I’ve lucked out twice now with my studio holding a team match shortly before I’m to go to a big competition. Team matches are great to use as rehearsals for the “real thing” because you get the structure of a competition without the stress. Or in my case, with less stress (it never leaves me entirely). This one was especially important because it allowed me to try out my new silver routines!
Before the team match, I had never done a complete round of all four silver routines with Teacher, causing me just a little anxiety (ok, a LOT of anxiety). Adding to that stress was the uncomfortable feeling of being unprepared because I still didn’t know all of my silver choreography. I could follow Teacher, but I had no idea what we were doing. To me, it was like starring in a play and not knowing all of my lines. I would have Teacher essentially feeding me lines during the performance, but that meant I had to direct more thought power to what the next line was instead of how I was going to deliver it. It also almost feels like half-assing it, like I didn’t bother studying for a test because I was going to be able to take it with a partner. I’m just not that kind of student. Plus, as the article about introverts that I shared stated, I need to feel prepared.
So how did the team match go?
I would say about as good as could be expected, considering I wasn’t as prepared as I could have been.
I had been having anxiety about making a fool of myself in front of a crowd as a result of not knowing the steps. Well, Teacher got that out of the way for me by going into the silver choreography during what was supposed to be our bronze Viennese waltz. I couldn’t even speak the word “bronze!” as we were dancing, my mind was in a state of high alert trying to switch from bronze to silver at Viennese speeds. Apparently, Teacher forgot we were doing a round of bronze and then a round of silver. Whoops.
It’s hard to describe the feeling you get when reality comes close to matching what you imagined when you were dwelling on your worst fears. The basis for my stress was not feeling prepared in silver and consequently making a fool of myself in front of a crowd. So what happened? I wasn’t prepared when Teacher started leading the silver steps and I felt like a fool. Nightmare, meet reality.
I liken it to walking a tightrope and suddenly you find yourself off balance and staring at a dark abyss below you. It threatens to swallow you whole. You can freak out and fall or you can carefully straighten yourself back up and continue moving forward. I’m happy to report I did not fall.
After that confusing round of Viennese (and after I punched Teacher in the arm for mixing up the choreography), I felt a panic start building up inside. I just made a fool of myself. It’s what I was afraid of and it happened. I tried to convince myself it was just irrational fear but it wasn’t, it happened. I looked like a fool and in about 3 weeks, I’ll go in front of a bigger crowd and look like a bigger fool.
Then friends with smiling faces came over to me with all sorts of praise. You looked beautiful, they said. You looked great, they said. You messed up? We didn’t notice. You were awesome.
The panic lost some of its steam. They didn’t notice my utter confusion or the WTF look on my face? Ok…maybe I didn’t make a fool of myself. Maybe it wasn’t a merging of nightmare and reality.
The funny thing about fear is it gives you tunnel vision. All you see is the dark abyss and it grows larger the longer you stare at it. But if you could tear your eyes away for a second and take in a broader view, you might see that the abyss isn’t that big and you haven’t actually fallen into it.
The rest of the bronze dances went pretty well. The silver routines were ok. Like I said, as good as they could be with what I had to work with. Tango was another “fool” moment as I completely blanked on the end of the routine. Luckily, the music stopped shortly after I started acting like an idiot.
Even with the few mixups, I was once again reminded how lucky I am to be part of this dance family. I have been to a few team matches in my almost 3 years of ballroom and the studio I am at now throws the most fun match of them all, no question! It is a huge help for me because it gives me a place to screw up in a competition-like setting and have an amazing group of people to support me and help me laugh off my mistakes. It’s hard to focus on your screw-ups when one of the teachers is waltzing with an inflatable dolphin.
During the first post-team match lesson, Teacher said he was happy with how I did and impressed with how I handled the mixup with the choreography. But we still need to do some work, of course. Not a lot of work though. Just tweaks here and there.
I’m watching as I put WAY too much pressure on myself to know my silver as well as I know my bronze. I’ve been working on the bronze level of smooth for almost 2 years! Silver, maybe 4 months?
I left my post-team match lesson feeling a little defeated. The work that still needs to be done is just tweaks, but it seems like there are so many tweaks! USDC is only 3 weeks away and Teacher will be going to at least 2 other competitions before that, which means I have maybe a week and a half left where he’ll have time for lessons with me. Aahhh!
But the next morning, as I tried to reason with myself, I recalled what the original goal was for USDC: go for the championship in bronze. Not silver, bronze. We added silver to my entries after finding out that the rules would allow me to enter the bronze and the silver scholarships. Because I’m flying across the country and paying a ton of money just to get myself and Teacher to this competition. So I may as well make the most of it!
So what does that mean? Stop worrying about silver? Not gonna happen, this is me we’re talking about. But maybe I can try to relieve some of the intense pressure I’m putting on myself. I really care about this obsession of mine and I think I just want to do it justice. I want Teacher to be proud of me and I want to be proud of myself.
But I’m in danger of connecting that with making no mistakes. Mistakes will happen. I don’t want to be disappointed in myself because I forgot part of a silver routine. Or some basic technique because I was focused on remembering steps. Especially when silver is kind of like a bonus round at USDC. Just extra time on the floor while I’m there. And it doesn’t matter what the audience there thinks of me, not really. I want to look good, of course. I want to look like I “belong” in the silver level. But in the end, I just want to feel satisfied and proud of my performance.
The rollercoaster ride continues. It won’t end until after USDC. So I’m just working on making the hills not so steep and the valleys not so deep. Then maybe I won’t feel so sick to my stomach.