My Week In Dance: How I Got a Loving Reminder From a Superior Dancer and Friend

Once upon a time, I had a nickname.

My bosses called me “Smiley.” This was a nickname that was well earned and with great cost. It took a couple of years in my former government job for my bosses, who didn’t ever seem to like that I smiled so much, to finally accept that there was nothing they could really do about it. They could scold me or crack jokes or make me work late hours, but ultimately, my smile wasn’t going anywhere.

So imagine my surprise when a veteran of our Tap Ensemble came to me mid-way through an event we had this week and had to remind me to smile.

It was during an event to promote our Tap To Togetherness program, which is a pretty big deal. Let me be clear: she was absolutely right to get with me about it. She was right, I wasn’t smiling. What’s worse, there were cameras around from K-State’s Communications team to help promote us. Yet here I was earning the Academy Award for my performance as an eyesore.

In other words: I embarrassed myself, and even my group to a degree. I’m sorry for that.

That truth, and my failure there, haunted me for the next 24 hours or so and has been on my mind ever since. It caused a major fit of self-reflection in the day that followed.

I grew up smiling, it was one of the second thing I independently chose to start doing habitually in my life when I was a young boy (prayer was the first). Through all the miserable chaos that could sometimes occur within government work, I still was known for how constantly I smiled.

So why wasn’t I smiling while tap dancing? Why wasn’t I doing so in such a crucial time and while doing my favorite thing on this earth?

After much self-reflection, I realized it was probably a side effect of growing up.

That isn’t an excuse either, I’ll write about my opinion on excuses some other time but for the moment just know I don’t accept any on my behalf made by me or anyone else, period.

My mindset has started to shift in the last six to eight months. Certain mental tendencies I’ve always had have started to change.

I feel myself being less prone to impulsive decisions or comments. This is actually in accordance with what modern advances in psychology have discovered as well, specifically that the part of the human brain that controls impulsive decisions finishes developing at 26 years old, which I just turned in August. I also find I’m becoming far more prone to stand up for myself in situations where I know I’m right or when I know I have no obligation to back down on something.

Still, as I thought deeply about my life, I realized growing up wasn’t the whole answer. The real reason I wasn’t smiling that day was because I had been stressed. As I thought about others, I also realized everyone I knew was handling their stress way better than I was. For me, my first response once I actually became distracted by life was to forget to smile, even in dance classes or performances.

That doesn’t work for me. That isn’t acceptable and it never will be.

So! Since Wednesday, I’ve been diligently working to reignite my favorite part of my personality: my childlike joy and love of all that I do in this life, about writing and editing and, most particularly, dancing. It’s still there, I’ve just allowed myself to sheath it or let it become dull. So I’m pulling it out and sharpening it before forever carrying on my should like a heavy battle-axe.

Here’s what I’m getting at: I get to dance every week of my life. I get to come to class, come to rehearsal for Tap Ensemble, and most weeks I get to go out and work with little kids and their families as part of that Tap To Togetherness program I mentioned earlier.

What’s more, I get to come to school and work with some of the most heart-meltingly beautiful and powerful athletes in existence, whether it’s my Tap Ensemble peers/mentors (which each of them is to at least some degree), or my dancer friends in general. I get to come to school every day with people who, both in appearance and in the quality of their characters, are truly captivating on every level.

That’s friggin cool! In fact, it’s the coolest thing ever :). So there is no bloody reason I shouldn’t be smiling my face off every single second of every rehearsal. I don’t care how focused I am on getting the movement right, how tired I am, or how much the world around my life as a dancer is testing me. When I come in to dance, I must, and will, leave all of that far edge of the floor.

Ever since that veteran made that comment to me, I’ve refocused myself on remembering all of what I’ve written here today, each and every day. I’ve completely re-set my heart on letting it show, both in and out of the studio.

The world would have us believe we aren’t allowed to show emotion very often. It would have us believe that we aren’t allowed to be excited and fired up about every single day, and that only children have such attitudes. If that’s the case, then I’ll be a bit of a child forever.

I love these people entirely too much not to be excited just to be alive and in the same city as all of them, let alone to get to work with them.

I owe it to them, and to God who was graceful enough to put me here among them, not to show it loudly and proudly and ecstatically every single minute of every, single, day.

I can’t ever thank that veteran enough for inadvertently reminding me of that. 🙂

A Hiatus From Yoga…Reluctantly

I subscribe to a number of Yoga related websites and services, via Facebook, Twitter, the whole shebang. I love my Manduka mat and my towel and my blocks, and in the single year I’ve been doing Yoga I’ve seen such an improvement in how I felt and in my flexibility.

So words can’t describe my frustration that my wrist hasn’t healed completely.

For some background, here’s wassup. On the morning of March 4th, I woke up with soreness in my right wrist. It was bad. Stiff and sore at the same time. I wasn’t able to put weight on it at all. Pushups were impossible. Figuring I had simply slept on it awkwardly, I decided to lay off it for a couple of weeks.

Two weeks later, I tried putting weight on it again. It hadn’t improved. The initial soreness from the night of the 3rd was gone by the end of the 4th, but two weeks later I still wasn’t able to put weight on it at all. This is when I sought medical attention.

The local doctor said I had sprained it. I was put in a wrap and told to lay off of it for a few weeks. Four weeks later I went back. It had been improving, and I was able to put weight on it finally, holding full pushup poses without pain. So the doctor cleared me to gradually start working on strengthening it again.

Still, I would have random stints of pain in the wrist and arm, and I wasn’t sure what it was. Also, I was experiencing tingling occasionally in my ring and pinkie fingers in that same hand. This was troubling because I’m right hand dominant. I’m a writer, I’ve played Ultimate Frisbee intermittently, these are just a couple of the things I do a lot. So I emailed him and told him about these symptoms after thanking him for all his help (he had done well in my opinion). He said these symptoms seemed related to the Ulnar Nerve. He referred me to the in-house physical therapist. This was back around the end of May that this happened.

Six weeks of 1-2 sessions of physical therapy per week, various exploratory sessions and some slight improvement before regression later, I have now been referred to a local hand specialist. The one thing that seems to have been totally crossed off the list is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome because the nerve giving me trouble doesn’t run through the Carpal area, according to my therapist. Otherwise though, after consulting my initial doctor, they have decided this goes above their level with regards to hand knowledge.

So I’ve been referred within the city to a place a couple of blocks from where I live. It took me a week to get an appointment due to availability, so it’s impossible to know yet if that’s a great thing or a horrible one. Either way, I’m eager to hopefully learn what’s up.

In the meantime, as you might have guessed, there’s to be no pushups and thus no Yoga (Downward dog, plank poses, and a number of other yoga poses have similar configurations as to where your weight is put).

I’m grateful to God for my running and dancing, and that my legs are holding steady through the initial week of training for my first full marathon. Without Tap dancing or running, I’d be in pretty bad shape right now psychologically. I’m not in great shape as it is, but those two things have kept my moral steady and kept me from getting too particularly down on myself because I have to write less. Even typing often brings on tingling in that same hand and area, so as I write this you should know I do it without my normal level of comfort.

For someone who has never been able to see himself as able to do anything besides writing well enough to make a living off of it, this is scary friggin stuff. But again, praise God for running and Tap dancing.

Dance goals 2015

In December, I got a chance to audition for the K-State Tap Ensemble. How it went isn’t as important as the result the preparation had on me is. For it, I had to prepare a minute of choreography. I could use any song or no song at all. So in typical “I don’t know how it’ll work but I might as well be true to myself” fashion, I picked the song I consider my theme song: “On Top Of The World” by Imagine Dragons. 🙂

The Audition

In the interests of that though, I submit to you my goals for 2015. These are things that I took most of New Year’s Eve and the months since my birthday in August to come up with. So with that in mind, here we go! 🙂

Dance Goals 2015

1) Earn the right to keep our spot in Tap Ensemble for the next year, and survive “boot camp.” As I mentioned before, that audition went well. Whether I have to audition again in April or not, my first dance goal is to hang in there. There’s an old saying that says a performer should be ready on a moment’s notice to audition again for any spot they hold. Well, I don’t know if that’s how things actually work, maybe I just made that up, but in my case I’m going to sharpen that audition material I used before. Which leads me to goal number 2.

2) Choreograph “On Top Of The World” in Tap style. Yes, I already got a third of the song done, but I want to both sharpen that minute and make it really crisp, as well as finish the entire song in a way that I’m not bored with it. Which means very little repetition with lots of variation in both speed of movements and the movements themselves. In Tap, and really in dancing, there are only so many different movements that exist, so to make something truly unique can be a challenge. And it’s one I want to go for. That leads into goal 3.

3) Choreograph some piece, in a Tap style, using moves starting laying down or things I’ve never seen anyone do yet. Come up with something extremely fun and unconventional just to show off and have fun with. I grew up running, playing ultimate frisbee, doing pushups, all kinds of random stuff. I think throwing something crazy together would be a blast. Maybe coming up with some way to tap while in the full pushup position in a really neat way. I’ve got lots of ideas. My intention is first to have fun, and second to do something flat out insane and ridiculous that just makes people either say “wow” or roll their eyes. Which leads to our next goal 😉

4) Choreograph “Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift in a Tap style. Lol I giggle to myself as I see that, because that idea’s so goofy that only I could justify it. Most of my friends will seriously roll their eyes at this one. This’ll be my “I need to make everyone laugh forever” type piece. For those of y’all who don’t know, I’m a big time Taylor Swift fan. I just like the way her voice sounds. I don’t care about the drama in her life, I just know that at some level she’s a complete hopeless romantic, and like the bulk of people who like her music, I empathize with that. Additionally though, this song is a really neat, extremely rhythmic and up-tempo! It’s basically the perfect song to tap to. So for the raw fun of it, I want to choreograph this one as well. Believe it or not, I’ve already got most of what I want to do written down with time blocks drawn out in a notebook of mine. This goal, only two weeks into the year, is probably as much as 60% done :).

5) Perform, baring injury, in both Springdance and Winterdance 2015. That show I auditioned for that I mentioned in The Newbie Chronicles was Springdance 2015. Every year, the dance division faculty and students put on two shows, one in spring and one in fall. You get the gist. Well, I made it into Springdance, so now I simply have to watch and make sure I don’t get hurt and then audition later this year for the second show. Alright, you’ve made it this far, keep going! Last goal

6) Come up with a 3-minute ballet routine for an ballet related audition I may encounter. This is kind of a self-defense type goal, the type of thing I want to have just in the highly unlikely chance I’m every asked on a whim and can use it. Do I ever believe such a situation will arise? Absolutely not. But I’d rather have it and not need it, then one day see the perfect audition opportunity where they want a guy who looks just like me and everything, but requires a pre-planned ballet piece. I don’t know if such auditions exist, but I’m going to be ready in case they do and in case I every need to go through one.

So that’s it! Those are the six things I’m trying to accomplish this year as an aspiring dancer. Feel free to chime in if you have any similar one or have any thoughts; good, bad, or critical, about any of mine 🙂

Dance! :) (Category Description)

Welcome to my “Dance! :)” page! This post is specially written to show you, my wonderful readers (both potential and consistent), what you can find here.

Posts under this category will be where I share my thoughts about, or post photos/videos of, anything pertaining to dance that I don’t consider humorous enough to post under “The Newbie Chronicles.” Sometimes these posts will still have some humor element, but this will be a place where that won’t be a preset requirement. This page will be more where I write specifically about pursuits, struggles and triumphant moments related to my new journey as an aspiring dancer.

I aspire to become a performance level tap dancer, that is my primary style. I also seek to become nearly that good at Ballet and at least proficient in the Modern and Jazz styles as well. Generally, I love most Latin American styles more than anything outside of tap. So I may post stuff relating to Samba, Salsa or any other adventures I have pertaining to those as well. I’ll likely include Zumba workout related stuff under this category as well, since those workouts usually (in my very limited experience) are very heavily dance focused  with at most limited use of weights or outside props. 🙂

“TapDance” class/”In America” Notes/Thoughts

In Tap class a couple of weeks ago, we watched the film “Tap In America.” I paid attention of course, but the writer in me can’t not take notes during such things, because I write to remember, as well as to entertain. However, I asked a question Thursday and it could be said that this question indicated I hadn’t exactly paid perfect attention to the film. So I want to clear up why I didn’t exactly catch everything like I would have if I hadn’t had my notebook, or in this case my iPad with my notes app, open. Here’s what I took. No particular description can be added, as I don’t remember what was going on in the film while I took these notes, I just know what I thought. Here it is, transposed exactly, smiley faces and all :).

“TapDance” class/”In America” Notes/Thoughts (Note says date was Nov. 6, 2014)

I wonder what Latin-American style tap would/does sound like?

–Maybe something like Bachata in tap shoes? Or Zumba?

–Let’s pretend for a moment it’s totally natural of me to think all this 😛

–But for real, that’d be a killer Julie question

Bringing out iPod armband for after class would be a really good idea

Black shoes are the way for me I think. Not a fan of white or silver or anything

I love the way tap can be used as like an added drum by the dancer to add something to the music. For all those times I spent long drives beating with a pen on the dashboard, all this hours visualizing myself recomposing a piece to add an extra set of snare drums when I had nowhere near the music theory knowledge needed, nor the motivation to attain such a thing…I think this stuff may have been what God was leading me up to. This is where all of those experiences can play a part in mine; where what I’ve always wanted to do can be possible on in the most true-to-me way possible…

Unconventionally 🙂

If we’re to keep doing this though, and be expressive about it, we’re going to need to introduce more calcium into our diet and be careful. As a runner, this style puts me at a much higher injury risk than most other dancers and/or runners.

Another Julie question: Do most performance dancers keep a set of black shoes and a set of white ones then? Or how does that all work?

Alas; why we do yoga 😛

Announcing a new series: The Newbie Chronicles

I’ll always remember 2014 as the year I stumbled into two passions I never would have expected: Yoga, and Dancing. Yes I know those two things probably sound strange coming from a straight dude like myself, but that’s how it’s turned out. I’ve always been a runner, but this is the the year I learned that my love of activity transcended running. This is the year I realized I love movement! I love the human body! I love exploring what mine can do and cheering on other people as they explore what theirs can do. I’m coming to realize this year that I just love pushing my body to it’s absolute limits and training it to do more! It’s more than just a love of pushing myself to run longer distances and to run faster and to run longer distances faster. It’s more than just that; it’s a love of pushing myself to be stronger in the most unique of ways, which Yoga is great for. It’s a love of pushing my body, not just my legs, to be more precise and more graceful and more coordinated, things Yoga is good for but Dance is GREAT for. This is going to be the year I look back on and remember as the year my whole life changed from conventional old “I’m a runner” to the more exciting possibility of saying “I’m an athlete.”

I began dancing on January 24th of this year, and began practicing Yoga on January 27th. So, in case you can’t see, I’m new at both. Anyone who has ever started something as an adult can tell you that means there will be some interesting stories caused by such…amateurism (is that even a word? Haha oh well).

Therefore, today I am announcing the start of a new series. I’d like to promise it’ll run weekly, but I can’t: It’ll run when something eventful or crazy happens. Usually that’ll mean once a week but sometimes more and sometimes less. The series shall be called “The Newbie Chronicles.” I don’t know if I came up with that or if I heard it somewhere and just liked it, so my apologies if I stole it from anyone. But either way, I first had the thought of it this morning at Yoga. So I’m going to run with it…no PUN intended…hehehehe.

I’m going to get to work on “Part 1” of this series now. Look for it later under the category “My Health Journal.” Enjoy :).