Archive | June 2014

Shoes Again

Yeah, I know, I’ve harping on shoes so much, even I wish “barefoot ballroom” was a thing!

Having given the two and a half inch heels a solid three month run, I really don’t think they’re going to work out in the long term.  It’s true that I can tolerate the pain longer now than I could before, but it remains a significant hindrance that no amount of optimism can help me ignore.  The bolero, with all the dramatic moments and its characteristic rise and fall, has made it clear that being in pain changes how I dance in subtle ways I can’t overpower with will.  I’m doing the right steps, yet they’re not right – I am beginning to see that there’s a distinct smallness and an ever-so-slight hesitation in everything.

Some of it is due to my own mental hangups, but the heel height and the degree to which pressure is continually shifted to the front of my foot are the primary problems.  I’ve been doing a private lesson in the two and a half inch heels, followed immediately afterwards by a group class, where I wear the one inch canvas shoes I got when I first started out.  The moment I switch to the lower heel, the pain eases dramatically and I can walk normally again.  Within a few minutes, I am able to dance in the group class with almost no pain at all (unless I accidentally screw up and kick my own feet, which I’ve sometimes done).  The difference is huge.

It’s like this: three months in, my body is still saying that this is wrong, and you know what?  There’s zero reason for me to force myself to work past the pain.  I’m not a ballerina in training.  I’m not aiming to be the consummate competitor.  I just love dancing, enjoy the challenge of learning, and relish the discipline it requires.  Sure, I like the way the higher heel looks, but I like the act of dancing itself much better.  The pain hampers my efforts to dance, therefore, the two and a half inch heels must go.


The Mountain and the Molehill

DISASTER INCOMING It's a cat-egory four!

It’s a cat-egory four!

I’ve been dabbling in mountain biking under the tutelage of the Significant Other, which is probably hilarious to watch as I get spooked by tree roots, trees in general and OMFG hills.  He’s kindly been keeping me on the easier trails while confining himself to my slooooow beginner pace, though as a serious cyclist, he could probably fall asleep at the speed I ride.  Trust me when I say he’s got the time on his hands to observe my behavior!  (This is dance related.  You’ll see.)

The other day, he noted that every single time we go out, I tend to get seriously freaked out to a point where I can be moved to tears by the perceived horrors and difficulties of having to jump a minor curb – but only at the beginning.  Once we actually get going, I’m totally fine, even when I do run into trees, clip pedals on things and fall over, or stupidly stop short halfway up a hill.  (You can take my word for it: that ain’t smart.)  Since I’m past the panic mode stage by then, I just walk back to a better starting point and try it over again.

This personality quirk has not gone completely unnoticed by me.  There have been many situations in general where I’ve had to tell people that while I am upset right now, I’ll be just fine if we act like I’m not and continue on normally.  If we focus on ironing out why I am upset or how we can change what we’re doing because I am upset, I won’t be just fine, because I am then focusing on being upset and not on the task at hand.  I need to redirect my mind and emotions by channeling energy into something else.

I hadn’t really thought about it in connection with dancing before, but it totally applies.  It came to mind because they have a number of television screens at the dance studio, and they all happened to be playing that tap routine the last time I was there.  Indeed, they played it twice.  Another gal who was both in the tap group and trying not to watch the video said she noticed that I tend to tense up/totally need to relax, which makes perfect sense!  Once I trip myself up over something like the music’s timing being off (or not knowing what I’m doing), it takes me a little while to reestablish my sense of equilibrium.  Unfortunately, with this ballroom business being what it is, you can’t recover slowly like that – there’s just no time, since your turn to dance is now over and done.

I basically have to figure out how to get back to center much sooner than I currently do.


I should just dance in these, really.

I should just dance in these, really.

I dunno about you, but I have wimpy feet.  Real wimpy.  They’re fat and they’re flat, and thanks to a combination of genetic factors, my right foot is particularly sensitive.  (Why couldn’t I have gotten the thick, wavy chestnut-hued hair from my family instead?)  Switching to dancing shoes with a higher heel was and has been a challenge as a result.  My endurance (in terms of longer wearing time) has increased since I started, but I don’t know if the pain will ever completely go away.  I suspect it’s rather like most women I know and their regular high heels: “comfort” is merely a level of pain you are so used to, you can handle it (if you even think about it).

That brings me to the bolero.

Up until now, I’d done a grand total of two group classes on the bolero, whereupon I decided that I Wasn’t A Fan because bleeping bleepity bleep that crap hurt my feet!  The way the class worked required a lot of pausing at key moments to make sure all our body parts were doing the correct thing.  Unfortunately for me, the longer I have to hold a position where my weight presses on the balls of my feet, the more loudly my feet begin to complain.  I’ve realized that after a certain pain threshold, I instinctively shift my weight to the outside of my foot while simultaneously moving through the problem parts as quickly as I can.  This is problematic because it messes up the whole look and rhythm of the bolero.  So yeah, I concluded that bolero was blah.

Last week, however, Instructorman decided it was time to actually learn learn the bolero, since he sees it as a nice transition between rhythm and smooth styles.  I agreed to go along with it as my opinion isn’t fixed, but I specifically warned him that in the group classes, my feet hurt like hell and my tolerance was low.  (Ironic, really.  My shoulder popping so bad I scare him?  Oh, no big deal.  My feet hurting?  BIG FREAKING DEAL.)

Since then he’s asked me several times how I’m doing, which is nice of him to do.  During the first lesson, I made it for about forty minutes before I was at the end of my rope, but yesterday, I only made it about halfway through.  He suggested I simply remove the shoes.  I resisted because I felt I needed to continue practicing with a consistent heel height and width rather than changing these factors all over the place.  And for that matter, I wanted to increase my endurance, not give in to my lack thereof!

Instructorman was like, “no.  Seriously.  Just take the shoes off.”  He said he had other students who couldn’t even make it past twenty minutes, and I certainly didn’t need to kill myself!

I thought about it for a moment, then chucked the shoes, only to feel like the world was going weird.  I felt short – not just average short, but really short!  I’d always logically known that Instructorman had a good five inches of height on me, but I didn’t really perceive the height difference when I first started wearing the higher heeled shoes.  (This may have been because I was still freaking out about the pegs attached to my feet.)  Removing the 2.5 inch heels while in the middle of the lesson put the height difference front and center.

Artistic Prinnie Thought: Interesting!  Dancing ballroom while barefoot makes it seem much more earthy.


Realistic Prinnie Thought: You don’t have those callouses anymore.  This still feels better, though.

I’ve been debating trying a different shoe brand, perhaps at a higher price point, since I hear you get what you pay for when it comes to dance shoes.  Or maybe practice shoes (which are almost uniformly hideous)?  I’m still reluctant to switch to a lower heel, but I have to admit that getting out of those shoes felt great!





p.s., if I’ve been trying to dance the bolero for longer than five or ten minutes, I will be unable to dance the rumba immediately afterwards.  Instead, I will create a unique mix of the two because I can’t keep it straight right now which I shall call the bolumba. Rulero? Rumbero!

The Self-Made Myth

Last week, my fifteen year old car attempted to go out in a blaze of glory.  Being ancient, however, all it managed was a puff of smoke and rigor mortis in a position that failed to impede traffic.  It was kind of sad since I’d had the thing for seven years, but mostly, it was unexpected.  I’d gotten it inspected the week before and it checked out with a clean bill of vehicular health.  Suffice it to say that competitions are not in my immediate future!

Instead, Instructorman suggested that I participate in the Friday night party student show every three weeks or so.  The general idea is that we’ll have a good short-term goal to work on, as well as additional practice for me to get used to performing in front of people.  He said that while maybe I didn’t think I was frightened, there was still an underlying tension and stiffness he could feel when we danced before an audience.

I move so naturally.

I move so naturally under stress.

The first thing I thought was, well, if crap hadn’t gotten screwed up, then there wouldn’t have been a problem in the first place!  (The second time we attempted to dance the showcase routine, we ran out of music and I burst out laughing at the end.  Oops.)

The second thing I thought was, well, if I am really as good as I said, then crap getting screwed up shouldn’t have been a problem in the first place!  I had to admit that Instructorman was right.  I may not feel particularly freaked out prior to performing or competing in front of other people, but I can’t let loose and move confidently yet, either.  The acknowledgement forced me to revise my approach, for the “go-getter” is not as go-getty as she thought she was, and the creative type who has long been separated from the creative world but remains intimately familiar with the world is only intimately familiar with the world she remembers, not the world as it now is.

I’ve always thought of myself as someone who follows through with what she says, and folks have often reinforced this opinion.  I break problems down and brainstorm solutions; I check off items in order to accomplish larger goals.  When I wanted to move to a big city, for example, I decided that I needed to learn how to drive and own a car before I went.  So I signed myself up for lessons, got my license, purchased a used car and packed up my stuff.  I worked this notion into my personality so thoroughly, the idea of performing in front of others seemed like no big deal.  After all, if I take thorough care with the prerequisites, I’ll be 100% OK!

Except I’m not quite 100% OK, and that nice trait leaves out the fact that sometimes, it takes a good long while and additional work before “OK” is even reached.

Or the entire “been there, done that” narrative.  Okay, certainly, I’ve done multiple types of performance in front of audiences large and small.   But this doesn’t take into account the fact that I’m out of practice.  The story is old.  An old story works when it helps you to interpret the present, but it holds you back when the present is rewriting the plot.

Crafting With Cats

Crafting with Cats With a lot of practice and hard work, cats can become quite handy at many tasks.  Sorta.

Crafting with Cats
With a lot of practice and hard work, cats can become quite handy at many tasks. Sorta.

Or, “Visions of My Future Flash Before My Eyes.”

I know that I will never want to spend thousands on a dress that someone else puts together, but for some reason I am totally okay with spending thousands on a dress if I’m the one making it.  In preparation for that eventual timesink, I have been slowly gathering and reacquiring things.  I located the sewing machine.  I saved a bunch of pictures for ideas.  I rediscovered the location of my bead collection.  I got some new straight pins.  I looked up solutions to problems I remembered having with my machine (tension).  Did some research and found a pattern I can order, one which should be relatively easy to manipulate the bejeesus out of.  To psych myself up, I got some cheap fabric to make easy-peasy drawstring bags out of, since there’s no quicker, easier way to make yourself think “yeah, man, I can do this!” than sewing something vaguely rectangular.

After wearing Ye Cheape Dress to my first comp, I concluded that I wanted to shorten the skirt some for the spring showcase, at least in front.  Upon further study, I saw the skirt was merely two rectangles – why, that’s my favorite shape because of the lack of effort it requires!  This ought to be easy!

Uh huh.

Let me introduce you to my cats.  There’s Rowena, a.k.a. “Twubbles” or “Sharkcat.”  She likes stealing socks and standing in front of monitors.  Her older, more responsible and much more elegant sister, Mikayla, is also known as “Doods,” or sometimes, “Who has a soft fuzzy tummy!?  You do!  Yes you do!  Ooooh let me pet you!”

Rowena and Mikayla Soft, furry, adorable machines of destruction.

Rowena and Mikayla
Soft, furry, adorable machines of destruction.

So you know what happened, right?

“No!  Pins are not toys!  Augh! You can’t eat that!  If you nick the fabric with your claws and tear it, I am going to be so mad!  Nooooooo I just got that skirt all spread out nice and flat!  STOP WRAPPING YOURSELF UP IN IT FOR THE LOVE OF … okay, yes, actually, your feetsies are very cute.  I shall pet you and love you and adore you …”

The Significant Other says I need a legit table.  I’m not sure that will help unless it comes with an anti-cat force field.