An up, a down, and a decision

I had a double feis this past weekend, which is one feis Saturday and a completely different feis Sunday, rather than the more typical set up of one feis but different competitions (usually a champ day and a grades day) each day.

The first day was great. I messed up my reel, of course, as I always mess it up due to nerves, but overall I was pretty happy with my dancing. I got a 2nd in my slip jig, which was very exciting, and I placed in my treble jig, traditional set, and light jig. After having problems placing in the big 4 dances (reel, slip jig, treble jig, and hornpipe) since dropping down, these were good results and the most places I have gotten in a single feis since dropping down.

The second day had me questioning my entire participation in this sport. I had a good time during competition and felt that I did well, maybe even better than the day before especially for my reel. Then I saw my results: 5th in my reel, 4th in my slip jig, and that was it. I was so disappointed and angry. I had seen other dancers thinking they didn’t do that well, and here I was with poor placings while those others got many placings/high placings. How terrible must I look to do poorly next to them? Is my entire perception of myself and my ability a lie?

I spent the entire drive home doing a mix of stewing and contemplating. Clearly I had two choices before me.

The first was quitting. I had a good run, but I just started too late. I’m too old, too heavy, too bad, too lazy. Who am I kidding thinking I’m a good dancer, or could ever hope to be one? Why am I trying to keep up with kids? There’s no hope for a 28 year old beginner. Maybe I’ll just take the adult class once a week for exercise. Maybe I’ll switch to ballet, where there are no competitions. Or maybe I’ll just stop all together. I could do a lot of other things with my time. I could try harder at work. I could do a lot of hiking again. Maybe I’ll just sink all my money into traveling. Maybe I’ll just sit on my couch and get fat.

The second was trying harder. Throwing myself into practice and perfecting my technique.

I chose the second. And thus starts a new chapter in my dance career. I’ve crossed the threshold from beginner to thinking I’m good, and now I’ve crossed the next which is knowing my weaknesses and making them better.

On Wednesday I’ll be getting the last supplies I need to build my home studio, and I will practice until I have so much turn out and cross that I’ll bring tears to the eyes of the judges who are so insistent that my turnout and cross isn’t there.

My next feis is in May, and I will make damn sure it goes better than yesterday. This blog’s tagline will come true in the not so distant future.

Because when it all comes down to it, I love being a dancer, I enjoy performing, and I had a lot of fun at the feiseanna this weekend, sans the existential crisis after awards on Sunday. Dance makes me happy.

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Awards from the better of my two days

Loving the Studio

There are many days after work where going to dance feels like the last thing I want to do. I’m worn out, I’m hungry, there’s a million things to do at home that I’d ignore anyway if I stayed home, the usual excuses.

However, with St. Patrick’s Day coming up I knew I needed to make it to Monday class, and with a double feis next weekend I knew I needed to make it to Novice/Prizewinner class. And I’m so glad I did, because when I’m in the studio and dancing I am very happy indeed!

Monday Teams practice is especially important to attend because if you are missing, you’re not just impacting yourself but the entire team. We ran through our entire show (~30 min long) twice. Overall it was going very well and I’m confident we’ll kill it during the crazy whirlwind of shows next month! There are a few spacing and “staying in a straight line” issues to fix, but in general no major kinks.

Solo practice was hit and miss for me yesterday. Lots of stickers for the kiddos for Valentine’s Day, so we did a lot of recalls (dance once, then about 1/2 or so dance one step a second time for stickers/bragging rights). I didn’t recall (bottom 4 of 10) in the light jig despite thinking I had done well. Good marks for single jig and reel, but then I didn’t recall for the slip jig. Fortunately I got specific correction that I executed all steps properly, but needed more turn out and cross. Since that was a focus of the light jig as well, that was likely my problem there even though I thought I had nailed it. At least I know what to practice! I also got an honorable mention for best arms in the show-version of the slip jig. Adding arm motions really makes the dancing feel more like a performance and art, rather than simply a competitive sport. I love being able to both compete and perform.

Hard shoe was all around bad. I am doing better in my traditional set (St. Patrick’s Day) compared with how I’ve done traditionally, and I’m nailing butt kicks and whatnot, but I always feel messy and like I don’t have strength or know what I’m doing in the hard shoe dances. Treble jig is feeling more solid (and I got a sticker for that one), except for the new second step. Depending on how it’s going next week, I might run the old way for the feis just to increase my chances of medaling. Hornpipe still feels awful. The first step is getting more solid, but I’m a mess in my second step. I need to hurry up and build my home practice space so I can go through it slowly and just work on improving my hard shoe performance in general.

One positive though. We were drilling the end of our hornpipe step because no one was getting in all the butt kicks. It’s treble toe treble hop back, with a butt kick before the toe and on the hop back. The teacher explained there were two main issues, one being just not moving our legs fast enough. I was an example of legs not moving fast enough, but the positive was in using me as an example, she also pointed out that she could tell I was trying hard, and that I always try very hard in class, but I wasn’t getting it because my legs were still moving a bit too slow. Even though I need to improve my leg speed, being recognized for my hard work in class was very rewarding!

Sticker Love!

I’m officially not to old to appreciate a sticker as a reward for good work! I got two on Tuesday, one in slip jig and one in hornpipe.

We did a combination of practice for St. Patrick’s Day and solos practice in Tuesday class. The Fairy Reel still makes my old lady feet hurt, but I made it through, and my solo reel is starting to come along well. Now that I can finally do punches, the update to the first step is solid. The second step is a bit more shaky, but we drilled the new end piece a while and it’s starting to get better. I just need to concentrate more on keeping my legs straight and snappy.

For slip jig, we practiced with arm motions again that will be used for performances. I’m only doing the second steps for St. Patrick’s Day, and I still have a hard time coming out of the turn on my left leg and into the leap when doing the arm motions. We did a step down the line after practicing slip jig, and I was honorable mention after the top two for arm motion. Ballet is coming in handy yet again!

Of course, no class would be complete without hard shoe, my nemesis. I can tell the dances are starting to improve in general, which is good, but I’m still not happy about it. I really need to get my practice space built at the new house! We did a Novice vs. Prizewinner buttkick competition for our hornpipes and the Novices somehow won. I got most of my buttkicks in, but I still can’t move my legs fast enough on a fast treble hop back/toe to kick my butt on the way down.

Performance practice on Monday went great as well. My teacher thinks my team will be ready to run the entire show next week, which is unprecedented. The little champs are still having a hard time keeping a straight line or knowing where they need to be in relation to each other on stage, but the beginners and adults are all doing pretty well. One of the Beginner 2’s is dead set on being able to do some hard shoe in the shows, so I sat down with her after class to write down the set part of St. Patrick’s Day (the set dance) so she can practice at home. I remember how badly I wanted to do hard shoe my first St. Patrick’s Day too, so I’d like to see her succeed. Now that I’m older, though, sometimes I wouldn’t mind sitting out the hard shoe numbers!

Cross Training Ramp Up

Now that I’ve settled in with three dance classes a week (2 Irish, 1 ballet), the time has come to incorporate my cross training! I’ve been adding to my training load slowly since the beginning of the year to avoid the burn out of too much training at once.

Yesterday was my first run. Due to my backslide, I’m starting right where I did a year ago (oh dear, 2016 feels like a waste) with my intervals. I walked to a little reservoir near my house that has a nice 0.6 mile (~1 km for my metric friends) dirt path around it. It has been beautifully¬†warm around here the last couple days. A bit of wind, sunny, and 50 F (10 C) when I was out. Fortunately no sunburn despite forgetting my sunblock! I did 10 sets of 2 min running, 2 min walking, My heart rate recovered fairy well for the first 8 sets, down to around 130 bpm or less by the end of each walking interval, but the last 2 I could only get down to around 140 bpm. I’m not sure if the path is more flat than the one I used to run before moving, or if by some miracle I’m in better shape than a few months ago, but I was pleased with how it all went.

No photos, but the trail had a gorgeous view of the mountains. I avoided all geese, and even saw some sea gulls (who are a long, long way from the sea!). Also saw a kestrel perched nearby.