Countdown to Embassy: 18 Days – The Little Things

Excuse my language, but shit, is it really less than 3 weeks until I compete at Embassy Ball? It wasn’t even that long ago that I danced at Desert Classic.

It’s still weird to be doing a third competition this year and even weirder that each one has been only 2 or 3 months apart. Weird in a good way though.

It’s got me thinking about what’s changed or what I’ve done differently this year for these three competitions to be possible. I’m one of those people who get stuck on the idea that I just need that one big key thing to happen and then everything will work out. But really, it ends up being a bunch of smaller things that add up.

I think it started when I spent the last two months of 2016 in Pennsylvania. I wasn’t taking lessons, which means I wasn’t paying for lessons. That extra money went instead to funding Ballroom Beach Bash in April. A bonus from work also helped. Anonymous sponsors played an unexpected role in getting me to Desert Classic in July. I also cut my expenses at both Beach Bash and Desert by styling my own hair (a lot easier after I chopped it off!) and dancing one less round of single dances. I still danced the same amount, but I found a championship round was slightly cheaper. Another way I’ve saved money, unfortunately, is by not going to extra dance classes like the hip hop ones I was enjoying.

I’ve cut other expenses this year too, spurred by the need to pay for an apartment on my own. Apparently, I cut enough to help offset dance expenses too. To name a few, I switched cell phone carriers, I downgraded my cable, and I lucked out in that my car insurance was cheaper at my new address. I also consolidated credit card debt. I tend to put off grocery shopping until the pantry and refrigerator are almost empty, and I always buy things on sale if possible.

“The little things” has also been the running theme of my dance training. Teacher says my dancing is solid, and now we just need to polish. That of course means I need to stop being such a fraidy cat and do better at expression and styling. It’s the icing on the cake that I’ve been denying everyone.

I paid close attention to those details when I watched the professional Latin and Smooth events at Desert Classic. Here are a few thoughts I had while watching the pros:

  • Don’t neglect the fingers. Finish lines all the way through the fingernails.
  • Small bits of expression or extra movement add a LOT to the performance. Sometimes it’s just a glance, but it adds so much to the dance.
  • Costumes are not just for wearing. Women use their dresses as props for expression.
  • I worry so much about being perfect that I can’t improvise.
  • If nothing else, movement should be BIG. Small will not cut it.

It’s always inspiring to watch the pros, and encouraging because when I look at those details, I realize they’re 100% doable. I can pick up my skirt or glance over my shoulder. These are not complicated actions.

The hard part is coordinating them with the rest of the dancing. If I remain focused on (read: worried about) the technique, I leave no brain power for the icing. Actually, it would be more accurate to say I’m unable to turn my brain off in order to produce the missing expression. Dancing is about feeling, not thinking. I still do too much thinking.

One reason I think too much is I’m not 110% confident about my choreography and technique, so I can’t entirely rely on my muscle memory. When I feel confident in those aspects, I feel more comfortable “letting go.” The solution to that, of course, is to practice, practice, practice. Drill the routines and drill the technique until I’m practicing in my dreams.

That’s my goal for the next couple weeks. Outside of my lessons, I need to carve out more time to review my routines step by step. Sometimes you think you know something, but when you break it down, you realize you’ve been glossing over some parts. There are times when I’m just following Teacher from one part of the routine I know until we reach the next part I’m sure about.

I have excuses for slacking on practice, like the overtime I’ve been working or my recent move, but they’re just that – excuses. I want to make this third competition the best one yet, so no more excuses. Teacher said he would help me map out specific things to practice too, so I don’t go 15-20 minutes and then feel lost on what to do next (another excuse).

It may not happen in the weeks leading up to Embassy, but I feel like I’m getting closer to cracking this fear of expressing myself. The fear is still very much present, but I also feel a stronger determination to overcome it. I know what I need to do, so I’m focusing more on convincing myself to just do it.

Stay tuned!

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