Keep The Comments Coming!

My email box done ’bout blown up with all the comments people are posting about shoes, competitions, and dancing in general!  I love it!  I’m so excited that there are others out there in the blogosphere as passionate and excited about dancing, and in particular ballroom dancing, as I.

Thank you, all, for sharing your experiences, perspectives, opinions, and asking questions.  Thank you for being respectful in your communications.  You are giving me great things to think about and it makes me want to also jump into the conversation.

Before I get into the meat of this post, I wanted to fill you all in on a few things.

First, the blog will be getting upgraded sometime in the near future.  My dear friend, Ivonne, has graciously agreed to help me make the blog more professional and personalized.  What this means is that there may be some times where the blog is down while things are getting moved to the new server.  Don’t fret!  It is all in the name of creating a bigger, better, more beautiful blog.

Second, life is unpredictable.  Remember that job offer I had, well, yeah, not so much anymore.  After the acceptance letter and pee test, I got notice that plans had changed with the company at large and I was only one of many people geting similar news.  Also, I got a bad chest cold, and coupled with asthma this means I haven’t danced in over a week and a half.  I’m grateful I never officially quit my current job and they were glad (cheering and hugs ensued) when I notified them that my plans had changed.  They are glad to still have me on staff.  So I’m not destitute, and that is a good thing.

Third, I’d love to delve into the topic of partners.  But that is a juicy subject so I’ll leave that for a later post.  Hopefully I’ll have something to write about after dancing with Ivan, my partner, very soon.

Fourth, let’s talk competitions.

In response to Paragon’s comment (I added the bold letters):

Another line of questions that I’d love to get your take on have to do with first competitions.  My teacher and I had a chat about this tonight and it was a little overwhelming.  I already know the choreography, but it’s all the other details that I’m clueless about–from the issue of number of entries (for me, this will come down to budget), dress rental, getting a tan, to having hair and makeup done.  My teacher is recommending that I do it all.  But, if it were you doing your first competition all over again, what would you do given what you know now?  For the first two levels of bronze (latin) is it really necessary to have your hair and makeup professionally done?  Do I need a blinged-out dress (I love them, I’m just worried about budget) or could I get away with this for now: http://www.discountdance.com/dancewear/style_N7038.html?pid=9369&Shop=Style&SID=328412990 ?  My main concerns are not looking overdone for my level (I’ve never watched pro am in person) and not letting concern about expense eclipse the fun of the competition.

Of course I have thoughts – and I also loved seeing the interactions that took place in the comments of the blog.  I think those who participated had great things to say, great perspective.

As for my reply, if I were going to do my first competition all over again, what would I do given what I know now, I’m not sure I’d have done anything different. Why? I guess because it has kind of been a “learn-as-you-go” type of experience for me.  I’ve learned about the competitions by doing them, seeing how other people show up for them, and also talking with others more experienced than I am.  Also, I have to realize that I only have my experiences – there are others out there to be had, but I didn’t have them.  For instance, I’ve only danced Pro/Am and never been a part of a big studio.  I’ve never done a “studio” competition, only “real world” ones – but even those “real world” ones come in different “flavors” from what I have observed.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into by deciding to do a dance competition.  It was just something my first instructor mentioned would be a good thing to do.  I went into sticker shock when I learned how much getting a dress would cost, and because of my size, I couldn’t buy one off the rack.  So I swallowed the bullet and had one made.  I’m sure some people would have balked at the expense of it all and said no, but for whatever reason, I just decided it was an experience I wanted to have, so I made it happen.

Even so, I didn’t really understand all the ins and outs of a competition, nor the unwritten “rules.”  I kind of knew you needed to wear stage make-up on the ballroom floor, but I had no idea the extremes people go to, nor that you could hire someone to do your hair and make up, nor that the hairstyles should be as stiff as a football helmet.  I watched a video online about how to apply dark eye make-up and fake eyelashes and did my hair myself.

The first competition I did was a World Promotions event.  These competitions are fun and kind of geared toward destinations.  They play fun music, stuff like AC/DC, that you won’t hear at most “standard” ballroom competitions.  World Promotions events are not where the pros go to compete.  It was, as my then-instructor said, a “nice little competition” for a first one.  Some of their events are very large, they have one in Argentina for instance, and I think they can be great, depending on what your goals for competing are.

The second competition I did was a real eye-opener.  It was the San Diego Open.  This was a more “competitive” situation and had pro heats.  I saw how over-the-top some of the costumes and hairstyles could be.  I realized that my bun maybe wasn’t cutting it.  Again, I did my own hair and make-up, but I realized that for future competitions, I’d probably get some more competent help.

The dress you provided a link to, Paragon, would have made you feel out-of-place at this competition – everyone was blinged out.  But I realize that there are a bunch of different types of competitions where a plain dress like that would be appropriate.  It would be important to know before stepping onto the dance floor.  I don’t think there are any rules against it, or anything, but you’d feel out-of-place, I think, in a sea of sparkles at a competition like this one.  One would hope that you’d be judged more on the quality of your dancing than on your outfit, but many times, from what I understand, it is the entire package you present that the judges mark.  It really could affect your placement, so depending on what is important to you, you will have to decide how you will play the game, and also decide which type of competition will suit you best.

I think the only advice I’d give to my competition-naive-self from my perspective after a few competitions under my belt would be to remind myself that I’m creating this experience for myself.  I should do whatever I want that makes me feel best.  If I want to go big, play blinged out, do the hair, get the tan, don the nails, and get my make-up done, then do it.  If I want to play in a low-key arena, that is great too.  I would tell myself just to be clear on what I want and then to go for it with all that I am in the moment.  And, for God’s sake, to just enjoy every second of it!

I think people compete for different reasons.  All of them are valid – from just wanting to look pretty, to showing off, to testing your mettle, to winning an award, they are all great.  Some people want to just do it once before they die and to find the courage to be seen is a huge accomplishment.  Others want to travel.  Or maybe to make friends.  There is a competition to suit every desire.

I know for me doing the competitions was about setting some goals and seeing how close I could come to reaching them.  It was also about demonstrating my progress over time since I’d put in a lot of effort, time, and money to improve.  I also really just enjoy the experience of dancing in public.  It is a little bit exhilarating (and scary) to vie for the attention of onlookers, and to get a judge to see you.

If I were you, I’d start looking into local competitions.  I’d check out their websites and ask others who have participated in them how they liked them.  I’d ask for the honest opinion of other students.  I’d look for videos from the competition in past years on YouTube.  I’d decide if it was something I was interested in doing, or not.

If your instructor brought it up, there could be a number of reasons for that.  You’ll have to use your own discernment to feel out the motivation behind that.  Obviously, your instructor believes in you and thinks you could be successful on some level in a competitive arena.  If your instructor is encouraging you to stretch yourself, set goals, improve, this is all good.  When I signed up for the San Diego competition it brought focus and intensity and motivation to my lessons.  I improved in quantum jumps instead of plodding along with small incremental changes because I had a definite target I was working toward.  Signing up for a competition may light a fire under your butt and push you farther than you ever thought you’d go.

However, make no mistake, competitions are revenue generators, for everyone involved except students.  This is neither good, nor bad, right nor wrong.  I would just want to make sure I wanted to do the competition for me, not because I was being pressured into it.  I think we can all sense when someone has an agenda – it doesn’t feel good.  I suppose that even if I was aware that my instructor or my studio had an agenda (to make money) to get me to dance in a competition, even that would be okay, as long as I actually wanted to participate.

I have loved my experiences dancing in competitions.  It has deepened my passion for dancing and exposed me to a big wide world greater than I see in my daily life.  I’ve made friends, and grown as a person and a dancer because of setting goals and working toward them at competitions.  If you are at all interested, I’d encourage you to explore the possibility of dancing in a competition.  You never have to do another one again if you hate it, and you just might discover some things about yourself or find that you love competing if you at least give it a chance.

There are a lot of things to think about if you are considering competing, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming.  It can be an adventure.  Also, since you are connected to this community, you can interact with others who have competed and ask as many questions as you like.  A lot of life is just getting out there and doing “it” even when you don’t have all the information – we rarely do.  Life is short.  Enjoy it.  If competing is something that intrigues you, why not explore it?

I hope this helps!

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2 thoughts on “Keep The Comments Coming!

  1. Thanks Stefanie! I did some talking with the other teachers and students at the studio over the weekend. As you sensed, I was skeptical and felt a little pressured at first. Ultimately, I think my teacher’s heart is in the right place. I have been timid at the studio in general… my teacher had to push me into the higher level classes (I thought I wasn’t ready but it turns out I’m doing just fine) and I think this is a similar sort of push.

    My main goal is to elevate my dancing. While a competition isn’t absolutely necessary to accomplish that goal, I’ve heard so many others (like you) say that preparing for a competition helps accelerate improvement. It turns out that I can rent a dress for the competition, which opens up a lot of room in my budget for the new pair of shoes I’ve been considering and hair and makeup as a fun extra.

    So I’ve given myself permission to have some fun and go for it! While I was stressing over the money, I have room in my budget for the competition and a little rental bling. Thanks, Stefanie, for your encouragement to embrace the experience 🙂

    Designing your dress must have been so much fun!!! I would love to do that one day. While I’m not designing a dress this time around, I do get to pick from three dresses that the rental service has available in my size. I’ve posted pictures at http://paragon2pieces.blogspot.com/2012/04/help-me-pick-costume.html and would love your input.

    • loveablestef says:

      Woo Hoo! I hope you’ll share your experience. Good for you for taking on the challenge. I’m sure you’ll find some rewarding experiences along the way. You’re right – you don’t HAVE to do a competition as a means of elevating your dancing, but it sure is one fun, and highly motivational way to get going. Looks like you’re already on your way with those three dress choices. Let us know how it goes on Thursday!

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