cornCorn. Singer. Dancer. Nurse. Lover of music. Pursuing God (trying…). Secluded. Pianist. Wannabe gypsy. Silly.

Magical unicorn dance connection

Convinced I’d got all I could out of my hometown salsa scene, finally confident enough after 5 years of salsa dancing (!), I branched out to an interstate Latin Festival. Having bought early bird tickets before my health crash last year, the festival was a long way away, but every couple of months leading up to it I would be yet again suprised just how slow my recovery was and I realised that by the time the festival came along, I would not be better, I’d still be recovering or would be considered permanently fatigued so would have to be careful.

During the months before illness hit, waiting for my first ‘real’ social dancing, hope and expectation builds that *this* will take my dancing to the next level, *this* is the answer to my stagnant phase, lack of progress, *this* will fulfil my never-ending frustration at the lack of scene back home.

Here I am, midway through the festival…and all I want is to go back home.

I got what I came for – a challenge, inspiration, different leads, different moves.
And I was disappointed.

I was still looking for something more, I wasn’t sure what. But I felt these people wanted something different – to look good doing impressive moves, few of them really looked *at* me, let alone held me, I felt lost with all the one-hand-leading and being thrown around by complicated patterns.
I say to my well seasoned salsa friend, “the leads here just push and push even when I can’t follow all the moves they carry on pushing and I wonder can’t they see I’m missing leads why not do something easier?” She replies that they are not dancing to my level. Why not?! We might have a good dance and not a frustratingly interrupted one!

I knew that feeling lousy was perhaps shaping my experience for the worse so I try to turn it around and remind myself of my goals, what I came here to achieve.

Grounded. I can take up this space. I am allowed! Just dance! Feel the music and don’t question, stop second guessing myself! Open to my partner, no matter who, no judgement on them. Be fully present in every cell of my body.

Cute boy approaches.

“Oh man! Here we go again, I’m over this. Look at him! So image conscious! Look at him in his fancypants shoes and his suit jacket and his….well…his jeans.”

I catch myself.

Open to my partner, no matter who, no judgement on them. So stop judging! Don’t ruin this dance with a closed attitude before it has even begun. You don’t know anything about him or how he will lead you.

He tells me he is Pete from Sydney.

Pfft.
Sydney. City slicker.
Oi! Courtney! Stop that!

He takes my hand leading me onto the crowded floor, I turn in to face him, ready for another duel. Be fully present, no expectations, no judgements, I remind myself. Ooo! He is just a bit taller than me, I’m 176cm. My arms rest into the embrace…
Wow! I have a silent jaw drop moment.
THIS is what I’ve been waiting for.
Every inch of our hands and all the way up our arms, into our embrace is buzzing with engaged connection. Here is someone really holding me, not afraid to look at me and just feels so damn good in my arms. The entire dance was such a pleasure, the whole feeling of it was a mutual, “I don’t want to let go of you.” Magical unicorn connection. I lean in to give the end-of-a-really-good-dance-peck-on-the-cheek-thankyou but he stops me and says, “That…was beautiful.”

Then what do I do?

I avoid him the rest of the night!

I was so happy, I didn’t want to let that feeling go.
And I was convinced it couldn’t be repeated, it was just a lucky moment, a product of his quality leading, my attitude – capturing and challenging my negative thoughts, a good song, him doing LA style salsa on1, the only style I have learned, him not pushing me out of my level, we both had a similar personal style, a smooth style of movement, there was little room on the floor so he did simple compact moves meaning I wasn’t a frenzied following zombie, I could relax and do body movement and arm styling. And he wasn’t afraid to show me he enjoyed it, and when I held my own during a turn or kept my lines I could see he was appreciating it.

Now having danced with heaps of guys, I know better, that yes it was all of those things but that’s not to say it can’t be repeated. Should we meet again, I’ll be putting a ring on it.
What I thought would satiate me has only fuelled the fire. When does this end?

Reflections on dance and life #4

Dead space

The period of stepping away from salsa, absorbing my mind with different things provided a much needed perspective shift.
Months on, unsure how my health would stand up to the next lesson, but determined (with permission from my doctor) to try just one. The thought quietly crosses my mind if I dance now at this fragile state of health, I may be doing damage that robs myself of the ability to dance later for who knows how long.
But I cannot say no. I can’t face the loss of dancing from my life when so much has gone out of control. When I have had to give in to my body and let it run my life. When work tells me I cannot return to normal hours.
At the time it felt like a waste of a lesson, I made no milestones & we worked on my arms again for the sixth lesson in two years. Yet in hindsight it was a very significant lesson.

I went in having given up salsa in my heart, I was so sick of being pushed and pulled and not fitting in. All this conflict I was feeling was the struggle between my mad desire to be a better salsa dancer, and my personality- I will always be gentle and cautious not fun, carefree and risk taking. So why am I bothering. I try to explain to him I don’t want to do salsa but he is scanning the playlist and doesn’t seem to hear me. I haven’t done any salsa since I saw you in August, having been sick with the dreaded lurgy ie glandular fever. I complain about the lack of salsa scene here, I don’t know why I’m bothering even trying because there are no performance opportunities here or competitions. The ballroom scene has 3 pro couples in Tasmania, an expert teacher who is a national judge and socials every single week!
It’s too late…the clave starts playing and I cannot say no to his outstretched hand even though I know my salsa will be in some sad sorry state of disrepair.
I’m off balance everywhere…“The floor is so slippery!”
“Is it?” playful look in his eye.
Hm I think he means I’m not using my feet. So I put some more stomp into my stompers and find that indeed the floor is not so slippery after all…! Over a few minutes my body slowly remembers and my dancing improves, he is pleased with my quick ‘recovery’ as he calls it. Me too, was expecting weeks to get it back.

My homework is to use every opportunity I can to do cupping styling with my arm. Even though he has taught me this movement before, I never actually use it. But now he’s simplified it so I can see every space and moment where it will fit in. Not that you want to use it all the time but I have to overdo it so it will feel natural & automatic.

It was a significant lesson because although at the time I didn’t give it any attention, I found something had changed in me. There was freedom of movement in my hips, I was less a frozen icypole! Yet I hadn’t DONE anything. No salsa in months! This time, there had been no training my body with physical practice at home. Yet here I was seeing results.

Interestingly my instructor didn’t comment. Maybe my technique was shite; maybe he didn’t want to draw attention to it knowing how ridiculously sensitive I am. All he did was briefly stand me in front of the mirror and push my ribs side to side, saying, “Now we need to start freeing up your rib cage / upper body”. I didn’t realise he just gave me one of the very tools I needed to go to the next level in my dancing.

I knew I could do it, body movement, I can remember after my cousin dragged me along to my first salsa lesson (“to meet boys!”), dancing around like loonies to Latin music in her trashy one bedroom unit, discovering my body movement. And now, I use it every time I practice alone in my lounge. I just have trouble letting it out to play in public. I needed to learn to trust that my body knows what to do, to be less fearful, to take risks.

In the physically dead space of illness something had changed within me. My self-trust. And it flowed through my dancing, bringing my body movement from the invisible to the visible.

 

 

Reflections on dance and life #3

Face

Denial coloured the months prior to getting the virus. I’d been feeling shocked to see how I looked dancing salsa on video, but not wanting to face anything about myself. Just kind of lost.
My catalyst came  in the form of someone I respect pushing me out of my comfort zone. The little push helped me to begin my exploration, starting the painful turn from denial, leafing through the grizzly pages of who I am, I came across what I thought was a moment of clarity: As I was watching this dancer on video, I became aware of my desire to be like her, and something within me rejected that desire. “I’m not her, I’m me”. I knew wanting to emulate or wishing I was different, was not the way forward. But I was feeling overwhelmed and over thinking and so a lie was born, “I will never be the dancer I want to be because I can’t change who I am”. I really believed that, and it just opened the door to giving up.
At the time it felt like a lightning bolt moment of clarity, of course this is why salsa is such a struggle and battle for me. I’m trying and fighting to be something that just isn’t in me. It shows me that overthinking sometimes leads to untrustworthy thoughts, and when i’m feeling negative i need to question my thoughts.


When I got the virus I denied that I was sick. I refused help for a week until I moved into my parents. After a couple weeks convalescence I returned to pushing, denying, and ultimately learning the hard way that I was prolonging the recovery. A couple of months passed, I got better. I felt about 90%. My first shift back at work.
I wasn’t really better.
I had no idea how fragile that “better” was. A relapse of PVFS/onset of CFS occurred and finally I accept I am not ok. I am so shocked at my exhaustion that I stare at my hands expecting to see decrepit elderly hands. I am finally allowing myself to rest, accepting that my body is saying STOP! But this time, the rest doesn’t help. There IS no confusing cycle of exhaustion, rest, feeling temporarily ok again, exhaustion, rest, ok, repeat. There is just a constant heavy broken body that can’t seem to cope with anything, sunlight, baths, noise, chemicals, thinking, being upright.
Boy was I scared as it dawns on me what have I done.
Thankfully I was only like this for about a week before it started lifting inch by inch month by month. For some, it is more severe and lasts months, years. CFS can cause death. Isolating, only understood by those who have experienced it themselves. Even I couldn’t grasp what was wrong with my friend who had CFS for 5 years until I got this PVFS myself. “So what are your symptoms again? Or, so…why can’t you work?” I’d ask, time and time again, feeling blankly confused but curious. It never sunk in until now.

Now my catalyst was a dear friend. I didn’t want to be visited, I was embarrassed. I was pale and thinner but I still didn’t look sick, I looked alright. But she understood the experience of CFS and when she spoke these words to me, every cell in my body felt the full blown truth:

It is HARD
to admit
that

I

am

weak

Some kind of wall inside me broke and I was flooded with the pain of this deep truth I had been ignoring. Hearing it aloud from somebody else allowed me to accept. To release the denial, to see the truth that had evaded me, clouded by other peoples words and judgement, furthered by my own self-doubt. I now knew with certainty that every tiny whisper I’d heard but not heeded from my body was truth.
Listen to that whisper. Trust my body.

I had no idea how powerful my own self-doubt was, whittling away my health. People have no idea the effect of their frivolous words. To this day I can still find a hatred and resentment in my heart. God grant me forgiveness, dissolve this bitter anger, it is of no use.

In my time of physical weakness I discovered inner strength, the facing of denial, the uplifting of deceptions.

Reflections on dance & life #2

Look like Her

Even after my milestone social, I had given up improving as a dancer. Because the challenges I face have been with me for a lifetime, they will not be easy to shake. During the post-salsa-weekend-crash I was watching this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rPOhLAGpLe8
“Ooo! I want to look like her!”, I thought.
In the same moment I realised, I will never look like her.
Because I am me.
A tiny flame of hope in my heart was puffed out. This was when I gave up salsa in my heart.
It became clear.
I will never be the salsa dancer I want to be, because I can’t change who I am.

Cue my tango epiphany! I should be doing tango!

Happy though I was to realise there might yet be a place on the dance floor I can call home, the despair hung over me like a cloud, a bug that wouldn’t go away. Each morning I woke to think, what is this thing that hovers over me still, I cannot shake it.
I’d spent the month feeling very tired but unsure why because I was on holidays (I hate going to work in winter, reason enough to take 3 weeks off eh!). Unable to keep up with the rest of the world, but I pushed on anyway. That is what I’d done the last 3 years to make it through 4 days a week of tafe and 3-4 days a week of work, that’s more days than are in a week!
The next week, I was exhausted. Dragging myself around wondering how I can sleep for so many hours yet wake up dying for more sleep. (Is there such a thing as pre-viral fatigue? O_o)
Then I became sick with a strange virus. I escape into the sound of Ed Sheeran on repeat. Distraction from misery by imagining myself moving to the beauty of his music.

All of these depressing dance musings go to the back of my head of little importance, as it takes all my energy to navigate recovery from the virus over the coming months. I find myself letting go, my dance progress becomes less important to me, I stop taking it so seriously.

Overthinking, mellowing and fixating on the many wrong things about my dancing was keeping me stuck in a cycle of negativity that I could not work my way out of no matter how much I tried, thought, reflected or blogged about it. I had no idea that my progress would lie in the stopping of all these things. In the rest.

This bitch of an illness provided a well-timed break, a break that I would never have chosen for myself.

Reflections on dance and life

7 months on from PVFS I am starting to wake up from the dead. Some reflections from the sidelines of my salsa journey over the last year.

Who we are and what has formed us, build a unique combination of hindrances and assets that we bring to our learning. It takes an insightful teacher to navigate these by providing a safe space, balanced with pertinent pushing, to open the door for students growth.

I was horrified to see how I looked the first time I saw myself salsa on video! Since then i have learned that apparently it’s normal to feel nauseous the first time. Suddenly I saw everything I dislike about myself blatantly screaming at me from camera, in the form of dance where each physical aspect that needed work reflected something of who I am.

Over the 3 months since the video I wasn’t wanting to face any of these things. Just kind of lost.
Then, so desiring change, I went into my August lesson deliberately to speak to my instructor a tiny bit about what was going on for me. His response was so en pointe that I couldn’t ignore it, it was the catalyst to make me finally take the time to face what lies beneath my blocks; to spark me from my mellowing. I spent the afternoon very emotional, writing blog after blog. Finding courage to switch my usual dowdy black pants for an outfit I actually liked despite feeling too fat to wear it.
I got up the next day and took on his challenge of dancing not just stepping through the moves, finding I was moving more freely and having fun.
A milestone social was made as I discovered what it is to be satisfied!
No longer song after song sitting, waiting, watching, overlooked.
I got asked for dance after dance, and for the first time ever I got repeat dances!

Some small thing had changed within me I think because of facing these blocks, rather than letting them drown away under the surface.
Others could feel it, for the first time I sense that people want to dance with me.

Overlook.

I was so defeated after my August salsa lesson last year that I overlooked some positives that occurred. Firstly my amazingly one-tracked brain impressed my instructor!

He identified that every time he leads using my left arm, I’m not following & losing balance, so he gets me to try giving equal connection both arms. I’m right handed. I am concentrating so fiercely. As we dance I feel beat 1 is behind us somewhere: Hm there’s the 1! Why aren’t we ON it! He always corrects if we’re off time. Maybe he is too focused on assessing my arms. So I put it out of my head because I had to focus on my weak left arm.
He full on STOPS mid dance gasping at me with shocked delight, “Zomg we were just dancing on 2 and you were following me perfectly!” like he’d just discovered an exciting treasure.
Reminds me of this moment https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d8eskuLLkk4 when you’re playing Lara Croft Tomb Raider, you’re running through the monotonous formula of find lever, push lever, open gate, run, shoot, find button, open door, run, shoot, and then Oooo! I found a secret! *cue music* *shiver*

Me on the outside: Nonchalant. Oh cool, I’m not really sure what that means.
Me on the inside: JOY WOOHOO! Absolutely giddy with delight that I impressed him! I can do on 2 when all I know is that it’s something that you do when you’re good!”
Then he shows me off to my teacher saying, “Look! What are we doing that’s different!?”.
Her: “Ooo you’re dancing on 2!”
Him: “Ok it wasn’t as good that time Courtney because you were thinking about it.”
Ever keeping my head on the ground…lol.
As soon as I knew what we were doing, I resisted it, it didn’t flow and I wasn’t following as well. Because I was thinking about it. Yet seconds earlier my force of concentration and one track mind somehow switched off that thinking part of my brain enabling me to follow new things that I hadn’t learned before.
I was so happy! But a little bothered that my immediate response was to hide my delight, as if it’s wrong to be pleased with myself, he must be wrong I can’t be good, or if I am then I shouldn’t say it out loud! Refuse, deny, squash.

Secondly, when using my arms he explained to not throw the movement away, that it’s a part of me not an add on. I try again and immediately get compliments! *mini swoon* “Très elegant!” *air kisses*. I was so shocked because I thought my arms were terrible because for 2 years he’s been trying to get them up and out and they just won’t budge.

Receiving praise is less frequent and harder to elicit the further along the dance journey I go.

A gentle rediscovery of energy.

Today marks 3 months since I was sick. “What do you do with all your time!?” People ask incredulously. A question that bounces out of one who can only be well.
At first being sick blurred the weeks, then morphed into sleeping 18 hour days, slowly becoming recovery and then “I think I’m better!” which turned out to be totally fickle. Setback. Body s l o w e d  f u r t h e r.
Now, I’m not back to normal. I am accepting a slower pace of life.
‘Things’ pile up and I don’t care! The shower is disgusting and its taken me this long to say never fucking mind! I accept my body is a temporary granny. I am liberated from housecleaning! Also from the many projects my creative mind likes to dream up, which I never had the energy to do when I was normal anyway causing cycles of pressure and guilt.

These days if I’m not at work for a couple hours or Tango class, I don’t really do anything. It’s been a pleasure to find there were a few more hours this week where I didn’t need to rest. So I’ve started munching on this delicious book, The Sound Of A Wild Snail Eating.
And now…a spring of water in dry land, for the first time in months I feel this tiny desire to create. Ah so good to feel something other than “dull…
stuck in the mud…
…my body just won’t GO”.

Now…a gentle rediscovery of energy. Mini setbacks week after week from stomping or even just toeing the line between activity and rest – living a normal life and healing- made me cautious. It’s still up and down but there is nothing left to cut out from my life! Exercise, housecleaning, tafe, life groups, piano, singing…already gone. Some dancing stays, Drs orders. You cut out everything you get depressed. That bug stuck to me for a short while. Starting work helped to dissolve its cloud over me.

Now when my energy comes out to play I am very cautious what I give it too, who I share it with. That has always been the way of my personality but now it is different. It runs me, it is no longer subject to what others think of me, my desire to be like them, incomprehension at why I feel different, frustration at tiring so easily. I had to give in, it has shrunk my world, my world has become little. Hopefully God will expand my life in new ways. In the stillness. In the quiet. In the paring back He will bring something new.

If I look a little blank when you ask how I am…lol…XD