Dinner was much more relaxed than lunch, and I actually got to eat some real food. It was also really nice to sit for a while in non-dance shoes, giving my toes some room to stretch out for a while. Being a fancy hotel, dinner was multi-course and served by staff. When dessert was being served, they made an announcement for all the people participating in the evening dances to go get ready. Dessert turned out to be some kind of apple-thingy (I’m not very good with food names), a white-chocolate stick and some ice cream. Sensing a dilemma, I ate the ice cream beforehand so that I wouldn’t come back to a melted mess, and told the others at the table where I was sitting to protect the plate so that the staff wouldn’t come back and collect it before I had a chance to eat the rest.
I headed back to the dressing room to change back into my dance shoes. My dance partner met me out in the hallway. We talked for a while, stretched a bit, and did some half-hearted practice steps on the carpet. For some reason, this was the most nerve-wracking part of the day. This championship round would theoretically be shorter than the last one I did, but for some reason it made me more nervous than anything else I had done that day. They got us all to wander to the back of the ballroom and hide amongst the curtains behind the stage where the judge and emcee were sitting. Of all the dancers participating in this championship round, there was one other pair of amateurs with us; everyone else was Pro-Am. As the four of us stood there listening to the Pros making jokes back and forth, we looked at each other, and I made some nervous quip about wondering how I got talked into doing this. The other amateurs I had met before, having attended many of the same parties thrown at various locations in the Dance Kingdom. They have both been studying dancing for many years, and at one point they were even students of Sir Steven back when he taught at the Great Dance Hall. Of all the people in this round, Sparkledancer and I were the only true bronze-level students, so we were seriously outgunned. As the announcer started calling each set of names and the pair of competitors emerged one at a time from behind the curtains to the cheering of the crowd, I asked my dance partner if she wanted to split and each of us exit around opposite sides of the curtain, of if we should both exit out the same side (every couple who had gone before us had done it differently). She opted for both of us going out the same side. As our names were called, I took her hand and straightened my spine, and led her out into the bright lights shining down on the dance floor.
Things went well during this competition round. They had dimmed the lights in the outer section of the room and everyone that had been eating dinner had pulled their chairs up at the very edge of the dance floor. With people sitting so close, it was much easier to make faces at people as I passed, but I don’t think anyone saw what I was doing. Just like the heats that we had run earlier in the day, the Foxtrot felt really strong to me, followed by Tango then Waltz, with Viennese Waltz feeling the least stable. Part of that was due to one of the other dancers clipping my foot as I started doing reverse rotations down one of the long walls. I managed to keep on time, but I couldn’t get my footwork back in the correct configuration until I made it to the other corner and put in some cantor turns. There were a lot more couples doing that Viennese Waltz than in any of the heats that I had done earlier, so it was bound to be slightly more dangerous. Other than that foot incident, I didn’t run into anyone for that entire championship round, which I mark down as a win in my book.
It was nice that my dance partner and I received thunderous applause when we first entered the floor, even though I think everyone in the audience knew there was no real chance for us to place highly against all the other competitors in this round. Despite that, it was actually a fun championship round to do. As I’ve said, the smooth-style dances are not my forte, but to actually compete in a round like that and feel semi-competent at the same time shows that maybe in some small way I have been improving. After the last song ended and I spun Sparkledancer out, we stood as people clapped for a bit and then everyone headed off the floor. With that out of the way, I could catch my breath and relax the rest of the night. There were bigger and better things to look forward to from this point forward, none of which involved me doing any dancing.
As we settled in to finish the dessert that we had abandoned earlier, our first entertainment of the night took the stage. At the Great Dance Hall they had recently brought on a new Dance Lord, and he was performing some sort of contemporary dance number solo for everyone. Based on the way the ladies had been gossiping about this young man and his physique all day, we’ll call him Hot Tottie. His dance number was a sight to behold. He would leap about, getting an impressive amount of height with each and every jump. He would bend and swivel his body in ways that I don’t know if I could ever do enough yoga to accomplish myself. On top of that, he was just a really nice guy, which made watching him dance even more fun. I had gotten to talk to him a couple of times during the day, and there was even a time earlier when my dance partner and I were standing together in the ballroom and he came over to tell us that we were a lot of fun to watch out on the floor. Seeing him perform solo made that compliment resound even more.
When Hot Tottie finished up and left all the ladies in the room swooning as he left the floor, it was time for the five-dance International Latin exhibition. The two main male Lords from the Great Dance Hall, Lord Bradley and Tall Steven, were performing for this round, but it was really Tall Steven’s professional dance partner (rumor has it that she’s also his wife) that took over the floor. This girl had been the deck captain for this competition and the Spring Fling, making sure that everyone was in order, keeping things in line, checking everyone off and sternly ushering people on and off the floor as necessary. I’ve met her several times, and this serious side of her is what I usually see when I interact to her. But, when she dons a sparkly outfit and gets out under the spotlight to dance, it’s like she transforms into a whole different person. Because of that, we’ll refer to her as Arcee. Arcee really took the floor by storm, so much so that the other couple on the floor, and many times even her dance partner, were lost as people were transfixed by her presence. Every shimmy she did in the Samba, every kick in the Jive, and every dramatic stomp during the Pasodoble were all designed to keep attention focused on just this girl. And there was good reason to watch her – she looked like she was having a blast while dancing. I really hope that someday people will want to watch me dance and have fun like that. Maybe I should start studying what she does and learn a thing or two from it.
After that it was time for the American Smooth four-dance exhibition. The Lords and Lady of our little corner of the city were all dancing in this, Sir Steven paired with Lady Q and Lord Fabulous dancing with a Lady who originates from another studio. I have to say that this, far and away was probably the most interesting thing I saw all night. I know that Sir Steven is an excellent dancer, since obviously I am still paying to learn things from him. I have seen him occasionally do exhibition pieces with various people during my time in the Dance Kingdom. I’ve also seen him doing many heats with his various students in the competitions I have been part of. This was the first time I had ever seen him do something where he was dancing things competitively with someone who can dance at his level, like Lady Q. He took ownership of that floor during this event, much like Arcee did during the last exhibition (and Tall Steven and Arcee were performing again in this exhibition as well). It was easy to see why he is the head instructor at the Land of the Loft. He outshone Lady Q, even though they were dancing together, and he never let anyone get too close to him without keeping them in line. There were even a couple of times when he even struck people who dared enter his dance bubble as he would move his arms, a strike that never fazed him but caused whomever was struck to look over at him with fear in their eyes. Of all the other competitors on the floor though, it was Lord Fabulous I felt the worst for. Having spent so much time around Lord Fabulous, I know that he is a very good dancer in his own right, but he kind of got lost in the crowd, and never really did anything to draw attention to what he was doing. Granted, that might have also been because he and his partner were so much shorter than everyone else on the floor, so it was easy to lose them…
As the Lords and Ladies of the Dance Kingdom filed off the floor when their round was complete, it was time for the Princess and Hellmanns to perform. They did two numbers together – one that was slow and dramatic, and one that was quick and fun. I remember thinking while watching them together that it is really impressive to see how they can move so in sync with each other, even though they hadn’t spent much time practicing together before this performance. In order to do what I had done during this event, I had to schedule so much time week after week to practice with Sparkledancer, to make sure that we not only knew our steps, but knew what it felt like to do those steps with the other person on the floor with me. It’s amazing to think that these two can dance like that with each other in these complicated routines without going through that level of practice. Is that what it means to truly be a professional? To know what you are doing so well that you can perform with someone else without much rehearsal time beforehand? How long does it take to achieve that level? That’s what I kept thinking while they danced.
With the exhibitions finished, it was time for the award ceremonies. Because the score sheets had not been fully tabulated yet, they spent the time that they had scheduled to hand out the scores to instead take pictures of the entire cast of competitor and their instructors. We each got called up, once studio at a time; everyone got to stand in front of the stage with the Princess and Hellmanns and their instructor for the photographer they had hired to take some pictures. I’m not sure if we’ll ever get to see those pictures, but I hope they turn out well for whatever they get used for in the future. My dance partner and I went up there with both Sir Steven and Lady Q, since they had both worked with us on routines for this competition. When those pictures were finished, they announced the championship round winners. As expected, in both the championship rounds I participated in, Sparkledancer and I came in last place. Looking back on the results though, if you had taken the list of entrants and put their names in Excel, and then sorted the list with Pro-Am couples first and Amateur couples second, and then did a secondary sort based on how long each student had been taking lessons, you would have gotten the exact same results as the order we lined up in for placement of those championship rounds. I don’t feel bad about it though, I was glad just to be a part of the event. It gives me something to work toward next time, if I decide to do any championship rounds like these.
Of all the awards handed out that night, the most surprising one that they gave out was for the Best Newcomer. Lord Fabulous had a student we call Gable whom he had somehow convinced to be part of this event. By the day of the competition, she had only been taking lessons with him for about two months. It was nice to see someone from the Land of the Loft get recognized like that. At the end of the night, as everyone was packing up to leave, I was talking with Sir Steven and Lord Fabulous about the awards handed out, and they were scheming about how to take home the Best Studio award next time; they were both sad that they hadn’t gotten it this time, even though the Land of the Loft had the most students participating in the competition (their plan to get the award involved some complicated scheme to take out Tall Steven so that he wouldn’t be able to stand in their way).
And that’s that! All in all, it was a great day, and it really made me look back on how far I’ve come, and how far I still need to go to get to where I would like to be. With rumors floating around about the next competition in May, we’ll see if I can bring my skills up yet another level before then!