Malaise? Spring Fever?

Tuesday’s coaching had a dual agenda – post-comp critique and pre-showcase planning.

Doesn’t happen all the time, but Coach was judging throughout all of my single heats at last week’s TriState and so she was able to give an in-depth assessment on my actual competitive performance.

I suppose I should say I’m pleased with my results. NOT. The Icon and I shared the floor with 6 other couples; I managed one 3rd place, five 4th place and four 5th place.

Now the odd thing is that I thought I was acting on the lightbulb moment I had back at NYDC (where I realized that regardless of what was going on both in my head and in reality, when I got out onto that floor, I needed to “come out swinging”). I really thought I was doing that. I really thought I was giving it everything I had.

It wasn’t until later on, just as the music started for the 1st heat of the Semi-final Scholarship (ChaCha), that something in my head roared GO!! and I literally exploded into the dance like I’ve never done before. And yes, it was a case of too little too late, and no, I wasn’t able to maintain that level of attack throughout the other 3 dances, but for the very first time in all my years of dancing, I finally crossed the barrier and actually felt what it’s supposed to feel like. OMG. You have no idea. I have no idea what happened, and don’t know if I can make that happen again. And of course that leaves me terrified. Oh, and BTW, I did succeed in getting callbacks for (surprise!) Swing.

So anyway, that being said, back to the post-mortem. Both Coach and The Icon agree that I’ve been doing well at the past couple of comps, but share the consensus that I could’ve stolen the show.

They’re both a bit baffled as to why I’m not able to bring the jaw-dropping awesomeness that I’ve exhibited at the studio to the competition floor.

Coach said most of my single dances were above par, and there even were some “brilliant” moments; but there were also those almost imperceptible “panic” moments: blanking, staring off into space, that “lost” look; ADD?

Her feeling is that this stems from my being afraid, and generated (not for the 1st time) the $100K question: “What are you afraid of?”

As I said, this isn’t the first time she’s brought this up, and I have put no small amount of thought into it.

(How do I say to this woman who has given me so much encouragement and support that I’m not what she thinks I am

How do I explain to this woman that I don’t have what it takes to become the dancer she says she sees in me?

That I don’t have the courage or the drive

That I’m taking time away from someone else who would really benefit from her knowledge and training?

That I don’t think it’s panic or fear;

How do I say I don’t think I really care anymore;

How do I say I just don’t give a shit

How do I explain my guilt over spending all this $$$ on something I feel is going nowhere & doing nothing for me?

How do I get past my distrust and let myself believe what my dance pros are telling me?

How do I tell them there’s a difference between quitting and knowing when you’ve had enough, and then I ask myself is that what I really want? Do I really want to quit cold? Just give up? Be a loser rather than just think of myself as one?

Or is it simply that I need a break ??)

Of course, during all of this, The Icon is right there, hanging on every word. What’s going on in my head wouldn’t be anything new to him—over the last year or so we’ve had knock down drag out arguments on just about every point I’ve listed here.

Why do I get the feeling that they’ve discussed this; they know there’s something beneath the surface and that I’m doing a pretty impressive two-step duck-the-question jitterbug.

All I know is I was done with that particular discussion, just didn’t want to be there.

Perfect time to segue into … (taaa daaa) …. The May Showcase

I had caught myself thinking that the next comp is Manhattan Dancesport at the end of June. That’s an awful lllooonnnnggg time to be off the floor.

And of course, guess what managed to sneak in through the downstairs cellar door of my brain: “But you know, there IS the May Showcase”.

Let me digress a bit here.

I’ve always loved doing spotlights and showcases, and had made a habit of doing all four showcases offered by my studio (two of our own in the Winter and Fall, and a joint venture with another studio in the Summer and Spring, I believe).

So …. What made me stop ?? In a nutshell, The Icon and I had a bit of a tiff after our last Showcase back in January of 2015, the outcome of which was me swearing that never, never, ever in a million years would I ever do another Showcase. Yes, I’m over-sensitive, take most things way too much to heart and when my feelings are hurt, I over-react and depending on the “transgression” I can be a seriously unforgiving bitch.

So, in spite of The Icon’s bending over backwards to make amends, offering sincere apologies time and again, I’ve steadfastly refused to participate in spotlights and Showcases and pretty much totally stopped coming to the weekly group lessons and studio dance parties. I’m not kidding when I said I can be seriously unforgiving. And a black hearted bitch. You betcha.

Coach and The Icon have been very up-front in telling me that they’ve put their heads together, discussing what could possibly be my stumbling block, and they seem to think it’s because I really need to get back to dancing in situations where there are people watching.  They’ve both been lobbying to get me back into Showcasing and also start doing the weekly studio socials again, even if it’s only to take advantage of the opportunity to practice the basics. Start re-conditioning myself to dancing with mayhem going on all around me, re-accustom myself to dancing with people watching.

I recognize the validity of that suggestion … I often find myself missing the Grand Central Station ambiance of my old City studio, and the ease with which I could shut out the craziness going on around and focus on myself, my partner and the task at hand.

I’ve also come to realize that I want – need — a change of pace, to do something just for fun. And we all know that anyone who does any kind of competitive dancing is totally lying through their teeth when they smile and nod and gush about how they just absolutely love spending unending hours perfecting their technique and choreography and performances. Sorry, people. Competitive dancing doesn’t allow for fun. So there.

But seriously ….

During one of our sessions earlier this year, Coach said there are those of us that have something deep inside, a creativeness, an artistry, that compels us to stand up and be noticed. We have this undeniable need to share this gift with others, to perform, to be in the public eye, a need to be recognized. Fulfilling that need takes many shapes and forms (artists, musicians, singers, dancers).

I wish I had written down exactly what she said, but I think you get the gist. For some of us, those of us that have elected to dance, steps are not enough. We are driven by a curiosity to see just how far we can take our gift. That’s why we elect to train and practice and push ourselves to compete, or do showcases, or crash a stranger’s wedding just so that we can Dance (only kidding about that last thing there ….. uuhhhh …. kind of …. )

OK, so with all that being said and done, we FINALLY got around to doing a preliminary run-through on the proposed Showcase performance.

And within the space of 15 short minutes, all of my moaning and bitching and complaining and angst and negativity disappears and I’m reminded of just how very fortunate I am to have the honor and privilege of working with not one, but two total ballroom legends.

Again, I find myself thinking I should make a habit of videoing my coaching sessions in general, not only the occasions when Coach is building choreography. We’re moving WAY beyond run-of-the-mill stuff, starting to introduce concepts like nuances; shading; the dynamics; the contrasts that take social dance into the realms of serious artform.

CONNECTION is everything, as is the dancer’s ability to demonstrate Clarity; you are NEVER still; there is always movement of some kind; you’re standing, but you’re NOT still. Every single step has a start and a finish; you have to be very clear on where you start the move, where you end of the move, but you’re still opening into your space, the music ….

The littlest tweaks make the biggest difference and out of nowhere springs a change in MY thinking, and I see the slightest glimmer of understanding starting to unfurl … still too vague and ethereal to fully grasp, but a glimmer all the same.

Beacon of hope perhaps?


OK, now adding another skill to my roster– juggling !!! Seems that a number of the old “stand-by” competitions I’ve participated in over the years (New York Dance Festival, Tri-State Challenge, NJ State Open, American Star Ball, Empire Dancesport, just to name a few) have been taken over by new organizers. They’ve become bigger in terms of dancers participating, categories offered and time expanse, i.e., where they used to be one day, or Thursday through Saturday, most now appear to encompass almost the entire week (Tuesday night through Sunday afternoon being one of the more extensive).

Now I’ve mentioned that I’m an adult orphan, fully responsible for my own health, well being and upkeep. It’s tough keeping my head above water, and I work  a full-time day job as well as a part-time gig (two nights a week plus Sundays).

Thanks to meticulous budgeting, a willingness to “live small” (figuratively and literally speaking), and  being open to experimenting with just how little one actually needs to thrive, I somehow manage to take care of business and do a little dancing as well.

Well, up until a few weeks ago, that is.

It used to be 1) pick a comp  2) choose a style –smooth? rhythm? both?  3) check if it was a morning or evening session 4) book a room if it was early morning or 5) plan out travel time if it was afternoon/evening and 6) put in for a day or two off work…. badda bing. Pretty much done.

Those days I think are gone. Planning out a competition now requires some serious juggling. A hotel room seems to be a primary requirement for at least one night, if not two. Not too much damage $$$-wise if the comp is in Connecticut or Jersey, but New York City can be a real buzz kill.  Cost of the room for one night at last week’s NYC competition was close to 3 nights’ accommodation anywhere else.

Scheduling for last week’s comp (NY Dance Festival) and TriState (which I’m doing next week) had/has American style slotted in for the EARLY morning sessions … like 7 and 8am). I’m a New Yorker. I know the traffic. I know the Long Island Railroad. I know that whenever necessary, it’s better to be where you need to be the day before. 

(Case in point, the occasion when it took my coach longer to drive out to the studio from NYC the morning of my lesson than it did for her to get from Canada to NYC … OK, maybe a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the idea.)

Plus, I get my hair and make-up professionally done. Last year, for TriState, I was in for my beauty routine at 5:40am (yes, you read that right …. twenty minutes to six in the MORNING), because believe it or not, my Silver Smooth heats started at 7:30am. NY Dance Festival was a little better; hair and make-up at 6am, dancing at 8:55am.

And I had no problem with that. What I do have a problem with is the lateral spreading across week-days. As I said, I work full time (Monday through Friday), and part-time (Sunday morning plus Monday and Tuesday evenings). Picture my face when I checked the TriState schedule and realized that my American Rhythm heats start Wednesday morning at 8am …. meaning if I wanted to race home from my day job, get everything packed up and into the car and drive up to the hotel Tuesday night as planned, I’d have to find someone to sit in for me at work. Now I do get paid time from my regular job. Not so for the part-time gig. And, as I said, my budget is planned out to the penny, so I’m taking a hit there ….

My entire competition preparation routine is totally out of whack. When do I pack? What time should I go up ? I have to get to the bank, but my direct deposit doesn’t hit until Tuesday and my account is bone dry before then. I need to put together a snack bag — when do I get to the market (can’t buy too far ahead otherwise I’ll eat everything I buy beforehand … LOL … ) ? Aaarrrggghhhh !!!!!!!!