18 days until Embassy Ball, and the emotional rollercoaster ride is in full swing. Confidence comes and goes depending on how my solo practice or lesson went. I know it’s all part of the process, but geez, can’t I just skip to the end when I’m super confident and balanced in my routines?
This past week, lessons consisted of more rounds and breaking down what Teacher wanted me to improve. I had a scary moment at the beginning of my lesson on Friday. We started off with a practice round and on the first short wall of the Waltz, I felt a sudden burst of pain in my lower back. I kept dancing, of course (the show must go on!), but after the music ended, I had to ask Teacher to pause the round. For about a minute, I was bent over wondering what the hell I did and why did it hurt so much. Slowly, the pain started to subside, enough that I felt comfortable continuing. As we went through the other three dances, the pain subsided to nothing but a dull ache, more focused in the top of my butt than my back.
I iced my lower back/butt along with my knees when I got home, and then went to bed with a heating pad. Nothing more than a dull ache remains and it doesn’t impede any of my movement (including during an hour of solo practice today). I’m pretty sure I strained muscles that weren’t properly warmed up and they spasmed in protest. A cautionary tale for everyone!
This is why stretching and warming up are the first two things in the sample practice routine in The Solo Practice Guide for Ballroom Dancing. It’s so easy to injure ourselves when we’re not paying close enough attention to our bodies’ needs. I’m lucky I only strained the muscle.
It’s surprising that this incident didn’t happen on Tuesday instead actually. My lesson got moved last minute and I had to rush home from work to walk the dogs and grab my dance bag before running to the studio. I was 5 minutes late, so I threw on my shoes and we dived right into Tango. Zero time to stretch or warm up. Again, I was lucky. Or, it helped set me up for Friday.
Muscle spasm drama aside, Friday’s lesson focused on intention. Teacher emphasized the importance of practicing intention in my arm styling and head position. When I’m not paying attention, things tend to go neutral and flat. Practicing the intentional movement helps reduce the need to actively pay attention to where my head is because it will automatically go where it needs to go.
In between the excitement and happiness about getting back on the floor, I have bouts of uneasiness. They usually come after a challenging lesson or practice. A big part of it is I just don’t know what to expect because I’ve never competed at the Open level before. So it’s like I’m competing for the first time again. I don’t know who I’ll be sharing the floor with or what the ballroom will be like later in the session after the bronze and silver events are over. There are higher expectations at the Open level. What was good at the Closed levels isn’t good enough at the Open level. I don’t know where I fall on the scale, which adds a new layer of pressure that I don’t know how to respond to yet because I have no experience. So it just sits there. Maybe that’s why my glute muscle spasmed! I didn’t realize I had the weight of an extra demon hanging on my waist like a toddler trying to get Mom’s attention. No wonder.
Every day is a chance to improve though. I worked on my balance in practice today and every run-through had a wobble here or there. I could say I failed at my practice session goal, or I could remember that in order to improve my balance, I have to throw myself off-balance first.
What are you working on right now? Do you have a competition or performance coming up? Share in the comments so we can all cheer each other on.