When a Teacher Leaves

An early bulk of this blog detailed my life as a competitive and showcase ballroom dancer while living with Type 1 diabetes. Then life happened and I’m more or less a recovering addict of dancesport. I participated in showcases post-birth, but I’ve recently changed dance goal directives, putting a stop to solo showcases at the moment. This most recent hiatus is simply because I don’t have a full-time male instructor at this time.

The missing instructor wasn’t a surprise; all students had about a year of notice to plan for next steps and new instructors if needed. This was a vast improvement over what happened with a previous instructor, who turned in his two-week notice to his studio and students and promptly left the country. Being without another male teacher is not new for me, and “retiring” from competitive dancing coordinated nicely with this recent departure, but it’s probably a shock to the core for other dancers who don’t see departures coming.

So, what to do?

 

Errr… probably not.

 

Check with the studio’s plan. This kind of depends on how your home studio functions. There are dance studios that operate strictly as space, which then contracts instructors to use said space, or there are studios which hire instructors as employees. Getting and keeping male instructors around seems to be a universal problem in the dancesport community. There seems to be this weird issue of not having enough male instructors at a given studio. But if one does come around, it can be a challenge to establish a student base with an already ingrained community. There is a possibility that there are no immediate plans to hire a high-level instructor to replace the previous one. Maybe there aren’t any available. Studio HR dynamics are a separate post altogether; the goal of this post was to offer suggestions for students who may find themselves orphaned already.

Try the newer/different male instructor. This seems like the easiest solution, though it may seem daunting if you were with an old instructor for a number of years. New teaching methods, new communication preferences, new feelings. It’s going to feel like starting from scratch for a couple weeks/months. It might suck at first, especially if your expectations were molded by your old instructor’s habits. But, it doesn’t hurt to try. A different thought – the new instructor needs to build up his business and experience with students too.

Work with female instructors. They all have to know how to lead, so don’t worry about not being able to work on following. Plus, they can help with styling, connection, turn technique, and footwork variation ideas. (Just a few suggestions.)

Find an amateur/practice partner. Is there a similar-level male student at your studio with similar dance goals? Start practicing together. Share lessons together. (This is a great cost saver too.) Amateur competitions are loads cheaper than pro-am comps if competing is a common goal.

Practice on your own. Your previous instructor probably gave you lots of instruction during your time together. Now would be a good time to work on everything you were harped on during lessons; none of which probably need a partner present. This is a great post on solo practicing.

Form/Join a Small Group Ensemble. I still love performing, so I have been using my previous solo instruction time to work with an all-girls performance team. Still get to work on dance, have fun, and participate in showcases.

Learn the opposite role. Nothing tunes me into my connection with my partners than dancing as a leader. I can only really lead one or two dances, but I’m definitely available to lead socially when the is a leader shortage at dance outings. This option allows the freedom to work with any instructor in the studio for assistance.

Join/Audition for a Competitive Formation Team. This option isn’t always available at studios, but if it is – look into it. For ours, we get weekly coaching lessons by a master level teacher for a low monthly membership fee. Then we perform or compete around the region. The team does amazing things for dancing – plus all of the practice requirements fill out schedules nicely.

Try a new discipline. Was Standard your go-to dance realm? Try Latin. Or American Smooth. Or west coast swing. Not only will the challenge of switching to a new set of dances keep you on your toes, it’ll help your preferred dance. Or you might fall in love with the new dance and never look back.

Leave your studio and seek instruction elsewhere. This is obviously not my preferred suggestion, but if you want to keep dancing, you gotta do what you gotta do. This option is easier to do in larger metropolitan areas, but I can understand why someone wouldn’t want to leave a home-base studio. (I don’t want to leave mine.) But, if your goals don’t match what the current staff can help you with, then that’s a studio problem – not yours. A less abrupt suggestion? See if the pro can come to you every other weekend or so. (Or vice versa.)

How to continue your ballroom dance training when there isn't a pro around.

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Dizzy, Spinning, and 54

Unhelpful Dexcom - SeeJenDance
If you are a PWD and haven’t heard of Kerri at SUM, I sincerely question your Googling skills. I catch a lot of her posts on Facebook and she re-shared a blog post today from 2012 that stopped me on my too-short of a lunch break.

The post was titled, Lows in Public – a phenomenon I’m all too familiar with. Especially as a dancer and someone who just enjoys a night out. The example of stumbling off to the bar asking for a cup of “just orange juice, please” is a scene I’ve played out several times. (Though, sometimes it is a regular Coke, or gah, a Red Bull.)

Kerri is correct, though. There isn’t ever a convenient time for a low. Especially one that leaves you with your mouth dry, the room spinning, your limbs shaking, and the desire to eat the entire contents of your pantry.

While dancing, or during any sort of exercise, things escalate quickly. It’s easy to get lost in the music or entranced by the power of a great lead. So the usual telltale signs of a problem aren’t generally noticed. That is, until your ability to communicate the partner dance basics – frame and connection – become frail, disjointed, and those turns take way more out of you than normal.

In a lesson setting, these lows also effect my ability to process any information, no matter how mundane. I’m easily frustrated. My ability to speak is labored and my eyes glaze over or blur. My teachers are pretty aware of when something is wrong, and understanding if I need to take a break. “It’s cool, Jen, just wait it out. I’ll explain something/choreograph/do something that doesn’t involve thinking for 10 minutes.” But, have I finished out a lesson while ignoring my symptoms? Yes. More than a few times.

The frustrating part of it all is that I want to keep going. I don’t want to randomly stop a social dance and awkwardly exit stage left. Usually, if I’m dancing with a stranger, I can’t give a two second speech on why I’m suddenly hungry and need to get off the floor. But man, if I’m 54 mg/dl, and there are two minutes long left on that song, it’s the longest two minutes ever and I’m hoping that I can remain upright. (Because, well, passing out is probably equally awkward.) And the dance just goes downhill from there.

Or the lows that creep up when I need to leave my house and drive to a private lesson. They are usually the ones that stick with me. The ones that take about 3 treatments before 50 turns into 60… and then turn to 240 an hour later. I have treated and just made the drive before. It is never a great decision if I’m still recovering from the lingering low feelings beyond when the latest test is back at a safe level. (Adrenaline is a bitch sometimes.)

Classes tend to be easier to escape, unless it’s short on followers. And then I get the guilt of putting the effort into making it out to class only to be sidelined for 1/2 of it. Why won’t these glucose tabs work faster again?

Between cutting a dance short or interrupting a Master teacher mid-thought, diabetes is the bane of social dance etiquette. It’s already an inconvenience for me; why should it be an inconvenience for someone else (well, the passing out thing… again)? My thought is if I can just push through it with semi-consciousness, I don’t have to feel even more helpless than I already do. Where I have to succumb to the inconveniences of hypoglycemia and I can no longer pretend to be normal.

Does See Jen Dance Still Dance?

So the question you might be asking is did I ever return to dance post-baby?

Short answer: Yes-ish.

The pattern that plagues our studio since it has a huge student base from nearby colleges is that once a major life event occurs, be it graduation, grad or medical school, marriage, or baby, a very involved student can suddenly drop off the face of the earth.

This problem probably isn’t unique to just our studio, however, given that a good portion of the student base is younger, a considerable drop off occurs during certain parts of the year.

I was once a very involved student. Classes 6 days a week. Multiple partners for competition. Practice groups. Teams. Multiple lessons with my instructor to take on multiple routines for Showcases.

Nowadays, I change into my black dance/yoga pants in the evenings… and sit on the couch. Because parenting is exhausting. Or, if I find a class I’m interested in, I realize I will miss 2/3s of the month due to work travel. So I skip it.

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We even moved about 10 minutes away from the dance studio… and I still can’t find motivation to go on a regular basis. (Though, starting off the new year with an epic cough isn’t helping.)

I do social dance every couple weeks which helps with the whole “need to exercise” thing. But since I’m not actively working on anything super specific, like competing or a looming Showcase, it’s difficult to find a reason to go in. (Though, I do miss the people I dance with so I’m thankful for social dancing.)

So have I joined the ranks of the dance-enthusiast retirees? No.

I did participate in this last Showcase in December, which was exciting. It took twice as long to prep for the routine than usual, but I knew that would happen given my broken schedule. I never found the time or energy to practice like I used to, though. It was a running joke with my instructor leading up to the Showcase. In the end, I had something that I was happy with and that Bean cried all the way through because she couldn’t be on stage with momma. It was one of those routines that I could just perform the shit out of and keep the dancing basic. That instructor I have is pretty smart.

Coming into the new year, I have plenty of options, including fading into the background if I so choose. My instructor, who I’ve been working with for just over five years now, is going to be leaving in the fall to pursue higher education elsewhere. I hate that I have to end yet another dance relationship, but appreciate that he’s giving me more than a two week warning before up and leaving the country. (Yeah, that happened.) I now have the daunting decision to pick one final solo dance routine to do. And actually practice it.

I’ve been invited to participate in about three different dance troupes. One ballroom; two not. All sound exciting, are on weekends, and would allow me to be a free-range student for a while. I definitely can’t do all three. But whichever one coordinates best with Bean’s naptime will win.

The studio also offers Baby Ballroom classes for children under three, so I suspect I’ll be spending several Saturday mornings at the studio with Bean watching her grow and love dance. At least I hope so.

Okay there. That should fulfill my Ballroom Village blog quota for the month. 😛

Weekend Wrap Up

It’s Monday. I didn’t do a Friday Five last week, so here is a Monday Five instead.

1) I hit a new low this weekend. As in – 28 mg/dl. In the middle of the night. What I can’t figure out is how I got there in the first place (or how I was coherent enough to pour myself a glass of OJ and take on my entire pantry. I didn’t have my CGM on because I was over at a friend’s house enjoying a girls night with lots of high carb options and desserts. (So I didn’t want to have to deal with an inaccurate new sensor.) I left the party with a 191 BG and my pump instructed me to give a 1 unit correction at around 11:15 pm. I didn’t think to check again before I went to sleep at midnight. (Why?) At around 1:45 am – I woke up hungry and got my new low. At first I was like, oh! I should eat something. But then I was like, no… that can’t be right. So I checked again. Still 28. Oy.

2) Diabetes Dancer Problem #48: I somehow managed to hip check my ballroom instructor with my insulin pump during a lesson this weekend. I don’t normally wear my pump clipped to my pants for dancing, but this particular pair required it. I also managed to step on my big toe with my own 2.5 inch Latin heel, which also wasn’t fun. So now my toe (and a little piece of my ego) is bruised.

3) Have you signed our awesome FDA Petition yet? We apparently only need 500+ signatures to ask the FDA to include all PWDs in their upcoming patient meetings. Fire up your SPAM email address and sign here: http://www.change.org/petitions/us-food-and-drug-administration-sponsor-a-patient-meeting-on-diabetes?q=petition. It helps you… it helps me… it helps people I know with Type 1, 2, 1.5, and GD.

4) My swing instructor announced that he and his girlfriend got engaged (in PARIS on the freakin’ lock bridge) this morning/last night. I was so excited that the news woke me up faster than the crap cup of coffee I was drinking.

5) I encouraged the hubby to find a new hobby, as cooking and running can only really be done at certain parts of the day out here. So – he took up home based beer brewing. The first attempt didn’t go so hot and my whole house smelled like barley and hops when I got home from my evening shindig. The second attempt may have gone better and it’s now fermenting for the next two weeks in our guest bathtub. I guess it’s working because the canister is making all sorts of rude noises from behind the shower curtain as the yeast explodes into chocolate stout goodness. We’ll see what happens in two weeks when we get to bottle it.

Mixed Bag of Stuff

Updates! Updates! Lots of little things to keep my Thursday going. I could wait until Friday Five… but. Eh.

MRI results are in. I have a clean noggin sans two small blood vessels near my trigeminal nerve in my head. I assume that since they made a note of it that they aren’t supposed to be there. Why they would be there and I’d only have a problem with them now is beyond me. I asked for a neurology referral even though my primary care doc wants to see me now for the same issue too. (The doc I was seeing was a sub.) I told her no, I’m not missing work for the fourth time to talk about the same symptoms I’ve been having for 3 weeks that need a specialist. Call me. Or hell… talk to your substitute! Read the doctor notes. It’d be a waste of everyone’s time. And money. And gas. I see an ENT in a few weeks as well. But no TMJ that my dentist could see and no Neurolgia. And no tumors. Hey!

 

So I finally got the Medtronic notice for the product recall. Apparently I had been sent at least one box of faulty reservoirs and they asked me to dispose of them. Apparently, I’ve already used them because I don’t have that Lot # in my closet o’ supplies. Oops.

 

Next week, we release a bunch of information about our dance studio. As an employee, I know a bit more than my cohorts and I hate keeping secrets. But – only for another week. What’s been released is that 1) I can still work there beyond August and 2) the programs are continuing in some way shape and form, so I can still dance there.

 

In two weeks, I compete at IGB in the Bay Area. I signed up for my usuals, but added in a multi-dance option at a fairly high level. I’m prepping to get my ass handed to me on a silver platter because my division will feature all dancers under the age of 49 at my level. (Or older if they want a warm up.) I have to keep reminding myself that I’m doing this for myself and not for fame and glory or money and medals. Though – the added competition, no matter how ridiculous it is, will in theory make me work harder so I get noticed.

 

Speaking of IGB, apparently The Learning Channel (TLC) is filming the competition and has an open casting call to all amateur competitors. Originally, I thought this was a documentary on ballroom competitions that would follow the pro-am partnership in great detail. But then again, based on the casting call that asked for “hot and sexy dancers who do anything to win,” I had my doubts. Still – since I have a unique story angle and I’m three thoughts short of rhinestoning my insulin pump – I was going to subject myself to casting. However – more internet searches gave me more information. It’s not a documentary… it’s a reality show slated for their fall lineup with six episodes planned. And since reality shows only seem to showcase the crazy, I can only imagine this train wreck looking like a cross between Honey Boo Boo and Real Housewives of New Jersey. I think I’ll just watch instead. Check out Ballroom Blitz in the Fall if you can. Maybe you’ll catch my blurred out face in the background… ha!

 

Enjoy your Thursday. Or what’s left of it.

Why You’ll Probably Never “See Jen Dance”

Inspired by a question I got on DSMA Chat last week.

I know, I know… I talk about dancing and practicing my craft a lot. I even throw a photo at you here and there. But there are reasons why you’ll probably never see a video of my dancing up on the interwebz in this public forum. (My checkbook, my hubby, and I can all assure you though – I dance quite often and those photos are legit.)

1) The Choreography is not mine – I do a lot of routines, show dances, and performances. I have all of those sessions and performances on record in some form or another. But out of respect for those more creative than I, I try not to blast anything out into the open because I’m simply a piece in this artist’s (or in some cases, artists’) puzzle. Obviously, I’d give choreography credit where it was due, but that won’t stop someone with less integrity from copying the choreography for their own routine. Thus, it stays off the public ‘net. (I have, with permission, posted to my private social media accounts before, however.)

2) The Video is not mine – 9 times out of 10, my routines or competitions are recorded professionally that I’m forced to purchase in order to maintain some sort of record. I almost never buy my swing comp vids (mostly because I never make finals where it matters), and the last ballroom comp DVD I bought stayed at the bottom of my dance bag until a few weeks ago. (And ruled by my teacher as moot because my dancing has changed dramatically since last year.) Yanking the clips of me and posting them online would violate their copyright and I’d be asked to remove it or worse. (Though I doubt it since I’m not a high level pro, but still!)

3) I’m not dancing by myself – It takes two to tango… and west coast swing… and foxtrot… and… you get the idea. I’ve never formally asked my instructor(s) or partners for permission to post videos on my blog. Of my team, only my main ballroom instructor follows this blog. (Or knows about it.)

4) But the Photos!? – They’ve either been purchased from a professional photographer that already uploaded them to the web or posted all over the interwebz already via Facebook, et. al. When my blog following reaches the quadruple digits, then I’ll reconsider how many photos I throw online. I assume, that by this point, I’d be asked to remove posts if it were a problem with the folks involved. But it’s free advertising for a career path that requires your face to be recognizable. (Okay – if you start seeing posts disappear, you’ll know I got emailed. Haha.)

5) I’m a perfectionist – No video will ever be good enough to post online in a public forum. Ever. (Cue whining now.)

6) Privacy, or Lack Thereof – For some reason, not posting my movements, laughter (I apparently giggle a LOT during practice), voice, where I’m dancing, and likelihood online in that format feels like it’s keeping that part of me private for those that can actually see me. I know – nothing is private anymore, but let me revel in that thought? K? Thanks.

Accessorizing: You’re Doing It “Wrong.”

It’s SHOW WEEK! The week when my sleep schedule and free time suddenly disappear, even as a semi-employed individual. (Work yesterday seemed like another hamster wheel day. Spin. Spin. Spin. Nothing happens.) Throw in the two job interviews I need to sit through this week, and I’m pretty zonked when I come home. (Seriously, talking about yourself for 1 hour straight is mind numbing.)

The good news is that May Show is awesome and totally worth the gas money, time, effort and exhaustion and I may have a job offer soon. Hopefully. *feverishly knocks wood*

I’d just like to take a moment to point out some funny-ish photos that I was tagged in from our Tech Rehearsal last Sunday.

I am still donning my insulin pump, mostly because I don’t want to be on Lantus for very long. And my v waltz costume is fairly complicated to get into, will all of its straps in strange places to make sure I don’t expose myself to my nearest and dearest. It’s a tricky one, but suits the piece well. Placing the pump effectively without getting tangled was quite important.

See, here is the dress.

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Yay pretty! And since it was tech rehearsal, no one would be taking photos of my piece yet, right? So I awkwardly placed my pump on my backside instead of disconnecting. (I was already having basal/bolus issues and Techs can take a long time.)

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Oops. An unwanted cameo. I also have no idea what I’m doing in this photo, dance wise. (I’ll need to fix that tomorrow, I guess.)

There you go. Proof that I am battery powered, even when dancing.

Why Dance?

I stumbled upon a really neat non-profit based out of San Francisco this weekend.

A couple of my friends participated in and/or watched April Follies: a same sex dance ballroom dance competition held in the Bay Area this weekend. One of their vendors was Dance Out Diabetes. (Some of their board members and volunteers even competed and did REALLY well.)

Dance Out Diabetes provides monthly dances and instruction for folks who are enjoying life, either as a T1, a T2, or a pre-diabetic, and want a creative solution for that “physical activity” element of self care. Dance instruction features ballroom and social dancing, zumba, disco, and soul line dancing, just to name a few. The instructors are volunteers, as are the Certified Diabetes Educators and Dietitians. The funding they receive provides A1Cs, glucose tests at the dances, nutrition counseling, and height/weight checks.

You can visit their website here: http://www.danceoutdiabetes.org/

Now that I’m only semi-employed, I might have some extra time to head to the bay and volunteer. After all, I’m a prime example of how exercise can help glucose control, even though I complain non-stop about where to put my pump while in costume. Granted I can’t provide medical advice, I can provide another stem on a network of support.

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Shameless Plug

Since I have an audience in the DOC and beyond, I might as well post here.

My dance studio/second home/place of employment is up for a local business competition sponsored by a network news station. It’s mostly bragging rights, but it serves as free promotion for the studio and its teachers. (And if they make money, I can keep my job!)

Votes can come from anywhere, so help us out by signing up with a SPAM email or two.

The contest just re-opened today, so we are doing really well. 😛 But every vote counts and will come into play closer to May when the contest ends.

Sharing is appreciated, though not required. Thanks!

Let the Sky Fall

It's stuck in my head, so it's the title of the blog.

It’s stuck in my head, so it’s the title of the blog.

Blah. So busy. Haven’t even had time to read up on my CGM and I could really use its wisdom right now. Particularly at dinner; my current sticking point.

It is the same deal. I lower my ratio to 1:6 and I’m 300+ 3 hours later. I bump up my ratio to 1:5 and I flatline two hours later. I can’t remember if I’ve tried a 1:5.5 yet, but I was going to just for funsies tomorrow since I wasn’t heading out to dance until later. (Silly knee injury keeping me out of technique class.)

All in all, maybe I haven’t really given the lower ratio a fighting chance. The last couple times I’ve tried the 1:6, I’ve experimented with desserts, sushi, and other fine dining, thus resulting in the ridiculous spikes at 8 pm. Last Friday, I tried it again, only to indulge in vegetarian pizza and have my infusion set canula bend to a 45 degree angle some time during the evening. (Double whammy.) So I really can’t count those as my control tests… well, because they aren’t the norm.

But I really hate those 300s and the feeling of hopelessness when you see everyone chowing down and dancing up a storm and I’m left feeling like ass. (And really thirsty.) Do you keep correcting? Do you wait it out? Because what if those corrections all come crashing down on you at once. Kind of like it did tonight.

No amount of Girl Scout cookies could make my blood sugars get back to normal this evening, so I started my dance lesson as any PWD experiencing hypoglycemia would: completely incomprehensible and unable to turn. (Wait, isn’t that all the time? <shhh!>)

This odd turn of events turned into a fantastic opportunity for my instructor to clean up some choreography for our routine because it allowed me to sit there and shake quietly back into Normalland, mostly catching everything that was being explained. (Kerry and Co. refer to something similar – the D’Ambien experience: One of those middle of the night lows where you can’t remember what you ate or drank, or how much, as well as any conversations you had. Except I’m not asleep during my lessons. But same feeling. Yeah?)

Either my instructor was feeling particularly empathetic or saw the space cadet look on my face and queried: “So from what I’ve been observing, reading, and so forth, the real problem is patience? You give all this insulin to correct only to have it come falling down on you later… It’s like a college student experiencing drinking for the first time and wonders why he isn’t drunk immediately after taking the first shot, so he has another and another…”

Right??? My CDE will be very excited to hear that SOMEONE is listening. It just doesn’t happen to be me.

So what do I do now? Do I give the 1:6 another try, but with a less risky meal? Do I experiment with different ratios for different types of foods because sushi might require a 1:4, but a steak and veggie dinner might only need a 1:6? Because that’s totally convenient…

But I have T1D… who said this was convenient? <laughs>

When it rains, it pours.