It was a cold morning as can be expected in these parts at this time of year. The ballroom was scheduled to open at 9AM for warm ups and we had our formation practice at 9:30 so I had my alarm set for 6:30 to give me time to get ready. I did have to take the dogs out first thing because it was a Sunday and they just expect a walk on days I’m not working. Gave me the first chance to loosen things up a bit.
I get there and drop my stuff off and change into the dance pants and start the process of getting ready for the day. Kid T is off doing hair and make up (that’s a revenue stream for instructors so they jump at the opportunity). We do get everyone together at 9:30 and do a couple quick practices of the formation just to block out on the floor where we want to start. I did a solo run through of the Quickstep because I had to see if the knee was going to be able to handle the skip steps we have to do.
Our Quickstep routine was the fourth one up during the first solo set so I had to toss on the Egyptian stuff. Never got a chance to do a practice run with Kid T so, right out of the gate, I’m doing the Quickstep routine cold. I did go over the beginning with her on the side since we have some choreographed arm stuff before the dancing. I have to say it went much better than I expected. There were some bobbles and I ended up in the wrong place but it all worked out. For all the worries I’ve had over it, I was happy with how it turned out.
Then, we get to the downside of one of these events. There were 88 heats of smooth dances and you are at the mercy of whoever puts the schedule together. It doesn’t help that there are two other guys besides me who do heats with Kid T so they have to space them out. But it meant that after the routine, I didn’t come back on again until heat 32. There is both the physical challenge of keeping loose since my knee was trying to tighten up on me every time I took a break and the mental part about staying with it because it gives you a lot of free time to just think. And, since Kid T was on the floor most of the day, I really couldn’t even do any practice runs.
There were other wonderful parts of the schedule. After doing a few other heats, I was back at heat 47 to do a Viennese Waltz followed immediately at heat 48 by a Quickstep. And, I was the only person in both heats. It was funny because after the Viennese Waltz, the DJ running the music says “if you think that dance was fast, get ready for this next one”. Fortunately, I didn’t have another heat after that so I had time to breathe. I did have another little stretch where I followed a Quickstep heat with a Peabody and then a Waltz. Peabody isn’t as fast as Quickstep but it still moves. So after two fast dances, I had to mentally slow myself down to get into the Waltz.
That was right before the killer stretch at the end of the smooth heats. From heat 72 to 87, I was in 13 of them including 8 in a row. Now each dance is only about a minute so you think 8 minutes wouldn’t be that much but, trust me, it was a grind. A couple of times, we forgot that we were in each heat, so we’d get off the floor, check the schedule and have to rush right back in. It was a lot of Waltz/Tango/FoxTrot (or WTF which also described my feeling to whomever had set up the schedule), but that’s how they do rounds in comps so you have to mentally bounce back and forth between dance styles. That’s the thing about these events. They are physically demanding but it also drains you mentally as you have to make these quick switches in your head – not only to remember the routine but to try and capture the spirit of the dance.
But we made it through the smooth heats and I got to peel off my smooth dance shirt. Our West Coast Swing routine was up next and we decided that we’d enter from opposite sides of the floor so I got to sneak behind the judges so I could enter from the other side. They announce our routine and I’m bringing a chair from my side and Kid T is bringing a table with the sunglasses. The DJ (who saw this in the other Showcase a month ago) mentions something about props which was great. I got some good reactions as I’m tossing sunglasses away and the routine was pretty well received. Then, I had to do a quick change to get ready for our formation. The shock of the day was that the formation was not the disaster that it had been during practice. Even without someone counting the music, we ended up relatively together and on time.
I got changed into my rhythm outfit and I suddenly just got real relaxed. Just like the other Showcase, I really wasn’t that nervous even when doing the Quickstep but I just got even calmer. The solos were done, the formation was done, the smooth dances that move and require a lot of maneuvering were done and all that was left was the Rhythm dances so part of me just said it was time to relax and have fun. Strange that I would feel that way about the rhythm dances since I’ve never really thought of myself as a rhythm dancer.
The schedule make again did me no favors. After the formation, the rhythm dances started at heat 89 and I didn’t go on until heat 122 so there was another long stretch of trying to stay loose and mentally in the game. The first four were West Coast Swing heats. Then, they set things up like a comp where they were running rounds of Cha-Cha, Rumba, Swing, Bolero and Mambo. I noticed that the three of us in the studio who are into competing (Tex and OwnerGuy’s student) ended up in all those blocks. The first block was right after the West Coast Swing and at heat 156 so after dancing sporadically after the formation, I then had to crank it up to do West Coast Swing, Cha-Cha, Rumba, Swing, Bolero and Mambo. Again, the mental thing of shifting from one dance to another was the hardest thing. The rhythm may actually be a little tougher since you have fast/slow/fast/slow/fast.
We did four rounds in total like that spaced out about 10 heats apart. There was a little glitch in one of the heats where Kid T was double booked. It was a Rumba and I was there with her after doing Cha-Cha and then the Rumba starts and I see another guy coming out and there was confusion. One of the judges was pointing at him so I left the floor, checked the program and saw we were both listed in the same heat. The judges figured it out at the same time and we gave some little hand signals to make it clear we all understood what had happened. The nice thing is one of them (the coordinator) came down off the stand to apologize but then said they would add me to another heat and that she would give me some critiques so I wouldn’t miss anything. The problem was I had to dance with Lady Gator since Kid T was booked but I went with it. We just tossed together some simple stuff.
It was funny towards the end because I could tell Kid T was starting to really fade. She was messing up in a couple of places and her eyes were kind of glazed over. Because she had to dance with three students, she couldn’t memorize every heat she was in and Tex was in the same situation. So , I ended up following the program and giving them hand signals to stay on the floor or pointing to the other guy when they switched. When I got with her, I made it a point of saying that we were up for the next five heats and what the dances were. Felt a little like a roll reversal since the instructors are normally there to calm the students but we students have to look out for our teachers just as well. It is a partnership and sometimes it requires you to do things like this.
In the end of our last set of heats, just before the Mambo, the DJ gave a little spiel about it being a long day and how this is when you had to dig deep to find those last reserves to just keep pushing through. I realized he is absolutely right. I love Showcase but it is a demanding event. It is like a sprint and a marathon because each heat is a spring but you do so many of them that it becomes a marathon. Staying in the game both physically and mentally is the real challenge. It is what really gives you the sense of accomplishment when you get done.
Oh, I should mention I did get some nice feedback during the day. Randomly standing in line waiting for a heat, I had a couple of people comment on the routines and they all seemed to really enjoy the West Coast Swing. That makes me happy. The dancing wasn’t technically difficult but if I can entertain people, it is a good thing.
So the day ends and we move to dinner. After waiting forever for them to set up the ballroom for dinner, I got an interesting table arrangement. The DJ and one of the judges were at the last Showcase and I think Z and OwnerGuy got them there to agree to do ours. And the couple doing the pro show were also friends of Z’s. Now, they do try to set up tables so you sit with your instructor so I get that. But she’s put those four at her table with Tex and his wife and the other guy she dances a lot with. (Both guys also dance with Kid T and Lady Gator) At OwnerGuy’s table, she has England Dan and his wife, another couple and the lady who does a lot of solos with OwnerGuy. There must have been someone else there because that doesn’t seem like enough. Well I end up at a table with Kid T, Lady Gator and three other instructors from another studio. And, they weren’t the instructors who were on the floor a lot and I think they are the new ones and at least one was part time.
I’d like to give her the benefit of the doubt and say that they couldn’t fit everyone together and I do dance exclusively with Kid T so it made sense for us to be at the same table. At the same time, it was hard to get around the vibe that I had been banished to the kids table so she could have space at her table for her friends. However, it was also fun to just be an observer since all of them were much younger than I am and the conversation was interesting. Two of them skipped the salad and just jumped right to the desert which was already on the table (oh to have a young metabolism again). The one guy ended up finishing a second piece of cake since we had empty spaces (remember we were the left over table). At one point, the females were talking about guys at their gym and I got roped in to rate this one guy and I gave him a thumbs down. Then, I got asked where you could find good men and I said I couldn’t answer because I wasn’t really looking. It could have been awkward but it was actually kind of fun in a strange sort of way. I think we drew the attention of some of the senior instructors from the other studio because a couple of them stopped by – maybe to check on the kids. Did have one of them stop to tell me that I did a great job.
Kid T and OwnerGuy did a little swing number when they broke to do some instructor shows before the pro shows. I thought OwnerGuy was done with that sort of thing so maybe this was supposed to be for M-Dawg before he left. The pro show was fantastic. They did a Fox Trot and I wish I could remember the song but the theme was about waking up in the wrong place with the wrong person. At one point during the song, the lady pro ended up sitting on my lap briefly – it fit with the song. I think when they do these pro shows, they like to involve the audience from time to time and I guess she picked me out. I was next to the kid instructor from the other studio and he was all excited about it.
Oh, I forgot to mention that during the general dancing, the judge who came to me about the Rumba mishap asked me to dance a Cha-Cha. We danced at the last Showcase as well. I started with some basic Cha-Cha stuff but got brave and decided to work in some of my routine which I normally don’t do. And it went really well.
The night is a bit of a blur but I think before the pro show, they did the top teacher awards. This was based on the number of heats a teacher did. I leaned over to the guy next to me and told him Kid T was going to win because I couldn’t think of another female teacher who did as many entries. Of course she did. OwnerGuy mentioned something about needing someone to escort her and, even though she wasn’t sitting next to me, I decided to jump up and run over there. She already had one escort but I figured why not two. Tex and her other student also joined in which was appropriate. But she did a lot of work and I really wanted to let her know how much I appreciated it.
Sorry I think I’ve rambled on too much. Hope this made some sense. It was a great day. I had a lot of fun and I think we did a good job. I’ve got a couple days away from the studio to rest and recharge and then we figure out what the next step is.
It has been a long six months since the last Showcase and there has been a lot of change. I still have my moments of self-doubt and anxiety and I suspect they will never truly go away. But I can say with certainty that I’m in a much better place with regard to my dancing and my opinion of my dancing. I know there is still room for improvement but I’m better than I’ve given myself credit for. I know that we all need to find that key to self-confidence inside ourselves but I will say that having someone who really believes in you is a big help and the teachers I’ve had since June have made a world of difference in me and my dancing. I’ll be back later this week to give you a run down of the feedback and I’m sure I’m going to have some interesting stories about the first Waltz lesson with Hilde.