Practice, Practice, Practice!

I mailed my entry forms for USDC!  Hotel is reserved, flights are booked.  No turning back now!

I'm mailing a check for how much??  I can't watch.

I’m mailing a check for how much?? I can’t watch.

With just under 5 weeks to go, I’m carefully managing my mindset so it doesn’t turn all dark and negative and anxiety-ridden.  I know myself, so I know I’ll freak out at some point.  But it’s ok. USDC will be my first competition at which I dance silver.  Might sound a little crazy, entering the silver level for the first time at Nationals.  But Teacher believes I can do it, and I am getting a test run at a team match in two weeks.  I’m doing my best to ignore the fact that I still don’t know all of the steps in my silver routines.  Trying to stay positive, I focus on the fact that I am making progress at every lesson. And I can follow the steps when I dance with Teacher. And there are still 5 weeks to go.  Or is it only 5 weeks??

My goal right now is to get myself to the studio as much as possible to practice.  I was finding it hard to practice when I didn’t know what steps to practice!  And that would make me frustrated, which in turn would make me feel down about myself and my abilities.  But Teacher had someone to record some new videos of us dancing the routines, so I have those to guide me. More or less. Sometimes I spend half my practice playing the video in slow motion trying to figure out what the heck my feet are doing!

It’s funny how different I feel practicing by myself versus with Teacher in a lesson. Sometimes I do nothing but stumble around or constantly stop and start in practice because I can’t find my balance or I keep forgetting or questioning the steps. But just a day or two before, I felt solid dancing those same steps with Teacher. And then sometimes I feel I dance great in practice! Teacher gives me homework assignments and in practice, I nail them! And I think “yes, I got this! What’s next?” And then I go to my next lesson and basically suck. WTF?

It’s a no brainer that practicing ballroom alone is a completely different animal than practicing it with a partner. I feel like I need to be good at both. Even though at performance time, I will have my partner there and I can just follow when I forget the steps. But being able to dance the steps and do the technique and even throw in some styling all on my own is important to my personal development in ballroom. Dancing on my own forces me to practice “putting myself out there” since I don’t have a partner to help cover up potential mistakes. Yes, I’m even self-conscious about making a fool of myself practicing at the studio. No one else seems to stumble as much as I do when they practice on their own. It could be they’re not pushing themselves as much, or they are stumbling but I don’t see it because I’m too worried about my own stumbles. Or they’re just better than me. Here is where I need to remind myself that it doesn’t matter, I shouldn’t compare myself. We are all on our own unique journeys.

Practicing things like rise and fall and swing/sway on my own also helps build strength so I can make those movements more powerful when dancing with Teacher. Being able to dance the steps and know what angle I should be facing or how far I need to rotate without Teacher guiding me tells me that I really know the dance, I’m not just following. And that gives me that rare internal positive feedback that says hey, maybe I really am a “real dancer.”

I can honestly say I’m making progress on the positive thinking front. The scoffs or discounts that always echo in my head when I try to give myself a pat on the back are losing some of their clout. They don’t sound as loud or feel as intense. Which is very encouraging as I get closer and closer to two very big competitions. I need to practice styling and I need to practice emotional expression. And that’s practically impossible when those demons are having a party at my expense in my head. But the parties haven’t been as loud recently. I’m cautiously optimistic.

Time to get back to practice.


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