Ballroom dancing is an expensive hobby. There is just no way to sugar coat that fact. Lessons cost money. Coaching lessons cost more money. Comps cost even more money. Having the right things to wear costs money (although guys get off easier here). Traveling to events costs money. I know I pay a premium for dancing at the Famous Franchise.
If I was independently wealthy and unattached, then I would probably spend all my off time in a studio and I would attend many more events. But neither one of those things apply. I really don’t mention my significant other here – not because there are any issues there but because most of my stories revolve around ballroom dancing and she doesn’t share that world with me. She did but she got all she wanted out of it and so she accepts my continued obsession – but I suspect only to a point. It does make for some rushed dinners when I have an early lesson and she’s got a late meeting but we do what do to adapt. But the weekends are our time which is why I’m not going to go jetting off every other weekend to a comp. That and it would cost way more than I have budgeted for this.
A Famous Franchise Showcase is comp-like without being a true comp. As such, the price point is much better and I can do a ton of heats which is something I would never be able to do at a larger comp. That keeps me on the floor longer and gives me less down time where my mind can start to race and all the over stimulation can take over and start to wear on me. The more I’m on the floor, the happier I am and that’s why a Showcase is perfect.
If you’ve not done competitive events, there is really nothing like them. I never thought I’d be that in to the whole thing but there is just something about all the little rituals. Walking on the floor and taking your spot. That little time before when you are separate and looking at each other and all the thoughts that go through my head – making sure I’ve got line of sight for the first couple of moves, trying to get mentally prepared for the dance, making that connection with your partner. All that happens in a blink of an eye and then someone says “the dance is a waltz” (or some such equivalent) and the music comes up and you try to find the beat and then invite your partner in, settle into frame and then count down to go. All that anticipation means you have to try and slow yourself down and not rocket out there. The first couple of heats may have a stumble or two but you regroup and vow to do better the next time. Each heat is slightly different. Some go better than others. Sometimes, someone crosses your path and you have to deviate. Sometimes you hit the part that has always given you problems and sometimes it wins out. Some music is better than others so some you can really feel and others you have to struggle to find the beat and hope your partner can help keep you on time. It is over faster than you expect and then you have to get ready to line up for the next one.
See, I don’t need to do anything “extreme” because ballroom is extreme enough for me. You are out there on stage putting yourself out there doing something that you aren’t an expert in (we are the AM half of Pro/Am by the way) and fighting all the accumulated demons and things telling you that you shouldn’t be out there. You are trying to convey emotion and the feel of the dance with your body which just makes you vulnerable and exposed in a way that you would never be in normal life. Well, at least I would never be that way. There is so much going through your mind (timing, frame, posture, where’s my partner) but you have to slow it all down and just really get into the feel of music and let it speak through you. This is not something I do particularly well but I always aim to try. When I get comments from people about my smile, I’m happy because it means that the joy I’m feeling inside is being expressed and I want the whole room to know how much fun I’m having despite all the stress that goes with it.
And if you want to talk about extreme, try doing a solo routine. There is nothing like the combination of nerves that go into that as you watch the other couples as your turn draws ever closer. Then you walk out on to the stage and take your opening position and you vaguely hear them call your name and dance in the background. Then the music starts and for the next minute or so, the stage is yours. The crowd reacts to things that you do and you can feed on that energy. Again, drawing them in to the little story you are trying to tell and hoping they get it. But think about it this way, you work for months on a routine and you get just over a minute to do it. And, there are no do-overs. Mess up and you’ll get polite applause but you’ll know you could have done better but you are unlikely to get a second shot. If you think about it that way, it can be stressful and pressure packed. Extreme sports have nothing on ballroom dancing for the rush you get putting yourself out in front of an audience.
I’ve remarked before that I don’t know where this performer came from but it is something in me. It is the strange introvert mix where on the floor, I’m screaming “LOOK AT ME” where most of the rest of my life, I don’t want to stand out. It is a weird thing but it is the high I get from Ballroom and it is the fix that keeps me coming back.
So, Showcase is a very important event for me. It is my time to take what I’ve learned, go out on the big stage and show the world (or at least that part of it that attends) what I can do. It is my time to shine and continue to prove to myself that I belong on that dance floor. And it gives you a jumping off point for the next stage in your dance education. It also wears me out and can actually leave me a little down the next day. Normally, I want to talk to someone about all the feelings but nobody but a dancer would really understand so I’m glad to have this outlet where I can share.
I never feel ready. I accept that. But I am excited for the opportunity and I can’t wait for this week to end because Sunday is SHOWTIME.