Countdown to CalOpen – 6 Days: Up and Out!

Less than a week to go!

I’m happy to report that I have not had to run to the bathroom to hyperventilate again since last week. Although yesterday I came close.

This week, I was blessed to have a lesson Monday, Tuesday AND Wednesday! It’s been really nice to have daily lessons, just to be able to follow up on what we worked on sooner than later. Plus getting to dance every day is great too! Too bad I don’t have the funds to sustain it.

We did a cold round at the beginning of each lesson, meaning we danced each dance, one after another, right away, without any warm-up. Then we went back and addressed specific areas.

The three lessons went great, fine and then better, with a near anxiety attack in between. After a rough time last week, I was very ready to get back to feeling good about my dancing. Monday, I got there. I even told Teacher that the comp should just happen the next day because I was feeling my best!

Tuesday’s lesson wasn’t quite as awesome, but still decent. I was having mental blocks on some of the choreography and Teacher was focusing a lot on technique. Then in the middle of the night, I woke up thinking about the technique points we worked on plus a whole collection of other little tidbits that I had forgotten about. I texted Teacher in the morning that I was starting to feel overwhelmed and I needed him to bring some of his ninja mastery to our third lesson to make it all better (Teacher is the equivalent of a ninja master when it comes to saying just the right thing when I tell him I’m freaking out).

Wednesday was spent trying to remember the things that I had remembered I forgotten in the middle of the night. I could not remember one thing! Pressure was starting to build on my chest.  There were way too many things!  How was I supposed to remember all the things?

By the time I arrived at the studio after work, I felt like I was balanced on a very narrow mental ledge. I was balanced, but only if I stayed where I was. I was waiting for Teacher to tell me what move to make next to get off the ledge.

We went through our cold round, but first Teacher gave me two things to focus on: up and out. As in think about keeping my chest and my arms up and my head out. “Up and out” was my life line on my little ledge as we danced. My brain gets very jumbled and noisy when the anxiety kicks in, and so focusing on the dance was a little like trying to hear announcements in an airport on Thanksgiving while multiple very loud conversations are happening around you and people are yelling at you to get out of their way. I was feeling pressure in my chest again. But at least I had just two simple focal points: up and out (Teacher’s first ninja master moment).

As the foxtrot music started (waltz and tango were done), I told Teacher I might have to run to the bathroom after the round. I wasn’t feeling a full-blown attack coming on like the week before, but I did feel the need to escape to a “safe” place to be alone and quiet my brain for a few minutes. And bless his heart, he simply said “ok” and extended his hand so we could start the dance (ninja master moment).

Foxtrot went surprisingly well, and Teacher was praising me left and right (ninja master moment). Viennese also went well, and by the time we were done, I just needed to wring my hands for a bit while I caught my breath and listened to Teacher talk. No trip to the bathroom! Ninja master delivers again.

It also occurred to me that there might not be time to run to the bathroom at the comp, and I couldn’t have an attack with tears because it would ruin my makeup. So I better get a hold of myself.

Sometimes logic and practicality are my best coping mechanisms. I have to be my own ninja master too.

We went through the dances a couple more times and by the time the lesson was over, I felt 100% better and calmer. I was back on stable ground.

With the few competitions that I’ve done, I have learned that I can focus on a maximum of two points while I’m dancing. If I try to remember more than that, I get overwhelmed and stressed and my dancing suffers. For next week, those two points are up and out!

Everything else has to be left to muscle memory. Trusting your body to remember what it’s supposed to do is hard! But I have been surprised over and over that my body just did what it was supposed to, so it’s about time that I start trusting it. There is a moment in our tango routine where I go into a stretch before Teacher whips me into a double turn. My brain isn’t completely comfortable with it yet, but when I commented to Teacher that I thought we should try that part again, he laughed and said that was one of my strongest moments! So apparently my brain needs to shut up because my body has got this.

Other competitors, how do you handle trying to remember everything you’re supposed to remember for your dancing at a competition? Comment below!

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One thought on “Countdown to CalOpen – 6 Days: Up and Out!

  1. BCBallroomdancer says:

    Boss and I sit down and pick three things for each style to focus on the week before the comp and that is it. After that nothing exists except those 3 things. Sometimes it is even less. I just remind myself how much time I spent preparing. An example of a ‘thing’ is flicking the feet in latin. Sometimes I don’t remember my things while dancing–but they give me something to focus on to keep me grounded and calm.

    I am a kinetic learner so repetition focusing on something is key for me in general–I do it for all my exercises and then the stuff from my exercises translates (slowly) to my routines without me realizing it until Boss points it out.

    One thing that always worked for me early on was to pick one thing per dance to focus on each time I did it. It’s like building layers each time. Of course there are a million things to remember, but that is impossible–so I try to find the one key thing I want to accomplish and is most important for that dance. Not sure why, but it works for me 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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