Let the Madness Begin!

Last night officially began our first St. Patrick’s Day practice! Overall I was really happy with how my team did. There are a few champs who need to get their head in the game and pay attention to proper positioning on stage/when to come out/how to stay in a line, but the littles were well-behaved enough and the adults are great. We actually ran the entire show in our 1.5 hours of practice, which is unheard of for the first practice of the season.

I hope the champs will come along quickly. They definitely have the capability, but I think because they focus so much on the competition side they can have trouble transitioning from solo competitions to group performances. Especially my champs, we only have one ~20 year old and the rest are only 10 to 13 years old. On the competition stage, you’re really only worried about yourself and where you’re positioned. When you’re performing, you need to worry about where you are in relation to everyone else, how to cohesively blend in with the group, and express more emotion/artistry than just flawless technique.

Of course I was dying during the last hard shoe number. I managed to maintain my weight instead of gain during my ~2 week break (I’m not much of a stick-to-it type I guess), but I really want to be in shape for March. Leading a team gives me a higher feeling of responsibility to be on top of my game.

Overall, there’s a lot to polish, but I think my team is in good starting shape and I’m looking forward to the shows!

A Brief Glimpse into the Mind

Well, into my mind, anyway.

I have not been up to snuff on keeping in my calories this week. Given the wonderful job I did the first week, I’m dreading my Sunday weigh in. If I maintained I can take that, but I worry I gained.

I’m not writing for pity or scolding, though. I’m writing because something occurred to me this morning.

The past couple weeks with the stress of work and my move, I’ve had a lot of “problems”. I worried about a bladder infection, bladder cancer, meningitis, chest pains, and whooping cough. There was nothing physically wrong with me that whole time. I’m probably forgetting some other mystery ailments. Then I realized last night, after eating far, far too much food, that it was the first evening in a long couple weeks that I felt fine.

But, I don’t like being fat and it negatively impacts everything I want to do. I need to figure out how to calm myself without it and return to rational land.

New Steps, Old Brain

One of my strengths in dance has always been my ability to pick up quickly on new steps. I remember them as soon as I’m shown them, and pretty quickly they make it to my feet. They don’t look good, they aren’t properly executed, but at least I know what they’re supposed to be. And while I’m still above average in that regard, I think my brain is starting to suffer from an attack of old or is too filled with old steps.

After scrambling to class after work and jumping in a few minutes late, we breezed through our light, single, and slip jigs to work on some changed in the reel. To encourage the kids, my teacher cheerfully informed us that the open champs have the same step in their reel, so aren’t we glad to have it in our novice/prizewinner step? Not me, no. But I caught on soon enough.

We drilled the right leg, then the brave children decided we should dance both right and left leg of the updated step. After a successful run through the right leg, I went into autopilot and bungled my old step with the update in my left leg. A few more runs saw it stick, but I’ll need to drill it at home to be sure. We then drilled the change in our second step, and I caught on amazingly quickly. Of course, left leg happens, but I was pleased by the end of soft shoe.

Soft shoe time always ends too soon, so we were on to changing into our hard shoes and going over the changes to the treble jig. Everything made sense in my brain, but going through to my legs is a completely different story. I also haven’t picked up on how the new steps fit in with the music. So there will be a lot of mental drilling along with physically walking those steps.

No classes for me for a while now due to going out of town for a work conference, so hopefully I’ll have the new steps somewhat engrained in my legs before I return!

Return to the Studio

This week I returned to our beautiful, newly expanded Irish dance studio. I felt like a bum being out of town and unable to help with the construction work for prepping the new addition to our studio space, but I am certainly enjoying the results. We used to have a large studio (~950 sq ft), small studio (380 sq ft), and tiny waiting/entrance space that was only about 60 sq ft, or smaller than a mid-size bedroom. As our classes grew, you can imagine it was difficult to fit 20 students plus their doting parents who insisted on making sure young Jenny tied her shoes right or needed to know what steps Kevin needs to work on at home and no, that simply cannot wait until we’re cleared out of the waiting area and beginning class inside the studio. We also couldn’t fit in a line across the back in the big studio anymore for many classes and needed two lines for drills. Our teacher has grown the studio so much in only four years!

We finally expanded into the neighboring space though, and now our small studio has become the new, spacious, amazing waiting room and our big studio is now the small one! I loved being in the new, bigger studio but I especially loved being in the big waiting room.

I was also able to get plywood, foam, and floor covering leftovers for my home studio I plan to build for a grand total of $90, saving about $300. Now I just need lumber for the framing, a glassless mirror, a ballet barre, and some foam squares for the non-dance workout area and I’ll be set in that room!

This blog is about my dancing, though, so back to that. The return to Irish went okay, but I could tell I had been off for a few weeks based on how winded I got. It was difficult to hornpipe by the end of class, and I need to remember my toe pads next time for sure! Overall, I was happy to be back, I was not completely disappointed in myself, but my exhaustion level tells me (a) I need to get back to running and (b) I’m happy I decided to postpone my next feis until February.

 

Moving Down the Scale

If you’ve been around these parts before, you know one of my big struggles with dance is my weight. Irish dance really can’t afford any extra fat, as the weight you’re fighting against when jumping should really be something that works to your advantage to overcome that gravitational struggle, mainly muscles. Also, I have a wedding coming up in a little over a year and I’m not happy with how I look.

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Oolong tea was a nice, friendly snack on a cold and snowy day.

Cue my food problems. Food is a big comfort to me and a way for me to destress and unplug from whatever is bothering me with life. It was a habit I picked up in childhood – partially from parents and partially from getting used to a larger intake when on a sports team. Over the years I’ve had bouts of successfully controlling the problem and bouts of just giving in to the craving to unplug via food consumption. I also have a supportive fiancé telling me I look good no matter how much weight I’ve gained since we started dating, which removes some of my drive to be more disciplined with my eating. Between a loving/somewhat enabling fiancé and the major stress of buying a house and moving, not only did dance have to go but so too did my nutrition standards.

 

So, on January 1st, I weighed myself in at 155 lbs (70.3 kg/11 stone 1). That might not sound heavy to many, but I’m pretty short and it’s definitely not all muscle. I’m the heaviest I’ve been since I left college and really close to my all time high. The New Year was a good opportunity for me to put my foot down and insist on getting back to my former…if not glory, at least a better comfort in my body and better fuel for my dance goals/wedding dress dreams.

Somewhat miraculously, I’ve been sticking to this goal more than a couple days and I dropped three pounds in the past week! There was certainly some initial water weight so I don’t want nor expect that rate of loss to continue, but I was very happy with the result. It was a struggle to stay on target some days, but other days came with built in food control with the general busyness of moving out of the apartment and into my house. In addition to getting more fruits and veggies, I’ve tried to do some more cooking at home rather than grabbing convenience food (i.e., pizzas). Since moving into the house, my accomplishments include crock pot chicken and dumplings, spaghetti with home-spiced tomato sauce, and chicken parmesan with tossed salad. Yesterday’s dinner was a chicken hot dog and bun, but hey, it was a long day and so too will be today!

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I’m no connoisseur, but this is one of my favorite wineries.

I’m also not without treats. I got some tasty frozen yogurt for a sweet tooth fix and gave myself a housewarming gift in the form of a shipment of wine. Time will tell if I can actually maintain my momentum, but at the moment I’m very happy with where I am in terms of eating.  Once I get a good groove there, I’ll focus again on my macronutrients to optimize them for dance performance.

 

Back to Dance!

Now that the holiday type season is over and I’m officially, completely out of my apartment and in my new house (eee!!!!), I can slowly but surely start focusing on dance again in the midst of my unpacking madness.

I kicked off the year right by dancing in an Irish pub for New Year’s Eve! After counting down the Irish New Year (5pm our time, but midnight Irish time), we performed two shows. We dance in this pub often for St. Patrick’s Day, but this was my first time at a different time of the year and it was a fun experience. Two of the adult dancers from our studio, one who hasn’t been taking classes lately, were there to visit with between shows as well. The pub was completely packed, which is no different than St. Pat’s except most of the pub was actually watching the show, which is quite different! It was a great way to start the year.

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Champagne toast at Irish midnight, just before taking the stage. Another advantage of being an adult in Irish dance!

 

Irish classes don’t begin until this coming week, but ballet was back on Saturday. It was fantastic to be in my other studio again, despite the cold and snow! A few familiar faces and a few new ones (to me, not the class) made for an enjoyable time. We focused mainly on isolating movements. For example, when doing a dégagé, the rest of your body or standing leg should not shift, but the working leg should lift seemingly effortlessly while the rest of the body does not adjust for the movement. I put substantial effort into that. I also received a compliment on my articulation through ronde de jamb, which made me gloriously happy.

The next feis is in January, but I will probably skip it due to a work trip the prior week which makes it difficult and probably not worth it, but then there should be a double feis (two feiseanna in one weekend) in February. Unlike last year when I danced at the Adult level, it should be worth attending both days!