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?

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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
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.

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

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. 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 my last lesson 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 don’t use it because I can never see where to use it with our leads. he showed me how to find the spaces to use it and it’s easier now I just have one piece of homework. Something to be said for working on less goals at once.

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.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. I find myself letting go, my dance progress becomes less important to me, I stop taking it so seriously.

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

Reflections on dance & life #2

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! 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…Too safe and predictable – take risks. Too controlled – let go. Engage – get outside of my head. Stop caring what other people think.

Over the 3 months since seeing the video I was lost in negativity not wanting to face any of these things, thinking that I needed to analyse and uproot each thing in order to move on, which sounds a ghastly process so naturally I procrastinated doing that and just wallowed.

Eventually speaking to my instructor about what was going on for me his response was so en pointe that I couldn’t ignore it, it shook me up and was the catalyst to spark me from my mellowing and face what lies beneath my blocks. I spent the afternoon emotional, writing blog after blog.
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. I gave up salsa (for the 3rd time…lol). I will never be the salsa dancer I want to be, because I can’t change my personality, I’ve always been safe, controlled and inward. At the time it felt like a lightning bolt moment of clarity – of course this is why salsa is such a struggle for me! I’m trying and fighting to be something that just isn’t me! Cue my tango epiphany! In this moment, I realise I am built for Tango.

I got up the next day and took on my teachers 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.

Despite this progress, I still believed I’ll never be a good salsa dancer because it’s so polar to my introverted personality and this despair hung over me like a cloud. Happy though I was to realise there might yet be a place on the dance floor I can call home -tango, this bug wouldn’t go away, each morning I woke to think, what is this thing that hovers over me still, I cannot shake it. It felt like a black cloud clinging overhead, for a few weeks.

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.
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 his beautiful 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.
In hindsight now I’ve woken up from that despairing place, I know I don’t need to change who I am to improve in these areas, they actually have nothing to do with introversion they are just less developed parts of me from anxiety or the way I’ve been brought up. Taking risks, being experimental, less self-conscious more engaged are good things and working on them will round out my personality more while still being true to my quiet nature and introversion.

Overthinking my flaws was useless, it lead to despair and untrustworthy thoughts – me thinking that I can’t do salsa because of who I am felt like a lightning bolt moment of clarity but I can see now it was a lie. Question my thoughts.

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
Dance!
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…

#3 Convoluted journey of a dancer: My dance goals

Wear what I want to wear
So after the workshops I’m on the couch, I ring my mum sobbing on the phone.
“I wish i could wear a dress for the social….I can’t wear a dress I’m too fat…..I JUST WANT TO WEAR A DRESS! I’m so sick of wearing those bloody black trousers! Why don’t i ever wear what i want to wear why don’t i ever *just do* anything that i *want to do*?!”
Mum: “You’re not fat! That’s a lie of the devil! Just a moment while i get something out of the oven.”
For reals.
XD
I am the heaviest I have ever been atm. When I was 9k lighter, I was not any happier. And i still felt I wasn’t thin enough.

I took this myself after the social as somehow I manage to evade every photograph ever. Milestone: first time not in trousers. I wear them to cover my legs. I cannot be the engaged sensual dancer that i feel while I am wearing dowdy black pants. And it helped, I was really dancing and enjoying myself!

DSC00806Of course I still had to cover up with layer upon layer of scarf cardi singlet skirt leggins. lol one step at a time.

“Now, lets talk about those arms”
Every lesson. He wants to talk about my arms. He tries to fix them but by the time I see him again in 3 months they’re all tucked in and closed off again. I don’t want to hold my arms out and up. I’ve always hated them.
Me age 12.
Mum: Why are you so crabby?
Me: I overheard you talking to dad saying how big my arms are.
Mum: I wasn’t talking about YOU! I was talking about my friend! Quit eavesdropping!
Oh…-.-;

I always cover them up, squash them in. Make them smaller. Make me smaller. I’m so BIG. I want to squash myself down. I’ve spent my life squashing myself in to the background, wanting to disappear, making myself small.
And now my dancing is halted from progressing because of these same issues I’ve carried with me for as long as I can remember.

God wants me to be at home in my own body. He wants me to not just live inside my head. Disconnected from my body, hating it and constantly attacking it with crash diets, binge eating and negative thinking. This is why I love dancing, it helps me to feel okay about taking up space and to believe that my body can be beautiful.

My body can be beautiful.

The problem is in being free enough to dance with people the way I do alone in my lounge room.
In the beginning it was exciting and easy to grow as a dancer, finally I had found someone who saw potential in me, and he was excited to find a newbie with promise, pleased with my progress.
Now… a new phase,
my stumbling blocks are changing, becoming more challenging.

“Action plan”: Get used to dancin like a fool around other people. Go to No lights, no lycra.