah, so right now is a bit of a crunch time where I'll likely practice or teach or otherwise dance 5 times this week, but otherwise I'm really only dancing 3 or 4 times a week, and yes you're right it IS a lot of jumping up and down which has resulted in several chronic injuries, and most mornings when I get out of bed I cannot bend my feet until they warm up a little, and I'm in physiotherapy for that, and the competition I'm preparing for really has no significance in the wider world but I'm pretty stressed about it anyway..." Gah, I DO sound crazy and people have every right to look at me askance.

I do have every right to be stressed about this choreo competition, though, 'cause my duet is still not looking very sharp. My partner now has most of the moves/steps down, but it's still pretty sloppy. We need to pull ourselves together, fast, and not only know the dance but be able to *present* it, which is of course mostly the point of these competitions. We've got 2 weeks; we can do it if we focus.

This past weekend was mostly OK, me having had some downtime amongst the dancing and brunch and checking off all the items on my to-do list, but I totally slammed against a wall of lethargy on Saturday that I was barely able to climb out of. I have no idea why that happens sometimes. I probably gave myself TOO much free time in which to accomplish things -- I do way better with deadlines. Pure shame goaded me into finally mobilizing on Saturday evening, but then I spent Saturday evening doing non-fun things where I could have had the night free had I kicked into gear several hours earlier. This is a hard lesson for me to learn, for some reason. I swear I'm a grownup most of the time...

Tonight: second-last rehearsal of my adults' a-cappella choreo, so I've got my fingers crossed that it's in fairly good shape. Straight to bed after, as I've got physio at an ungodly hour tomorrow morning.
re: Tada gan iarracht 2014
By seannettaPremium member
On Tue Feb 04, 2014 10:25 AM
Weird things my PT made me do this morning (because this is FASCINATING to you all, I know):

--sit astride the "high ladder barrell" (looks like this) as if I were riding a horse, then attempt to use my inner thighs only to lift my butt off of it
--use a bosu ball (this thing) to first lunge sideways against and push off of, using as much force as I could when pushing off but using core strength to stop the momentum and pause with that pushing leg in the air when I reached a standing position
--using the same bosu ball to jump onto with one leg, sideways, and then jump back onto the ground with the other leg, never letting the non-jumping leg touch the ground
--one-legged squats (one leg extended in front, squat until butt resting on heel, using a rope for balance)

The squats pretty much killed me; I got a little bit stuck and helpless at the bottom of my last repeat. But my PT says all these exercises are because she needs to find new ways to challenge me, and she thinks stability exercises (where you're thrown off balance in some way) might be the answer. I can't do any of these at home, but theoretically doing my usual ones might help the basic muscles needed for the weirder/more advanced versions.

Anyway, my point in bringing all this up is that as I progress, according to my PT, I am wondering how all these bizarre and painful exercises are making a difference to my everyday dancing. My initial problem that brought me to my PT in the first place was heel spurs. Obviously I still have them. My PT's theory is that if I don't stop dancing, the spurs won't go away, but what we can do instead is build up my body's strength so that I learn how to use it differently, and not rely on just the strength of my overworked feet and calves.

I felt a definite improvement in the summer/fall, but to be honest I wasn't dancing as much as usual. Now every morning I wake up with pain in my left heel. It's definitely not as a bad as it was before, and my right foot seems to be fine. And the pain usually goes away by the time I've walked to work or otherwise warmed up my feet. But it still hurts.

So have I learned to use my body differently when I dance? I'm not sure. My irish softshoe is most definitely stronger. Am I using my core more? I dunno -- I'm not always thinking about it. But I'm pretty sure I have more lift. In Highland, I can definitely feel it in my glutes when I'm particularly paying attention to turnout. So at least I know how to fire those muscles now. My 2nd aerial position is still terrible, though. In general, I can see the beginnings of muscle definition in my quads.

I'll never be as strong as I want or as pain-free as I want, I know. It's always a work in progress. I just hope I'm progressing at a reasonable pace.

Tonight: stepdance, then Highland, then errand-running, then cooking, then bed. Wasn't too good about the bed part last night -- was too wound up after teaching, as I always am for some reason. The a-cappela dance is looking good, though, so I am less stressed about that.
re: Tada gan iarracht 2014
By seannettaPremium member
On Thu Feb 06, 2014 10:57 AM
There are some days that are SO BAD that all you can do is laugh. It's better than running away, or swearing non-stop, or crying, I suppose. I reached that point yesterday at work, where one bad thing on top of another just kept piling up until it was almost comical, like we were all hapless characters in a movie of misfortune. I can't even fully explain it all without getting into the specifics of my job, so you'll just have to believe me that it was BAD.

I consider it a rather heroic effort on my part, then, that I made it to duet rehearsal last night. I had time to go home briefly beforehand, and the problem with going home first is that you never want to leave again, especially after a terrible horrible no good very bad day. But I made it, and we rehearsed, and the state of our duet I would now classify as "meh, OK."

We're not really making mistakes, our spacing is OK, and everything is just -- fine. But it doesn't sparkle, not yet. We watched a video of ourselves last night and agreed we just look like we're going through the motions, and not too happily. Our teacher watched it Tuesday night and said, "there's some good stuff there," but was concerned with how we don't connect much with each other on stage and could use some more technique and presentation clean-up.

Sigh. Every single year I wish that I was more prepared for the February choreo competition. Why do I keep doing this?? Probably because I love choreo, of course. But why can't any of us just get organized earlier? Maybe Feb seems too far away when we first start preparing in October or thereabouts. I dunno. Maybe we all need looming deadlines. But I just feel like it's a half-assed effort if we don't have it super-solid by the competition, and it's our one choreo comp of the year. Why blow it? Why go through this stress? I just want to, for once, walk into that weekend feeling confident, and I never really have. When you're confident, you can start perking up your performance. Right now we're just getting through it. It kind of makes me sad that all this effort goes into something that could be much better.

I'm probably just tired and cranky, I know, but still. I need to focus on sleep for the rest of the week -- 5 and 6 hours is not enough. I'm also sluggish because of super-stiff muscles from Tuesday's PT session (yep, apparently those new exercises ARE a challenge), and I'm not looking forward to a long meeting tonight. I think for tonight and tomorrow, it's time to just focus on trying to chill out in the evening sooner, get to bed and get to sleep sooner, and be a bit fresher, hopefully, on Saturday to get stuff done.
re: Tada gan iarracht 2014
By seannettaPremium member
On Fri Feb 07, 2014 10:26 AM
It's Olympics time!! I LOVE the Olympics; I am totally one of those bandwagon-jumpers who doesn't care one whit about bobsledding until it's Games time again, and who isn't prone to bouts of teary patriotism until I see an athlete hoisting their gold medal while the Canadian anthem plays. I will be glued to the TV for the next two weeks. I am glued to the TV right now, here at work, as I attempt to also, you know, do my work and write this and check out the athlete's outfits at the same time.

Yesterday came precariously close to another bad day, as my work building was evacuated about 15 minutes before the show I produce was set to air. But we barely made it to air on time, things slowly straightened themselves out, and the meeting I attended was even shorter than usual.

I do feel like this week was more tiring and less productive than I would have liked, but nothing to do about that but move on. Tonight I am having dinner with a friend I almost never see, and Sunday I have duet dress rehearsal, but otherwise I have a good amount of time to get stuff done. Will I rise to the challenge, or be distracted by slopestyle snowboarding? The tension is killing you, I know.

But this weekend I intend to:
--practice the presentation aspects of my duet choreo
--run through Irish dances once
--run through stepdances once
--do my PT exercises
--the usual boring array of meal planning, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundering, newspaper-reading, and errand-running

Go Canada Go!
re: Tada gan iarracht 2014
By seannettaPremium member
On Mon Feb 10, 2014 11:23 AM
Here's a novel idea: maybe I should actually pay attention to how I function as a human when trying to figure out how to be both productive and relaxed. I've been kind of going at it with the thought that I should wake up, go like hell, and then have relaxation as my reward. It's not working particularly well -- again, this Saturday, I had a few hours of sloth before I finally snapped into gear.

Here's the thing though: I already wake up and go-go-go every day during the workweek. My alarm goes off at six and, once I finally manage to get out of bed (more on that in a minute), I don't really stop until like 10pm most nights. So on the weekends, having to get up and immediately start doing something isn't a break at all -- it feels just like every other day.

There's also my internal clock. I really believe in the science that says people operate on different cycles, that there are essentially such things as morning and night people. I am a night person. I HATE waking up in the mornings. I mean, I'm used to having to do it of course, but every single day it feels like absolute torture when the alarm goes off and I turn my light on. If it only takes me 15 minutes to get out of bed, that's some sort of miracle. And I have a hard time winding down at night -- I'm tired and don't have problems sleeping, but my mind is always racing and coming up with ideas and I have the urge to, like, choreograph new dances at midnight.

I think my patterns during my two-week Christmas break are telling: most nights I'd go to bed sometime between 12 and 1am and fall asleep between 1am and 2, and I'd wake up between 9 and 10am. That would be so blissful for every day!

Since I sadly cannot change the working world, I must think differently about how I can acknowledge my internal clock where possible. I think that's what was happening on Saturday, when I slept in and hung out in my pajamas for a couple of hours. After that, I was good to go and ran around cleaning and grocery-shopping and cooking and so on, and then went out that night. I wanted to get more done, but perhaps I should start adjusting my expectations and allowing for the time I need.

Don't know how much I can do that this week, though -- this weekend is looming already, with my students' performance and my choreo competition, and my parents deciding to visit throughout all of that. And unfortunately, I did not feel good after yesterday's dress rehearsal of my duet. I do not want to go and start placing blame because a) I am of course not dancing perfectly myself, and b) my duet partner has been quite lovely about gamely taking on this choreo of mine, that contains a lot of weird and tricky stuff. But at the same time, I nervous about how she forgets chunks of it in the middle of performing the piece, and we should be way past the point of merely remembering the dance, and into the fine-tuning stage. We're trying to fine-tune, but I'm not sure the dance looks fantastic as a whole. At this point I'm starting to start bracing myself for a possible last place this weekend, and that sucks. We'll see, but I don't want to get my hopes up when I know there's going to be so many excellent and sharp choreos we're up against. Sigh.

Tonight is my adults' final rehearsal before their big performance this weekend, and I'm nervous but also at the stage of just letting the dance be whatever it is at this point. This is not a professional show, and there are beginners mixed in with more advanced dancers, and the audience knows that and loves us regardless. So having fun -- that's going to be my goal tonight.
re: Tada gan iarracht 2014
By seannettaPremium member
On Tue Feb 11, 2014 09:28 AM
Let's start with something other than whining, shall we? Fact: my students are pretty awesome. They have taken a difficult challenge -- to perform a choreography of shifting rhythms and varying tempos, set to no music at all -- and run with it, mostly with good humour. Last night, the first runthrough was the best I've ever heard them do it (because this dance is of course way more about the sound than the appearance). They got a bit tired at the end -- because I made them do it like 10 times in a row -- but I think it's going to be pretty good. I mean, I'm generally a never satisfied person, but I can say with some confidence that they're all dancing to the best of their ability, and really that's all I can ask for.

Now back to the whining. I didn't get to sleep til late, and woke up once in the middle of the night for no good reason, and got up at 5 to make lunch and get ready for physio. It's 11am now and I'm more than ready for a nap. And PT was HARD today. Well, it's hard every single time I go, but sometimes it's hard in the sense that I complete the exercises but am tired at the end and feel stiff the next day. This morning was hard in the sense that all the muscles in my body were shaking by the 5th or 6th repeat of each exercises, and by the final rep (I usually do 12 reps of everything) of each one I was convinced I was going to collapse and fall on my head. In fact, there were several exercises I was pretty convinced I wouldn't be able to finish at all, but pure pride kept me going, and I suppose that means I AM capable after all. Problem is, my legs were so jelly-ish at the end that I actually had difficulty walking down the stairs. I have no idea how dance classes are going to go tonight.

Tonight might be my last duet rehearsal. We could technically also rehearse tomorrow, I think, and we could probably use the practice, but really what needs work is our own individual presentation of the piece, and we can work on that on our own. And, to be honest, I'm kind of reaching the point of "it is what it is," which sounds defeatist but is really my attempt to be zen about the whole thing. We'll see how it goes.

After class tonight, my goal is to simply put these jelly-muscles to bed.
re: Tada gan iarracht 2014
By seannettaPremium member
On Wed Feb 12, 2014 10:02 AM
My jelly muscles are now wooden muscles, but that was to be expected. It's always a fun game in the mornings, waking up and trying to guess how I'm going to feel when I swing my legs out of bed and put gravity on them again. The my-muscles-are-working-hard soreness is fine, but today I'm a little worried about my left leg in general, which just feels irritated and "off." My knee is hurting when I turn it certain ways, and the big-toe joint is throbbing even when I'm sitting down. Did I just overdo it yesterday or really do something wrong? Ask me tomorrow, I guess.

My final duet rehearsal did not go as hoped, as my partner is still forgetting parts of the choreo. All I can do is cross my fingers that our own individual practising over the next few days is enough to bring us together into something that looks decent on Saturday night, when we get a runthrough of sorts in front of a ceili audience.

Out of this whole experience, I've definitely learned that I don't really enjoy this choreo process at all, and am unsure if I want to do it again next year. Part of it is simply bad timing -- the annual choreo comp is in February, and that just never works out all that well. In October we try to get ourselves organized, but before we know it Christmas is here and people are away and it's the height of flu season so people miss important rehearsals...I've just never felt ready, and never felt like I've danced my best at the competition, and my teachers are always super stressed out because the school has probably no fewer than 20 different choreos in the comp...

Of course, I love being creative and choreographing and I've really liked the process of creating a duet for the first time. But is it worth all the stress? I don't really think so. And it was frustrating to be a kind of choreo "orphan" in the sense that my teacher, who usually does all the choreo, didn't create this dance, and she seems hesitant to critique it. Last night she said literally nothing when we finished our runthrough, and I was disappointed by that. I understand that she's got many other people to worry about and is letting us do our own thing, but I guess I just wanted some sort of acknowledgement of what we've done, or a kick in the ass for not being as ready as we should be, or SOMETHING. Is my choreo even good, or is it too weird for a Highland competition, or what? I have no clue and feel a little bit in the dark. So yes, once again, trying to keep my expectations realistic for Sunday.

After Sunday, I really have to get my act together when it comes to practising stepdance more, and thinking about Highland exams. It's pretty shameful how I have to keep asking my teacher what my exam steps are, and faltering my way through them -- I would not accept that in one of my own students, so I'm pretty embarrassed that I'm doing it myself. I just needed to only focus on one thing at a time. Next week, I will review my exam syllabus thoroughly, start practising the steps, and start getting theory in order too. So no -- no break after this weekend, sigh.

Tonight I have a free evening, sort of -- I have to run around buying groceries and preparing meals and doing stuff I would normally do on the weekend but can't, partly because of the Crazy Dance Weekend but also because my parents are coming to visit. I love it when they visit, but sigh -- could they have picked a worse time?
re: Tada gan iarracht 2014
By SeniorLadyPremium member
On Wed Feb 12, 2014 12:20 PM
Out of this whole experience, I've definitely learned that I don't really enjoy this choreo process at all, and am unsure if I want to do it again next year.

But we have matching shoes! That alone warrants a duet, don't you think?
re: Tada gan iarracht 2014
By seannettaPremium member
On Thu Feb 13, 2014 09:18 AM
^Well, I suppose I have to make ONE exception for a red-shoed duet, especially since -- given the amount of time it takes to order said shoes -- it appears that special red cows had to be bred and raised and sacrificed in order to clad our feet.

Today I am spending as much time standing as possible, which is rather difficult when I have to sit at a computer for about 95% of my working day, and when I'll be sitting in a theatre tonight too. But this left knee of mine is greatly worrying. Yesterday, the longer I sat in a desk position, the more it hurt whenever I would get up. I was limping by late afternoon. In the evening, all of my walking during errand-running appeared to warm it up, and the pain lessened. Last night, I strapped an ice pack to my knee in bed, and when I woke up my knee felt pretty much fine. But now, at my desk at work, it has started to seize up again. I'm pretty worried about it, to be honest -- I have no idea what I did to irritate it. But I've got today and tomorrow and all of the daytime on Saturday for it to start behaving. Fingers crossed.

I also probably won't check in here again until the big competition, and performance, and parental-visit weekend is over...Gah, here we go.
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