A Review of Emerald Ball 2018 – So Good It Took My Breath Away

I have to say I’m not looking forward to the day coming soon when my tax refund will run out. I’ve done three competitions in as many months and it has been AMAZING. I don’t want it to end.

Unfortunately, I haven’t found the tree that grows money yet, so very soon, I will be back to saving for competitions one penny at a time. Until then, I’m going to enjoy the ride.

The latest stop on that ride was Emerald Ball. I was competing in American Smooth only, and I was excited. For whatever reason, my demons seemed to be on vacation and I was in the zone. My main goal after Beach Bash was to fix my neck. I couldn’t go through another comp with it tensing up and causing me pain. So more accurately, my main goal was to fix whatever was happening below my neck that wasn’t providing the necessary support so my neck didn’t have to tense up to hold my head position. I was there during my last pre-comp lesson. My frame felt solid and my neck wasn’t straining.

I hit the first minor snag of the day when I woke up on Wednesday, the day I was competing. It was raining. I couldn’t very well go out in the rain with my hair done; it would melt! Normally I like to style my hair first thing, so I know it’s done and I can relax through breakfast. I couldn’t walk the dogs in the rain with my hair done though, so the dogs got to go out first. Luckily, by the time I had to leave with my hair styled, the rain had stopped. In fact, by the time I was covered in foundation and eyeshadow, the sun was starting to shine.

I arrived at the hotel where the competition was being held a couple hours before I was scheduled to dance my first heat. It’s a long time, but I much prefer to get there extra early. I hate to feel rushed. The funny thing was that after I had changed into my dress and warmed up, I started to get a little impatient. A few butterflies had appeared in my stomach driving to the hotel, but I was mainly excited to dance! I just wanted to get out there.

I was also excited because not one, but TWO of my readers were there to cheer me on. Shout out again to Laura and Barbara (and Abby!) for being there. Barbara is the one who gave me the blue dress by the way. Having people in the audience who are in my corner always gives me a boost.

When I finally did get to dance, it felt awesome. I forgot where I was once during my first Foxtrot (it’s always that darn Foxtrot!), but still danced away with all first places in the first round of single dances. There was more waiting after that, as the championship and scholarship rounds weren’t happening for another hour or two.

The championship and scholarship rounds brought a new snag. If you caught the first livestream of the day, you heard me sniffling through the whole thing and I explained that I was recovering from allergies caused by mold problems in my apartment. Apparently, the congestion had gotten more into my lungs than I thought. The championship round was only three dances, but by the time we were walking off the floor after Foxtrot, I was having trouble catching my breath. Not like the normal breathing-hard because I just danced really hard. I was breathing hard but the breaths didn’t feel as productive in bringing in oxygen as they should have. Teacher was telling me how great I did and that he was really proud, but I couldn’t respond except to ask for water in between breaths.

Luckily, it didn’t reach an asthma attack or emergency level, but it was disconcerting to feel. It didn’t take too long for my heart and breathing rates to calm down, but after that, I just felt tired. My lungs weren’t operating at optimal capacity, but I was trying to force them to anyway. Yeah, that would make anyone tired.

The championship round was also a Best of the Best qualifying event. The last time I competed in and won a BofB qualifier, I had to do an extra dance to compete against the other age groups. I assumed I would be doing that again if I won this time. Well, while we were standing waiting for the awards to be announced, I actually started hoping I didn’t win. Just standing there was sucking the energy out of me. You know that exhaustion you feel when you’re sick? That’s what I was feeling, with a lack of oxygen to boot. I started thinking I might need to go sit down a few times, and as the cherry on top, they skipped our heat number and didn’t realize it until no one else was standing out on the floor. So we were standing even longer. I didn’t know how I would do an extra dance right away, if that was required. Turns out it was not required and I ended up with second place anyway. But that was 2nd out of 5, so I still felt great about that!

I admit the breathing problem had me a little worried for the scholarship round. There wasn’t a lot of time between the two rounds and I wasn’t feeling well. If three dances put me out of breath, how would I do dancing four? Instead of continuing to move so my body didn’t cool down too much, I sat still and focused on breathing slowly to give my body as much recovery and rest as possible. Even as we lined up behind the stage to be announced for the scholarship, I used as little energy as possible and just breathed. The excitement had been replaced by a focused calm.

The actual dance time was beautiful. I was there to dance and give an amazing performance, and that’s what I did to the best of my ability. I wasn’t going to let some stupid chest congestion keep me from doing what I loved. So I danced my heart out and breathed the best I could in between each dance. Teacher was right there with me, telling me “just one more, you’ve got this” between the Foxtrot and Viennese, and walking me out of the ballroom to catch my breath as soon as we were done.

It’s amazing how powerful our minds and bodies can be. I was determined to not let this issue affect my dancing and for the most part, it didn’t. As soon as I was done though, my body was done. It took awhile before I felt like I could take anything less than a very big breath to get enough oxygen or carry on any kind of conversation. You don’t think about how much air you need to talk until you don’t have enough of it! Standing for the scholarship award was also a challenge. Worth it though because I walked away with another 2nd place! Teacher was a little miffed, insisting I should have gotten 1st (isn’t he sweet?), but who knows, maybe if I had been able to breathe properly, I would have!

Oxygen issues aside, it was a fantastic day of competition. I was really happy with my dancing. I didn’t have any neck issues, and people praised my strong frame and closed position. Even with the lack of energy and oxygen, I felt like each round was better than the one before it. On top of that, I felt like my dancing overall was improved from Beach Bash.

Each competition this year has felt better than the last. I love the momentum I’ve built up, which makes me sad to think of the day my tax refund runs out. Before that happens, I’m doing at least one more competition. I’ve committed to dancing both Smooth and Standard at Millennium Dancesport in New Orleans. I know of at least one reader who will be there too! Anyone else going?

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