When I tell people I ballroom dance and that I have vertigo, they are surprised. When Mark is with me, they look at him to see if I’m lying. I’m not lying. We adapt almost everything.
Here are two examples. In waltz, there is a gorgeous step, called 3/8ths turns. The gentleman leads a left box while the lady makes a natural turn (to her right) followed by a progressive step, then a right box while the lady makes a reverse turn followed by another progressive step and then a final closing step. It’s a beautiful sweeping step, and when done well, swoops across the floor. Well, I can do the first turn and progressive step—if I don’t bring my feet together at the end of each step. But that’s not good waltz form. So, if I keep to good waltz form, when it comes to the second turn, because my ocular reflex is broken, I’m disoriented for the turn. In effect, I’m blind because my vision has not caught up with my body. I’m still off-balance and dizzy from the first turn. At first, I didn’t do the second turn. Then, I started to fall on the first turn, when I started bringing my feet together. Narrowing my base of support makes my balance iffy. So we work on my form, not my turns. I do the step, not the turns. So yes, my 3/8ths turns are 3/8 boxes without turns.
In cha-cha, there’s a step called the Manhattan rollout. The lady does the triple step, the cha-cha-cha, followed by a 90-degree turn to her left, and then forward step, called a cross-over. Then, she’s supposed to do a quick three-point turn facing back to her partner while the gentleman does some modification of a cha-cha-cha, followed by a cross-over in the other direction. You do three sets of these. Well, you do if you’re someone else. I do cha-cha’s instead of the turns. And, Mark helps me by catching my hand to guide me through the cha-cha’s after the cross-overs, because each 90-degree turn for the cross-over and back is a challenge.
When we compete, I walk into the ballroom using my cane for balance. I’m one of a few dancers who do use a cane. I don’t make the same marks as other people do, because I don’t make the turns. I’m starting to snap my head at the right places, although I don’t do it for the vision—the spotting through a turn. I can’t see through a turn anyway, so why not use my head to help me through a turn, even if I can’t see?
Dancing helps me because we video our dances. The video is how we discovered my frame and balance is great in closed position, when I use two hands to balance against my partner. My balance stinks when I only have one hand, and is even worse when I have no feedback. Not surprising, but now that we have video evidence, I have data that I can use.
There are some challenges to dancing. My partners, Mark and Istvan, my teacher, are very strong. It’s a good thing, because I pull them off balance when I’m having a dizzy day. There are days when I wonder what the heck I’m doing at the studio. I am sure there are days they wonder, too! I don’t take too many group classes, because I need all my own balance for a group class. And, we change partners for a group class, which can be difficult for my partners. I no longer go to the practice parties because they turn the lights down for the parties, and I can’t manage the dark.
On the other hand, I love to dance. When I was single, I made my boyfriends take dance lessons with me. So, until I can no longer walk or I can’t afford it or I damage a teacher, I’m dancing. So there. That’s how I dance. By adapting everything and by persevering.