Another week, another competition. Ha, I wish! Nonetheless, I’ve officially completed my second competition of 2017. Thank goodness my passion is an indoor sport. It’s 118°F here today! I prefer hot to cold, but this heat is a little much. I’m still at the hotel and I did go to the outdoor lap pool this morning around 9am to swim a few laps. It was only 96 at that point.
If you follow me on social media, you already have an idea of how my dancing went yesterday. If not, feel free to pop over to one of my accounts and check it out (links in the side bar). I’ll wait.
Thankfully, my “just want to get it over with” feelings subsided when I got into the ballroom yesterday morning. I felt more focused and “ok, I’m here, let’s do this.” I got to the ballroom early, of course, and watching Teacher with his other student and the other dancers on the floor helped me reconnect with my “why” for ballroom. I smiled as I watched and recognized those unplanned facial expressions when someone nailed a move or just let go and lived in a moment on the floor. Witnessing it in others helped me remember that’s what I work for. Those moments are what I want to experience. I was about to get my chance.
The nerves weren’t too bad this time. Usually by the time we get to tango in my first round, my nerves plus adrenaline have me shaking like a leaf. Teacher still likes to joke about how he got a hand massage during our first competition because my hand was shaking so badly in his! No major shakes this time though. I was quite pleased with my first round of single dances. I “blacked out” a couple times during at least two of the dances, when I completely forgot the choreography and didn’t follow Teacher. Moments like those are when a pro-am partnership really has its advantages because Teacher could quickly “follow” my screw-up and keep us dancing.
The second round of single dances went really well too. I was feeling good! But also getting a little tired. This competition was different for me in that I didn’t have a lot of time between my rounds. At most, I had maybe 20 minutes. In the past, I’ve had longer breaks at least between the single dances and multi-dance championship or scholarship rounds. Not this time. It was ok; sometimes a longer break is worse because your body has time to cool down and start feeling tired. But it was doing that anyway!
After the singles, I had two two-dance championships next: one for waltz and tango and one for foxtrot and Viennese. Not sure why they arranged them that way, but whatever! It was cheaper than dancing a third round of singles. Then finally, I had my scholarship round. By that time, I was definitely feeling tired. I had tried munching on a protein bar and a granola bar during my short breaks, but they didn’t seem to do anything for my energy level. While I felt really great about keeping my chest and my eyes up during the singles, Teacher started telling me “eyes up!” during the scholarship. My body just felt a little heavier and harder to control. My neck even got this weird painful cramp during the tango.
Clean sweep in single dances, all 1st places
2nd place in both two-dance championships
3rd place in scholarship
These look like awesome placements! But I’ll be honest (like the homepage says, I’m keeping it real), there was a tinge of disappointment. I placed worse as the dancing went on. I was also beat again by the girl I tied with at Beach Bash (I ended up placing 2nd because of Rule 11 [the last of the tie-breaking rules]). So there were two possible mental roads I could take with these placements.
First, I could take a negative path and focus on the fact that I lost to the girl I had tied with before. So by that comparison, I did worse than my last competition. Not only did I lose, I was two placements below her (she placed 1st again) instead of just one. She also placed 1st in the championship rounds in which I placed 2nd. I could take my placements as proof that I ended worse than I started and therefore had no real staying power or stamina. I could focus on a comment I made to Teacher, that this was the first competition since my very first one back in 2014 at which I had placed 3rd. This path would lead me to an old familiar place where I would once again question the point of spending all of this money and whether I really belonged in this ballroom world.
The second possible path focuses on how I felt rather than how I placed. I felt better than I did at Beach Bash. I felt that my dancing had improved. I was able to keep my chest and eyes up more consistently; Teacher was full of praise after our first round. I wasn’t as nervous and therefore able to feel more in control of my dancing. I made a judge smile when I ended up right in front of him at the end of our foxtrot shadow sequence that I’ve had so much trouble with! This path acknowledges that my scholarship placement was a little disappointing, but doesn’t focus on the disappointment. Instead, I take it as a sign that the field I’m in is getting more competitive and I’m going to need to step up my game even more if I want to keep getting the top placements I’ve gotten used to. I can use the disappointment as motivation to keep going rather than let it bring me down.
I’ve never claimed to be perfect and I’m not going to start today. After I was done dancing and back in my hotel room, all of the ballroom glamour washed away, I started feeling a little down. My thoughts kept turning back to that scholarship round. Maybe I had gotten better since Beach Bash, but it wasn’t enough. That other girl was skinnier and could kick her leg higher and had fancier arm styling. I didn’t even know the other girl who had taken 2nd place, but she must have been a better dancer too. That “not good enough” demon is a strong one, but I knew these thoughts were flawed as they kept popping into my head and consciously worked to discredit them. Ballroom is such a subjective sport, so there are a thousand different variables that could affect your placements and you have little to no control over most of them.
So no more talk about the other dancers and no more comparison! I should only be focusing on my own dancing and how I felt about it. I felt good about my dancing! Each competition is a stop along a much bigger journey, and I learn something at each one. I learned some things I still need to improve (stamina!) and I learned that I did improve, despite not being able to practice for the last few weeks! I had a concern after Beach Bash that I was reaching a plateau and no matter how hard I worked, I wouldn’t be able to push to the next level. What if I had already peaked? Well, even if I placed lower at this competition, I still feel like I’ve gotten better since April and Teacher agrees. So I haven’t peaked yet! There is still more mountain to climb and greater heights to reach.
My dancing future is foggy again. I wanted to give USDC, a.k.a. Nationals, another try this year, but I don’t have any money saved and the competition takes place in two months. No way I can save the necessary several thousand dollars in that amount of time. I wouldn’t mind returning to Vegas to dance at Holiday Dance Classic again in December and that’s far enough away to feel like a more realistic possibility. I honestly can’t say anything with certainty at this point. Things only seem impossible until they aren’t though. I wouldn’t be here at Desert Classic right now if it weren’t for my anonymous sponsors! Unexpected and amazing things have happened on this journey, so I’m learning I can’t rule anything out.
Here’s to continuing the adventure, no matter where it leads!