Seeing “4 days” written out feels a lot sooner than just thinking “Thursday” in my head. It’s so close! After a year of financial roadblocks, physical injuries, and training at a more advanced level all at the same time, I’m finally returning to the competition floor. My last competition was Embassy Ball 2018, where I took the World title at the Closed Silver level. Now I return to try my hand at the Open level.
Of course, I’m not expecting a similar experience. I’ll be thrilled if I just make the final! Those kind of results aren’t my focus. This competition is about taking the final step to officially graduating from Closed Silver into Open. I feel like I can’t honestly say I’m an Open level dancer if I haven’t actually competed at that level yet.
I don’t know if I’ve ever written about why I skipped Closed Gold. It’s very common for people to move from Silver straight into Open, and after Embassy last year, I asked Teacher why that is. He said there were only a few additional steps at the Gold level in the syllabus, and so most people decide to learn those steps while also enjoying more creative freedom by skipping ahead to Open. Teacher and I felt I was ready to do the same. So here we are!
The term “Open” can get confusing because there is the advanced level that is simply called Open, but there are also Open Bronze and Open Silver events at competitions. I never understood these categories. How can you dance “Open” material if you’re at the levels where you’re supposed to be studying basics and strengthening technique? If anyone has any ideas besides they’re just another way for the competition to get more entries, let me know. In any case, when I say Open, I mean the highest level that comes after Gold.
Last week, I shared how much I had been practicing on my own while Teacher welcomed his newborn son into the world. I was getting anxious at not seeing my dance partner for over a week and feeling the pressure of higher expectations and harsher judgments at the Open level. Teacher always asks what I need or if I have any questions at the beginning of every lesson. So when he returned to work and we had our next lesson, I told him very openly that I needed support and words of encouragement.
I don’t like being perceived as “needing,” so when I do ask for support, it’s usually long after I should have asked for it in the first place. I’ll let myself suffer to the point of breaking before I admit I need someone else to be strong for me. Teacher has been grand in providing that support this week. We booked up all of the lessons I have left on my package, so I’d have as much partner time as possible before the big day.
We also did practice rounds yesterday. The studio hosts these on occasion, usually before a big competition, where they bring in a coach to critique people as they dance in competition-style heats. There is no scoring or judging. You just get the chance to dance with other couples on the floor and get some outside feedback. I found out that Teacher was available to do these rounds last minute, and even though I’m already tapped out financially, I signed up for two rounds. I hadn’t had the opportunity to dance in front of a lot of people or with a lot of other couples on the floor, and it was much better to do this for the first time in the studio in a practice setting instead of at Embassy.
I was legit scared before my first practice round, to be honest. It was just those unknown variables getting my anxiety all riled up. I knew this was exactly where I needed to be to work through this fear though.
The rounds went pretty well. I made some goofs in every dance, but I was pleased with my overall performance. I felt like I performed well enough to make a decent first appearance at the Open level at Embassy, and that’s enough to ease my anxiety around it. I’d be thrilled if I make the final, but all I need to be happy is to feel like I gave a good performance my first time out.
My knees were really sore in the evening after the morning practice rounds, so today, instead of going to the studio for solo practice, I stayed home and took notes on videos a friend recorded of my practice rounds. I’d rather save the knee strain for the last of my lesson time with Teacher this week. As I watched the videos, I wrote down 2-3 positive things and 2-3 things I wanted to address in my lessons for each dance. If you cringe at the thought of watching yourself dance on video, I suggest using this formula of balancing the positive and negative. If it still feels like the negative is outweighing the positive, make yourself pick two good things for every critique. Remember, the mistakes, goofs, screwups, etc. are just good things still in progress. And don’t worry, the more you watch your videos, the easier it will get! I study mine over and over sometimes to pick out more positives and places I wanted to improve. I shared a couple clips on Instagram if you’d like a preview of Thursday.
Happy dancing to everyone this week, and if you’re going to be at Embassy, look for the tree tattoo and come say hi!