Phew! I’m home, I’m exhausted, but it has been an amazing 48 hours and I’m very grateful.
I’m sure I will have more to write when I’m a little better rested but I wanted to at least share a few of the highlights that occurred after my last post.
First off, I want to say that I’m thankful for every part of my journey.
Next, I’ll just list a few things that made my experience so wonderful. Each one could probably be an individual post, and maybe I’ll write more about them later, but for now, I’m fried, in both body and mind. I just want to at least get down the broad brush strokes just so I don’t forget anything.
Okay, so after Thursday, Friday was a relaxed day of recovery with a massage and just enjoying the company of my friends, Colette, Ivan and Marieta. We laughed until our bellies hurt, did a little shopping, had a little practice, and watched a little ballroom dancing. Dinner was especially meaningful to me because Ivan shared his life story and let me tell you, that man has been through a lot. I’m amazed by all he has weathered to get to where he is.
Although my right shin and ankle was sore and my neck had a crick in it (thank you ibuprofen), I felt pretty good upon rising Friday morning and made sure to have plenty of time scheduled for makeup, hair, and breakfast. Again, my nerves were very bad – honestly, I’ve never experienced such nerves all throughout a competition like I did this time. Yes, I got nervous before, but it was right before I went on the floor the first time. At this competition, I got nervous, breathing hard, my stomach churning, not being able to eat, and feeling like I had to pee every time I had a chance to cool down. It was particularly difficult with the dance schedule Saturday because there was a lot of 30 minute breaks between sets of dancing rather than 5 minutes, which would have been ideal from my perspective. But what it taught me is that I need to develop strategies to cope with the nerves. When I was very tired as after a set of 5 dances, I didn’t have nerves and felt relaxed. I think something physical is just the ticket for the next competition. I really value my experiences this time around because once again, I’m learning so much and will be better prepared the next go around.
Saturday morning was lots of fun with dances of West Coast Swing, Hustle, and Salsa. This was less pressure and let me move without feeling so worried about how I did. By afternoon, the American Rhythm dances were in full force. I did do closed Bronze scholarship and hey, made 5th out of 6, so not dead last this time. But better than the placement, I’m very pleased on two accounts. First, I really pulled it together right before the scholarship. I know that I danced my best for those three dances during the competition. Marieta was watching and she agreed. It was the best I’d done the entire time. So, I am satisfied in my performance, because I know I did my best. Yay! Second, and the most fulfilling, was a comment from professional Jason Daly. He happened to be in the lineup for a dance heat right behind me and Ivan. Ivan started a conversation with him, and Jason mentioned to me that I was “doing great out there.” Seriously, wow! Made my day! He doesn’t know me from Tuesday, and didn’t have to say anything, that’s for sure. The fact that he did bother to tell me this little nugget means a lot to me, even more than how the judges place me. To me, it means I do have potential and people can see it, even professionals. Anyways, that was a real win for me.
Also, there was a few great moments in some of the heats toward the end where I saw the judges watching me and smiling. I still think I got placed 2nd or 3rd but the fact they were reacting to me, was awesome. Yay! I wasn’t boring (at least not all the time lol).
Also completely wonderful was meeting two very special women. One is a reader of the blog who I got to meet in person. She is delightful and helped me with the laborious task of getting into and out of my ballroom dress so I could use the restroom. I was tickled to have this opportunity to meet her.
In addition, I also met the author of another dance blog, plus got to see her perform two numbers, one of which I recognized from her blog post! I introduced myself during a break and heartily laughed with her over a bit of conversation and enjoyed her fantastic company. If you haven’t checked out The Spinning Dancer, you should – it is authentic, honest, artsy, creative, entertaining, well-written, and I love it. Hopefully we will be doing guest posts soon for one another. She did great in her dance performances and I could totally sense her passion. She is quite a performer and dances with a conviction I admire.
Next big win was completing the 119 heats. Somehow my heats got screwed up, the numbers changed or something between the day of dancing and the day we got there and were handed the heat list. Anyways, it led to a little bit of confusion toward the end about whether we should be on the floor dancing or not. But all heats were completed and that in and of itself is a big accomplishment. I never really thought too much of it, but now being surrounded by other dancers who are very targeted in their dancing, like only doing a round of single dances as a warm up and then the scholarship round, they get very tired just doing those 10 heats or so. It is an accomplishment I can be proud of that even though I may not be in the physical shape I ultimately hope to be, I have made it so I can tolerate this physical challenge of completing a relatively large number of heats.
Subsequent to that win, of being on the dance floor as much as I was, came two nice results. First, I made it into the top 20 students, and I think I was in maybe the top 5 or so. It had to be up there because I was Ivan’s only student, and he got 4th place top teacher. Honestly, I didn’t think he’d get anything, or if he did, he’d get like, 9th or 10th. Once they announced the 7th top teacher, I was like, oh well, too bad, it didn’t happen. But that made it so much sweeter to hear his name called when it was. It gives me great joy to be able to have made that happen. The cash prize was a nice unexpected bonus and I’m happy that Ivan got a little something extra to thank him for all he’s done.
But the wins didn’t end there! I heard my name again and I was like, what?! It was for the Big Heart Award, given for acts of kindness from Igor and Irina Suvarov. There were five given, and one was to the lady who made sure everyone got on and off the dance floor at the right time for pretty much the entire weekend – obviously someone who contributed greatly to the competition. Ivan was especially proud of the award to me. The funny thing is, I don’t know exactly what I did to receive it. I had interacted with Irina online prior to the competition, and apparently she remembers me from Galaxy last year, and she knew exactly who I was when I showed up on Thursday, but still, I didn’t do any huge act, I just showed up as myself. In any case, it felt awesome to be recognized.
And in the recognition, I realized, I actually achieved what I had come to the competition to do. In all honesty, I wasn’t that focused. I didn’t say to myself, “Self. I want to earn 3rd place or higher in bronze smooth closed scholarship.” I didn’t get specific. I pretty much just thought I’d show up and dance and let the cards fall where they may. I didn’t give much thought to most details, except for three things – 1) I really wanted to support Project Kindness and 2) I thought it would be awesome if I could get Ivan in the top teachers for an award, and 3) that it would be nice to make it into the top 20 students with 119 heats. Holy crap! I achieved all of the three things I actually thought about doing! That, plus I had a whole lot of fun, and learned a ton about myself. Much will be explored deeper in the coming weeks and this I know – it is time for change. It is time to grow. I’m excited!
Lastly, Ivan and Marieta danced in the open professional American Rhythm Championship and placed 2nd out of a semi-final. I love watching them dance – they are so captivating and really draw me in to the performance. Last night, I couldn’t keep my eyes of them. Honestly, I usually watch them, then look around the dance floor – they can’t keep my attention the entire time. But last night they sure did. When I would look away for a second, it just wasn’t as interesting to me and I had to look back. I hope they continue to do well and be recognized for their gorgeous dancing. I feel so lucky to be learning from them.
Another bonus was watching some other excellent dancing including amateur International Ballroom which included a couple that dances out of Inna and Artem’s studio. I got to cheer for Hans and Ans (not sure how it is spelled) and he even smiled which was fun since he is normally so serious. They placed third. Also, I got to watch Artem and Inna dance, which is always a joy, and they also placed third in the open professional International Standard competition.
After the competition ended, there was a fantastic and fun professional show to watch and even better was when the judges, who had been so seriously evaluating us all weekend, busted a move themselves. It was fantastic and involved many odd couples, including boy-boy couples. It was absolutely darling and so much fun. Then, after that, they had a “breakfast under the stars” where they served breakfast foods outside. It was yummy, and meant more hysterical laughter and fun. Ivan poured ice water down my front and back. Yeah, thanks you crazy Bulgarian! I love you!
So, my gosh…what more could I want from this past weekend? Yes, as someone mentioned in one of the comments, a competition is a roller coaster. I’m glad I stayed on for the entire ride, and as you can tell, it all ended well. I’m quite motivated and ready to make some decisions about where I want my dancing to go, specifically, in the next 2 months before Galaxy, and beyond. I’m ready to grow, work, change. I treasure my time with my friends, and love seeing amazing dancing. I got recognized, in many ways, I met new friends, and gosh, I’m just toast! Time to recuperate before work tomorrow….and a dance lesson ASAP! LOL
Wow Stefanie – I don’t know how you handle all those dances. Since we only do Int’l Standard the absolute max we would do in a comp would be 40-odd and there aren’t usually heats in every division (not to mention that we don’t make all the finals), so typically fewer than that. Now, in a small comp, they are often one right after another in rapid fire succession, but still… You must have feet of steel!
You said, “In all honesty, I wasn’t that focused. I didn’t say to myself, “Self. I want to earn 3rd place or higher in bronze smooth closed scholarship.” I didn’t get specific. I pretty much just thought I’d show up and dance and let the cards fall where they may. ” And I have to say, we have discussed the idea of goal setting to be in a certain place, but it really is so far out of our hands that we have determined not to set placings as goals. All we can really do is what you did – do your best based on the training you have done up ’til then and have fun. Oh, you can certainly have the idea of finding better ways to calm your nerves, get the right food at the right times (we take Kashi granola bars – just watch for bits stuck in your teeth – ick!) etc., but the placings are in the hands of the almighty, all-knowing, all-seeing judges and they can be pretty fickle. At our last comp we had one dance where, out of five judges, they placed us 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th! With the odd exception, we don’t usually come away from a comp displeased with our marks – just our dancing. And even then we have usually felt we did the best we could on the day and that it felt good while we were on the floor.
That being said, at our last lesson our coach told us he really doesn’t care how good it feels, he wants it to look good! LOL!
Thanks bgballroom for all the comments! It is so fun to hear your perspective! You are right about the placements being out of my hands. I just meant that because I didn’t set some specific goals, I didn’t prepare myself as best as I could. I had no aim, really. I still may have placed exactly the same but I do think my preparations would have looked different if I had lasered in a but more. Ah, well, you live you learn. I will do some things differently next time, and then still just show up and let the cards fall where they may, lol. And I know what you mean about things feeling good versus looking good! That is a while topic in and of itself! Thanks again for all the interaction! I love it! Please continue to share your insights, opinions, and experiences! I value them.