Reflections on dance and life #4

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




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.

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.



Dear dance teacher

Ugh. Sadness. Where’d it spring from?
Wanting more. From my teacher, my salsa dancing, my city.
Cue the: Why am I bothering to do this, monologue again. Now my social dancing is solid so why not stop here as some social dancing is all Launceston has to offer.
More more MORE!
How do I stop wanting more?
Why do I hate wanting more?

Dear dance teacher,

I hate the inequality with us. Student-teacher. I’m the one going through hella-emotional rollercoaster on my dance journey which you have probably seen a hundred times before. I’m the one vulnerable while you could be detached for all I know.

When you hold out your hand to ask for a dance, it says so much. Others do it hesitantly or flippantly or insecurely. You put your whole being into it, it’s open, it says, I want to dance with you. Your hand waits there for me until I reach out and it’s like an embrace, like you’re bringing your whole presence right into your hands. That’s how I feel and I know you do this to everyone you ask, even when you must be exhausted after days of teaching or when you don’t really like the person you’re going to dance with. You’re a good actor and I don’t know how much I can trust you – my dancing is taking me deeper. And I feel like I’m out there in the deep water alone, not really sure if you’re there with me, involved, invested.
What does all this really boil down to? What is this uncomfortable feeling I have?
I can’t handle the one sided. Being the one who is doing all the vulnerable stuff.
I hate feeling like this.

Ohhh, bingo. There it is.

This situation is familiar to me.
That cold shock of realisation like a slap in the face or getting drenched by an unexpected wave – they don’t care about me as much as I care about them.
Having to walk away after you’ve invested so much emotionally to someone who you didn’t realise remained detached all those years. Eventually you realise the desire of wanting more from them will never be met. It is unequal, imbalanced. Ensue the walking away, pain, letting go.
It’s not you dance teacher, it’s me. Still carrying my wounds. How do I let go of the fear surrounding them?

So that’s why I’ll keep dancing…discovery.

C.D.W.M.E. Come Dance With ME!

So when I say I have a big salsa weekend coming up…now you can see why. Emotionally exhausting.

Change my internal tune
Wear what I want to wear
Make up a routine
Engage in foolish dancing with others XD
C.D.W.M.E !
(Come Dance With ME?!) lol a cute reminder for myself every time I salsa, which nicely captures the heart of all my goals. To help me be mindful to not fall back into old patterns.

Having these goals has slowly helped drag me out of post salsa slump.
I see now that each goal is tied to issues that come from rejection and devaluation of the self.
In other words, self acceptance and valuing who I am would increase my confidence and ability to embrace others; would create a positive internal tune that radiates out; would help me to be free in who I am and in my body; would create a safe place within for me to try and take risks from; would allow me to wear what i like instead of hide myself.
Of course that’s all theory, the actual living it out is the tricky part…

#2 Convoluted journey of a dancer: My dance goals

Last weekend, I stop my lesson halfway through. What’s the point. He knows I can follow well, why keep testing me with tricky moves. Why keep correcting my arms or my chest when no-one else here does that stuff so I’m feelin’ like a weirdo when I do it at class. I realise these are important things that will improve my dancing, but I can’t spend all this time and money driving technique home when I’m going CRAZY because now I’ve seen myself dancing on video i know I’m not dancing the way I want to dance!
So I tell him…when I watched the video of us dancing from last lesson. I tell him that’s when I FIRED him.
😀 😛 hehehe
How could he let me dance looking like that?! Frozen. Like a frozen icy pole.
Because of course it’s his fault. The world champions. Not my issue. LOL
Watching that video had sent me into a near emotional crisis!
Out of this…eventually spawned a new type of prayer life for me, using dance to help me reconnect with and really feel my emotions; a way of praying more meaningfully.
Isiah 45:3 I will give you treasures in the darkness.

Anyway, I realised that being in terrified awe of your instructor isn’t conducive to a free relaxed fun body. And that I should start trying to move more freely at class where I am less terrified. But now in my lesson I’m doing it again. Why keep going when still after 2 years with him, (ok ok, i.e 4 and a half lessons) I dance like Elsa. Frozen.

So I show him the video. His response: I’m not dancing I’m just stepping through the moves, not using my whole body. I need to practice dancing during class instead of just stepping, even when it’s an easy move I’ve done 10,000 times. I need to take risks. I need to let go. I need to stop caring what other people think. I need to get outside of my head, I’m inside my own head too much. Overthinking.

Again I’m suprised at his perceptiveness. My surprise makes me realise how I so wrongly judge the extroverted person. He comes across very extroverted and I don’t know if he understands my introverted soul. The slow time I take to unfurl.

Now the lesson changes direction. “DANCE!” he says!
If it were that easy I’d have done it already >.<!
“DANCE with me!” “Take a risk!” “Whatever you want to do, just do it!” Such quick upfront drawing-me-out makes my skin crawl. Makes it even harder to let go. Let it go. Don’t hold it back anymoo…okok we’re all well over that song 😛
Although I felt pushed which usually makes me turn and bolt in the other direction, it actually worked.
Next day I’m dancing my way through the workshops.
I go home, sit on the couch and out of nowhere start bawling my eyes out because of everything he said. Why? As in dance, in life.

Post salsa depression

I can’t stand post salsa depression. I just can’t shake it! This is when I imagine living in Melbourne for a year so I can go to regular classes that keep building me up.
Or maybe the grass is always greener.
It’s silly anyway because our small scene here actually suits me, I can slowly build trust with the committed regulars and work on my personal blocks.
To think I have to go through this again in November makes me wither! I can’t stand these highs and lows. I think being a highly sensitive person magnifies it for me, I’m looking around at my other salseros wondering how it is for them, are they seasoned at this, does it diminish over time. And this is from a small scale social! How would I cope at a congress or festival? I hope to get good enough to go, one day.

For my next lesson in November I want to prepare a short shine routine. Something that shows I’ve been working on my energy and musicality and body movement. I have many videos of myself salsaing in my lounge room and most are bleh but some parts are Ooo! How do I do that again! I want to find my own style that is sincere to me. I’d love to do a contemporary routine to work on my emotional expression too.

Times like this I always wonder, would I be brave enough to move away, I can’t bear the thought of being a nurse forever. Of course I’m only a nurse for part of my life. But I only intended to stay nursing for a few years. Now it’s difficult to stop.
What will be more difficult, to stay or to go?
I feel the lure of creativity in me and I wonder what I might be missing. The thought of pursuing dance makes my compassionate nature cringe. I’m dead sick of myself right now being so self absorbed with all this dancing business! Let alone if I pursued it, or singing or designing etc heavily.

Salsa slump

The high of the salsa weekend is over. Feeling weighted with the challenges that I face ahead. I am gentle and cautious and this is how I am with everything in life. Then I see on facebook, “Tango classes start today!” zomg Tango is perfect for me! Focus on footwork, technique and less body movement. Finally somewhere I might fit in.
Everything i pursue in life, my personality is the bane. My parents growing up: “Cooorn! Come on Corn!” Grade 2: Courtney is very quiet I’d recommend involving her in group sport or dance. Grade 6 netball “Courtney plays with her personality. She needs some aggression.” Singing at church: Give us more, more of you, more movement, more expression, more. University I’m about to fail my final year of nursing: “We don’t want to change you we just need to draw some things out from you”. Too cautious, too meek, too slow. In my piano: Be more experimental, take risks. In contemporary dancing: Run faster, jump higher, swing further. Now it’s happening in my salsa. Just let go, be free, take risks.

I have a block in my life. And it’s rearing it’s head again, in the area i used to get so much joy from. Feeling blue. So I go to Tango, hoping for somewhere I won’t be pushed and pulled.
And it’s perfect. *contented sigh* Refined and elegant.
Ten minutes into class “What training have you done when you were younger? I see your footwork, is excellent”. I hated that bloody jazz ballet in grade 2 but maybe it’s paid off! Here I can be a beginner again and progress will be easy. Stroking my ego. Repairing my confidence. Presumably the future of Tango will hold greater challenges for me, but for now it’s a safe space.

Why didn’t Alex tell me I’m a Tango dancer! Now I can’t wait to dance it with him.

Dancers world

Local fame, what we’ve always dreamt of!
…Soon i realise nobody i talk too gets the Sunday Examiner paper anyway >.<!


This is my story, from behind the glitz and glamour (lol…) of our “slowing growing scene” at SALSAme.

These weekends are always such an emotional rollercoaster. I get terribly nervous before my one on one lesson. Although for the first time it was not to the point of diarrhoea which was nice (TMI sorry XD). Only took a year.

Perhaps soon I’ll be able to speak more than 3 words to him at a time. lol.

There’s huge excitement in having a pro salsa dancer in a state where there are none, give us skills that we have no access to here as well as be unpretentious enough to come along to our social and dance with all the ladies when often we spend song after song sitting out as there aren’t enough boys.

Inevitably the thrilling high of the weekend is followed by a crashing low, which I now fear so much that I don’t even get excited anymore. For me it’s an existential-dance-low: knowing I’ll never get to his level, or even his students level and that he’s gone back to a thriving scene full of opportunities, and I am here in my town and now I’ve had a taste of what’s out there how can I be satisfied with this?

And just to add to the mix – I feel confused. I feel my instructor doesn’t *want* to dance with me at the socials. I know it. Intuition. Despite him being a very good actor. Does this mean I am a look-good dancer and not a feel-good dancer? :/ Or in some bland limbo between the two. I know he dances with me because I’m his student and he wants to test me. This time I unusually (& delightfully) got 2 dances with him at the social, 1 bachata & 1 salsa. Maybe this is because I showed him some progress and actually *danced* my way through the workshops, instead of just step step stepping.
On the weekend I met a dancer from Hobart. A great dancer. She led me in a wonderful dance. I watched her a lot at the social, hoping to learn from her earthy grounded body movement and her energy.
That was what made me realise I’m starving here in Launny.

I don’t think you have any idea what it’s like here. Or maybe you do. Have you ever lived in a small, isolated or semi-rural area where the only salsa community is comprised of fossils *ahem* joking joking! a bit of a lonely hearts club at times.
We have lots of new beginners atm which is wonderful, but there are few highly skilled dancers here for me to watch and learn from. Also confusing is our level of “intermediate class” is low compared to the mainlands and it rarely rises because not everyone stays on and commits to progressing their dancing. It’s like they’re there just to have fun or be social.
Fun!? Social!?
Lol XD
So I’m in this limbo land, I don’t truly understand where I’m at. The ‘things’ I face become more challenging things. With 4 private lessons a year my progress is slow, so slow that sometimes it’s actually backwards. -.-;

I am far from where I’d like to be. I’ve improved but I don’t even know if it’s possible for me to get there. While I’m here on this island state. And that makes me wonder to what end am I putting in all this time and money…