I traveled back to my old stomping grounds in the east bay, to compete for the first time in a long time in a ballroom competition, April Follies. There I competed with my long time teacher Miss Tina Mayer. (Yes, she is that beautiful close up.) We competed same-sex American Smooth and International Standard. April Follies is a very gay event, Tina and I are not gay. I’m not sure how many people did or did not know this at the comp but gay or not gay, it didn’t matter. Hands down, this is the most supportive community of dancers that I have EVER encountered.
Why did I do it? Here’s what I expect of a teacher when competing Pro-Am. Show up on time. Show up ready to go. Big list right? Well, you’d be surprised. The first, and only other, time I ever competed was a big nightmare. Show up on time, means not five minutes before we are going on to the floor. Show up ready to go means, you’re actually ready to go, not, “Oh wait I have to put on my dance clothes quick.” and then rush out to the floor five minutes before we are supposed to go on the floor. (I’m not saying that he was The Machiavellian Hustler, but he is one of the four teachers that I based it on.)
I lost my goals for dance after the ballroom competition, that shall from here out be called “the big disaster”, and focused mostly on social dancing, Lindy Hop and West Coast Swing. During that time, in spite of my ridiculous protests about performing, Tina and I did some incredible showcases together.
(This was our first Lindy Hop, we killed, it was awesome, I couldn’t believe it.)
Six months ago, I had just decided to stop working with my one of my male instructors and was feeling a little lost when April Follies was brought to my attention by an amazing friend (that I know reads this blog). “Why not?” she said. “Strap on the dress, what have you got to lose? It will be fun.” I had the foundation but never really gave it the full effort after “the big disaster”. Tina was excited about it and if I was going to see if Ballroom competition was something I really wanted to get back into and give a real try, best if I do it with someone I genuinely like, trust, know is unbelievably good at it and want to do it with. Added bonus, redemption.
(This was our second showcase, West Coast Swing, we KILLED it again, it was awesome.)
The day of the competition Tina got to my room at eight-thirty am already in dress, hair and makeup. She did my makeup, while another amazing friend (that I know reads this blog) did my hair. The list was checked and they both killed it, I looked amazing. We cut the elastic off my fish nets, I strapped into the pink sparkly dress, tossed on my satin slippers and when I glanced in the mirror, looked and felt like a Disney princess.
(Best screen grab I could find, it’s the Tango, that’s why I’m so serious.)
For the next three hours worked I SO hard wanting to make Tina and everyone who showed up for me proud. I gave them every drop of that pink sweat I could muster, and I can muster a lot. (I die my hair red and a fresh dye will leave residue of color on the scalp, that equals pink flop sweat.) My feet felt like they were ready to explode out of the beautiful and evil satin shoes. I had to try so hard to keep my posture upright on the evolutionary scale, let alone to ballroom standards.
As for how I danced, from what I felt like, there was a 50/50 good-bad ratio through out what seemed to be endless heats. The early heats were rough for me, fear, nerves and sheer terror, took its tool. My legs were shaking so much I stumbled on the easiest of moves. I was taking my victories where I could, remembering the saying about when you go on the competition floor you only keep half of the dance you have in practice and thinking I’d only kept about 25%.
Then came Standard Foxtrot and my heart just sunk. Four months ago, I’d never heard nor had I ever had to execute a heel turn. Heel turns are the hardest thing in the world for me (and apparently quiet a few other dancers). I had to do a Standard heat uncontested, which meant I was out there with Tina alone and petrified of my heel turns. Super Tina, corralled me through and it went OK thanks to her. Then I blew and I mean BLEW the Quick Step. I didn’t fall I just couldn’t keep time and messed up all the shapes and spin turns.
There was a break and we went back out to do smooth and that’s when it happened. I had a fairly good Waltz, a very good Tango, a redemption Foxtrot and then the floor cleared. No one else was going to compete Viennese. And that’s when the story of the American Smooth Viennese Waltz happened. In all my attempts at this quick paced dance, I had been out of control and in the wrong position for Tina to get around me. I looked at Tina and out loud said, “This is it. This, what is happening now, is my worst nightmare.”. I can’t remember if Tina responded or not but the music started.
This was just going to happen.
I let Tina bring me into frame and everything, not just something clicked. All of the fear went away, all of the anxiety that everyone was watching me was gone. I wanted them to watch me. I was smooth. The music and the phrasing of the amalgamation hit at the same time. We exploded and so did the crowd. We went into swim lanes and everything was still going right. I actually thought to myself, “This s*** doesn’t happen in real life.” We finished to applause. I had that moment in front of my mom, my friends, a hundred people and with Tina.
After that the competition, even though I still had to dance, was over for me. I’d had my moment, my Disney Princess moment, where the sky opened up, birds sung along to the music and my “unconventional prince” lead me across the dance floor and we lived happily ever after…
…until I watched the video the next day.
You can not judge your own video objectively till you watch it at least six or seven times. – A reminder I received, just in time, from Against Line of Dance.
Coming Up… Pictures and The Aftermath. April Follies: Part Two