Thursday, October 22, 2015

Adults vs. & Overs: an op-ed on the various pros and cons

This was the first week this term that I missed class. I will let you guys be my judges - I had to skip cause the house we are in the process of buying was being inspected and we kind of needed to be there for it. Valid excuse?

So, to give you an equal break from my class updates, of which I have none, and I am sure you were sick of them anyway, I decided to write about something else this week. After a conversation with one of my besties (who also happens to dance), I was inspired to do this little opinion piece of the various pros and cons of both Adults and &Overs.

For the sake of clarity, I am referring both to the obvious (competitions) but also to classes. I've danced both with the littles and other adults, and while by no means consider myself expert on the subject, I at least have a little knowledge I can share with you, rather then waxing philosophic for another week about my struggling through class. PLEASE, keep in mind these are all just from my personal experience and do not represent all, or even MOST dance classes. All schools and classes are unique

Without further ado:




  • Conversation/personal interactions during class/competitions
    • "Adults" Pro: 
      • peer group
      • easier to talk to 
      • more shared interests and life experience
      •  ability to swear without feeling bad
    • "Adults" con; 
      • sometimes you end up shooting the shit more and dancing less
    • "&Overs" Pro: 
      • get to form relationships with youngers, 
      • maybe provide a good influence
      • show them it's never to late to go after dreams
    • "&Overs" con: 
      • You have to listen to conversations about Disney Chanel, homework and such statements as "my life is OVER (insert tweeny drama here)" and NOT laugh at how trivial it sounds compared to grown up problems
      • kids might look at you like you are weird
      • "Aren't you too old for this class" (see some of my previous experiences)
  • Practice/Drill time/Class time
    • "Adults" Pro: 
      • People mainly learning at the same pace as you, 
      • people able to focus as long as you, 
      • needing the same amount of water breaks as you
      • people who understand the aches and pains of being an older dancer
      • classes tend to be little less structured, a lot more independent practice and personal input into what you want to work on (this also depends on class size) 
    • "Adults" con; 
      • If one person needs to sit down for a minute it's tempting for everyone to sit down for a minute (see above, both about being able to converse, and about spending too much time talking lol!)
    • "&Overs" Pro: 
      • CHALLENGE! 
      • Keep up with the kids half your age
      • high energy class 
      • more strident drilling
      •  more repetition of steps (kids with short attention spans need to have the 'learning' part of their steps repeated), 
      • usually very structured classes
    • "&Overs" con: 
      • more repetition of steps (kids with short attention spans need to have the 'learning' part of their steps repeated) - it's both a blessing and a curse. 
      • Kids can sometimes just do more then you can, 
      • everyone looks at you weird when your trick ankle flares up and you are limping across the room
  • Feiseanna
    • "Adults" Pro: 
      • camaraderie 
      • sense of team work 
      • get to know everyone in your competition really well 
      • less stress/pressure 
      • competing against people with similar ages and strength/weakness brackets 
      • focus more on competing against your previous best, rather then against the other dancers
      • don't have to worry about the blingy outfits and wigs 
    • "Adults" con: 
      • Smaller competition sizes (depending on region/feis/phase of the moon - some regions have more in adults then in the highest age &overs), 
      • Restrictions; must wear tights, can't dance non-trad speeds, can't wear blingy stuff if you want to
      • adult catagories at competitions are usually very small, if they exist at all  
      • will have to drop down to &overs if you want to go further then prizewinner
    • "&Over" pros:
      • Bigger competitions (usually)
      • varied competition
      • If you can beat someone half your age, you know you've earned it
      • Can wear the fun dresses - or not. Same for tights (TC usually does have opinions that need to be taken into a consideration no matter where you go though) *Bonus; If you wear a wig, guarantee it will take between 4-10 years off of you!*
      • Can keep rising through levels without having to change catagories and re-acclimate yourself to a new competition "set"
    • "&Overs Cons:" 
      • You are literally competing against 15-20 people who are half your age - ARE YOU CRAZY?
      • Younger, sprier bodies mean high jumps, bouncer steps and better stamina with less effort
      • More competitors means harder competition
      • less people to "hang out" with - you aren't part of the "adults" club to hang out with them between dances, but you are to old to hang out with the teens you dance against.

So .. . there it is. Again, these are just my observations, and there are a lot of variables that need to be taken into consideration. Some teachers are adamant about not wanting the adults to dance with the kids, some prefer it. Some regions have a SUPER active Adults category, while other have none. Some kids classes are super laid back, some adults classes are super competitive. There are no right or wrong answers here. If you are an adult considering a class, take EVERYTHING into consideration and decide what feels right for you. Like I said, I've done both. I've loved doing both. What's right for me now is slogging alongside the kiddos - doesn't mean that down the road kicking butt with fellow adults isn't in the cards for me.

There is only ONE thing for certain - if you are considering taking a class or competing as an Adult, not only CAN YOU . . .but you have OPTIONS. So do it!!!


Monday, October 12, 2015

Class report 3: thing's I've learned

1. Don't cook your post dance class pierogis and onions while still dressed for dance class. Onion smell does not wash out easily and boob sweat is gross enough, so you really don't want your sports bra to smell extra weird.

2. I might overheat less if I wore less layers. And if the dress code adopted by the rest of the class is any indication, no one will care if I wear shorts instead of old lady capris. Just, don't wear shorts as short as some of the teens - that is, with an inseam shorter then some pairs of underwear.

3. My stamina improves every week. My complete, death-like exhaustion post class remains consistent. This is. . . . good? Despite being able to maintain energy through class, I am still pushing myself hard, I guess?

4. The medium sized child who stares at me all the time (who I was terrified was going to turn into Demon Spawn 2; return of the nine-year old) actually smiled and talked to me for a minute today - and was following my lead in drills. So - yeah! Another tween who doesn't think I am a complete freak-show! I am winning them over, one Disney-channel-lovin'-heart at a time.

5. The trick to my second Novice LJ step is to remember that the heel is the directional lead, not the leap!!! Now just pull it up to speed and keep the bounce

6. Other LJ news, my directionals are good, nothing else to learn there, and my bounce is continuing to improve.

7. The five year old practicing LJ with me is basically my spirit animal, complete with exhausted sighs of 'oh, I need to sit down' 'ouch, my knee hurts' and 'here, let me just go practice by myself over in the corner'. Only she's cuter. Cause she's five. Though, I actually went the whole class with having to sit and breath, so neener-neener . . .


I think that's it for this week gang. I am beat, full of chicken sandwhich amazingness and about to veg out on the couch watching Love It or List It, while yelling at the TV like my Great Grandmother used to.

Slainte!
~Meara

PS. It's like I'm a real student now - finally got around to ordering a school jersey! Woot!





Monday, October 5, 2015

Class report 2

Wow, second class into the year and my resolve was already tested. Didn't sleep well last night, my knees hurt, I am late getting out of work, I smell bad, I have like 5 books I could be at home reading right now, I haven't played zoo tycoon in AGES.

Like - sometimes I wonder why all the things I never actually bother to do when I am home on the couch aimlessly chanel flipping decide they must be done when I am supposed to be in class. That little bewigged irish dance blerch taunting me with cookies, and rewatching Jig a few times and crying.

BUT! I went. I am even more tired, even more hurty, smell even funnier. I was 10 minutes late to class and I was not prevented from walking through the door by an invisible "you're late" barrier. I still have those 5 books to read to keep me entertained now that I am not convinced I will be able to move for the rest of the night, and zoo tycoon is still an option. Cookies might still be on the agenda, because they are a perfectly suitable post-work out meal, right?

Progress was good tonight though I felt - honestly, being a little late actually works to my advantage. I don't burn out all my energy on endless hardshoe drills in the first 10 minutes of class.

Continued work on my SPD. Remembered the new chunk I learned last week (second half of 1st part - god that sounds sad) and then began working on the rest of everything and was reminded my sticking point with this good ol' set dance - it's not the dance it self. I have all the chunks, all the pieces pretty wall nailed down. It's just there are soSOso many friggle-fraggle brush hop heel downs, and tip-down tip-downs, and then just some random rock-rock-rock thrown in there - it's all to much the same stuff being repeated and for some reason that makes it a pattern I can't seem to ever remember! I mean the 4 trebles, the treble cut treble, and the tip outs - perfect! Have had that part down pat for years, precisely because it's a sequence. The rest, I just don't know if I will ever be able to wrap my poor brain around. But, that is the focus for this weeks.

Highlights from drilling the SPD tonight were having my TC say my trebles were best in the group (best agains 10 year olds, but hey, I take what praise I can get) and that my rocks, which she only just showed us for the first time tonight were actually not too bad at all. High praise, considering . . . . Also, that blessesd "ah-ha" moment when my stumbling through steps actually fit the timing of the music.

For softshoe it was all Light Jig again. Miracle of miracles, still remembered the whole 1st and 2nd step from last week. Still occasionallly wrong foot myself on the second, but in general it's there and I can start bashing out some technique, which I did for most the class. My teenager drill master also had a little to deal with so I managed to score some independent practice. Like, let's be honest, I will be my own harshest critic when I do it wrong, and this way you don't need to stand there feeling awkward as I melt into a whimpering puddle on the floor.  After a good chunk of solo practice had her go over it with me again.

Highlights were getting confirmation that I had significant more bounce and better pointed toes this week. Also actually got to use some mirror space for most of my drilling and could really make sure that I was staying turned out and up while doing my back-two-three-fours.

Exhausted but victorious. One victory a week I guess.

Now, to continue my glam life report - I have 2 piles of cat vom to clean up and tea to dribble down my front because it hurts too much to sit up to drink it.

Slainte!
¬M


Bribes to practice form this week: new ghillie laces if I practice this week and go to class next week






Monday, September 28, 2015

Class report 1

So I told a lie the other week - TONIGHT was my first class. We were on an alternate schedule for 2 weeks so I couldn't make it.

Class was good, it was good to be back, even if it was so hot and I was so over heated I felt like I was going to puke. I didn't, so we will consider that a win.

Amazingly, I remembered more of my SPD then expected. On the down side, I totally space-cadetetted, on my new light jig that I had started learning at the end of last year. The silver lining to all this is they are both dances that I need to work on, specifically SPD, which is my last dance still in AB. Light Jig is just a good place to start the ball rolling on my plans to dominate novice.  I already know the step, I just need to remember it, and, according to the teen teacher's helper that was drilling me, make it more bouncy, hop into the air more, keep my feet pointed down on my kicks, pull my knees up higher- pretty much everything. She was actually super helpful and sweet. I don't mind when she is the one drilling me; she actually pretends to laugh at my stupid jokes and is abundantly patient with me when I am literally crawling on the floor out of breath, or when I am completely fumbling the step I had right just a minute ago.

I am taking a lot of signs and opportunities this year. I only signed up for once class a week. I know this may sound counterproductive to you multi-classer types, but it always ended up being "Eh, I am not up for class today, I will just go hit the Wed. night class - wedsnday classes are better for me anyway cause that is the adult class." And then, when Wednesday night would roll around "Tonight's class is just so late and I have been at work all day, and I have to work in the morning and and and . . . ." Needless to say I had the exact same excuses for Saturday classes too.

So, one class a week, all or nothing. If I don't go tonight, I don't go this week.

I have also resorted to self-bribery.

If I don't skip a single class (barring actual illness and previous commitment) between now and December, I will treat myself to some new dance clothes and sports bras.

If I don't skip a single class (again, skip by definition meaning not going just cause I am lazy or moody, not any valid reason) for the entire year, I will let myself consider buying a new wig at the end of the year.

If everything goes through on this house that we made an offer for, and we get in there and I have darling husband build me a practice floor, there will be some other kind of bribery to get me to practice at least 2 times a week between classes. Just not sure what that bribe will be. I am open to suggestions. Any thoughts?


Goals until next weeks class: review the second half of the first SPD step, and remember to make my LJ more bouncy.

Literally taking this one step at a time here. . . .

Cheers all, I am exhausted.
~Meara

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Announcement: I am NOT retiring

Not that anyone has been asking if I am planning on it, but I have been considering it. But, let me rewind here.

The last we talked, I was packed and ready to go to Feispocolypse 2015. I woke up early that morning, looked at the schedule, saw I wasn't set to dance until a little later in the morning, puttered around, ate some breakfast, and some how managed to come down with my first ever panic attack. That was not fun. I physically could not get myself out the door. I was CRYING for pete's sake - crying when I should be happy and excited and maybe even nervous, but I was none of those things - I was CRYING. The only impetus that I was feeling to consider going was the fact that I needed new laces and didn't want to pay shipping by buying them online!

After calming me down (first having to wake up to find out why I was crying) Husband took me out for some breakfast and talked me through what I was going through.

I just wasn't prepared. Not in technicalities. Not in mentality, Not in emotions.

Now, anyone who has followed this blog at all knows that I normally I am no where near prepaired enough to compete. I never have time or space to practice, and I some how always manage to miss a bunch of classes before feis-time.

I have gotten as far as I have in competition with sheer determination, enthusiasim, moxie and/or giant balls. I just go and brazen my way through it, confident in what I know, and confident that I am good at hiding what I don't know. Sometimes I still make an ass of myself, but I have some kind of something as a fall back.

I didn't even have that before this series of competitions.

So, with placing out of my Slip Jig at North Coast I am no longer straddling three levels (I still technically have my SPD in Advance Beginner, but I will worry about that  . . .at some point). It's pretty easy and straight forward - LJ, SJ, RL, and TJ are all in Novice and somehow, HP is in Prizewinner.

But here's the thing - I don't know ANY of my novice dances 100% yet. Normally that is not a problem for me. Hardly ever are any of my dances at 100%. But usually, I have my baby Beginner 1 or 2 steps to fall back on that I can do in my sleep, so I at least feel like I have something to fall back on.

I didn't have that this time. I had been working so hard on learning the new Novice steps, that I hadn't been drilling the old AB steps.

I basically was an Irish Dance version of Jon Snow - I knew nothing! No new steps, no old steps. And I just sat at my desk wondering why I was even contemplating going!

So over coffee and eggs, Husband, being the pragmatic, reasonable person that he is asked me a series of questions.

- Do you WANT to quit? . .. .No
- What DO you want? . . .  to not suck at this any more
- What do you need to get this? . . . to practice more, to not miss so many classes, and to be more talented
- Is signing up for feiseanna helping or hurting? . . . helping in that it puts on pressure to practice more, hurting in that I don't respond well to that kind of pressure.
- Can you give up competitions? . . . . I could, but not if I want to continue to level up
- Ok, so what do you NEED to not suck any more and to make competitions less stress full.

So here was the plan we came up with. I needed more time. First I needed a little time to decompress. Luckily summer sessions were starting, so I was basically on a 3 month break from class. While I knew I was going to despretely miss it, a little hiatus was probably a good thing. I also needed a little more time IN class. If I am going to compete in Novice, I actually need to BE in novice. I need to have a couple solid months of class under my belt before I compete again, so I am planning on sitting out all other feiseanna until 2016. I need practice space outside of class, so he's promised me once we finally get a house (we've been shopping seriously for a few months now) he's going to build me a dance floor in the basement. I need him to be a little pushier too - he's always been super supportive, but when I am saying that I might just be lazy and not go to class I need him to kick my butt out the door.

Husbands are highly encouraging and wonderful dance support. I recommend them over Feis Moms any day, if only for the fact they can't ground you and are pretty fun to kiss too. . . .

But at any rate. . . .

Classes start again tomorrow. I am rested and excited and of course a little nervous to be going back. I've gained another million pounds over summer break. I've not exercised at all. But I have retreated, fallen back, regrouped and am ready to attack this again. I have from now til the end of the year to get to where I need to be, and then Novice - I am going to kick you ass.  . . .






Friday, May 22, 2015

Everything but the Kitchen Sink: Packing for a feis, or the apocolypse, whichever comes first



I think I will affectionately refer to this weekend as Feispocolypse 2015.

Akron and Cleveland are this weekend. The only thing that is prepared is my feis-on-wheels.

I've spoken about it before, but being your own feis mom can be kind of stressful. Even if some moms make their older dancers pack for themselves, let's be honest, they are probably looking over it for at least the essentials. Luckily, I've never forgotten my shoes, but I have forgotten a sports-bra. That was a painful day.

Packing for yourself, but even more-so having to wrangle your own pack can become burdensome, so my best recommendation is to part smarter, not harder.

A while back I decided schlepping everything in a jumbo dance bag was beyond my upper body strength. I also decided that more popular wheeled cratey type things would make me one of the coold Irish Dance kids, I had no inclination to spend over $100 on a suit-case with light up wheels that I could maybe sit on. Let's face it, Irish Dance is an expensive enough hobby as it is. I also wanted something that I could keep a little more organized. So, I thought outside the box, or rather, inside the box. The tool box. I bought myself a Stanley Rolling Workshop. $50 at Home Depot. It fits my essential feis pack list.

Three separate cases that stack, latch and roll
Top of first case has latching trays, perfect for bobby pins, safety pins, hair ties and clips
Interior of first case: pretty standard tool box, but adapts well to wig, hair product, deodorant, brush, mirror and sock glue storage

The middle case, designed for small nuts and bolts serves well to keep make up sorted
Bottom case is big, and deep. Good home for shoes, tape, snacks, water and even a change of clothes. 




 So, my entire feis gear, in an easy to roll, mostly waterproof case. No having to juggle wig box, makeup case, shoe bag, etc. This also sums up my packing list pretty well. I also usually bring a book, or my tablet for those long periods between dances or lunch breaks.

I am pretty sure, between the snacks and the change of clothes, I could probably live out of my feis-in-a-box for like 48 hours.

If you are at Akron, come and say hi!

Akron Feis:
Start Time: 9am (currently expecting approx 8hrs of sleep)
Registered for: 416LJ, 416RL, 416SJ and 416TJ
Prepared for: none of the above (!!!)
Number of competitors: 7, 11, 13 and 10
Hoping for: Widespread 24-hour influenza and lots of no shows
Will settle for: the usual - not placing last
Shopping list: new ghillie laces, mine are mismatched. 







Monday, May 18, 2015

The Irish Dance Blerch

Do any of you guys follow The Oatmeal at all? It's hysterically funny, albeit, not for the easily offended. I'd like to say that I've been following it since before it was popular, but that wouldn't be entirely accurate, mainly cause I am not convinced that there was ever a time it wasn't popular. But I digress. . . .

There are many side-splittingly funny and educational comics on there. You can learn why Tesla > Edison. You can learn about the Mantis Shimp. But most importantly for the case of this blog post, you can learn about The Blerch.

A while back, The Oatmeal (he might actually have a real name, but if I ever meet him I will probably call him 'Mr. The Oatmeal') did a comic entitled "The terrible and wonderful reason I run long distances."

As I have often said that I am rather dwarf-like in regards to running (as in "I'm wasted on cross-country! We Dwarves are natural sprinters, very dangerous over short distances. Just keep breathing, that's the key") I figured that I would not be able to identity much with this particular cartoon. But being the good quasi-fan-girl that I am, I opened it up and I started reading it. And I discovered the name to something that has been haunting me for years. But, really, you need to go read it yourself. I'll wait . . ..  .

Ok, so. The Blerch. I have one. Only instead of a running Blerch it is an Irish Dance Blerch. The same little fat cherub that follows The Oatmeal when he runs has a sister that follows me when I dance. They look identical, except instead of a sweat band, my Blerch wears a giant crazy wig.

Like seriously . . . I want to start a hash tag campaign or somehow directly contact The Oatmeal and have him draw an Irish Dance wig on his blerch, just for me. Somehow, I don't think this will ever happen. But a girl can dream, right?

Basically, what I am trying to say is "what he said", only I am entirely less funny about it.

I've been blerching so bad recently when it comes to dance class, and it's landed me where it always lands me; right before a feis, out of shape, out of practice and thoroughly unprepared. It's a double-header memorial day weekend. Historically, I've done pretty well at the two competitions, but that isn't enough.

The Blerch is telling me not to go. I've learned like 15% of 2 of the new steps I need to learn. I've forgotten steps that I've previously done well at because I've been ignoring them in favor of practicing my trouble-spots. I've been feeling particularly fat and gross and self conscious the last few weeks. Y'know, all those terrible little voices - Fear, regret, doubt, cake.

But, As I was sweating my ass off in class tonight, a muscle tweeking behind my knee and convinced that I was going to die - either from over-exertion or embarresment, whichever came first, I wasn't picky - I kept reminding myself of a few things (except my treble jig - despite my best efforts, I was completely unable to remind myself of that, causing me shuffle like a moron by myself in front of the whole class).

The things I reminded myself of:

1. No matter how much I wanted to drag myself home and drown my sorrows in Peach Milkshakes rather then sweating and derping infront of a bunch of children, I remembered that I am never going to give up this fight. And the only way I am going to get better at it is to keep pushing through it even when I don't want to.

2. No matter how terrified I am of going to these feiseanna and embarrassing the ever living jibbers out of myself, I've already tanked at competions before and I have managed to NOT die from the shame. And I am not going to give myself the option of not going! (remind me of that on Friday when I am trying to bail again, ok?)

3. I might not get a medal, and that is ok. First off, I hardly deserve one with the lack of practice and effort I have been putting into it. And second, to have the privlidege of doing something I love, of pursuing a childhood dream that was always unavailable to me - that means alot. Medals are just icing on the cake.

So, I have a busy week ahead of me. Besides normal life tasks such as work, church, home, husband, etc, I have to find some time and place to practice, I have to ice down my bad knee, I need to soothe my wounded pride and then find somewhere to lock it away so it doesn't get permanently damaged this weekend, I need to iron the frumper and trial run the wig. I need to scope the competition online, find my lost treble jig and lose my bad attitude.

Think I can manage that all in a week?

Alright, going to go put up mt feet as they have not stopped aching since class. I will leave you with this parting thought . . . .