Topical Series: What To Bring When You Are Competing

It’s on my mind.

In a few short weeks I’ll be dancing in a competition, which I haven’t done in 9 months, and my brain is aflurry with thoughts about all the preparations I’ll need to make before I go.  But what preparations do I need to make, you ask?  Besides practicing as much as possible, and getting into as best shape as possible, what else must be done?

First let me clarify: the kind of competition I’m thinking of here is a “full-glitz” one – not the kind you might find at a college with only amateur couples.  Those are absolutely great places to show off all your work, too, it’s just that I do pro-am and I personally haven’t done any competitions that weren’t geared for anything but the most over-the-top costumes, darkest tans, and craziest hair.  I don’t have experience to share around the kind of competition specifically, but I’m sure a lot of what I write will apply to any competition.  However, if any of you readers out there have advice, thoughts, experiences to share, especially about areas I miss or don’t know about, please do share!  Also, this is clearly from a feminine perspective!  I do think the guys have it easier when it comes to prepping for a dance competition – but guys, set me straight if I’m wrong!

So one of the items on my to-do list is to get a full set of pink and white nails put on.  And, they need to be longer than I’d ever seriously wear them in real life.  (You should see the set of talons Inna wears everyday.  She could paddle a boat with those suckers!  And, that gal is glamorous no matter what!)  But seriously, they add something.  Not only do they increase the length of lines you can create through your fingers, but they also draw attention as compared to natural nails.  And for me, they also make me pay more attention to what I am doing with my hands and fingers.  The devil is in the details, as they say, and to exude glamour in every way possible, including nails, helps create a fully polished look.  Plus, I just feel more feminine with a set of nails on.  I feel more girly, and that, of course, translates into how I move and interact with my partner.

The next item I’m debating is the fabled spray tan.  Why the debate?  Well, I don’t show much skin.  I pretty much cover myself completely and wear nylons and fishnets.  If I were showing more of my body, however, for me it would be a no brainer.  I do think the tans create a leaner, more toned appearance.

Okay, what else?  Well, one thing I didn’t really know about before I went to my first “real” competition, was the hair and make-up that is standard.  I did my own make up and hair the first two competitions I went to, and there is nothing wrong with that.  However, I felt a little out of place at the second one with my hair only in a bun because as I walked around I saw all these artistic hair sculptures adorning many of my competitors’ heads.  I had no idea that hair could be so elaborate!  For my third competition I discovered that you can actually hire someone to do your hair and make up for you.

Like I said, this is totally optional.  And for me, I’m more comfortable doing make-up than hair.  If I had to choose one to do myself to save some money, I’d do my own face, but you know what, at the point that you’ve committed to do a competition, it’s kind of a drop in the bucket to pay for this service.  It is a big event and one you want to enjoy.  If it makes it less stressful and more enjoyable for you to have someone pamper you and fix you up, well then, I highly recommend it!

The only issue with having your hair and/or make up done is making an appointment.  My goodness can they start early.  If the competition begins at 7am like some I’ve done, an appointment may need to start as early as 3:30am…remember you are not the only client!  There are other people who will have the same bright idea.  The earlier you can book your appointments before the competition, the better choice you are likely to have in terms of timing.

Okay, I just realized I forgot to mention one really, really big consideration!  The dress(es)!  Well, that’s cause I have one already.  But if you don’t already have your dress, you may need to have one made, purchase one, or rent one.  If you are going to have a dress custom-made, you will need to have started the process with lots of time to spare.  Dressmakers are often busy and there are usually multiple fittings necessary.  A month may not be enough time.  If you purchase a dress off the rack, you will still probably need to alter it, and you will want to have that done by someone who works with ballroom dresses regularly, not just your average tailor.  Finally, if you are renting, you will need to find a store that actually rents dresses (many don’t), and then try one the ones they have available.  In addition, sometimes dresses need to be shipped between locations so waiting to the last-minute for this is also not a good idea.

And don’t forget the jewelry!  You will want to accessorize your glamorous dress to complete the look.  This could come in the form of bedazzled earrings, a necklace, bracelets, or even hair ornaments.  It may take time to find the perfect accent piece.

Alrighty, assuming you have a dress, and you have a plan for your hair and make up, and you’ve got a tan or you are covered, what else do you need to think about for a competition?

I won’t claim to be the be-all-end-all expert on this, but here’s what I pack in my bag on the day of competition.  Again, those of you who have experience, please do share!

In my “gym bag” which I will bring with me to the competition (I’m doing a large number of heats, this may not be necessary for someone only competing in a single scholarship or something) I will have:

Ibuprofen – for aches and pains

Ace bandages – for my ankles which get swollen and sore (and in case of any pulled muscles)

bandaids, neosporin, and bandage tape.  I use the tape over bandaids if I get blisters because the bandaids will rub off and the tape is much more sturdy and will stay in place

Tums and/or Pepcid – for an upset stomach (likely to happen with nerves!)

You may laugh, but Immodium – just in case a nervous stomach turns into runny stools….the show must go on! (And can you tell I’m a pharmacist yet?)

Salted nuts – for electrolyte replacement, good fat, and energy

Gatorade – both the “fully leaded” kind with actual sugar, and the G2, sugar-free

A Gallon of water – dehydration is not your friend

A towel (I sweat A LOT).

Lipstick, mascara, eye pencil, lip liner, hairspray, bobbypins – touch-ups will be necessary

Feminine supplies…just in case

Safety pins – in case of a “wardrobe malfunction”

An extra pair of nylons and fishnets

Scissors – I’ve had the fringe on my dress go crazy and had to chop some errant strands off!

A sewing kit

Energy bars/fruit/quick easy snacks to keep energy up

Camera

Phone

Charger

Dance shoes

Those little clear plastic thingies you can put over smooth shoes to keep them from flying off your feet

A shoe brush (and shoes, of course go without saying.  It’d be interesting to see someone compete barefoot!)

A pen and highlighter – to keep track of when your heats are and which you have completed.  Some people also mark how they place.  You may also meet a friend and want to exchange information.

A Ziploc bag – to keep stickers or tickets or whatever they give you if you place in various heats

An iPod full of my favorite music with sound-cancelling headphones – to pump myself up!

A few bucks and some change for a soda or something from a vending machine if needed

Breath mints

Extra rhinestones and glue – those little gems do fall off!

Many will find this item controversial, but I’ll probably bring a Diet Rockstar (or two) or something similar in case I start to really drag and need a quick pick-me up.  I know these aren’t really that “good” for you but sometimes they are just the ticket.  Again, those who have alternatives that work, please do share.

One item I’d like to find before I go are some bedazzled slippers.  My friend Ceci had a glamorous pair that she wore between long stretches of heats to get her placements and such.  It was much better than staying in heels all day long, and still looked nice…nicer than my ratty Ugs would be!  Trust me, if you are a doing a lot of heats, you will want some shoe alternatives during your down time.

Also, a cover up is a must.  This is an item I haven’t had and always wished I did.  Many people use a silk robe and oftentimes it is embossed with their studio logo.  In any case, covered up you won’t feel like a sparkly freak if you choose to go to the cafe for a quick coffee or something and don’t have time to fully change, plus there’s less chance of damaging your dress if it’s covered.

and finally….

A BIG SMILE!  I’m going to be competing and dancing my heart out!  I’ve prepared for a long time and paid a lot of money.  I’m going to enjoy every single second!  Yay!

Showcase

Well, where to start?

Last night was the showcase.  It was a great experience and completely different than dancing in a competition.  My parents came to come watch along with their dear friends the Watsons.  I got to watch Katie and Mavis dance with Ivan as well as a bunch of other teacher and student couples.  At the end, Ivan and Marietta danced a Cha Cha and a Mambo.  Ivan also made a friend during the evening, a 3-year-old, who he pulled onto the dance floor during one of the heats, which was adorable and entertaining.  Videos of these will be forthcoming but I’m having technical difficulties getting them off my phone at the moment.

Lucky (or not?) for you, I had a friend video my performance on a flip video camera and that came off easy enough so I will include it in the post for your viewing pleasure (or discomfrot…I’m not sure).

The way they set this event up at Dance Starz was that they had little heats in Smooth dancing and then the showcase numbers and then more dancing heats in the American Rhythm category.  They had judges who didn’t just rank the competitors but rather provided specific feedback on their performance, how they could improve, what they did well, and all that.

I didn’t participate in the dancing heats but it was entertaining to watch nonetheless.  I also found out that there were over 120 people present for the event on the Dance Starz page update!  That means about 240 eyes were on me at one time.

You know, I never get that nervous at competitions.  But last night I was very nervous, about ready to pee my pants a few times, before the showcase number.  It is a completely different thing to be the only couple on the floor, all attention focused upon me, and doing a choreographed number that we’ve worked on for a while.  Plus, never at a competition in the divisions in which I compete are there that many people spectating.

In any case, finally it was my turn to dance.  I just watched the video and my feelings are mixed.  When I performed, I felt pretty good about the whole thing.  Maybe not an earth-shattering performance, but pretty solid.  It felt a bit weird dancing it though because usually Ivan and I were pretty solid during the dancing in rehearsals but then shaky toward the end of the number especially on the last move.  But last night the reverse was true.  We were both antsy and shaky during the number but we pretty much nailed the final pose.  As you will see on the video, Ivan was so happy that he actually kissed my belly at the end.  I didn’t even feel it.  I was staring at the upside down audience.

So anyways,  When I got into my starting position, the music began pretty abruptly.  You’ll see in the video that I was a little unsure in my first few steps.  Ivan and Katie also experienced some music problems with the song cutting in and out during their number.  I had the disadvantage of being choreographed with the first note of music, no introductory notes providing time to take a breath and then move.  Anyways, I wobble a little bit in the beginning but then just kept going.

Also as the dance progresses, my top comes up revealing my belly a few times.  I had no idea this was happening during the dancing.  For a slim person this might not be bothersome, but I was pretty much cringing while watching the recording.  But hey, I’m all about the whole authentic truth, you know, so here’s how it was.  Note to self: next time use safety pins!

Also, I’m glad I wore some swimming trunks under my skirt.  It raised up higher than I’d prefer a few times, especially during a few turns.  Why did I choose to do ballroom dancing when I have so many body issues already?  Aargh!

Okay, enough griping.  I’m pretty pleased with the passion I put into the number.  I think it shows on my a face a few times.  And, I got lots of compliments on the number, such as, “lovely,” “fantastic,” “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and got chills,” “You were my favorite.”  Ivonne’s congratulations were the best.  She gave me a big hug and didn’t let go.  She almost had tears in her eyes and said how proud she was of me.  All this felt really good to be sure, however, seeing myself on film, I’m not 100% pleased.  I find it really difficult to watch myself, especially when I don’t love my body in its current state.  But if the choice is to dance or not to dance, I’m going to choose dancing, no matter how I look.  Life is too short, you know?

Ivan said that we danced about 70% of what we could do, and upon reflection, think I agree with him.  The nerves didn’t help but hopefully there will be other opportunities to improve this number and dance it again.  Losing some more weight wouldn’t hurt either, that’s for sure!  Once again, I was the biggest girl in the ballroom. Sigh.

But one of the most magical moments actually came from a fellow dancer.  She did a fantastic number to the Austin Powers theme song with her instructor that was very entertaining and completely in 60’s character.  In any case, she came up to me at one point and told me that she reads the blog.  I was so excited but didn’t really know how to respond.  She said to me, “You know that line in Jerry Maguire, ‘You complete me?’ Well you express me.”  Like when she reads about my experiences dancing she is reading by extension about herself and how she feels about the process.  I guess I’m doing something right with the blog and that it is providing some value to people and for that bit of feedback I am truly, truly grateful.  It’s nice to know there are more people out there like me and that I am not alone.

Alright, enough “talking.”  Without further ado, here is the dang video so you can judge it for yourself.  Please be gentle!