Oh man, what a crazy weekend. Where do I even begin? There’s a lot to say, so I will probably split this into a couple of sections, so that you may digest this all properly. So now, here is part one: the ballroom section.
There was over 14 hours of dancing. I did 75 heats (more than I had expected, or even signed up for), plus two championship rounds during the whole day. I also ate way more candy during the day than I probably should have, but only because it was sitting at the table where all the spectators from our “home” studio had gathered. Despite everything going on, this competition didn’t make me nervous like the last one had. I guess the last one, being the first sort-of “real” competition I had ever done as a dancer, I was bound to be nervous going into it. This one felt much more at ease and relaxed, even with all the energy and adrenaline happening every time I took to the floor. Sometimes, when I was out there, I was having so much fun that I barely even registered the fact that someone was watching what I was doing and grading the performance.
Speaking of grading… our last judge, Miracle Whip, wasn’t in attendance for this competition. In his place we had another tall, vaguely foreign man who also was one of the Princess’ dance partners. Just to keep with the theme, we’ll call him Hellmanns. The MC went on and on about Hellmans’ dance credentials at various points throughout the day, but I don’t know how much of that I actually paid attention to, so I can’t impress you with how much I know about him. I imagine that Miracle Whip picked him out personally to carry the judging torch for this event, because to me it makes sense that all the people who are licensed to judge events like this would hang out together.
This competition was limited to just students from the Dance Kingdom. As was explained to me later in the day, because the Dance Kingdom is starting to expand as a franchise studio, they are going to turn these events into regional competitions for the franchise studios to compete against each other. Right now there are just the three Lands in the kingdom that are eligible to compete, but that number is expected to start expanding rapidly over the next year if the King has his way. I didn’t really see anyone that I hadn’t met before competing during the day, but the next competition they talk about will be held near one of the new Lands that the kingdom recently acquired in a different realm, so there should be new blood to test ourselves against at that point.
But, I’m getting ahead of myself… the morning started out with the smooth dances. Despite my preference for the rhythm category, I felt really good about all of the smooth dances on Sunday. Even the Viennese Waltz felt really good. The floor was a bit weird, because it was like a bunch of tiles that were connected together, so there were seams that ran between them that weren’t entirely flush, but that didn’t seem to cause problems during the smooth dances. It messed up some of the Latin dances (which I’ll get to later), but the smooth ones felt really solid. There was one heat in the morning with the Viennese Waltz where someone hit my foot, and after that my footwork was all messed up for the rest of that wall. I couldn’t find a way to fix it without getting off time, so I just stuck with it to stay on time until I got to the corner where I could pause briefly and collect myself. It may not have been perfect, but I never had to stop, and I am really proud of that. After proving to myself that I could perform a dance of that speed and complexity, maybe next time I can put some effort into mastering Quickstep and add that dance style to the rotation. Watching some of the better students perform during the Quickstep heats with their instructors, seeing how they practically bounded across the floor like rabbits, it looks like a lot of fun to me.
The Foxtrot by far I feel the best about. I don’t know what it was about practicing it during that last dance field trip we took, but somehow during that event I nailed down all the issues I had previously been having with that routine, so it just felt really solid to compete with that style every time Sparkledancer and I took to the floor to perform the routine. I think I even managed not to mess up taking all my heel steps while doing it. There were a few times, mostly during the Waltz, when I would catch myself up on my toes. That technique is one I have the most trouble with, since I normally walk on the balls of my feet. Things felt pretty good on Sunday though, and I hope I was at least consistent about how I stepped when the judge was watching me.
One of the Viennese Waltz heats I did not participate in that day showed me just why I was so apprehensive about doing that dance. During that heat, as I was standing in the little section of tables that all the Land of the Loft students had claimed and talking with one of the onlookers, suddenly a gasp went up from others in the crowd. I looked up to see one of the participants lying on the floor. Her dance partner was helping her get quickly to her feet as others were approaching, but luckily the DJ ended the heat when he saw what happened and no one got dangerously close. They left the floor and went to sit against one of the walls in the back for a few minutes. I could see her fiddling with one of her shoes before taking it off and setting it off to the side. My next heat was fast approaching, so I lost track of her as I went to the on deck area, but when I saw her again later she was wearing completely different shoes. As it turned out, the straps on the front of her shoes snapped during that Viennese Waltz routine, and she could not shed the momentum in time as it happened, so she just went crashing down hard. Luckily she didn’t get hurt, and had a spare pair of ballroom shoes with her. When talking with Sparkledancer about this later, she said that was a good reason to think about breaking in a second pair of dance shoes and start keeping them in her car in case something like that happened to her. She usually uses one pair for everything, and if they had broken she would have been out of the competition for the rest of the day. I had two pairs of shoes, one for Rhythm and one for Smooth dances, so if I broke one I could make do with the other. Still… that’s a lesson I will make sure to remember when and if we end up competing again.
There were only two smooth routines I did with Lady Q – Waltz and Foxtrot. After spending all that time during the last several weeks learning the routines she wanted to do for those, it turned out that the routines were more like… suggestions. All the heats I danced with her seemed to have more couples on the floor than during the ones I did with Sparkledancer, so I had to modify the routines to work my way through the crowd. Luckily she admitted to me that she had so many routines going on during the day that she couldn’t keep them all straight, so she just followed my lead rather than trying to stay on routine. That was something I was worried about, since she knows enough about what is going on and could have potentially tried to back-lead. It was a lot of fun dancing with her. She and I don’t get to do that very often, as she is usually tied up with her own students. The steps for these routines were much simpler that the ones I had practiced to do with Sparkledancer, so we would sometime chat idly while moving around the floor.
One of the things we talked about – and the thing that actually kept me smiling during most of the day while I was on the floor – was just how absurd this all seemed. I know that sounds weird, but if you step back and look at what I was doing, it really seems absurd. I was dancing. I was doing it competitively. I was surrounded all day by men and women wearing fine outfits and covered with an almost obscene amount of rhinestones and glitter. It is sort of a surreal world when you look at it logically. Sometimes I have tried to explain this hobby of mine to people I work with, and it is difficult to do without having pictures. There is no way words can really describe this world properly. And it makes me laugh thinking about it. It’s also one of the reasons it is so fun.
In trying to do the heats at about a minute-and-a-half to two minutes apiece, the morning ran well over the scheduled time. Originally they had planned on being done with the ballroom style dances by the time lunch rolled around, which would give all the dancers a break to sit and eat and get their outfits changed for the afternoon rhythm section. That didn’t happen. They started rolling out lunch around 1:00PM in the hall behind the ballroom and made an announcement that any of the audience could feel free to make their way back there to get something to eat, and the heats would continue during lunch. It was nearly 2:00PM by the time we were done with all the smooth dances. They finished the set with only the three-dance championship rounds (which include Waltz, Foxtrot and Tango) and then dismissed all the dancers to get a quick bite and go change to prepare for the afternoon. They wanted to start with things again around 2:30PM to try and get the day back on schedule.
So, we grabbed a little of what was left of the lunch buffet (most of it was gone by the time I finished my last heat and could eat something), and changed clothes. The four-dance American Smooth championship round, which is the one we were slated to be in, would be put off until after dinner, so I would eventually have to change back. But for now, it was time to start in on my favorite portion of the day – the Rhythm dances.
Join me for part two of this later on: the rhythm section!