I believe the concept of Bronze, Silver and Gold levels is pretty universal across the Ballroom world. How you advance through the levels is likely dependent on which studio you attend. When I was first starting out, the Famous Franchise used Check Outs where you would have to dance certain figures (sometimes by yourself) to be allowed to move from one level to another. I should also point out that the Famous Franchise has four levels within each metal so you go from Bronze I through Bronze IV and then into Silver. In some ways it is kind of rigged because they won’t ask you to attempt a check out until they are sure you are ready which means you are probably assured of passing. Still, the whole concept of being judged and graded tended to produce a great deal of anxiety for me so I decided to just get off the train and stay at the Silver II level.
Well, that was only part of the reason for my decision. After I did my first Big Dance Event and convinced myself that I was nowhere near as good as I thought I was, I ended up deciding that I shouldn’t advance until I had really “earned” the next level. Part of that was more focus on technique and not just the steps. I didn’t want to just slop through the steps; I really wanted to be able to dance through them. Of course, I also got hung up in my own perfectionism. If the dance wasn’t “perfect”, then I still wasn’t ready and I wouldn’t even bring up the subject of checking out. It is probably fair to say that my definition of perfect means going beyond actual perfection which isn’t possible in the first place but that’s how I work sometimes. So I was set up to fail and would never be able to move up a level.
To be fair, I was also focused on doing open routines and solos which always included choreography above the Silver II level and so I also didn’t see a lot of advantages to moving up. And, as I’ve said before, there are many times that I’m in this more for the journey than the destination and so why not take my own sweet time. Hitting Silver III by some time point wasn’t important. I’m pretty sure is has been at least five years since I’ve faced a check out.
But, along the way, a couple of things have happened. First, the closed routines started to get boring and repetitive. The closed routines were limited by the level so there could be no steps above Silver II. Well, there is only so long you can dance the same pattern before it starts to lose all of its appeal. Secondly, other people started moving up and now there are several people in Silver. If you’ll indulge me, I’m going to let my ego out for just a bit. I’m a better dancer than most of the rest of the studio so why should I continue to be on a treadmill running in place while they are running by me. Now, I know that the level really doesn’t mean that they are more advanced but it was still something that spurred me to actually get moving again.
So the goal we set back in December was to incorporate some Silver III stuff in the closed routines and then work towards checking out in March. I put the whole check out in the back of my mind and just focused on the new routines. The new Silver stuff is cool and it is making the routines exciting again. The check out was the furthest thing from my mind.
Until I went into the studio last night and realized is was already March and I only have this week and next week to prepare and that I didn’t have the new stuff down cold yet. And then someone is supposed to judge me and I’m not ready and I’M SERIOUS FREAKING OUT ABOUT THIS WHOLE THING!!!!!!!
You see, it also turns out that they’ve changed the way the check out works. It used to be that it was done on a lesson meaning that OwnerGuy was the guy with the clipboard watching. Now, they gather us all on a Saturday afternoon (problem #1) and then when our level is up, we all go and dance. And the person doing the feedback and judging and making the decision on if you can advance is someone from the Famous Franchise world. It is almost like a Showcase where you are being judged by someone who doesn’t know you. But it won’t be like a Showcase because it is in the studio and the comments are not nice little critiques. This guy gives you a thumbs up or thumbs down. Plus, I could be stuck on the floor with Tex and Z and OwnerGuy and Z’s wife and they’ll take all the space and leave me fighting for room and probably stuck in a corner. This just took the FREAK OUT level to 11. Its when you need that extra push over the cliff you can just dial the FREAK OUT to 11.
So I kind of started in with the whole “I’m not ready” and asking why I had to do this and why we couldn’t just toss the Silver III stuff into the mix without the stupid Check Out. Stuff like that.
Well, we ended up doing the Waltz and I started screwing things up just because that’s how I get when I’m overthinking and freaking out just a bit. Plus Z was with her student and OwnerGuy had Tex and his wife and there was another student with NewestGirl working on a routine so the floor was crowded and we were always the ones who seemed to have to yield. Plus, we never got a Waltz so I couldn’t really get into it. Just a hot freaking mess all around.
There was some good that came out of it though. There’s a step we do which I don’t know the name of but it starts with me doing a Twinkle and then coming around her and then bringing her in front of me. Well, I though I needed to keep my left arm up and horizontal but it made the whole bringing her in front of me awkward. I was finding that I was having to bring my arm down to make that work and it seemed off. So, in between the freak outs, I brought it up and Kid T kind of got a bit excited. Turns out that I should be bringing my arm down (slightly) as I come around. This creates a connection and then allows the next move to flow more smoothly as I bring her around in front of me and reestablish the frame with the horizontal left arm. She was actually glad I asked because she noticed it while we were doing the step and also noticed that I was making faces like something was off. (I think I would suck at poker). I’m thinking she was not trying to fill me head with lots of stuff so she was willing to let it go until later but I brought it up so she could talk about it.
I know that I’m making a big deal out of nothing. I think I’ve got this down to a point where they’ll let me pass but just the thought of having to take a test kind of freaks me out. Strange thing is that I never minded taking tests in high school or college. Probably because I could review the material and be convinced that I knew it. Here, it just seems harder to convince myself that I really know what I’m doing.
Oh well, FoxTrot is tonight. Hoping it goes better.