So, in case you missed the things I’d been rambling on about recently, this weekend was the competition that I had spent the better part of the last few months preparing for. It wasn’t a huge competition by Dance Kingdom standards, but I had still put in a lot of time practicing everything in order to keep all twenty-one routines straight. Because of all that work, I wasn’t really all that nervous going into the competition. Sure, there was plenty of adrenaline coursing through my system every time I took to the floor to keep me wired all day, but I think that’s a better feeling than being nervous. The morning would be all the American Smooth and International Standard heats, followed by three championship rounds in those same styles, then a break for lunch. After lunch, we got an opportunity to change for the afternoon American Rhythm and International Latin heats, and the four championship rounds in all of those styles. There would be a longer break for dinner and a third costume change, and then there was to be an after party with a performance by the Princess and Hot Tottie, the announcement of people’s placements in the championships, and all the general dancing and craziness that goes hand-in-hand with any dance party that I have attended in the Dance Kingdom.
When I got there in the morning, I was already dressed and ready to go for the morning heats. The dance floor wouldn’t open for another half an hour to allow people to start warming up, so I just hung out downstairs with all the others who had already arrived. Many of the ladies who were there hadn’t gotten completely dressed or made up for the competition yet, so there was a lot of primping and looking into mirrors and putting on fake eyelashes. Let me tell you something that I discovered while watching a bunch of people put on fake eyelashes – whomever created fake eyelashes must have been a sadist. Ladies, they may look nice once they are in place, but watching you put them on makes me cringe. Then again, watching girls get ready for anything usually is enough to make me confused and cause me to flinch, so why should this be any different? Luckily, shortly thereafter Sparkledancer, Jack and Diane arrived, and they were all pretty much ready to take to the floor as well after a quick shoe change, so then I had people to entertain me. When Lord Scarry started wandering around handing out the heat sheets and gave the men their numbers, he let us know that we could head up to the dance floor to run some warm-up laps if we’d like.
Our judge for the day was going to once again be Miracle Whip. If you read my thoughts after we did this same competition last year, you’ll remember that Miracle Whip was the celebrity judge back then as well. He has credentials as some acclaimed dancer and featured professional on a television show about ballroom dancing that I’m sure you’ve heard about. It was good to have him back at the judge’s desk (this year, it was really a desk that they had him sitting behind, so I’m not making that up). Though I’m sure he probably doesn’t remember watching us dance before, the fact that I had seen him previously helped me to worry less about ruining my first impression with him, since this would technically be the second.
Once the contest was underway, things started off a bit rougher than I expected. The first three or four heats I am not particularly proud of by any measure. Once I started to feel more at home out on the floor though, things definitely improved quite a bit. The ballroom-style heats went far better overall than I had expected them to, which to me implies that I really have managed to increase my floorcraft skill level. I didn’t run into anyone, I only got nicked a few times by hands or elbows of other competitors, and even managed to make it through almost all of them without having to break from the routines that we had practiced too badly. There were a couple of styles that were far worse than others though – both styles of Waltz and Foxtrot felt rock solid, American Tango was great, and even Quickstep went better than I had expected. International Tango seemed to be a travesty, however. We only ended up doing two heats for International Tango, but both of them were… not good. There were a couple of times the first time through that I know I did the three-step close figure from American Tango, even though I kept thinking to myself the whole time that it wasn’t American Tango so I shouldn’t do that! I hope that I was the only one who noticed. If the judge didn’t see, then it’s like it never happened, right? The American Viennese Waltz was also a place where I broke routine, but that was more to make it safe rather than because people were in the way per se. The base choreography I had learned involved some kind of fancy move where Sparkledancer and I broke frame in pretty much every corner. To avoid coming to a stop in every corner, sometimes I would just do a normal change step and rotate down the next wall doing the reverse or natural turns the change step led me into. In Viennese Waltz I felt pretty confident breaking routine like that without mentioning to Sparkledancer beforehand. Change steps are a pretty obvious move, at least to me, and during our heats she managed to keep up with me perfectly.
One thing that I did completely throw out the window once I hit the floor was all the discussions that I had had about going out and portraying the “character” of each dance. When talking about going out and dancing and making sure each dance style was unique, one of the things that Lord Fabulous really stressed was to imagine the character of the dance style and then essentially go out there and act (I’m really not an actor, despite being a Thespian). For example, Tango is seen as a very dramatic dance, so I was told when dancing it that I should look very serious and dramatic during those heats. Well, I couldn’t handle that. Rather than act like something I wasn’t, I was out there having fun. While dancing, I would try and make Sparkledancer laugh, or I was singing along with the music, or I was making funny faces at other competitors or the audience. We had a lot of people, both dancers and members of the audience, stopping us during the day and saying that we were the most fun pair to watch. There was one competitor there for the morning heats dancing with Tall Steven who was extremely high level (she must have been a Silver of Gold level student). She was hard to miss during any of the heats she was in because everything they were doing looked so different when compared to all the Bronze-level students on the floor. Yet I was told that it was even more fun to watch what Sparkledancer and I were doing rather than what she was doing because the two of us were out there smiling genuinely rather than holding some big cheesy fake smile you see some competitors dancing with. Hearing that from people really helped bolster my confidence. Sure, I may have not been the best dancer out on the floor, but if I was the most fun to watch, then that means that I’ll be the one the audience remembers, right? That’s a big improvement over the first competition I was in where I was told that I was technically good (for my level) but I needed to work on the performance part of the dance.
The last heats of the morning were the championship rounds. As mentioned previously, we had opted to be in the 4-dance American Smooth round in the morning. We ended up being one of six couples on the floor (one of which was that same really high level student with Tall Steven). I was really in the groove by the time we hit that round, so I felt pretty good letting loose to have fun, knowing that we’d certainly get beaten by all the Pro-Am couples on the floor. Sparkledancer would tell you (I heard her tell a few people) that her favorite part of that round was during the Viennese Waltz, when in the corner nearest the audience, I had her do a pass and open up to my left – right in front of where Lord Fabulous and Gable had been standing doing a similar figure. Lady Q, who was sitting with the audience almost directly in front of us, brought her hand up to her face to cover her shocked expression when this happened. I may have upstaged them a little, especially since Sparkledancer and I are considerably taller than both Lord Fabulous and Gable, so people would have had to put some effort into looking around or between us to see what those two now behind us were doing. Wrapping up our championship round, we made our way off the floor so that the 5-dance International Standard round could take place. The majority of the same competitors who had been in the 4-dance were again in the 5-dance, but Jack and Diane joined the group as the only non-Pro-Am couple in that round. Sparkledancer and I stood in the on-deck area to shout encouragement at them (I actually made ridiculous comments at them every time they passed by our side of the floor, but that’s a lot like encouragement to me).
Once the 5-dance International Standard round was over, they allowed us all to break for lunch and prepare for the afternoon session. The King and Princess had set up a buffet lunch at a fancy restaurant within walking distance much as they had last year for all the competitors, but this year I skipped it and went somewhere else. Last year the buffet was nothing but dancer food – salad and fruit and cheese slices and some dessert. That also gave me a chance to take all my stuff with me and find a place to change without fighting a bunch of other dancers or waiting in a line. Once dressed and ready to go, it was time to head back to the Great Dance Hall to begin the Latin and Rhythm portion of the day…
Stick around, and in a few days I promise I’ll tell you the rest of the story!