Showcase Post Mortem

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Well I’ve been thinking more about the Showcase (Oh no, not again.  Why can’t you just sit back and enjoy the moment.  Must you over analyze everything)  What can I say, fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly and I gotta think.  Don’t worry, this is all good stuff.  It is just that I don’t really notice things in the moment.  It is only afterward that I look back on something and every now and then something hits me between the eyes.  I feel this is significant and I must write about it.  I also promise a little mini rant towards the end because there is another topic that is bugging me just a bit.

Looking back, I really can’t believe how calm I was during that whole event.  I know I mentioned that Boston was the most nervous I’ve ever been and this was the complete opposite.  I know we are talking Showcase vs a comp and at a comp everything gets ratcheted up a notch.  And Boston was new.  It has been a couple of years since I attended this one but there were a lot of familiar faces.  Still, I think there is more to it which I’ll probably get to although you may already have guessed where I’m going.

I mean I was nervous during warm up.  The first time on the floor and I could feel my mouth start to dry up just a bit.  Kid T made the same comment and we headed for the water right after.  But, we ran through each and every dance and they all came together so beautifully that I really wasn’t concerned anymore.  There is always the rush when you do your first heat for real but standing there I didn’t feel anywhere near as nervous as I was in Boston.

To take a little thing, Z was always concerned about where we started.  I know this came from her fear that I would freak out if we got into a bad alignment (and that’s a legit fear).  But, whether by accident or design, during our lessons we ended up starting the smooth dances in several places and I learned how to rotate certain parts.  I swear my first thought when seeing the floor was that as long as I started a smooth near a corner, I was going to be OK.  Z would actually position me so she would literally walk me to a spot on the floor.  I asked Kid T at the start and she didn’t seem to care, so I just picked any old spot and I did try to start near the judges so they could see my number right away.

I know Z was just trying to help but I think a lot of that just ended up amplifying what I was feeling.  If she was stressed about where we were supposed to start then I just got hyper-stressed about what could go wrong.  Kid T was more “let’s just go dance” and I think I responded better to that.

And she was truly supportive.  I can’t tell you how many times she was genuinely positive and full of praise as we finished a heat.  Lots of high fives.  Z was never the type to hit you with a lot of praise and, again, maybe I just respond better to more positive feedback.  In fact, we were in the studio yesterday to do formation and I’m talking with another guy about Showcase and she walks up and says “Did he tell you how awesome he was yesterday?”  I had to admit that I hadn’t used the word “awesome” and that I had settled for “I did well”.  The guy says to her that he’s figured out when I say “well” that it means awesome to most everyone else and so we had a little joke about what it would take for me to call myself awesome.  You know I’m my own worst critic and I am proud of how I did but there is this part of me that just says no to self promotion so I do tend to undersell.  Anyway, it was nice to hear and it sounded real.

I’ve mentioned before that there were times when I felt isolated and alone at these events but that didn’t happen this time and I really can’t figure out why.  I did have Kid T to talk with but she and Z had split up Tex’s heats and he did over 100 so Kid T was on the floor a lot with him.  That would sometimes leave me with Tex’s wife and Z and sometimes just Z.  OwnerGuy was dancing with Tex’s wife so he was around from time to time but he seemed to keep himself busy talking to others and staying loose.  Of course, Z and I are still not on speaking terms so when it was us there was silence.  But it never made me feel isolated.  Maybe because I knew Kid T really wanted to be there and that just carried over.

I guess the point that I’m trying to make is that maybe my subconscious was having a lot of influence on my mood and how I perceived an event.  The stuff with Z was impacting me on all sorts of levels that I just wasn’t aware of and so that may have just amplified little things to lead to some of the bad stuff at previous events.  Maybe not, but its as good a theory as any.  I am curious to see if this is reflected in the critiques.  I did make a point of telling OwnerGuy at one point that I was having a good time and he said he could tell.

One other little thing.  We always started apart so I could invite her in and, depending on the song, she would do some little gyration that was sort of consistent with the music.  For a Mambo, she did a little shimmy.  I ended up being so comfortable that I started to mimic some of the things she was doing.  It just felt like the thing to do.  Then, we’d get into frame, count off and go.

Which brings me to my little mini rant.  As I thought more about this, I also realized that the people who set this Showcase up get one very important thing.  These events are for the students!!!  For some it is a hobby, for others it is a passion but we are all amateurs and most have a life and work outside of ballroom.  But, for one day, we put all that aside and get to dress up and enter the magical world of ballroom dance.  On that day, we aren’t what we do for a living.  We are dancers!  These events aren’t cheap and most people aren’t going to do a significant number of these so every one of these events is important.  It is our time to shine.  It is our time to show what we’ve learned.  We put ourselves out there to be viewed and judged and that’s not an easy thing to do.  Sorry, instructors, I know you are crucial to the process and we wouldn’t be there without you but this is our day and it should be treated as such.

So if you aren’t fully engaged and are off texting with friends who aren’t there, it shows.  I’m not talking about taking quick glances at the football scores or your fantasy team.  Little breaks are expected.  But when you look bored to be there, it is obvious and it sends a very powerful message that you are only there because you have to be there and not because you want to be there.  I know it is a long day but it is a long day for us as well.  At one point, the DJ came on to tell us this was the time we just had to push through to the end.  These events are marathons and not sprints and if we need to be engaged, then so do you.

In that respect, I’m going to have to give mad props to Kid T.  She probably danced close to 90 heats between me and Tex and two solo routines.  By the end of the day, you could tell her brain was a little fried and she was a little drained but the enthusiasm never dimmed.  She was always “there” and that’s how it should me.

When I said that these people got it, here’s a little example.  After the last song, they dismissed us and all the instructors from the host studios lined up at the exits to personally thank everyone for attending.  I had no idea they were doing this and I blew by the first couple until I made eye contact with one and he stuck his hand out and told me what a good job I had done and thanks for coming.  I got the same treatment from several others – a couple of hugs as well.  I had one instructor tell me she hoped to see me back next year but then also invited me to their spring Showcase (which another studio hosts in a different town but still within driving distance).  Look, I’m cynical enough to know that this could all be an act but there is also a part of me that sensed it really wasn’t.  If you “get it” and really understand that this is a day for the students, then it just becomes natural to say and mean things like that.  I’ve normally got a pretty good BS sensor and it wasn’t going off so I do think it was genuine.  I know it was a small gesture but it meant something.

Anyway, I know I said I had a good time but I wanted to flesh that out a little bit more.  This event just had a total positive vibe for me so I felt it deserved more than one post.


  1. Sounds like the people running the event really understood that pro-am ballroom is a customer service industry. Which means it’s about the customers, a.k.a. the students! I totally agree with you that it’s obvious when an instructor is there because he or she “has to” versus really present. I’ve experienced both, and it definitely makes a big difference to my personal experience.

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