It’s The Final Countdown

This past weekend Sparkledancer and I scheduled a dress rehearsal with Lord Fabulous to run through all of our routines. I always like going through and doing a rehearsal of all the routines in full costume close to the actual event. It seems to bring out all the weird, unexpected things so that they can be addressed before taking to the floor in front of an actual judge. What I didn’t expect going into it on FinalCountdown1Saturday was that our rehearsal would turn into a miniature performance for a whole bunch of people. I had some friends from back where I originally hail from who happened to be in town for a different event, and they wanted to see what it was that I spent so much of my time doing nowadays. Jack and Diane had been at the dance hall most of the morning to work on their own competition routines, and decided to stick around to see all the work we had put in. Gable showed up to practice her own stuff as well, but when she saw how we were dressed she took a spot in a chair against the wall to watch instead of taking up space on the floor. We got through everything in about two hours, if you include the time to change our outfits – the first half was American Smooth and International Standard, then we had a short break to get some water and change outfits before hitting International Latin and American Rhythm.

Things went well. I must say that having people I know from the outside world (i.e. non-dance people) watching me seemed to get me to be more focused/nervous than any of the times when I am just practicing, or when screwing around during dance parties. There were only a couple of places where I missed or changed the order of the figures in the routines, all of those times I remember being in American Rhythm dances (as you can imagine, Cha-Cha was one of them) – the last set of routines to be completed. Luckily, Sparkledancer managed to follow me without missing a beat, so I don’t think anyone in the audience noticed the change in figure order. For having so many routines in so many styles to keep straight, I was quite happy with how well I managed to remember everything while under pressure. Sure, the technique of some of the dance styles is better than others – notably, one can tell that I have spent a lot of time working on ballroom-style dances over the last couple of months, so if the judging goes how I expect I would bet I’d see higher scores in those heats. Then again, I could be wrong since I’ve always felt the most comfortable and had the most practice overall in my entire dance career with the American Rhythm dances, so even if I end up changing the routines during performance I might still do better in those heats than anything else.

There were a handful of points that I took away from the day:
-After dancing for almost two hours straight, I turn into a very gross and sweaty mess.
-Many of our routines are longer than the heat time allotted during the rehearsal. During the competition, there’s a chance the heats will be run even shorter.
-Of those routines that are too long, most have the most impressive-looking figures at the end, which get cut off as the heat ends.
-Lord Fabulous was really confused by how I corrected the tipple-chasse in the Quickstep routine to be more like the standard version known everywhere else I go to dance.

Tuesday night I went and saw Sir Steven for a final review of things under his watchful eye before the big day. There were a couple of specific figures I asked him to go over one last time, things that still didn’t feel quite right to me that I wanted to have him look at to make sure they were right. We spent some time dancing through American Foxtrot, International Tango and International Rumba to quell my concerns. As we were wrapping up our work on competition routines, he told me that once this competition is over, before we start looking at whatever showcase or competition I decide to get myself into next, he would have to take each both Sparkledancer and I aside and just go back to look at the basics for many of the dances again to start improving things. We were told that we are both now at the point where the changes we have to make are going to be subtle but noticeable changes to things in the basic workings of the dance styles, and we should have enough experience at this point to be able to handle these changes (and the sheer amount of repetition to get these improvements down so that we don’t revert back to how we have been doing things). As an example, we started in on some upper body isolation movements that would fit in with the International Rumba we had FinalCountdown2just been working on. Let me tell you, I have been told I have a fair amount of flexibility, but when trying to move my upper body backwards so that my chest looks concave, I cannot get my body to do much. The muscles in my back and shoulders just do not allow for that type of movement. I can go side to side easily – collapsing my ribcage toward my pelvic bone without issues. It’s that movement of pushing backwards against my trapezius, and to a lesser extent my latissimus dorsi, both of which I’ve spent so much time training for other types of movement, that is hard for me. Sigh… it just goes to show there’s a tradeoff between having muscle mass and having flexibility.

Tonight Sparkledancer and I got together with Lord Fabulous for one last look at everything before the big day. I had originally thought that we would just go through some points that he picked up while watching us perform everything on Saturday, but he managed to rush us through everything in a very short period of time. When we finished up, we decided to hang out at the Land of the Loft for a while since Jack and Diane had scheduled their own dress rehearsal with Hot Tottie. Because we normally are all dancing at the same time, Sparkledancer and I don’t get to see their routines all that often, much like they stayed on Saturday to actually get a chance to see ours. They are competing in the American Rhythm and International Standard styles – exactly the two that we are not focusing on, and they are only doing ten routines total. Since we are not going head to head, it was fun to pull up a chair at the edge of the room and just cheer them on. They looked great. Lord Fabulous had a newcomer-level group class going on while they were FinalCountdown3going through their American Rhythm dances, and he stopped the class in the middle to let them all watch and see what newcomer dances turn into with enough time, patience and practice. While Jack and Diane were changing outfits, Hot Tottie came to chat with those of us on the sidelines for a while. Apparently during the after-competition dance party, he and the Princess are going to put on a performance, so we have that to look forward to as well this weekend. He said he was a bit nervous, since the two of them just finished up the choreography before he came out to the Land of the Loft today, so we’ll all find out this weekend if he can get everything memorized in the next 48 hours or so…

Since I’m sure you are all interested to know how Sparkledancer’s shoe saga is going, I have an update for you. Monday she sent me a message during the day to let me know that she had received a brand new pair of shoes that she had ordered, much earlier than anticipated. She was concerned about trying them out for a bit, because she needed to know that same night whether to send them back in the mail the next day, or keep them and eat the cost of the shoes. We set up a time to meet late in that evening over at my place where I have a small expanse of wood flooring that we could use to run through some of our more contained routines to give her a feel for how the shoes would work while actually dancing. After going through things for about half an hour, she could tell that the front of the shoes were good, but heel cup (note: I don’t know what that part of a girl’s shoe is called. It’s the place where the heel of the foot goes and is surrounded by the shoe) was a bit too loose for her liking, and she would need to add in some kind of converter she had bought to make it tighter. The problem was, the converter adheres to the shoe, thus rendering the pair unable to be returned once applied. I suggested to further test things, she should put on some socks and put the converters inside against her heel, to see if the shoes worked better without making the permanent decision. We ran through a couple of more things with favorable results, though the things inside her socks were sliding around a bit. With the run through complete, she decided to try these out and affix things in a more permanent manner, thus making the decision to never return the shoes. She’ll be keeping an eye on things to see if, after the rest of this intense week of dancing she still feels as good about this pair, or if breaking them in brings out problems that we couldn’t find in one night. After all, the last pair of shoes she got seemed good the first couple of days she wore them, until longer periods of dancing in them allowed the straps to draw blood. If everything goes well, these brand new shoes may be the ones she wears to competition, seriously putting to shame my old, beat up pair of shoes in the process.

So now, there is just a little while left. I have time scheduled for one more complete run through of all the routines on Friday with Sparkledancer, and then there will be a short period when the floor at the Great Dance Hall will be open prior to the start to run through some of the dances in the actual room. Then… show time. Looking through some of the things I wrote last year before the competition, I was much more nervous back then compared to how I’m feeling about things now. Does that indicate a measure of growth over the year in between? Or is it just false bravado sneaking in to my system leading me to feel more confident about things than I should? I’ll be sure to tell you all about it next week, so stay tuned!

This shot is really for me to show off how much of a nerd I am, since I went out of my way to get wood-colored pieces for the floor of the castle.
This shot is really for me to show off how much of a nerd I am, since I went out of my way to get wood-colored pieces for the floor of the castle.

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