Throw Back Thursday

It’s been forever since my last post, life sure can get in the way when it wants to. Between family weddings on the other side of the country, work, more family stuff, home and actually trying to squeeze some dancing in there too, I find myself THREE days away from my first gown up feis.

Time went by much too quickly and I really want another month to practice. The competition pool is a lot larger than expected and I’m actually starting to get nervous.

Here’s the dancer count for the dances I’m doing.

Reel- 10, Light jig – 10, Slip jig -11, Single jig- 9, Hard jig -6, Hornpipe – 8 and for the Hornpipe trophy special – 5.

I know, that’s not too crazy, but I’m feeling the pressure!

Last night’s class started off well enough. Teacher had us in full feis-mode. We were lined up and dancing in pairs. Corrections were being called out as we went through. I did fine through my soft shoes, but stumbled in my Hard jig. Once I made eye contact with teacher after my first trip, I fell apart from there. It was a mess and it was all I could do to rally (no pun intended) for my Hornpipe. The biggest blow, Teacher said she wasn’t sure about me going through with the Hard jig at the feis. Granted I’ve only had the second step for two weeks. I’m not very strong in it and she saw me at my worst.

What to do? I don’t want to sit out anything I registered for, but I don’t want to make a fool of myself either.

Practice, practice and more practice and hope for the best.

As it is Thursday, and before the feis, I thought I would post a few throw backs from my first feis ever and the first time I performed.

 

My mother giving me an intro before I showed off my skip-2-3 skills during International Day at my kindergarten.
My mother giving me an intro before I showed off my skip-2-3 skills during International Day at my kindergarten.

 

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That’s me in the blue, #361. My very first feis in 1997.

Happy dancing!

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Progress

It really is a great feeling going back to class after a two week break and do great! In one of those divine mysteries of the universe when all of the stars align, I somehow managed to nail all of my dances WITH music and impress myself and teacher. She said that right now, I’m “feis ready” with my baby steps, but starting next week she wants to up those steps a little. No one wants to see a 26 year old doing her skip-2-3’s.

This is exciting. Really exciting! There have been moments where I’ve really felt discouraged, especially with my foot constantly giving me problems. Some days I just can’t seem to get it right and I really question if competing is the way to go or if I have just found an awesome cardio workout. And then I have a breakthrough moment like last night’s class when it just works. That encouragement is enough to keep me going.

Days till first adult feis: 45!

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Injury is hard to swallow.

It’s been a while since my last post and I hate coming back with bad news.

Everything has been going well, I’ve been getting my steps down and lined up with music. Working on my form and have a new “dance floor” installed in my garage. And then last night in class my bad foot decides that its going to act up again.

Walking hurt, jumping on it, forget it! But earlier in the day I had been perusing through various ID pages and blogs and found this little bit of encouragement on the Hession School’s Facebook page from one of my ID heroes, the 6 time World Champion, Claire Greaney! Timing is everything right?

Determination and the will to win:

Have you encountered any big obstacles in your dancing career and how did you overcome them?

Claire – “I’ve had a couple of bad injuries that unfortunately for me took place during The Worlds and All Irelands. The worst injury I’ve had was the day I won my first Worlds believe it or not! I came down on my right ankle in my light round and tore the ligaments. I was taken off in a wheelchair and wasn’t sure if I’d be able to continue. I strapped it up and said I’ll try and re dance even though I couldn’t actually stand on it. I had worked too hard that year to give up, I had to try again. What I noticed was the closer I came to re dancing the more the pain was fading away and I started to think I could do this! I walked out on stage and before I knew it the dance was over and I’d completed my second round! After that I possibly did the set of my life and I ended up winning my first world title! It really goes to show mind over matter! The Adrenaline pumping through my body completely numbed the pain of my dancing when I was on stage! I didn’t do any major dancing for about 4 months after to make sure it recovered from all the pain and strain I put my ankle under that day.

Three years later at the all-Ireland’s in Killarney in 2010 I went down on my left ankle while practising the day before I was to dance. I couldn’t warm up the next morning because it was so sore but the only thing that kept me going was remembering from that previous Worlds how mind over matter got me through everything. Luckily, I got through the day and I got my all-Ireland title!

In a way I probably wasn’t the most responsible person as I would never recommend dancing on an injury but when I knew nothing was broken…I knew they would heal on their own and when they were massive competitions like the Worlds and the All-Ireland’s and I’d worked so so hard, I knew I had nothing to lose!

You just have to remember……Mind Over Matter! You can overcome so much and achieve whatever you set your mind to!”

Claire broken ankle

She is an inspiration to all dancers, old and young. And while I was getting ready to unlace my ghillies and head home for the night, I thought about what I read just a few hours before.

If Claire can win her first world title on an ankle like that, then I can sure as hell get through the rest of this class with a sore foot!

And I did. Gingerly at first and then back up to normal practice.

Today I can barely walk and wish I was laying on the couch with my foot up instead of sitting in my office. But the point is, determination can do wonders! Keep fighting through and do your best. That is of course not to say break yourself entirely, always be careful and stop if you really must. But always push yourself just a little bit farther than you thought you could go. You might surprise yourself!

Solo Dresses – Love ’em or Hate ’em

The all coveted solo dress.

A dancer’s outward appearance of individuality, her parent’s bank account demolisher, her attention-grabbing show stopper, her war paint.

All these things can be said about a dancer’s solo dress.

Dresses have changed so much over the years. From the simple wool dress with some hand embroidered knots on the front, to the heavy panel dress with extremely intricate scenes from the Book of Kells covering every inch, to the newer neon-colored, sequined mini skirts. The dresses are unrecognizable over a 50 year span.

Because of when I started to dance, and with the strong traditional mind set I was raised with, I am a fan of the heavily embroidered panel dresses of the late ’80’s and early to mid 90’s. They are absolutely stunning to me and I wish with all of my heart they would make a come back. Even though they weighed about a thousand pounds. Just think of the skill and strength to keep the height of today’s jumps in those dresses?

dress
These are the masterpieces I grew up admiring.

Why are the panel monsters my favorite? Well besides the obvious artwork on them, they are Irish. And they look Irish. And after all, this is IRISH dancing. ID is a strong bond and show of respect to the culture. As ID has blossomed around the world it is a chance for Irish culture to be spread, so why not keep an Irish uniform so to speak?

I cringe every time I see a neon pink or yellow dress on an orange girl with too much make up and a wig that doesn’t fit, nor match the color of her visible and natural hair. This isn’t Irish, this is Las Vegas show girl meets Snooki meets figure skating.

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Not Irish.

The tiaras, the bling, the bedazzled socks. The dresses that glow in the dark and will stab you if you touch them. I don’t know how the adjudicators do it, how can you focus on watching the dancing when you have a bunch of highlighters bouncing around the stage in front of you? Please know that I’m not taking away from the talent of today’s dancers, they ARE magical. I’m just noting that I would much rather watch them, than be blinded by Swarovsky crystals.

Well, that is my rant on the dress styles of today and my sincere hopes that traditional Celtic weaves and colors start making an appearance more and more. Maybe I’m just really being too uptight and old fashioned and trying to guise it with wanting to keep traditions alive. What are your thoughts? Old or new?

Stay tuned for my rant on wigs!

First Feis … as an adult!

It’s official, I got the nod!
Teacher told me last class to compete at the next feis!
Does this mean I’m not a completely hopeless dancer? Surely she wouldn’t do anything negative to her school’s reputation just by throwing me out there as some comic relief. I hope!

It should be a full dance card for me too, I have all of my soft shoes, Hornpipe and have started my Heavy jig. All that’s left is St. Patrick’s day. I wouldn’t mind getting some new steps for my Reel and Single jig however, I only have the baby/easiest steps so far.

I’m so excited and know that I have to work extra hard to not make a fool of myself. I haven’t been practicing with music at home and have found that in class I get foot-tied (is that a thing?) once I try to dance along. So I have downloaded some teacher-approved practice music, including;

“Practice, Practice, Practice” by Gerry Conlon and Seamus O’Sullivan

Seamus will actually be one of the musicians at the feis, so I suppose it couldn’t hurt to get used to his playing style.

What is the general opinion on that move from more experienced feisers? Should I not get too comfortable with one musician’s style in case he ends up at another stage and I’m with someone totally different?  Does it make that much of a difference? Does anyone else have a favorite practice set of music? I’m very open to suggestions!

Well, here’s to November 1st! Let the countdown begin!

Hard Shoes!

Word to the wise, don’t practice with your hard shoes on cement (i.e. my garage floor/dance studio). It hurts, a lot! It’s also slippery and probably pretty bad for the shoes too.

I’m trying to come back from tearing up the muscles in my left foot that left me couch surfing the last few weeks and while I can walk pain free now, I’m finding dancing still gives me some trouble. Each time I try one of my soft shoe dances I feel like I’m re-injuring the same muscles. So I baby-step and walk through each one just so I don’t forget them. There’s too much jumping for me to really have at it again.

Hornpipe is a little easier, not a lot of jumping. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to get the right sounds out of the new shoes … a lot harder than it looks … and since my only practice area is a cement floor, I’ve found that after about 30 minutes of the jarring force going into my feet, ankles, shins and knees, it can be quite painful. Obviously cement has zero give and offers no shock support. The minute I take the shoes off, my feet feel like rubber, throbbing rubber.

What’s a girl to do? Each day I try a little bit at a time and hopefully I’ll be back up and moving again soon. I’m tired of this. I have exactly 12 weeks and 5 days till the Feis I want to compete in. I know that sound like a long time, but I’ve already gone almost 3 whole weeks without dancing at all! Times goes by so quickly, but I won’t give up!

On a brighter note, here are my new shoes! A very well broken-in, used pair of championship quality hard shoes according to my teacher. I’m very excited to have them!

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Swing and a miss!

After almost two weeks of barely being able to walk, let alone put weight on my left foot, I finally had a good day where I could actually press down on the ball of my foot and not want to cry. That only lasted for about five steps, but that was enough progress for me to say it was time to go back to class.

Terrified of all the magical choreography I imagined I had missed the week before, I arrived at class a good two hours early last night, in time to see the kids having their class. They are so cute! This also gave me the chance to see that the Light Jig I am learning is also what the 9 year old Prizewinners are learning. (I suppose that’s the overlap? Prizewinner 9 year old and Beginner Adult?) Lucky me, I got to poach the second step without actually having it taught to me. It was casually scribbled in memory and in my notebook … yes I keep notes! … so that I could give it a go once I can jump again.

By the time my class rolled around, the giant bag of used shoes for sale came rolling in as well.  My lovely teacher happened to have a great, and well broken in, pair of champion level hard shoes that were just my size. Score! While trying them on, I did a few trebles, because really, that’s all I know at this point. And they felt magical, and I felt special. I knew right away, I was going to do great things with these shoes if I could ever walk again.

Back into my ghillies, I got the first two steps of my Hornpipe. I’ll try it out in hard shoes a little later. Walking through the steps was about all I could do, but I got them! Then I was called up for my Reel, which I awkwardly tried to half walk, half limp through in time to the music. I must have looked like I had a seizure. Dear Teacher came over to me and asked what was wrong with me. Once she was enlightened to my temporary disability she crossed herself, said a quick prayer, and told me to go home.

Great! Kicked out of class! This is not the glorious return from injury I wanted.

In all fairness, she was absolutely right. I wasn’t accomplishing anything besides aggravating my foot. Well, except for learning some new steps, which I didn’t mention. But anyway, ups and downs for last night’s class. I’m not sure what I expected, but I’m still glad I went. I’ll give it a few more days before I give practicing a try, and hopefully by next class I can actually do something.

A slight setback …

Good news, and bad news.

The good: my foot isn’t actually broken and nothing is torn.

The bad: it still hurts A LOT, and I was told by the doctor to sit out a few weeks.

Just when I felt like I was on a roll and getting back into the swing of things, I come across this little set back. The morning after class last week I woke up and the minute I put my left foot on the ground I felt shooting pain up through my entire leg.  At first, this didn’t bother me at all. Pain means I’m getting work done! But then it was still there the next day and the day after. I tried resting it, I tried icing and elevating. The worst was, I stopped dancing. A week of no dancing at all breaks my heart.
After a week of this nonsense, ok … only 5 days … I decided its not getting better on its own, time to get a professional to look at it.
I was really afraid of all the WebMD worst case scenarios that were running through my head.

What if its broken?

What if I need surgery?

What if I can never dance again?!

Fortunately, after some x-rays and poking by the doc, I was told none of the scenarios were an issue this time. RELIEF! And also a little embarrassment. Am I just being a limping, baby over nothing? Maybe.
So I will miss class tonight, much to my great disappointment. I was supposed to get my new hard shoes and new steps for my Reel and Hornpipe.  I wonder if I go in, if they will just walk me through the new steps so that I can at least write them down.
Sigh. Oh well. Home to the couch I go. Hopefully I can start getting some weight on this thing in the next few days.

Ouch!

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The long and the short of it is, I’m a little overweight and I haven’t done any physical (especially cardio related) activity in a few years.

Now that I’ve started dancing again I’ve learned I have all new muscles in there that I have probably never used. Part of this discovery is pain. Everything from the hips down hurt this week and I find myself hobbling around like a little old lady … which I suppose I am in the dance world anyway.

I’m hoping that over time it will sort of just stop hurting, but based on some things I’ve seen online, it never will. So here is to the exploration of the world of braces, tape and other tricks to beat my body into submission. And to keep pushing through to do something I love!