Drill Baby Drill

Work has finally slowed down a bit and I feel like I can get back to blogging. As I keep trying to up my training regimen, and failing, I’m hoping that staying accountable via blogging to my one loyal reader (hi Dork!) will help.

Some highlights from the last couple weeks:

  • My Irish teacher says my turnout is noticeably improved, and even used me as an example to the other Novice kids that I was “trying really hard and getting better turn out even though her feet turn in naturally so you can do it too.”
    • To be fair, this only applies to soft shoe. She notes my feet turn back in for hard shoe. Still, progress! I’m slightly pigeon toed and really need to concentrate to keep my feet turned out.
  • Last week in Novice/Prizewinner class there were only 4 of us, so we had a little contest for each dance. I was the Light Jig, Treble Jig, and Actually Remembered The Steps to Job of Journeywork That We Learned champion. I don’t care if it’s lame, I love being a sticker recipient in class with my fellow ten year olds.
  • My teacher says my bangs are much louder…now just to get my trebles louder too.
  • I’ve noticed some improvements with speed in my legs, though that still comes and goes.
  • I finally made it back to ballet class this past weekend after a month off for travel, performing, and competing. I did well and it was a super encouraging class.

And now, getting back to the post’s title: drills class last night.

Being a holiday there were only 6 of us in class, which for drills class is very…painful…due to an increased amount of dance and decreased rest time. My teacher was great about giving us some much needed breaks, though!

I thought my stamina was a bit better in class, which is wonderful, though there is a lot of room for improvement there still. Or maybe we just got more breaks than normal? I did a bit better with speediness in switches (which lead into tricks like leaps) and in one of our more difficult cross key drills. Hard shoe was particularly painful though because I’m breaking in new shoes. While the short (~15 min) amount of hard shoe drill time made wearing them possible, I could barely do anything towards the end of the class. Today I’m wearing athletic sandals at work because real shoes are not an option while breaking in dance shoes, and I may or may not be able to give them a go for class tonight. Prepare for tomorrow’s blister update.


Bonus: I led a performance a couple weekends ago. The kids were great minus one catastrophic wig meltdown (they’re kids after all!) and we were very well received by the festival where we danced. We had two performances – the first was on the main performance area and our full 30 min show, the second was in a back parking lot and a reduced 15 min show. After our first performance, though, they liked us so much they upgraded us to another full length show and left us in the main performance area. After, one of the moms bought me Thai Iced Tea ice cream. It was amazing. You must find and try it. It reminded me of bubble tea in Taiwan, but in ice cream form.


Bonus 2: Sneak peak at my home dance floor! I’m about halfway done building it.




Still Dancing

I’ve had a lot of non-dance things going on, so I haven’t been able to get back into blogging. Hopefully one day soon things will settle! In the meantime, I just had a feis this past weekend that I was dying to post results from.

Although I still have a long way to go, this was by far my best performance since dropping down! I moved up my traditional set by scoring a first – my first blue ribbon since dropping down. I also got second in my hornpipe, which I haven’t placed in since dropping down. I also had two thirds and a sixth, and two dances with no place but I was only 1 point behind the last placing. And I killed the traditional set – 5 points ahead of second place!

All in all I’m motivated to keep pushing forward!


My hardware

A Ballet Pick-me-up

I finally returned to ballet this morning after three Saturdays off due to St. Patrick’s Day and illness. I was very happy to get back to the ballet studio and had a great time!

We did all our usual exercises: plié, relevé, and tendu warm ups, dégagé, piqué, tendu into fondu, rond de jambe, frappé, grand battement, and some extra pliés and relevés thrown in to many combinations. Nothing particularly intense to the average ballet dancer, but I am still just in fundamentals (the class before beginner), so we’re still learning! We also did some tendu/plié/relevé and a waltz step while in center. The waltz step was super basic – we even did it in 6th position. But after a few odd times of practicing the waltz step in class I’m starting to feel more comfortable with it.

The best part of today, besides seeing my classmates again, was I actually did well. After a tough time in Irish this week, I actually got some praise in ballet today. Including for – gasp – good straight legs! It was the confidence boost I needed heading into Irish again next week.

Dance Class Woes

This week has been tough in class so far. I’m not entirely sure why. Part of it could be getting over a cold I had the past week. Part of it could be I’m being held to a higher standard the better I get. Actually, I’m probably just not very good. Yet.

We’ve had small classes this week due to most schools being on spring break (side note: traffic is glorious this week since so many are out of town). Monday’s drills class only had six, and yesterday’s Novice/Prizewinner class only had five.

Drills class is always good, but it was tough. I was having a lot of trouble keeping up on tempo, especially but not limited to in hard shoe. My teacher gave me a variety of ideas for improving, but overall she said she didn’t really know how to answer my question about speeding up my legs because she’s always just been able to do it. That…didn’t make me feel great. But at least I have some ideas.

My regular Tuesday class was not as good. I was really struggling to maintain my stamina so much more than usual. I’m not sure if I ate poorly, gained weight, wasn’t really over my cold, or what was going on. I pushed as hard as I could, including a “good energy” comment from my teacher towards the end of the slip jig where she knew I was dying. We were all getting comments about not pushing through to the end though, so it wasn’t just me. Could have been the small class number resulting in less rest for us, or maybe it was the unusually long period of rain/clouds we’ve been having (not complaining – I’m so thankful for the rain because I was getting tired of having another fire every day!). I was particularly frustrated when I got told off for being off time on one of our slip jig drills. I knew I was off time, I was just trying so hard to keep my legs straight that I was stiffening up and couldn’t move. I’ll have to do that move myself at home in front of a mirror, because I did feel like I was keeping my legs straight but I wasn’t getting the praise the other students were getting.

Despite, or rather because, of all that correction and crap-feeling this week, I have a game plan for the rest of my week. I’ll be doing my ankle and turnout strengthening exercises, walking around up on my toes (demi pointe for you ballet types) and turned out in my hard shoes to work on balancing on them, and doing a slow treble drill we did last night to improve my form on my trebles. I wasn’t the only one struggling with them, but I know my form is weak and part of the reason I’m slow and do terrible in hard shoe. As a slight excuse, I was the only person in the adult class learning hard shoe at the time I did, so I didn’t have time to slowly learn proper form. I just kind of got thrown in and we didn’t do a lot of basics before I was learning more advanced steps, since the other adults had been hard shoeing for years. I guess Novice is as good a time as any to correct it before trying to plow forward.

I Survived

An hour and a half long recital, ten performances across almost twelve hours, and four additional mini performances later, St. Patrick’s Day has officially come to a close.

My team did an amazing job. Considering most of them were around ten to twelve years old or younger, they kept it together well and we only had some very minor hiccups. All venues more or less received us well. I think some of our best audiences were the elementary school (our first show at 9am) and the last bar (7:30pm). The school was a lot of fun because we had one of our beginner dancers join us who attends that school, and we got to feature her in a solo and had them give extra applause at the end. We also danced at a preschool with some very, very small children who were absolutely enthralled. I heard all the other teams (including the three other teams from my studio) had a wonderful time, and total our school had 225 performances across two states!

I took a nice epsom salt soak on Friday, but didn’t bother on Saturday and I really should have bothered! Even class last night was still a bit tough on the feet.

Now that the madness is over, it’s time to focus again on competition and my own training. I’m looking forward to a likely return to ballet class this Saturday, and I need to get moving to finish building out my home studio. We ran into a snag with the plywood floor because the pieces were too big to fit through the tiny basement landing, so in addition to buying final supplies I must also borrow some equipment to cut the boards in half so we can fit them through the door. Tiny basement landing continues to be a curse upon our plans for using the basement!

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I was dying towards the end of my last performance!


Jelly Legs

A three hour practice + forgetting my toe pads = sad dancer feet.

Despite my lapse in toe pad judgment, the rehearsal went extremely well. Not just for me, but for our entire studio. Our teacher even told us that it was the best we’ve ever looked, and this is our seventh year of St. Patrick’s performances and third year for our recital.

The adults aren’t in much of the first act, so we took the time to practice our special



numbers at the end of the first/beginning of the second acts. Our ceili went far better than last Thursday, so I’m much less worried about that. We may end up giving each other verbal cues on stage Sunday, but at least we aren’t bumping into each other because someone goes the wrong direction. We ran through the hour long show twice during practice, plus some additional practice in between, so I was very sore when I got home and a foot soak was a must. Overall, though, I’d say we’re ready! I’m also really excited that my 2-hand reel choreography that I created with a fellow adult student will be featured in the show.

Yesterday was my regular novice/prizewinner class, and we did a combination of solos and team dances. My feet and legs were still a bit sore/painful from Monday’s practice, so I was having trouble putting in full effort. However, it was a very good class. I have a few things to work on and I’m not sure how to do it in the next couple weeks due to St. Patrick’s Day, but hopefully I’ll find the time/space. My punch is too fast in my first step of my reel and I’m getting off time (along with everyone else) with a new update to our second step of the treble jig. My teacher took out a part of the reel that had been vexing me, though, so I’m very excited about the new update! It just wasn’t good choreography, so I’m glad she changed what the school directors gave her. We also did a lot of stepping through the hornpipe which was extremely helpful. However…there is a lot of left leg work to do still.

Today is a rest day from dance, and my feet are absolutely thrilled.

Normal Operations May Suspend in the Wake of St. Patrick’s Day

If I only update erratically, or not at all, don’t despair – I’ve simply fallen into the hole that is St. Patrick’s Day. ‘Tis the season!shamrock-stpatrick_82r

After four dance classes last week (St. Pat’s practice, regular novice/prizewinner class, adult class for St. Pat’s, and ballet) I amazingly still love dancing, but it’s only going to keep ramping up from here.

Show practice went very well last week. We had time to run the show twice and hit the few areas that need tweaking on top of that. It’s not perfect, but we’re sitting pretty and I’m hopeful my team will do an excellent job. Regular class went well too. After my feis results the previous weekend I have been determined to work hardest on turnout and cross. I have a long way to go but I’ve already progressed over the previous few years and I will continue to do so. Adult class was also enjoyable. I hated how late it was (I didn’t get home until almost 10pm), but it was nice to be back with my adults again and not be the worst dancer in class for once! We practiced our special adult-only numbers for the recital.

Speaking of…it’s all about to start! This Sunday is our parade followed by our recital, and that’s followed Friday by 9 (!) shows from 9am to 8pm, then a couple performances on Saturday. Dancing legs, give me strength! I had 12 e-mails about show stuff yesterday. That’s fewer total shows than last year, but I think it’s because St. Patrick’s Day is on a Friday instead of the middle of the week. Seems like there is less interest in having us the weekend before/after, but we’re completely booked the day of.

To round out this healthy complaining (don’t we all have a love/hate relationship with St. Patrick’s Day?), it really frustrates me when we’re doing a dance like a ceili, which is SO DEPENDENT on you knowing your own spot and carrying your own weight for the team, and someone continually screws it up. It’s fine if we’re just having fun in class, but I get frustrated when we’re practicing for a performance and someone’s continued poor dancing/ability to know where to be on stage throws off the whole team. I’m really hoping it goes better tonight and the culprit practiced over the weekend, because I think it’s very embarrassing to have a ceili fall apart on stage. It’s like that time in middle school band where our director stopped and restarted one of our pieces because there was no salvaging how badly it went off the first time.

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.


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!