I solo practiced at the studio yesterday! First time in 7 months. With talk of competing again in early 2021, 2021 being only three months away, AND only one lesson a week on the books for the foreseeable future, I thought it was time to get back into the solo practice habit.
It was also the first time I’ve solo practiced in Teacher’s new studio. I was spoiled at my old studio. I was allowed to come and go as I pleased, day or night, seven days a week. Now it takes more coordination to make sure the studio will be open and there won’t be more than one other lesson happening. Unfortunately, my usual Sunday mornings are no longer an option.
Saturday afternoon wasn’t a bad alternative. Although I did find myself getting a little restless waiting for my appointed time. I ended up working out for an hour before heading to the studio.
Along with time adjustments, there were necessary space adjustments that had to be made. My old studio was huge, as you can see from this throwback post I shared a couple weeks ago:
Practically every studio in the area is smaller in comparison. I’ve had enough lessons at the new place to have a feel for it, but then there was also the matter of a private lesson happening while I was practicing. So in order to keep a respectful and safe distance, I basically worked with one wall.
All those logistics didn’t stop me from getting a good practice in!
I had a moment after arriving and putting on my dance shoes when I looked at myself in the mirror and thought “Ok, I’m here. Now what?” My solo practice skills were rusty.
I returned to the tried and true framework in The Solo Practice Guide for Ballroom Dancing.
In case you’re new to me, the Solo Practice Guide is a book I published over two years ago, designed to be the ultimate practice guide for the adult ballroom dancer who has a full Life to contend with outside of their ballroom passion. If you’re like me with a job, home and/or family to take care of, then you probably don’t have hours a day to spend in the studio practicing. But you still want to improve your dancing skills so you can fully enjoy everything ballroom dancing has to offer.
My solution was creating a solo practice framework that was strategic and adaptable. Whether you had 15 minutes or 2 hours every day or only once a week, you could apply the framework to your solo practice time and ensure a productive session.
I’ve always liked beginning my solo practice session by warming up with some basic steps. As a Smooth dancer, that usually means progressive Waltz steps to get the body in “ballroom” mode. Once the heel leads and rise and fall are awake and active, I’ll move onto my focus rounds.
For this first return to solo practice, I opted for choreo review. I only had an hour before I needed to return home, so I gave myself about 15 minutes to warm up and then 15 minutes each to review Waltz, Tango and Foxtrot.
For Waltz, I continued working on the technique and styling aspects that we’ve been working on in recent private lessons. Since the choreography was more fixed in my mind, I could add these elements easily.
For Tango and Foxtrot, there was a lot more walking through steps as I tried to remember what they were and then referring back to old videos. The focus was choreo review, but that looked a little different for each dance, depending on how much and how well I remembered the routines.
One more “logistical” challenge – I had forgotten how distracting it can be to practice with other people around and how self-conscious it makes me, especially when my own teacher is there giving a lesson. Logically, I know he’s focused on his other students and even if he happened to catch a bit of my practice, it’s not like he’s going to judge or shame me for making a mistake or doing something imperfectly. That’s the whole point of practice!
Still, those inner demons are sneaky buggers and couldn’t care less about logic. I did my best to tune them and the other lesson out, and focus on what I was feeling in my own movement.
At the end of the hour, I had sore knees and a sense of accomplishment. It felt good to be practicing on an actual dance floor again, and even if space was limited, it was still a lot more than I have in my living room!
It certainly isn’t “back to normal”, but like I’ve been writing, pre-pandemic normal is gone. It doesn’t exist anymore. This solo practice session was one more step toward making the best of my new normal.