Checking the Checkpoints

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OK, I won’t fully be back into the swing of lessons until later this week but you never know where inspiration will strike.  I have a Facebook friend who links to a Famous Franchise blog that likes to put up little posts about various topics.  This one was actually an older one that they were re-posting and was a Survival Guide to your First Dance Performance and had a 10 point list of performance checkpoints.

Now, this is not a bad site nor is it a bad list but it is written from a dance studio perspective.  Since I didn’t have a topic of my own, I thought I’d give you my unbiased, student perspective of their list.  Well, OK, it is not unbiased since I have my own set of biases but you get the point.

  1.  You’ll Never Just Feel “Ready” – Status:  Totally True.   The truth is that nothing can prepare you for what an event or comp truly feels like.  There is a different feeling to getting a number pinned to your back and knowing there are people with clipboards taking notes about your dancing.  No matter how much you think you know your stuff, you will never be “ready” until you’ve done one and know how it feels and how it will impact you.  Besides, if you teacher is bugging you to go, then it means they think it will help and they’ll keep bugging you until you either say “no” firmly or go.
  2. Everyone Gets Nervous – Status:  Totally True.  Well, technically, I can’t say totally because, as a statistically oriented person, I know you can’t objectively prove “everyone” unless you are willing to ask every dancer in the whole world who has done a comp.  And who has time for that?  I know one lady who got so overwhelmed, that she almost became physically ill and couldn’t finish the event.  At the last Showcase, Hilde’s solo was coming up but they played a couple of general dances to allow time for costume changes and she grabbed to say she had to dance to burn off the nerves.
  3. Nervous Means You Care – Status:  Mostly True but you might care about different things.  I think the intent is to say you care about your dancing but I suspect a lot of people care more about how they might look and are afraid of looking stupid or messing up.  For some, the nervousness may not go completely away but it is greatly reduced in scope after doing a couple of events.  So I don’t necessary buy the converse that if you aren’t nervous, you don’t care.
  4. Nervous is the Wrong Word – Status:  Fluffy Stuff Designed to Make you Feel Good.   The point was that to think that you are excited and not nervous like being on a roller coaster.  Designed to direct your thought patterns differently so you don’t get so negative.  Me, I’d just own the nervousness because it happens to most of us.  The key is to not let it overwhelm you.  If calling it excitement does that, then this is fine.  But find something that works.
  5. Consider the Environment – Status:  Mostly True.  The true part was that you’ll be surrounded by people who feel similar to how you do.  The fluffy stuff was about it being a supportive community and that is mostly true.  I do seriously think that dancers by virtue of having gone on our own journeys tend to be very supportive of each other.  But, sometimes, that doesn’t come across at an event.  A lot of pros do lots of heats so they are shuffling on and off the floor without a lot of time to stop and be truly supportive.  Other students may be too nervous and focused inwardly to notice you.  I’ve been the only student from my studio at an event and I can tell you that I felt more isolated than supported.  But you will generally get some feedback during the day and perhaps more after the event.
  6. Smiling Says a Lot – Status:  Mostly True.  I’ve mentioned before that I love to watch faces at these events.  The best dancers do have something of a poker face except there is a smile there.  The problem is that it doesn’t hide everything.  When we were watching my latest video, the heats had other dancers in them and they would sometimes come into the field of vision.  There is another dancer at one of the other studios who goes to a lot of events and has lots of nice dresses and she always has a big smile on her face.  But, as she entered the video, my wife looks at her and says “she’s lost”.  And I also noticed it at the event during one of her solos.  Still, a smile is better than the grimace that some people get when they mess up.  Better still though is a genuine smile that comes from inside because you are loving what you are doing.
  7. Trust Your Teacher – Status:  If they are worthy of trust, then this is totally true but remember that you are a team and be ready to do your part.  Look, trust is huge.  I could do a whole post on the importance of trusting the pro you are dancing with.  If trust is broken, then dancing together gets much harder.  Consider an extreme example of someone throwing you a lifeline.  If you trust that person, it will be easier to push your fears aside and grab the lifeline.  If you don’t trust that person for any reason, then you’re likely to hesitate or get caught up in that and it could end badly.  If trust has been broken, I would say you need a new partner.  (And, on this, I do speak from some personal experience).  But trust doesn’t mean that you simply put them in the driver’s seat and forget about everything else.  At this last event, Kid T did so many more heats than I did that her mind started to wander so I was the one keeping track of what dances we were doing and what heats we were in.
  8. Trust Your Muscles – Status:  Mostly True but be careful.  Having set amalgamations or patterns for each dance is tough to learn, but, at events, it does make it easier.  If your body knows which steps come next, then it makes it easy to focus on other parts of the performance.  But, you have to be careful because a lot of steps are similar so going totally on auto-pilot can be a disaster.  Also, if your pro dances with a lot of students at different levels, then they might break into something from another routine at some point during the day.  Muscle memory is mostly a friend but not always.
  9. Mistakes are Normal – Status:  Totally and Completely True.  It is almost certain that you will make a mistake during an event or a comp.  The article says what is important is how you recover which is completely true.  Mistakes can be fixed.  If you let them defeat you, then it will ruin all your subsequent dances.  I also speak from personal experience here as a semi-reformed perfectionist who used to just focus on what went wrong.  Think of this, it is likely at some point that your pro will make a mistake.  Do you yell at them?  If you do, you shouldn’t.  But if you can forgive them, then you have to forgive yourself.
  10. It’s All in The Build – Status:  Light, fluffy stuff to finish the list.  The point was about building your ability requires a foundation and your first event is a foundation.  There was a line in there about “proven methods” which is just studio fluff.  It closes with that this won’t be your only performance but that isn’t necessarily true.  I do encourage everyone to try an event but that isn’t for everyone.  Some people need the challenge and some get off on the performance but, for some, it represents a direction that they don’t want to go.

OK, so its not a bad list.  There’s a lot of good stuff there.  A couple I wouldn’t consider true points for a survival guide but that’s just me.

1, 2, 7 and 9 seem to be the most important but I might throw 8 into the mix.

Of course, the downside to every list like this is that it presents things in such a way to make it appear to be easy.  Everyone get nervous so just don’t freak out so much.  Sounds easy but hard to put into practice.

I’ll be back to talk about my dancing later this week.  Just felt the need to speak to that particular column for some reason.


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