I’m officially a competitor again! Ballroom Beach Bash was a success and a wonderful start to what will hopefully be a long competitive season.
I had a lesson on both the Tuesday and Wednesday before I competed on Thursday to get in some last minute practice with Teacher. I was feeling pretty good going into Tuesday’s lesson, but as we went through a few rounds, the demons got noisy. Bits of the choreography were still eluding me and it clearly showed on my face when I felt uncertain about what I was doing. My hesitations also made my arm styling look unnatural or stiff; it lacked confidence and intention. After we finished the Viennese waltz of our last round, I crouched down on the floor where we stopped and hid my face while I fought off a minor anxiety attack. I managed to calm myself before I started really freaking out with waterworks or something equally embarrassing.
Wednesday’s lesson went better. We sorted out some trouble spots and danced more rounds. Teacher’s wife and pro partner was also in the studio. The previous week, she videoed us dancing our routines and commented that she wanted to see more stretch in my arm styling. I was being too cautious and safe. Well, on Wednesday, she got her wish! My wing span had improved.
I woke my ass up at 4:30am on Thursday, the day of the comp. I wasn’t leaving to get my makeup done until 7:15, but I wanted plenty of time to do my hair so I didn’t feel any extra stress or pressure from the clock. I blow dried, moussed and sprayed my hair to the tunes of Avenged Sevenfold. Hard rock may not be the obvious soundtrack to getting ready for a ballroom competition, but it has a way of soothing (or steeling) my nerves. The dogs could still tell I was feeling anxious though; they were acting extra rambunctious.
After hair and makeup were done, Roomie, my dad and I headed for the Bash, taking place in San Diego. There wasn’t much traffic on the way there, thank goodness, since it was over an hour away. We left after rush hour, but you just never know in Southern California!
We arrived a couple hours before I was scheduled to dance my first round, which was what I wanted. Just like with my hair, I didn’t want to feel any extra pressure from the clock so I built cushions into the morning timetable. After changing into my dress, I warmed up with Teacher on the little practice floor they had set up in the middle of the vendor area and then paced up and down the hallways outside the ballroom for awhile.
Butterflies were having a rave in my stomach before the first round. We walked over to the on-deck area and ended up standing there for awhile. We thought our heat was up in a few numbers, but they went backward to do final rounds of earlier heats. We would have known that if we had a program, but those cost an extra $20. Oh well! I didn’t mind standing there, except it was a lot colder on that side of the ballroom and I left my robe at my seat!
I was already shaking in my approach for waltz in the first round. I completely blanked on the choreo at one point, but luckily the song ended about the same time I started to stumble over the steps. The rest of the round went better. For some reason though, I kept going in the opposite direction that Teacher was trying to lead me for our roll-out and bow, which made for some awkward endings!
Despite those very minor missteps, I felt AWESOME after the first round. Butterflies were gone and replaced with feelings of excitement and joy. I was back!
Each round felt better than the last. We had decent breaks between each one, so Teacher and I could pow wow about what I should focus on next time. I made one major mistake – I didn’t eat enough. By the third round, I was feeling tired and hungry. I shouldn’t have let myself get to the point where I felt hungry. I had plenty of snacks with me, like trail mix and granola bars, but I just didn’t eat them. So the third round was a bit of a challenge, but lesson learned for next time. The last round was the scholarship round, which meant a chance to win money! You better believe I rallied for that one, hungry or not.
If you didn’t catch them live, check out the Girl’s Facebook page for videos of each round.
I was able to meet up with a few of my readers at Beach Bash too. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – connecting with other dancers is one of my favorite parts of having this blog! It is so inspiring and validating at the same time to meet people who connect with my experiences. You guys give me a reason to keep going and keep writing!
Ok, so the results…
First, I’ll be straight up with you – I do care about my placements. All the advice you’ll hear or read will say to not focus on the placements because they’re so subjective and depending on which competition you’re at and who you’re dancing against, you could place 1st or 6th. That advice is completely true and you should listen to it. But I’m human, I have an ego, and I like to get some external validation of my hard work. To date, I’ve placed 1st or 2nd at ALL of my competitions. I had one 3rd place at my first competition, and that is the lowest I’ve ever received. I don’t say this to brag, but honestly, I was expecting similar results and knew I would be fighting disappointment if I placed lower.
Maybe not the best mindset, maybe a foolish mindset and I’m probably setting myself up for a major letdown in the future. The higher up I go in level, the harder it will be to maintain those high marks. I also end up putting extra pressure on myself to not accept anything lower, despite the fact that I’m going out on the floor with a visible full back tattoo, short hair, no tan…I’m certainly not making it easy for myself. That being said…
I placed 1st in my 1st waltz and 2nd in everything else! For my first comp in over a year, which included two months of no dancing, I was very happy with those marks. Teacher was proud of me, of course, and thought I kicked butt. Bonus: I found out that I actually tied for 1st in the scholarship round and they had to break the tie with Rule 11, which is the last tie-breaking rule in a series of eleven rules that dictate how judges mark dancers and how those marks are used to determine final placements. I was bummed that I missed out on the 1st place money (it was twice the amount I got for 2nd place), but learning it was originally a tie was awesome.
I admit that being away from the competition scene for so long and especially after not dancing for two months, I was fighting doubts that I’d be able to come back and be successful. People had high expectations for me, and I was afraid of letting them all down. I was afraid of letting myself down. Once again though, my fears proved to be unfounded (huge sigh of relief!). I’m still a contender!
I left my comeback comp feeling tired, sore, and excited. I was jazzed after finally getting back on the floor and doing so well, and I wanted to keep the momentum going! Beach Bash is only the beginning!
I have to give props to the organizers too; they created a very fun and welcoming competition. From the decorations to the “cruise directors” on deck to the people running around dressed as Dory and Nemo, the atmosphere helped alleviate, or at least distract, from the pressure of competing. Thank you Toni, Michael and Jonathan!
I’ve already had my first post-comp lesson, which I’ll write about in a separate post. Sneak preview: after coming down from the high of comp day, I’m wavering between “yes, let’s do this!” and “crap, I don’t know if I can do this.” Luckily, I am not alone. I have Teacher to help and guide me, and we are already making plans on how I will succeed, despite the demons that refuse to go away and the money pile that grows at a snail’s pace and sits on top of a very windy hill (i.e., somewhere it can all be blown away in the blink of an eye).
So stay tuned! The Girl is back and intends to stick around!