Return to Tango – 9 months on.

Well, the time I’ve had my new hip in my body is the time needed to grow and deliver a baby. A strange thought!

But not really, when I think about it. It has actually taken that time for me to feel comfortable, mostly, with this new addition to my body. The hip itself has just sat there, quietly surrounding itself with new bone, but the muscles have grumbled mightily and taken a long time to stretch out, develop and feel easy.

I’ve been sore a lot of the time but, as my physio and pilates teacher said, I am asking for a high degree of rehabilitation by wanting to return to tango with all its physical demands. That’s made me feel better about it all.

And I have been really improving with my dancing. My axis is stronger than it was even when I started learning- I think my hip was starting to weaken back at that point. My legs are also stronger now because of the excellent, very specific and focused pilates classes I do and I have much more strength, control and stability than I did. Now, my body can actually manage to do what I want it to do – most of the time.

I’ve been having some private lessons to help fine tune and consolidate my dancing. This is excellent as I had developed some defensive techniques to wriggle around my weaknesses and it’s terrific to be sharpened up.

Even so, I need to be careful about not doing too much – very frustrating. I do just one class and then only a few dances at the following Practica. A few weekends ago, Sidewalk Tango ran a terrific Vals Workshop which ran for two hours followed by a Practica. I managed the Workshop but was pretty tired. However, I was so pleased to be dancing comfortably that I danced on for far too long at the Practica. Not good. My body was very, very overtired and I was hopeless at class that week and even the next week. Plus, I’ve been a bit sore again and my ankle is now grumbling- on the other leg!!

So! This post has been rather like all the others, a mixed bunch of success and tribulations, but marking a general improvement. It’s not a fast and easy process.

 

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Hip Replacement and Tango: 6 months

It’s been interesting the way the targets have sort of spread out and become less noticeable during this 6th month since the operation. The pace, whilst never ‘linear’, has become steadier with fewer clear cut markers or events.

However! The six month visit to the surgeon, Mr Phong Tran, was reassuring in that he is very pleased with both the placement of the new joint and the bone growth around it. I hadn’t been thinking about bone growth so it’s good to have had something happen without me consciously making it happen! I don’t need to see him again. I left with instructions/permission to do as I wish but not to fall over and break my hip.

Pilates continues to be excellent and I love it. Apart from obvious strengthening work there some very enjoyable balance work. I’ve had a couple of massages by the physio to loosen the hip area now that I have some muscles there to loosen. That was good.

My muscles continue to be sore and tight but are improving. Pool walking seems to work very well. This work will go on for about a year at which stage people tell me their bodies suddenly feel normal again. I still get tired but apparently that diminishes too.

Tango is going really well. I’m stronger than I was even when I started a few years ago. I seem to be taller. I can do a whole class now quite easily and have a few dances afterwards at the Practica. It’s terrific!

 

 

Back to Tango after Total Hip Replacement: 5 months

It’s been about 4-5 weeks since my last post about actually getting back on the dance floor and a lot has happened. I’m now at the stage where I can do a whole class and a few dances afterwards at the Practica and feel tired but happy. My legs are tired and thighs fairly tight the next day but the tightness goes with some exercise and stretching.

My new hip has made a huge difference to the strength on that leg even though the muscles are still tight and not terribly strong. Generally, my dancing is developing back to being smooth with some very occasional little bits of wobble and loss of control.

Interestingly, I’ve found that my concentration is harder to maintain but that’s improving. I think it’s because I’m still a bit anxious about ‘how I will manage’ and how I will go with different partners.

What has helped me hugely has been Pilates. I found a physio who specializes in hip and core stabilization and have been going to her small, 3 people, classes once a week. She works gradually and progresses the exercises at a really good rate. I have a set of exercises to do at home. She told me to be really careful about the dancing but recognized my need as a ‘mental health’ issue and therefore important to do.

It’s been important to loosen these muscles as they work and strengthen so I go and have a monthly Remedial Massage.

I’m back to taking a low dose anti-inflammatory once a day to help the knees which still have remnants of tenderness from the bursitis and to help the hip joint itself settle down. That helps and, if I need to, take an occasional Panadol Osteo to remove the pain of tightness if I’m going to exercise and want to do that properly.

All in all, I’m at a good stage of strengthening and feeling normal life returning. I do get tired though. The physio says that it takes 6 months to gain strength in the muscles and another 6 months to develop control.

 

Return to Tango after Total Hip Replacement: Weeks 14-15

Well! I have actually returned to tango.

I decided that part of the process would be to have a private lesson with my teacher, David Backler, from Sidewalk Tango which is where we learn. I wasn’t sure of how strong I was or what my stamina would be like and wanted to test that with a very experienced dancer who would have a good feel for where I was at. I felt I needed to be kept safe.

I was nervous but the lesson went well as we gradually moved from walking to going into the cross. That was a test of my straight back leg which had got a bit timid over the last few months off the floor. It was good to focus on that crispness and also remember to focus the gaze onto my partner’s chest. Interesting that I’d lost a bit of that concentration. We did two twenty minute sessions and it felt really good and encouraging. I enjoyed doing an ocho which flipped around instead of me having to winch myself around.

Encouraged by that, I joined the Intermediate Class on the following Wednesday. That was harder. Not all partners wait for the lady to get on her axis and I’m very sensitive to that at the moment. We did voleos as part of the dance figure and my hip  and leg are not quite ready to do a lot of them in succession. I sat out for a few minutes about two thirds through but next time will stop for a break each 15 minutes. The nature of a class is repetition and that’s a bit tiring. However, I was pleased and excited to have managed it.

In the Practica following the class, I had a couple of good dances with friends who were thoughtful and considerate in their lead. That was enjoyable.

We went to the Practica the following Sunday afternoon where I had a pleasant time of dancing a couple of songs and then resting before some more. Partners were thoughtful and steady in their lead.

Generally, I can still feel the stiffness in my thigh muscles and am aware of needing to strengthen up.

I’m starting a clinical Pilates class this week and am looking forward to that very specific strengthening and stretching.

All I take now is a couple of Panadol Osteos before a class to help with the distraction of the thigh tightness.

 

 

 

 

Return to Tango after Total Hip Replacement. Weeks 11-13

These have been a good few weeks. First, I’m off the Targin. Probably I did it a bit too quickly, but who knows. I had a week or so of feeling a bit uneasy and unwell, a bit cold but with no pain so I was happy enough to put up with that. Now I’m fine- still on Panadol Osteo but starting to ease back on the anti-inflammatories. No hip pain, just muscular tightness which comes and goes with what exercise I’ve done.

I’m getting stronger and looser but it will take quite a bit more time to be any where near normal – whatever that is/was!

As for Tango – I joined the Beginners’ Class last week for the introductory walking section and enjoyed it hugely and it felt fine. However, it was interesting how much harder it was to walk in strict time and at a slower pace than just practising at home.

I actually danced last weekend at a wedding- a mixture of bopping around and some simple tango to very untango rock music. To my surprise, I found myself doing some good neat ochos. My new hip feels so much stronger than the poor old one which I now realize had no strength or support.

 

Return to Tango after Total Hip Replacement. Weeks 6-10

These last weeks have been all about my KNEE! This was not part of the plan.

During week 6, I developed a bit of pain below the knee on the same side as the hip replacement. Within a few days, it had become so intense that I could put no weight on it and was back on my crutches and scrabbling around for strong pain killers again.

Off to the doctor and off for an Xray and Ultrasound and back on the big pain killers. Results were that I had Bursitis of the Pes Anserine- a bursa just below the knee where 3 large muscles cross. Also some inflammation and degenerative tearing of the Medial Collateral Ligament and inflammation of the meniscus, which I used to know as the cartilage. Well, that explained the pain, at least.

Treatment: 5 day course of cortisone, Targin again and rest and physiotherapy. About a 6 week recovery period.

Apparently, this knee problem after hip surgery is not uncommon and  is related to tightness from the surgery, existing weakness and increasing activity.

What I’ve learnt is that, in this case, ‘rest’ meant sitting or lying with no activity beyond the absolutely essential. That actually made a big difference once I’d brought my version of ‘rest’ down to that.

The physiotherapy is based on releasing the tight muscles around my thigh and strengthening the almost non-existent muscle on the inside of my knee.

This has all been gradually working to relieve the pain but I find it hard to get the balance right between strengthening and straining the muscles. Also, once I started improving, I found it very easy to overdo any walking or exercise and end up sore rather than gratifyingly just tight from execising.

I’ve started going to a remedial masseur also because my body needs loosening up generally, compared to the focussed treatment of the physiotherapist. This has been very helpful in starting to balance up my back, hip and leg muscles from all the compensation during the hip pain before the replacement.

It’s been strange to remember that I had such a big hip operation so recently with this knee totally up-staging it. ‘What hip?’ I say. I’ve been sorry and frustrated not having been able to just move steadily along with specific hip physio and strengthening and get back to tango and normal walking and activities. However, it’ll sort itself out in time if I’m careful.

Meanwhile, I think I must be going for some sort of record for watching tango lessons from the side. There’ve been no more little walking forays on the floor, just watching. Frustrating but I’d rather be there watching than stay at home while Nick goes to classes. Plus, I’ve had the pleasure of watching him really improve over the last few months and am looking forward to being up and dancing with him again when I’m ready.

The watching has actually been very interesting. I’ve liked listening to the lesson, mentally doing it and just enjoying  and thinking about the many and varied responses of the people in the class. It’s given me time to appreciate even more the patience of the teachers. Best of all, watching and going to Sidewalk Tango through all this has helped keep me engaged and motivated to get back on the dance floor.

 

 

 

 

Tango Suspension

TANGO SUSPENSION.

Last Wednesday’s Intermediate Class at Sidewalk Tango introduced the concept of Suspension in the Embrace to us. David and Di talked about the embrace and the pause and the opportunities these generated. They moved from tango music, selected Claude Debussy’s Clair de Lune from the play list and turned the lights down to a pinky glow. David mentioned that Debussy once described music as, ‘The silence between the notes.’

I was still sidelined with my hip and watched the couples quietly exploring this moment in the dance. I longed to be out there on the floor with them.

However, it got me thinking, and next morning when ‘negative space’ popped into my head, I realized that if I can’t dance it, I can think it and write it.

So….

 I learnt that the leader draws his partner into suspension, a pause. It’s a moment to hold and transform the pause into a gathering point or a threshold. It is time, hanging in space, isolated in the now but with resonances of the past and the opportunities of the future.

This pause is wide reaching. Isaac Stern, the conductor, talks of ‘silences which give the form’ of a piece of music, echoing Debussy.

Suspended time is not unlike the visual artist’s concept of the negative space which exists around and between two objects. In this case, the space has a strong role in the whole composition and is about the rightness and balance of the positioning. Negative space can often create a presence or image of itself such as the obvious case when two vases placed side by side will create an image of a face between them. In tango there is not only a temporal pause but a pause in space where the embrace and the position of the dancers’ bodies speak their own language.

I discovered that the Japanese take this concept further with their principle of ‘ma.’ Very simply, this refers to the space or interval between two structural parts and a consciousness of these two elements. It is also about what takes place in the imagination of the person who experiences these transient elements and it’s in that that I found the connection to tango deepened. I really liked the idea of the imagination and mind engaged in this suspended moment between two people. There’s an interesting sense of being both within and without the body.

Then in The Age on Saturday (28 February, 2015), I was reading a discussion by Kathy Heyman on writing dialogue. She says that the author and the reader listen to the silences and pauses between words. It is the silent subtext flowing beneath the words which draws the dialogue and narrative along.

To complete the circle and return to last Wednesday’s tango class, I found it very interesting to discover how far that word, ‘suspension’, took me into the wider artistic world. It deepened my understanding of a very specific layer of meaning. I’m thinking about a feeling of height, lift and poise coupled with the suspense of being open and quiet. I flow into this moment.