Dancing Through Arthritis

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I had actually planned to stay for group and party tonight which is why I didn’t think I’d do another post but my knee had other ideas so I’m here and not in a great mood and feel like venting just a bit.

It all started yesterday when I was on my lesson with Sunny and we were doing Argentine Tango.  She starts in on how we need to add rise/fall to the dance and that it all comes from bending the knees.  This set off the alarm bells in my head but I let myself get talked into these things because I can’t say no.

They are all “just bend as much as you feel comfortable”.  Well, technically, that would be no bending at all.  But there are two problems with that non-helpful comment.  First, I have to bend some to actually feel what you want me to feel when doing the step.  Secondly, I don’t know how much is too much.  It is not like I get a shooting pain (well, sometimes that does happen) but it is just a gradual thing that sneaks up on me and smacks me upside the head.  By the time I realize I’ve gone too far, it is too late.

But I just kept pushing because I just can’t stand up for myself at times.  About fifteen minutes in my knee was screaming.  (Literally screaming – the whole studio turned to look and see what was happening – OK I made that up)  I had to stop and finally admit that I couldn’t do this.  Sunny still tried to get me to do it less so we went through the pattern and cut out part of the rise and fall but the problem is that I still had to spend too much time on a bent knee and that is the issue.  Again, I finally had to just say “I can’t do this anymore” and we went back to just doing straight leg stuff.  I actually ended up having to borrow some ibuprofen because it was seriously throbbing.

If I had been smart, I would have called it a night, but we are pakleds, we look for things to make us go.  We are not smart.  (bonus points if you get that reference)  The ibuprofen knocked things back enough so I could do group which was swing and I made sure not to do any craziness.

My lesson with Kid T was Tango which is supposed to be danced in the bent knee thing.  She’s tried to get me to do it but I was able to stand up for myself and say it just wasn’t happening.  I did what I could which wasn’t much.  The ironic thing is that it was the best the Tango has felt in a long time.  Go figure.  There were a couple of parts that required some fast footwork and I was actually nailing those which was new.

And we moved on to Mambo after that because I’m a glutton for punishment.  Hurt me, hurt me.  We got hung up in the part I got hung up on last time because it just didn’t “feel” right.  She couldn’t figure out how to make it work and even dragged OwnerGuy over but he was in the middle of a lesson himself and wasn’t feeling particularly helpful.  After the lesson, he comes over to say “show me” and we do it and he thinks for a bit and then figures out that we were doing it wrong and shows Kid T the right way and they tape it.  Inside I felt a small amount of vindication.  I couldn’t tell you what was wrong but I KNEW something was wrong and it was.

Fast forward to today’s lesson and we started with the Mambo just to lock in the fix and the second time I did it, I recognized the feeling and all was right with the world.  If only I could translate what I feel into real words and phrases, then we could have fixed this.  And, she made a small adjustment to the Tango and we did that part which was OK except my knee didn’t like the little twisty things we were doing.

Unfortunately, she picked tonight to work on the Quickstep routine.  Again, my mind was screaming NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO but I just said “sure, let’s do it”.  See, there are a couple of steps in the routine that are very hard on the knee and, sure enough, it was all achy and swollen by the end of the lesson.  I had iced it before going but that wasn’t enough.  I had to quit with about 5 minutes left so we switched to some Rumba and called it a day.

I suppose I could have given group and party a shot but I decided that rest was the better option.  The good news is that I do have an appointment to get a cortisone shot next week.  Those really knock back the inflammation and I should be good to go at Showcase.  I can say with 100% certainty that I won’t be doing any rise and fall in the Argentine Tango.

And this brings us to the mini rant portion.  When I was talking with Kid T afterward about the whole rise/fall, she said something about that’s what the judges would be looking for so I had to do something.  Sunny said something similar.  I came close to being extremely blunt with them and saying that I really didn’t give a shit what the judges think.  I’m not doing this dance to get critiques.  I’m doing this dance because I enjoyed it with the Body Double and I thought it was worth giving it a second chance.  But, if I can’t physically do it without causing serious pain, then I’m not going to jeopardize the rest of my dances just so the judges won’t critique that.  Even if I did it, they’d find something else to critique so why not hand them the low hanging fruit and make their lives easy?

I suppose I could have used the title of this post as the title for my blog and written a lot of uplifting stories about dancing through the pain and on and on but that’s not really my style.  What continues to piss me off about this is the attitude I get from the instructors.  Look, I know I can be a diva and a pain in the ass and I can be stubborn about doing things I don’t want to do.  But there is a huge difference between not wanting to do something because it makes me feel stupid and not wanting to do something because I’ll be in pain for a week after doing it.  I work through it when I can and try to make adjustments so it isn’t always clear how much pain I’m in at times.  If I say I can’t do it, then it is because I know my body and I know what causes me pain and what doesn’t.  I seriously wish they would respect that.  Use some creativity and figure out how I can do things without having to put more stress on my knee.

Well, that was the excitement for tonight.  Hilde asked about going to the second studio tomorrow.  Of course I said I’m in but I did tell her I’ll have to take it easy.  We’ll see how it goes.


  1. I hope your knee feels better soon. Dancing isn’t your profession, you shouldn’t have to work through pain. Keep sticking up for yourself. They should be professional enough to move on to something else when you’re hurting like that.

    1. I did manage to tell TrainerGuy that the flamingos were out today and he altered his program without a thought. So it should be that easy with dancing.

      1. It IS that easy with dancing. I have a guy with a bad shoulder and when I forget and try to have him use that shoulder in a painful way for him, he just says “Can’t do that.” I ponder an alternative (if there is one) and we either do an alt. version or we SKIP IT. Forever. I can’t do bolero r/f so I only dance it with a slight change in elevation because of my knees. I can barely, barely follow a man with a great lead dancing all that big bolero r/f (which is not how I learned it waaaay back when). I also can’t do more than a few swivels or fans because that really torques my knees even though I’m doing them expertly. Wall, you gotta stop going along with everything and learn to just say “No. My knees/hips/shldr are in bad shape and so I can’t.” It isn’t failure, it’s just fact. I decided that immediate over-compensating causing further injury is a quick way to totally end my dance career, so I take it easy. I rather do LESS NOW, than NONE AT ALL in the future.

  2. Hi D.Wall. I really enjoy your blog and look forward to reading about your dancing. I have been following you for a while but have been hesitant to comment until now. I am a pro-am dancer too and I know how it feels to get pushed too far physically (and honestly emotionally too!) by dance instructors. You have to stand up for yourself in this situation–yes you can push a little more than is comfortable–but never to the point of pain. Listen to your body. 😄

    1. Hi! Its always nice to hear from new people and I’m glad you decided to comment. You are right, I will have to do a better job at enforcing the limits I’ve got.

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