Wednesday, March 20, 2013

I'm Not Depressed, I Am Just Honest

Please correct me if I am wrong
I see myself as a pretty upbeat, thoughtful, and inspiring person.
Am I delusional?
Controlled Burn Fitness, Chez Calasanz, Disciplined Indulgence
Me, Melissa Adylia Calasanz, striking one of  my signature poses...
Hmmm, is this what a depressing person, with a poor self image, looks like?
Well, I guess so, if I am supposed to believe what I was told yesterday...
Last week, I was assigned to do a Self Critique of my performance during my skills test for the Jazz 3-4 class I am enrolled in at Orange Coast College. (You can read  the essay in my previous post, "A Reflection on My Journey Back to Dance"I believe I did a very thoughtful and thorough "Self Critique."  However, the Jazz teacher, whose class I wrote it for, pulled me aside yesterday after class to "have a talk." She said that after she read my paper, she was worried about me. She said she thought I must be suffering from depression, thought I had an unhealthy self image, and that I needed to seek some counseling. Now, I'm certain that everyone could probably benefit from some counseling from time to time, myself included, but golly! I thought my self-critique was objective and insightful, and I made a pretty good effort to point out a positive after any negative I wrote about myself.
I found the process of writing the paper and sharing it on my blog, and with friends on Facebook, to be therapeutic and inspiring. In fact, I received some wonderful private messages from friends, clients, and fellow students who had read the paper after I posted the blog on FB. One of my dear friends even re-posted it on her FB page with this:

"My good friend, Melissa Adylia Calasanz, posted this today. I thought I would share it with my friends and family as I find these words quite inspirational." 

When I got home after the interesting conversation with the teacher, I reached out to the friends who had commented on my blog post. A dear friend, former client, and respected health and fitness professional posted this note:

“I think your teacher did not read the last two paragraphs of your wonderful essay. Count the number of "loves!" I think you evaluated the past and today in a completely honest, open, positive and accepting manner. Just think of how many great woman (and men) have written memoirs about aging, life, death, disease, loss, gains, basically the Shakespearean themes, and are they judged as depressed, over the hill, institution-able???? It is a shame that your teacher does not recognize your boundless joie de vivre! But those of us who are lucky to have you as a friend, confidante and teachers do know. That is what counts!”

In this day and age where people are constantly coddling each other with politically correct platitudes, and "everyone's a winner" just for showing up, it is rare to hear anyone openly and honestly share the fact that they have taken an honest look at themselves. I have no problem facing the truth-even if it stings a bit.
If  a "self critique" is supposed to be focused on one's "self," and everyone’s “self” has a mix of positive and negative, should there not be a focus on both the positive and negative?…Hmm, I guess I need a better education?
Anyway, here is the amended, "upbeat" paper I whipped up in 20 minutes last night.
I'd love your opinions, good and bad, please share!

The Amended Self Critique...

...doesn't read much like a self-critique if you ask me…
...but I’m just following directions.

Last week, I was assigned to do a Self Critique of my performance during my skills test for the Jazz 3-4 class I am enrolled in at Orange Coast College. (You can read the paper in my previous post, "A Reflection on My Journey Back to Dance"). However, if you read this post, you'll see that the paper was not received very well.

March 19, 2013
OCC Jazz Dance Class Self Critique Part 2

Though I feel the original Self Critique I had written and turned in last week is sufficient enough to fulfill the assignment, I will take a moment to make the suggested amendments in order to specifically address the choreography/combination, and to more clearly state my long and short term goals regarding dance, and the active steps I am taking in order to achieve them.
It has been over twenty years since I have been enrolled in a college level Jazz Dance class, however, I believe my experience as a former professional dancer, and health and fitness professional working with current and former professional dancers to rehabilitate them from injury, lends me the experience and perspective to give an objective opinion about the choreography/combination we learned over the past few weeks. I found the choreography to be absolutely appropriate for accommodating students of a mixed-level, Jazz 3-4 class. It included all the dynamics usually associated with what is expected of a level 4 jazz student to be capable of mastering, yet not too challenging to discourage the level 3 participants. There were no jumps included in the choreography, but the direction changes, turns, and floor work complimented the music beautifully, and presented an excellent opportunity for the instructor to assess the skill level of each student. Though I rarely had the opportunity to participate in the combination, I do remember it was an absolutely enjoyable experience to perform it on the one day I did attempt dancing it full-out during a class in early February.
As I mentioned in the previous paper, I have only taken about fifteen non-beginning level dance classes in the past five years. I no longer have a flair for picking up or retaining choreography, and I no longer move with the confidence and skill I did.  I was under the impression that last Tuesday was the day of the skills test and assessment, so I put my best foot forward and gave it my best try. Unfortunately, as I mentioned in the previous paper, when it was my time to dance in a group, my emotions took over and I do not remember even doing the routine. Thankfully, when I had the opportunity to watch the video later that evening, I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t the worst thing I had ever seen, and I reminded myself that I would never have to attempt doing that combination ever again. I also gave myself the permission to put the experience behind me. Little did I know, last Tuesday was NOT the skills test! Uh oh! Imagine my surprise when I arrived to the next class and was informed that we were to “get ready for the skills test.” I was stunned, exhausted, and completely not prepared to do that combination ever again! My body was completely over-worked from my other obligations and I had not thought of that combination since I had written that paper on Tuesday evening.
Though I was completely unprepared, totally uninspired, and on the verge of injuring myself, I did it. I was a train wreck, but boy, it was entertaining! I did the combination in the wrong direction, which I later realized was the result of the last time I had thought about/seen the combination. The last time I had “seen” it was while watching the video of it, so when I had to do it on the spot,  the only reference point available in my memory was my wonky, mirror image. I was fortunate that I had already written the previous paper or I wouldn't have been capable of finding the humor in it; the entire time I was attempting to get through the choreography, I was laughing inside thinking if anyone had ever seen the I Love Lucy Ballet Class Episode, they would totally think I was trying to do a Lucy impersonation. ;)
The experience of “just going for it” was great. I didn't die of embarrassment, and it solidified my realization that, though I know I will still occasionally yearn for the dancing days of my youth, I can still do more than most people, even completely unprepared.
The experience of “just going for it” has influenced my short term dance goals. My short-term goals for this class include: Just getting through it, and allowing myself to “just pass”; honoring my body more than a grade; Finding joy in the fact that I have had the courage to stick with it; and continuing to glean valuable information by observing the dancers in class as they progress both personally and technically. I also look forward to tackling the next combination. I know if I just keep showing up and staying present, I will meet these goals.
As for long-term dance goals, I had already begun working on my long-term personal and professional dance goals prior to enrolling it this class-that is what brought me here. I had put off going back to school because the success of my business, Controlled Burn Fitness, demanded too much of my time. Fortunately, (yes, I mean fortunately) the business suffered a fire and had to be closed in 2011. This unexpected event helped me to make the decision to put my business, and the majority of my clients, on hold and head back to school full time. The active steps I have taken to achieve my long term dance goals include continuing to excel in my core-curriculum academic classes. And though I have no desire to ever dance professionally again, I know I will continue to take dance classes after this semester, wherever I can and whenever it is convenient.


Saturday, March 16, 2013

A Reflection on My Journey Back to Dance

A Reflection on My Journey Back to Dance
Hard work, a little discomfort, humbling realizations of weakness...Must remember it will all be worth it. Move your body, exercise your mind, challenge yourself and thank the people who support you.
A 20 Year Old Melissa Adylia Gutierrez (now Calasanz)
taking a dance break on the 5 freeway on the way to Sea World

The Following was written on Tuesday, March 12, 2013, as an assignment for a Jazz Class I am currently enrolled in at Orange Coast College. Jazz was my thing...ballet was never my strong point.  However, it is fascinating for me to observe how uncomfortable I feel in this Jazz class compared to how I feel while taking an Advanced Ballet Class, two days a week at Glendale Community College.  

OCC Jazz Dance Class Self Critique
It could be easy for a non-dancer to assume that a former professional dancer would have no problem participating in a college level Jazz dance class. However, I would be happy to assure anyone who held such an assumption that, for some former professional dancers, returning to a college dance class can prove to be challenging, not just physically, but also emotionally. Since enrolling in this class, in order to fulfill a requirement for my degree, I have had to face many unwelcomed insecurities, and I’ve also had to learn how to accept where I am today. Having the assignment to give myself a self-critique for my performance in our skills test on Tuesday, as well as critiquing myself for attempting to execute the choreographed material, has afforded the opportunity for me to reflect on my physical and emotional journey back to dance.
Though I have only taken about fifteen dance classes in the past five years, I have found that returning to dance class has been more of an emotional challenge than a physical one. For instance, it has been difficult to come to terms with the reflection I see in the mirror. Though my rational mind knows I have a relatively wonderful body for a woman my age, the former professional dancer in me has a minor emotional breakdown each day I have to put on the required dance clothes for class. At a weight of over twenty pounds more than what I weighed while I was dancing professionally, I no longer recognize myself in the mirror, and when I do realize that the reflection I see in the mirror is Me, there is a moment where my heart sinks and I yearn for the days when I was young, lean, and talented. 
I not only look so different from when I was a dancer, my body moves much less gracefully, and it takes my body a lot longer to become in synch with my mental intention. I no longer have a flair for picking up or retaining choreography. This contributes to the fact that I no longer move with the confidence and skill I did while I was a professional dancer.  However, though my ability to carry out choreography in a competent manner still eludes me, I have been pleasantly surprised to see that I am still capable of executing technical drills/exercises, in both the warm up and across the floor, efficiently and with clarity. I am thrilled to see that years of great technique is still ingrained in my muscle memory.
The idiosyncrasies in regards to my muscle memory were highlighted while engaging in the across the floor skills test/improvisation on Tuesday. The moment we were instructed to add “personal flair” to our walks across the floor, I “had to” take my hair down in order to move with confidence. I had already committed to challenge myself,  the second week of this semester when I decided to no longer wear my heels across the floor, but without the security-blanket my heels represented, I felt completely naked and incapable of “really dancing” with my hair up. I was amused by how obvious my insecurities could be dealt with just by adjusting my hair.  Once I took my hair down, the improvisation passes across the floor become easier. I made a conscious effort to put my hair back up as I relaxed and regained my confidence.
Unfortunately, my confidence didn’t last.  When it was my time to dance in a group, with all the young dancers, my emotions took over once again and I was an internal mess-as I always happen to be during this class. I do not remember even doing the routine. I find myself checking out each time I’ve had to do it. I was not looking forward to viewing my “performance” video later that evening. Thankfully, when I had the opportunity to watch the video, I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t the worst thing I had ever seen.
I chose to look at the video with kindness, and critique myself for what I really am: I am no longer a professional dancer! I have not been a professional dancer since 2005, and I have barely taken any dance classes in years! I have suffered a non-dance/sport-related injury which has left my left femur missing quite a bit of articular cartilage, and I have many other physical obligations I have to attend to in my personal and professional life which do not lend my body enough time to recover in order to go “full-out” in a dance class!
Realizing I can objectively view myself, not as an old and overweight “has-been” dancer, but as a student, is liberating. Yes, I was not on the music, yes, there were times when it was obvious I had lost direction and even forgot the choreography, and yes, the young dancers around me looked beautiful and full of potential and remind me of what I once was. Fortunately, I can now see what I still have, and what I will always have, and that is my experience, and a new found respect for how I am facing this.
I intend to continue to challenge my comfort level as I continue through this class, yet respect my physical limitations. My legs may no longer get as high as they used to, but my placement is still good, and my intention is respectful. I just need to give myself permission to stop comparing myself to who I used to be as a woman and a dancer and celebrate who I am today: I am an amazingly active fitness professional that loves participating in numerous half and full marathons and trail races throughout the year; I love that I kayak, trail run, hike, and bike weekly while taking jazz and ballet classes-each twice a week-for the first time in years; I love that the degree I am completing will continue helping me to keep dancers and athletes injury-free; and I love that being a participant and an observer in this class is providing me rich and valuable information that will enrich me just as much personally as it will enrich me professionally.

-Melissa Adylia Calasanz
Controlled Burn Fitness
Chez Calasanz
Disciplined Indulgence