Medal-less Ball

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Back from vacation.  Tonight is the Medal Ball at our local Famous Franchise.  I was thinking about that on the drive back from the airport and wondering about all the people getting ready.  Those who were checking out – are they nervous about having to do a number in front of people.  Or is it a relief to actually be through a level.  How much of a sense of accomplishment do people get from this.

I used to enjoy Medal Ball but, even if I hadn’t been on vacation, I might have found some excuse to not go.  It was always fun.  That is the first event when they had dance cards way back in the day so it forced you to mix and mingle.  Not really my thing at first but I got used to it.  And, there was the little ego boost when my card would fill up right after I got there.  I would feel bad about turning ladies down though since there were only a limited number of slots available.

I remember hating checkouts.  Something about being watched and judged when it is just you and you alone that made me all kinds of nervous.  It was stupid because they wouldn’t be asking you to check out if you couldn’t do it so it was pretty much in the bag.  But when OwnerGuy would show up with the clipboard and then say show me in and out sprials in Waltz and I’d kind of freeze up and think “what was that again??”.  Probably one reason why I’m not really in any kind of hurry to get back on the medalist track.

It is hard not to become a little cynical and jaded over the years.  I’ve made my peace with the dance studio as a business and the need to pass certain people along to keep them happy and keep them buying lessons.  But it used to be a big deal to me.  I’ve still got the bronze pins we earned for associate and full bronze and those felt like a real accomplishment.  Yes, it still is but as I’ve moved away from purely social dancing, I’ve realized how much I didn’t know and maybe, only now, I’m starting to have earned some of the medals and pins I got all those years ago.

And, to be honest, it is more fun to see the newbies at their first Medal Ball.  The ones who still have the stars in their eyes and are in the place where every new step is a huge new discovery.  Watching them on the floor for the first time, you have to ignore all the technique errors and timing problems and general lack of fluidity in the movement.  (Can’t help it, I see that stuff now)  They are dancing and when they smile at each other, none of the other stuff matters.  And you can congratulate them after and tell them they were wonderful (which is really all relative to level so you aren’t actually lying).

But, and I’m going to dip into my ego bag, it gets harder watching more people graduate into “silver”.  Yeah, there is a part of me that feels petty and small writing this.  I know we all have different dance goals and the ones that are just doing this purely for social dancing and to spend time with each other, don’t need to have perfect frames or keep their heads up or even be on time for that matter.  As long as they can move across the floor and execute a few patterns, they are significantly better ballroom dancers than most people.  And, there still is something to be said for anyone who takes this hobby up and sticks with it.  If you are like me, you probably have lots of friends who, when they hear you dance, say something like “I’ve always wanted to do that” or something similar.  And yet, they never cross the line into a studio.  Not to judge because there are lots of reasons why but dancing is still an unrealized goal or dream for them.  The people who do it and stick with deserve some type of recognition even if they aren’t competition level dancers.

I don’t fault anyone but we have a silver class at the studio and I dance with the various ladies and I watch the various guys and many of them are theoretically at the same level I am since I’ve not moved on from Silver 1.  BUT I’M A MUCH BETTER DANCER!!  (Sorry, had to let the ego monster out)  And, that bothers me.

Do I want to jump back on the medal track and move up another level just to stay ahead of the pack?  No, my goals have changed.  I could probably check out at the next medal ball.  I know most of the Silver 2 steps and I can do them with reasonably good technique so I’m pretty sure OwnerGuy would let me finish Associate Silver and then call myself a Full Silver dancer.  But would I feel like a Full Silver dancer?  Probably not and so why do it.  Or maybe just get the thing out of the way and continue to grow into it.  The real problem is I have no idea what it would take for me to feel like a Full Silver dancer.  So maybe that’s why I just don’t try.  It wouldn’t feel like a real accomplishment and I’d do my little solo at the next medal ball and I’d get my picture taken and I’d get a pin and the next day I’d screw something up on a lesson and all the doubts would come rushing back and none of the check out stuff would really matter.  Or maybe that’s just what I tell myself.  After all, you can never win or lose if you don’t play the game.

The root of this is just something I’ve struggled with since starting this blog.  Objective measures of progress to know that I’m still moving in the right direction.  Sometime in the next couple of weeks, I’m going to get a nice plaque from the Big Dance Event with a bunch of medals of various colors pasted to it.  They’ll probably make a little show of it at the studio and Kid T will tell me how well I did and I’ll just be thinking ‘what does this really mean?” and I won’t have any good answers.

If there is any progress, it is that I no longer struggle with the whole “Am I a dancer?” thing because I know I’m a dancer.  And life would be so much easier if I could take to heart the quote that the only dancer you should compare yourself to is the one you used to be.  Even with that, there are pitfalls.  I certainly know I’m a better dancer than I was when I started all those years ago.  Am I better than when I started this blog?  Yeah, I think that’s a fair assessment.  Am I better than I was a year ago?  Well, that’s when things get dicey because I don’t have a truly objective yardstick to look at.

So tonight is Medal Ball and I’m writing about it rather than being there.  (With vacation, I couldn’t have made it anyway)  Next week it is back to dancing as usual.  I’ve got two coaching lessons next week so I’m going to have to yank myself out of vacation mode quickly.


One comment

  1. Teach is in the process of putting levels of technique progressions down for the medals. My brain processes this well and so does his. It would be great if you could find a teacher like that. It helps you see where you were and where you are going.

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