We all have bad days. Sometimes it feels like one thing after another goes wrong. Or we just wake up on the wrong side of the bed and can’t seem to ever get going.
It’s kind of like lemon juice on a paper cut when that bad day affects our dance lesson or practice. For whatever reason, we keep dancing left when our teacher wants us to dance right. Everything we thought we had in our muscle memory is coming up “file not found.”
It sucks, but it doesn’t have to stay that way.
Any time we have a bad dance lesson or practice, we want to be able to forget it and move on. When we have a ballroom competition looming on the horizon, it’s even more critical that we get past those negative vibes as quickly as possible.
The good news is that it’s absolutely possible. The not-as-good news is that it’s easier said than done.
My most challenging “bad day” period to get through this year would have to be the time leading up to Ballroom Beach Bash. I was dancing two styles, Smooth and Standard, for the first time, and I was going to be out of town at a conference the week before the competition.
We did our best, but Teacher and I did not have enough time to prepare two styles. We finished choreographing our Standard routines the week before I left for my conference, which meant that a lot of my Standard skills were self-taught.
I was doing my best to keep a positive mindset and tell myself that it’s the first time I’m doing Standard, so no expectations. Just enjoy the experience.
I went to the studio for one last solo practice after driving over six hours the evening before and spending every free evening at the conference (sometimes between meetings) working on my routines. And I couldn’t remember a damn thing.
Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot…not even Quickstep. Nothing was coming to me. The cherry on top was Teacher was in the studio at the same time. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to fit me in for a last minute lesson. So I was gone for a week, came back to the studio for one day to practice, felt like I sucked at practice, and then was supposed to compete the following day. This should go well.
Actually, it did!
I recovered from my bad (awful) dance practice because I didn’t sit in that awfulness. Aside from having questionable knowledge of my Standard routines, my stressor was feeling disconnected from my partner. So when he couldn’t fit me in for a lesson, I asked Teacher to at least give me a call so we could go over the game plan for Beach Bash. All it took was five minutes and I didn’t feel like I was going to a ballroom competition by myself.
At the competition itself, when things got really rocky on Standard day, Teacher said the problem was I wasn’t connecting to him. My brain was full of broken pieces of routines and I was focusing on those instead of just following Teacher’s lead. When I stopped trying to think my way through the dances and focused instead on connecting with Teacher, they went much better. Still a good number of mistakes, but each round went better than the last.
The biggest mistake you can make when you’re having a rough dance day is to try to analyze your way out of it. If you zero in on the mistakes or flaws with the intention of fixing them, then you block out the things that did go right and you block out your partner. The whole view becomes “what you did wrong.” Yeah, that will help you move past a bad day!
I’ve adopted a habit of picking out the things I did right on my bad days. The things that went wrong are always screaming in my face, so I never have to go look for them. Focusing on the ways I danced well does not make the mistakes disappear. I won’t forget that I need to work on them more. But I will feel better about myself as a dancer overall, which encourages and motivates me to keep working to improve. This habit became so critical for me that I included it on the practice session summary worksheet in the Solo Practice Guide.
When it comes to preparing for competitions, I don’t know that we ever feel fully prepared. So it’s important to accept that there is always more that could be improved as you walk out onto that competition dance floor. Because of that truth, if you’re walking on after a dance lesson or practice that just stunk up the whole studio, forget thinking. The best way to move past that super stinky dance lesson is to focus on the present, connect with your partner, and just dance. If you want to think something, think “I love dancing! Dancing is fun. Dancing makes me happy.”
There will always be bad days, but they don’t need to last long when you focus on the good parts of those days instead of the bad. Pick at least one thing you did right during that terrible dance practice because there is always at least one. Maybe there was two or three? Challenge yourself to find more things you did well. Then come competition time, give yourself a break. Focus on connecting with your partner and dancing for the joy of it. Before you know it, those bad days will have faded away.
Happy dancing, everyone!