Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Dancing - Because I Can!

"From the oldest of times, people danced for a number of reasons. They danced in prayer... or so that their crops would be plentiful... or so their hunt would be good. And they danced to stay physically fit... and show their community spirit. And they danced to celebrate." Ren, Footloose

A Jive Fusion to Footloose
choreographed by Matthew Patrick.
When I was in Kindergarten, I was sick every Thursday. (Thursday was gym.) Nobody bought into this malarkey and my mom and teacher soon made the connection I did not want to go to gym. Due to poor gross motor, at the age of 8, I started taking Physical Therapy and continued ‘til I graduated primary school. Being able to do simple things like balance on one foot, toss a beanbag into a bucket or keep up with the other kids was difficult. After my cerebellur brain tumor was successfully removed (December 2010) and my brain regained a more appropriate shape, things got easier. I made a “TO DO” list and included “Become a better dancer.” I started taking lessons and fell in love with ballroom dancing. Now, I am dancing to celebrate.

I’ve never felt this good in my entire life. Yes, becoming a better dancer was on there, but it was a vague and amorphous goal. I did not expect my learning would include: Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot, Jive, Swing, Bachata, Salsa, Hustle, Rhuma, Cha-Cha…. And the list continues to grow.

Jim Clark and me, just before our pro-am
competition in Smooth.
I started ballroom dancing in January 2014. All my instructors had infinite patience. I spent many hours with Matthew Patrick, my first instructor. I saw him so much, if you looked at my calendar, you'd think we were dating. I had private lessons and then group classes and more private lessons where I could review what I learned in the group class. We were also working towards our performance of a jive fusion to Kenny Loggins’s Footloose on April 6. While he was attending a conservatory, Matthew Patrick took some time off so we could do a reprise of the performance in May. That same day I also did a pro-am Fossee style number with Miranda Eldridge to "All that Jazz" from Chicago. And during all this I started working with Jim Clark. He understood the weakness of gross motor, continued balance troubles and difficulties of overcoming a brain trauma.  He worked with me to build more strength and stamina with dancing. He suggested that we compete in the upcoming pro-am competition that between several studios in the San Fernando Valley. I was hesitant, but really wanted to do it. I confided these hopes and fears with yoga instructor, Laura Haug of Yoga Blend. She told me that if I had any interest in doing it, I should do it because I wouldn't want to look back and regret I didn't try this scary thing. Jim and I had a solid partnership and he continued to push me towards not just knowing key moves in begining bronze level, but to execute them with confidence and strength.  In July 2014, we competed. It's something I don't regret and now in addition to getting another marathon on the books, I want to add competitive ballroom dancing. As much as I loved dancing jive fusion and the rhythm dances, working towards this new competitive level of competing in American Smooth quickly had my heart, especially the Foxtrot.

Dancing has been one of those things I wanted to do, but never expected it would enhance my life so much or be so important… from the first performance on April 6 to the team match in July to continuing with a curriculum of working on building core strength, balance and right down to tendon strength. The emotional strength I have gained is something I did not anticipate. (Although, this seems true with many of us- we set out to achieve one goal and in the process earn something else.)

Miranda Eldridge and me dancing
to "All that Jazz."
I wanted to write more about the experience closer to it, but free time was devoted to dancing or running or writing…. Sitting down to intellectually write about all the emotions that come from  not only excelling in things you struggled with most of your life, but dealing with the ongoing PTSD, was not time I could commit.  I needed to use that "free time" and emotional space to physically make my body understand what it was learning while continuing to emotionally deal with being in positions such as the hammerlock or rotating between partners in group classes. Some of the later has proved and continues to be a larger struggle.

"From the oldest of times, people danced for a number of reasons…"

I will continue to dance. I cannot stop. The better I get the more I want to do it. To show off, to get better…. A better line, a better lift, better hip movement.  The more I do it, the more I understand how to move my body and be comfortable in me. It has not only given me physical strength and fortitude with confidence, it has given me emotional confidence in how I carry myself.

No comments:

Post a Comment