Got asked this question last night by another dancer as we were discussing Medal Ball. I think she was shocked when I said “yes”. When we got to the level right before I was due to go on, my throat went a little dry and, yes, there were nerves. I could feel a bit of shakiness as we were preparing to start the Waltz. Knowing you are being judged (even when you know the judges are going to be mostly kind) is still stressful.
I do have one advantage as a leader which is the dance isn’t going to start until I move. So I’ve found that taking a second or two to settle into my frame and set my posture and to try and find the beat really helps. The thing I can’t explain is that once things start, the nerves pretty much go away. Like some mental switch comes on and it is Showtime. Which is probably why people often remark that I don’t look nervous at all when dancing. They just don’t know the flip flops I’m doing inside before things get started.
This is a hard place to get to but if you’ve practiced a pattern enough times, then you have to learn to trust that your body knows it and not listen to your head. Yeah, that sounds a little funny coming from me but I tend to beat myself up more at lessons than I do at actual events. For me, the thing that works best is visualization and I did spend time at Medal Ball looking at the floor and just imagining how each dance was going to move. I tried to plan out the best place to start based on where certain things were going to hit.
It can be a good relaxation thing especially if you don’t get an opportunity to actually dance something before you have to go on. Now the problem is that mind can play tricks on you. If I get to a point where I sort of blank on something (like a transition), I’ll just move on to something else knowing that my body will figure out what I need to do. You can’t sit and stew over something or you’ll just end up convincing yourself that you don’t know anything. In extreme cases, I’ve gone to my instructor and asked to go back over a part just to again convince my mind that my body knows what it is doing.
This lady said some other things to me and I tried to talk her down a bit. Again, I’m usually better at dispensing advice than taking it. There was a young lady in her early 20’s dancing with an instructor in his early 20’s and she was putting all kinds of style into her moves. This lady I was talking to is my age and was essentially comparing herself to the 20 year old.
A quote I keep coming back to is that the only dancer you should be comparing yourself to is the dancer you used to be. This is a hard place to get to. I certainly understand that. But those of us who are well north of their 20’s just aren’t going to move or look like someone in their 20’s. Especially if the people in their 20’s are athletic to start with. Life takes a toll. Let’s just say that. So it isn’t a fair comparison and it isn’t one you should make.
The other thing she talked about was how many times she messed up and I guess she went home after Medal Ball and just wrote out all the mistakes she made. This I know is not a path to success. Yes, I beat myself up a lot and I continue to work to not do it as much but I’ve learned that focusing on what went wrong at an event is the wrong thing to do. (Like I said, I beat myself up over things that happen on lessons – not that it is really better but it is different)
In some ways, it is easy to understand why we do this. You spend hours in the studio on lessons working on a particular pattern and then, come an event like Medal Ball, you get one shot. Hours of practice for maybe a minute and a half of dancing. And there are no do overs. It makes the mistakes much more painful and it is far too easy to spend all your time focusing on them.
The reality is things are going to happen. The other bit of reality is that you (and your instructor) are the only ones who know what you were supposed to do. I mean if you were dancing in a closed category and tossed in something from a level you aren’t supposed to use, then the judges are going to know. This is something it took me awhile to learn as well but as long as you don’t react and keep moving, most of the audience isn’t going to know. We only know you’ve messed up if we read your face. This is the one benefit of masks because nobody can see the grimace.
Anyway, I did what I could to reassure her that her night wasn’t a complete failure. I know from personal experience that it likely won’t make a difference because there are just some things you’ve have to figure out on your own. What I find kind of funny is it felt like she thought I didn’t have any of these issues. Been there, done that and still fighting my own demons every now and then. Maybe I just hide it better during the actually events.
Per this – it is not yet time for me to move on!