Silver Test

All done!

I passed with the comment ‘highly commended’ which is the highest comment.

Sorry I haven’t written, life seems to have been crazy lately!

I have been on call for work and people are calling a lot. We also have a major event happening next week that is filling time.  I feel like I haven’t stopped.  My phone also died so that took time to get a replacement (why is it so complicated???).

I am also strongly considering another major purchase in my life, but more to follow on that.

Back to the test, it went really well–better than I expected. VW was not too bad and Quickstep only got really questionable at the end.  All the routines went as expected.  All my comments were positive or provided great feedback, some of which was pretty expected (like work on getting my feet closed parallel in heel turns).  Overall I was told that I was at a really good level for silver, and the adjudicator even asked if I would be doing my gold test with the group working for October (which I won’t, especially since I won’t be able to dance almost all summer).  It was a surprise, but on the whole I am not in a hurry to do my next test.

So now the silver test is behind me and we are back to working out gold routines. We had a brief conversation on Monday about whether the routines should be strictly by the syllabus as necessary for testing, or more flexible and ‘showy’ for competition.  Since my focus now (one day!) is for competition, that is what we are doing.  Boss decided to adjust some of the previous routines we had done (particularly rumba), but even after that we now have solid sequences for rumba, cha cha, foxtrot, tango and quickstep.  Most of the samba and waltz are done, but Boss said he will make some adjustments to those routines.  That leave paso (probably the trickiest to choreograph) and jive.  We did go over one of the gold jive steps I will need.

My focus really from now until surgery is to get those new sequences into my feet. 3 weeks left, so should be doable.

About to finish my current course in my masters too!  Means in two weeks I should have the syllabus for the next one and hope it is flexible enough my surgery shouldn’t interfere too much. Fingers crossed.

There seem to be a lot of silver linings this week 🙂

Open Mixed Division

I fully recognize I am probably about to open a can of worms, and bring up potentially controversial issues.

I want to start by saying this is only the result of my own late night insomniac thinking, and none of the examples used are of people or situations I actually know.  They are all hypothetical.  I also recognize that as only a pro/am student, there are perhaps elements of both the professional and amateur world which I do not know.

One of the triggering things for this is the recent announcement that in 2018 Blackpool will hold a separate Teacher/Student division where ‘amateur’ teachers can dance with their students.  This is separate from Pro/Am where ‘professional’ teachers dance with their students.

This announcement is interesting, because according to the British Dance Council Rulebook:

18.

Loss of Amateur Status

(a) A competitor’s amateur status will be deemed lost if:

i. accepts remuneration in cash for the use of their name as a dancer in an advertisement;

ii. declares themselves to be a professional;

iii. passes a teaching entrance examination of any of the ballroom branches of an examining teacher organisation;

iv. acts as a teacher of dancing, with or without a fee, unless under the supervision of a qualified professional;

v. organises dances for personal profit;

vi. participates in a competition or match limited to professionals;

vii. acts as an MC for the purpose of leading dances or calling sets.

viii. adjudicates at a dancing competition

I do note this rule book is scheduled to be amended in January 2018, so perhaps points i, iii, and iv (or others) will be amended.

I want to point out that these are the British rules only.  I know that in the US, from discussions I have seen on forums the only way to be considered a professional is item ii.  In Canada, under Canada Dancesport Rules, amateurs who have achieved specific placings (I think top 3 in the Canadian Closed) may teach provided they pass appropriate exams, don’t charge over a certain amount per lesson, and report all earning from teaching to the CDS (there are other conditions, but those are the main ones).

So, what is my point? And why is it potentially controversial?

It just seems to me that the dance world is really starting to ‘split hairs’ when it comes to the number of different divisions and eligibility required for them, especially when talking about the open level (as a point of note, Blackpool only offers open level events).  There is a lot of dividing going on, at least on paper, in what appears to be an effort to maintain integrity of the words ‘professional’ and ‘amateur’ (although as said above, I recognize this is very simplified).  There are so many different ‘statuses’ of couples competing right now, but are they, and their level of dance really that different?

Usually, when the average person thinks ‘professional’ they think of someone who makes their living by that trade.  In dance, someone who teaches and performs for compensation, and an ‘amateur’ is someone for whom dancing is done purely for the enjoyment of doing it without compensation (and usually paying to do it).

In the dance world, at least in the US as a prime example, this is not the case.  Whether you are an amateur or professional is based solely on what you want to call yourself and what division you would like to compete in.  One does not automatically imply by the title they are better dancers than the other.  In fact, looking just at the number of former amateurs who seem to automatically go to the semi or even final of the pro division, it would imply the level of dancing is fairly even–which begs the question why are there so many divisions?

Let’s break down some of the divisions:

  1. Professional – couple consisting of two partners registered as professionals.  Most likely both teach.
  2. Pro/Am – couple consisting of a teacher registered as a professional dancing with an amateur student who does no teaching whatsoever.
  3. Teacher/Student – couple consisting of a teacher registered as an amateur dancing with an amateur student who does no teaching whatsoever.
  4. Mixed Amateur – (presumably does not apply to open events) a couple consisting of a higher level amateur dancing with a lower level amateur.  eg. an open amateur competing with a silver amateur.  ( I believe only the lower level partner is judged, and the higher amateur does not teach the lower, but may teach others).
  5. Student/Student – (again, does not seem to apply to open events) a mixed amateur couple consisting of two pro/am students. (I admit to not being very familiar with this division, so could be wrong).
  6. Amateur/Amateur – two partners registered as amateurs competing together. One or both of the partners may teach, or neither may teach.

Numbers 2-5 have a further breakdown by age, usually adult (16-35), senior I (36-50), senior II (51+). Some have further divisions.  There are the odd ‘senior’ professional events, but not very common. For the purpose of this discussion, I am going to focus on types 1, 2, 3, and 6.

Currently, all 4 of these couples are unable to compete directly against each other.  The competitive events are completely separate.  Pro/ams do not compete with teacher/student, and pro couples don’t compete with amateur couples.  From what I have seen in some forums, the reason is (or used to be) that it was felt unfair to mix competitors of different statuses.  That amateur couples would be unfairly outclassed by professional couples and that pro/am couples would upstage teacher/student couples.

Personally, I am not seeing this to be the case, and I have seen many arguments that the quality of amateur couples are equal, if not better than professionals.  I think all divisions have both strong, medium and weak couples.  In the end, regardless of status, it is two people dancing on the floor.

A thought that occurred to me though–what stops a teacher/student couple from competing in am/am events?

Consider this. An Amateur teacher is aged 42.  He is no longer competing as an amateur because his partner decided not to continue dance.  Lacking a steady partner, he sees not reason to declare ‘professional’ status, but does compete with his students in the teacher/student division.  However, he has 3 open-level students aged 36, 41, and 48, who all want to go to the same competition and compete in the multi-dance/scholarship events. He cannot compete with more than one student in the same event.  He can compete with the youngest student in the ‘A’ (under 35) event (as it is possible to dance down an age), but only one of his other two students can do the ‘B’ (36-50) event.  Neither student is willing to give up the opportunity for the other.  So, since he is 42, he registers the 3rd student in the senior I amateur event, as both qualify for that age category, and both are amateurs.

Is there anything to prevent this?  I haven’t seen anything on it, but in order to compete in teacher/student as the ‘teacher’ do you have to be also compete with a dedicated amateur partner?  It doesn’t appear to be a necessity, just is the general practice.

When I think of amateur competitions, it occurs to me that there are at least 3 types of couples competing on the floor–couples where neither partner teaches, where one partner teaches, and where both partners teach. Does one type of couple have an advantage over the others on the floor? On the surface it doesn’t seem to.

So, after laying out all this, I can see a case for a new division–mixed open–where the only eligibility is that both partners meet the age requirements, regardless of individual status (pro, am, student).  In this division (let’s use senior I for an example), all open level, there could be pro couples, am couples, pro/am couples and teacher/student couples all competing against each other, provided every individual on the floor was over 35. It would certainly recognize that as much as the dance world is trying to keep all these divisions separate, the lines between them are blurred and there is less of a distinction in level.

But could you imagine the fall-out if an am couple were placed above a pro couple, or if a pro/am couple was placed above and am couple?  What if a teacher/student couple won the event?

I think these questions and potential fall-out are exactly why this mixed open division does not exist and likely never will.  It’s not unheard of in other sports though–think of hockey where both professional and amateur players compete together in the olympics, similarly with basketball.

I want to be clear, I am not advocating for one or the other, or that we get rid of any of the current divisions.  Sheer variety of couples will mean that other separate events will need to be continued–most pro/am couples have large age differences between the teacher and student, for example, and a mixed open division would only be possible for open events.  Certainly not syllabus.

But to me, it’s an interesting question to ask.  Would there be an unfair advantage for one type of couple over the other if this event existed? Would that be negated by knowing what you are registering for (if you know you are registering for an event with a mixed variety of couples, can you then complain the pro couple had an advantage?  I think not–its what you signed up for).

I would love to hear the thoughts of others on this.  As I said, most of this is just some logical reasoning and thought processes generated from the recent announcement of including not only pro/am, but a separate teacher/student event at Blackpool.  I guess the main question that popped to my mind was–why are these separate events?

Perhaps that is just an uncomfortable question that shouldn’t be asked.

But I did anyway.

Feel free to share and give opinions–just please be respectful.

 

Bitter smooth

I don’t know why I still feel upset about stopping smooth, but I do.

Perhaps it is just that I have watched others compete in it recently (in case you are in a dance bubble, Blackpool is on, absolutely fabulous to watch and had Pro/am events in 4 styles and pro American style events for the first time), and that is just highlighting the loss to me.

I am not even really sure why I feel bitter about it, except to know that I do and it is obviously still a very raw wound.

I am not even sure who to talk to about it as the decision was made by Boss not to compete in it anymore and he said he won’t discuss that decision.

I guess in some way, I am bitter because I invested a lot of time and resources into it and now I feel all of that is wasted. There is a beautiful smooth dress in my closet I doubt I will ever wear again, I invested in having the routines choreographed, coaching lessons, shoes and considerable lesson time to get the routines competition ready.

Perhaps it is only that I am stuck somewhere between denial and anger in the stages of grief as I don’t really have an outlet to deal with it. Other dancers still ask me if I am doing it and that is a hard reminder. I keep getting hit harder than I should be when something reminds me.

I think one of the things most significant about smooth was that because we only did open and it wasn’t part of my international program, I felt really free doing it. I could relax and let go in ways I haven’t let discovered how to do in Standard and Latin. And it suited me well. Without realizing it,  it became an interesting outlet and bridge for me that helped make the crazy pro/am dance world make sense.

I Don’t want to dwell on it, and it is usually not my style, so it irks me I still get upset about it. I feel pretty powerless about it and that in some ways one aspect of dance I really enjoyed has now been ruined for me. I can’t seem to watch it without being filled with negative emotions.

II want to move on, but for whatever reason, I can’t.

At least not yet.

Missing Smooth

I was hit by something unexpected tonight.

When I got home from work, I turned on the live stream of the Emerald Ball to see where things were at. It was smooth heats, and in the first one was a couple I had competed against at VCC.

It’s hard to explain how I felt. I kept watching though probably I shouldn’t have, and it was more smooth multi-dances. I kept picturing how my routines would have fit on the floor, if I was able to compete in smooth anymore.

It affected me more than I realized, and stuck in my mind well past after I stopped watching.

I went to practice tonight, but things didn’t go well at all. I was working on my rumba which went fine, then waltz and little bit of samba, when suddenly I got hit with wave after wave of nausea that kept getting more intense. I could feel it building to a panic attack (also made no sense), so I decided to leave. I had dry heaves by my car (so grateful not to throw up in public!), but was hit with the attack by the time I got home.

My mind was racing with too many things, but I got to my medication and that helped calm me down. I was also able to take prescription medications for the nausea.

This was similar, yet different from Monday, but equally frustrating. Once again I am having to give into sickness.

I think watching just overwhelmed me more than I realized –it was smooth, a competition I really want to do, and it highlighted that besides missing smooth, I am missing competing in general. I don’t know when I will be able to do it again. October is the plan now, but it seems years away and whenever we set a goal that far away…it never materializes.

I think I have already just written off the idea of competing–I mean really competing outside of BC–as impossible.

It was a lot to come crashing into my mind tonight, I think. Just too much reality I am not yet ready to face. I feel like I have lost so much in the past two months and can barely hang on to what I have left.

But at least I have somethings.

The silver test is scheduled and paid for to take place next month. I hope nothing happens between now and then (and I can remember closed silver!).

Something small to hang onto while I miss others.

Perhaps I won’t be watching the rest of the emerald ball.

Competing Criteria

You would think that choosing a competition to go to would be a pretty straight-forward thing.

Apparently not.

Now that I have my masters residency behind me, I am looking to decide on competitions to give me something concrete to focus on.  What I have discovered is that because my focus for competing (when I was sick it was more about just getting on the floor) has shifted, deciding on a competition is not as simple as it was before.  A big part of that problem is that while I know my focus in competing has shifted, I am not quite sure what it has shifted to.

As a pro/am student, when choosing competitions it is easy to focus on the bottom line–what can I afford, what is the best value for my money and when can I afford it.  I feel like that is a big part of what has been driving my decisions for competitions.

But the question I would like to be asking first is: What is the best value for my dancing?

And that is harder to nail down.  Right now, I am doing a lot of shifting and rebuilding.  I am changing levels and that means learning new routines.  I want to focus more on closed events, but at the same time I don’t want to disregard the open events so we are also looking to work with a choreographer to develop open routines.  I am trying to rebuild the strength and fitness I lost while sick, while at the same time (hopefully) also improving my technique and overall dancing.

When looking at where to compete right now, the biggest issue is that Boss and I haven’t really set any competition goals.  We seem to be going about it backwards.  We are looking at competitions, and then setting goals for them.  I think I would rather look at what I want to achieve from a competition and then see what competition will fit that goal–and still be affordable.

One of the biggest issues with this right now is that we are heading into summer when competition are few and far between.  On top of this, competing in the US is pretty much off the table with the increasing prices there and the exchange rate.  Not to mention the political climate and travel unpredictability.

While I may be ready to put routines on the floor this summer, there really isn’t a competitive opportunity to do that.  That will mean shifting the focus a bit and looking either longer term, or shorter term.  Do I try to do a comp at the end of June, or do I wait and do two in the fall?  If I do one in June, my routines aren’t likely to be very polished and it would be basically trialing them at the competition.  How much do I want to spend on doing that?  Do I want to use most of my competing budget to attend a competition (which would be great), with routines that aren’t well polished and not likely to be competitive?  Or would it be better to find a more local competition with smaller events to get those routines on the floor before going out against the ‘big dogs’.

Part of this is that as much as I like to support the local competitions, I inevitably end up competing against the same people, getting the same results, being seen by the same judges.  The pro/am portion of these competitions is always small without much variety.  The same 3 teachers bring out the same 2-3 students in multiple events.  I have become quite disenchanted with that.  I really want to branch out and get on the floor in a new area against new people I don’t usually compete against.

But again, it brings me back to the question–when dance-wise is the best time to do this so that the opportunity is not wasted due to lack of preparation time?  It’s one thing to feel ‘ready’.  It’s another to not have routines or be able to complete a full round on the floor.

Whatever I decide, the one thing I need to be sure of is that it is a decision I can accept.  If not, I will only resent it and that is not good for me or my dancing.  It’s a lot to think on, but the only rush is my desire to have a firm goal to focus on.

Competing, especially pro/am is an investment and as such takes a lot of thought and consideration.  But it is important to remember that it is not just an investment of money–it is also an investment of time, practice, discipline, motivation and personal well-being.

The trick is to figure out what meets the value for all those criteria.

Pro/am isolation

I have been debating about whether to write a post about this or not for a while now.

One caveat I will say is that this is based on my own experiences in the community where I live, which is certainly unique compared to what I hear about others.

I will also say that in many ways, this is a post where I just need to vent and I apologize in advance for that.  Sometimes you just have to get things out before they consume you.

In all honesty, this could be a combination of post-comp crash combined with a hormone surge from my injection last week, although what I will speak about has been swirling in my brain for quite some time.

I have been feeling more and more isolated from the dance community lately and a big part of it seems to be that I am an unpartnered person trying to fit into a community that celebrates and embraces partnerships.

I don’t fit in with the competitive couples here because since I compete in pro/am I am not really considered a competitor.

I don’t fit in with the social dancers here because I am seen by them as more of a competitor.  And again, the majority of them from the studio where I dance are couples.

I feel like everywhere I turn I am encountering a situation that highlights the fact that I am a single person trying to do something meant for couples, and because of that, I just don’t fit in.  The more I try to fit in, the more isolated I feel.

One of the things I always like about dance is that it is a community of people who all have similar interests as me and a community with which I have a lot in common.  I enjoy and crave that sense of community. When I first moved to the city where I lived, I started dancing at a franchise studio which provided a great sense of community, even if I had issues with some of the other things about the franchise system.  While I know that leaving the franchise when I did was the best decision for me, I do miss the community I was a part of while I was there.

I did try to get involved with the local dance society, but because I am a pro/am student anything which I did was perceived as having the sole goal of trying to promote my instructor (even when it had nothing to do with him). I was told I couldn’t participate in events with am/am couples (as again any dancing I did with my instructor indirectly promoted him unfairly and not other instructors), and I was repeatedly accused of manipulating other members to make decisions in my instructor’s favour, even when I had no knowledge or involvement in those decisions.  After more than a year of dealing with this and the stress it caused me, I felt I had no choice but to remove myself from that community.  I don’t regret that decision, but I am sorry for the loss of interactions with those in the community who had nothing to do with the stress and drama. Even after leaving, I hear rumblings that similar things are occurring even without me being a convenient scapegoat.

I will admit that with the loss of this community, I have been trying to find a new one to fit into without success.  The isolation I feel has even led me to very seriously consider stopping dance and taking up another sport that does not require a partner (such as martial arts).  I am honestly quite frustrated that I will always be on the outside of the dance community here, competitive or social, simply because I am stuck being the ‘am’ in a pro/am relationship in order to compete and enjoy dance.

Being a pro/am student is hard.  It’s even harder when you are only 1 of 2 in an entire community of competitive dancers.  I didn’t get into dance with the intention of being a pro/am student (I didn’t even know it was possible or what it was when I started!), but that is how my dance journey has unfolded for me, and I don’t see that being able to be changed anytime soon if I want to continue dancing and competing.

Recently, a news article came out with information that the average age in the city where I live is 44–6 years older than what I am.  When it comes to dance, I can see how that demographic is played out.  We do have some university aged students that dance social through the university club.  Unfortunately, I am almost 20 years older than them.  We have a large social dance community, but the average age there is 60–almost 20 years older than me.  There is a huge gap between these two groups and that is where I fit, basically by myself.

Along with thinking about taking up a new sport, when the question of where I would be working came up, I also very seriously considered requesting a posting to another community in the hope that I might have a chance of finding a competitive partner and/or fitting better into the dance community.  That didn’t come to pass (as I have been posted back to the position I was in before I got sick, starting Wednesday), but it does still cross my mind.

Something else I will admit is that I often wonder if while doing pro/am on the one hand allows me to dance,  if on the other it is also holding me back from my goals as well. I think of what I want from dance, and being a pro/am student is not necessarily going to provide it.  I want to be part of the community, especially the competitive one.  It’s very difficult to not feel separate and singled out when you are practicing on a floor with competitive couples and you are the only single lady trying not to get run-over.

I don’t know if other pro/am students experience the same frustrations and feelings of isolation from the rest of the ballroom community, but I can say it’s something which I find myself feeling more and more, especially as I work to rebuild back into competitive shape.

A summary of the basic attitude towards pro/am from an amateur competitor is a conversation that occurred at the last competition I attended:

“Am lady: I wish I could compete at this comp, but my partner and I have been working on new routines at a new level for the last few months and they aren’t ready yet.

pro/am student: I can understand that, I also started working on new routines for my new level a couple months ago, but we are doing them here for experience even though they are still pretty new and shaky.

Am lady: Well, you are doing pro/am so that is like basically cheating.”

I don’t know where these feelings will take me in the future.  In many ways I feel ‘damned if I do, damned if I don’t’.  I won’t ever be accepted as a competitor here as long as I have to compete in pro/am.  But if I don’t compete in pro/am, I won’t be able to compete or even dance at all.

The logical part of my brain says to forget about community and just focus on my dancing and doing what I want to do. And believe me, I really wish I could and for many years I tried.  I am not sure if it is part of my recovery or the amount of time I have been dancing or that I am just seeking some support and recognition for the amount of work I put into my dancing and competing, but finding that sense of community just keeps becoming more and more important to me.

And that worries me for the future of my dancing.

If you are still here, thank you for reading the entire post and tolerating my need to vent.  I appreciate it very much.

Reflection, evaluation and planning

Every competition provides feedback that is useful for the future.

This week, while not doing any private lessons, I was able to schedule a time to sit down with Boss and go over the points from the competition and discuss where my dance journey will take me next.

We didn’t get to everything in the time we had, but covered a lot of the general points, specifics we will get into more soon.  It is a discussion, but it starts with me providing some general thoughts of my own, him providing his own thoughts and then follow-up questions and answers that lead to a plan.

Sometimes this conversation goes well, other times, not so well.  As many of my fellow pro/am bloggers have mentioned, it is normal to experience a post-comp ‘crash’, especially after such a good ‘high’.

I am lucky in that my crash this time was fairly minor, but that is likely due to the circumstances surrounding this comp for me.  Before going into the comp, because of the recent changes in my health, I knew that after there is going to be a big change to how I work and I was already looking forward to it.  I also knew that both Boss and I were already on the same page, which is always helpful when planning goals.

For the first time in a long time, I feel like I have some control over what I can do in dance (at least as a student).  While the planning and teaching is up to Boss, I finally feel I have recovered enough that combined with my desire to work hard (which I have always had), I am finally at a point where I am capable of working at the level I want to–health-wise.  That is a huge step forward for me and a profound sense of relief.  My motivation is back and I am determined to keep moving forward.

Some general things we talked about included the strengths and weaknesses of my dancing at the comp–mainly stamina in holding my frame and position in standard (which was better than previous, but still had a big impact), my dresses (which he really liked!), my footwork and few other things which will need to be worked on.  The biggest strength and achievement for this comp was the improvement in my overall dancing and health.

One of the things that Boss mentioned was that I need to adjust my level of satisfaction in my own dancing going forward to bring my expectations from myself higher.  I completely agree with this, although this is where he and I differ a little.  Boss has historically told me not to worry too much about my technique, etc. because it was ‘very good for my level’. I have never accepted that, because my goal has never been to be ‘good for my level’, it has been to be ‘good’ in general.  It seems that now we are coming together on this thinking, and I was glad to hear him say that.

Going forward, the goal is to do 3 lessons a week, 3 self-practices a week, and 1 latin technique group class (which I started last week), at least as far as school and work allow. We are still working out some scheduling, etc. but that is the basic plan.  He told me to expect to spend a lot of time in lessons repeating things over and over as we start to focus down on technique (which I cannot wait for).  I am not planning to compete for quite some time and I am actually already enjoying having the time to really focus on techniques.

We are going to start working on closed gold routines, the intent being for me to do my silver test sometime early summer, when the adjudicator is available.  We are also going to put open routines aside for now, and eventually we will start fresh with new routines not based on my syllabus routines.  There is more with that, but something to discuss in the future.

Before we even get to routines, I am just going to focus on technique. I can’t emphasize enough how I am looking forward to that.  That is the part of dance that I really enjoy–the ‘nitty-gritty’.

Smooth will continue and I hope to do some coaching in the near future to help strengthen it.  I really enjoy that style and it really enjoys me too.  It suits me more than standard, but until there is a 9-dance latin/smooth combo event, standard will continue to be my challenge.

Medically, I also had a bit of an update this week.  I saw the oncologist for my 6-month check-up and we discussed the various options for hormone therapy.  He is really happy with the effects of the ovarian suppression and hopes to transition me to 3-month injections.  In addition to this, he wants to add an aromatase inhibitor, which will bring my estrogen levels down to almost 0.  Unfortunately, the main side-effect of this medication is bone and joint pain.  When I heard this, my first reaction was ‘really? Can’t I have a break!!’ Unfortunately not, as I am slated to start this new medication after my next injection week after next. I am truthfully quite reluctant about this and I may on my own delay another month.  I am not quite convinced I have ‘leveled-out’ from the injections and I am not quite ready to add another element to the mix.  I am still having some definite hormone fluctuations, which make me nervous.  My family doc is testing my hormone levels though, so that should help.

I am eager to get down to work next week.  I will warn you in advance that February will be a ‘light’ month for me for dance due to school residency.

I am feeling optimistic for the future for the first time in a long time!

Pro/Am Review of Vancouver Challenge Cup

As promised, here is a review of the competition I did this weekend. Please keep in mind that this review is based on my perceptions as a pro/am student.

The event:

Vancouver Challenge Cup (VCC) is in its 4th year and is held at the Hellenic Centre in Vancouver in January.  The comp includes events for pro/am, and am/am and includes a lot of fun events such as mixers, jack/jill events, a team match, and ends with a pretty amazing ‘Pro show’.  Overall, it is a very fun event with a great atmosphere, well attended with an active audience and provides a great experience.  It is organized by Michel Guimond, Clara Shih and David Marisigan, who have done a wonderful job improving on it each year.

The Good:

-VCC is one of the most affordable comps I have seen.  The pro/am entry prices are amongst the lowest in the country ($25 for a single dance) and you can purchase a competitor’s pass for $35 that gives you entrance to the full event.

-Pro/am students are given coupons for $3, $2 or $1 off the following year’s event for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place in all events except scholarships (which had separate monetary prizes for placing).  Medals were given for top 3 placements in multi-dances and scholarships. In addition, each student was provided a voucher for a free photo print of them from the competition.

-In previous years, the floor has been slippery, but this year it was just right.

-Entries are done through o2cm, and the detailed results were available online immediately following the event.

-The organizers were very accommodating and helpful.  When an issue was identified, efforts were made to rectify it quickly.

-The competition ran on time with no unnecessary delays and included lots of general dancing to allow for warm-up and breaks between events.

-Water was available throughout the competition, both with and without lemon, and it was replenished constantly.

-The changing rooms were large and people were not tripping over each other trying to get changed.  There were mirrors in the change room and it was located next to the bathroom.

-The awards ceremonies were close after the events occurred and line-ups were done for multi-dances (top 3 only).  Awards were given in blocks by students for single dances.

-There was a bar available that also sold basic food throughout the comp.

-For the most part, the music was good–a mix of contemporary and classic dance tracks.

-Personal videotaping and photography was permitted throughout the event.

The ‘Not so Good’:

-While the prices for this comp are amazing, it does require a mandatory minimum of single dances to do scholarships.  The prizes awarded for scholarship were inconsistent, and not really explained.  2nd in a 3-person latin scholarship was $100, but 2nd in a 3-person smooth scholarship was $50.

-There is no separate ‘warm-up’ floor, so the options were to dance during general dancing, or to work in a corner of the building, which resulted in many couples crowding together behind the audience tables and making it difficult to move around.

-The pro/am heats were shorter than am/am heats.  Three times the paso doble played did not follow traditional phrasing and did not have highlights.  It was also cut at least 2 phrases before where the second highlight would have been.  Complaints were made after the 1-dance championships and it was fixed for the 5-dance, but the same issues was experienced again the following morning.

-The open am/am heats announced placements for everyone in the final, not just the top 3, and couple recognition was done during 5-dance open am/am events, but there was no recognition for the pro/am events.

-The comp gave awards for the top EIGHT pro/am TEACHERs, but only recognized the ONE top student. I do understand the desire and need to recognize teachers and encourage them for bringing their students, but the appreciation for pro/am students was a little lacking (see also my point just above about couple recognition).

-This comp does not appear to be invigilated for pro/am events and while it does have ‘closed’ events, students only have to do a minimum percentage of closed syllabus steps in the closed level (for example 50% bronze steps for closed bronze).  It is an interesting way of looking at the events, but I did see one student doing gold steps in a closed bronze/silver multi-dance.  It is my personal preference, but I feel that closed syllabus events should include only steps for that level.  There are open events for doing higher-level and/or open steps.

-This event has separate ‘divisions’ for the multi and scholarship events to allow instructors to dance with more than one student in the same event, and all events are open ages.  However, sometimes 3 different students/instructors get registered in 3 different divisions resulting in them all being uncontested instead of competing against each other.  Myself, I would like to see these redundancies eliminated, although it is possible that some pro/am students don’t want to compete against anyone else.

Overall, this really is a great event and it is arguably the biggest pro/am event in BC.  It has had a steady increase in pro/am participation each year and this year almost all multi and scholarship events had multiple couples competing together.  There were a lot of good points and the ‘not-so-good’ points are honestly me being a little picky and/or issues that I hope will be easily rectified for the future.

I would highly recommend this event to any pro/am student looking for something different.  Keep in mind that Vancouver in January is like April everywhere else in Canada–a great added ‘perk’!

Congratulations again to Michel, Clara, and David!

 

 

Competitive Success

I am sorry for being away so long.

The competition was a huge personal success–which is always the best type.

I will do a review of the competition itself from a pro/am perspective in my next post, but first I wanted to talk more generally about it.

I started on Friday daytime with standard, and was uncontested in everything except my multi-dance.  It was a great run through my Waltz, tango and foxtrot routines and Boss was very happy with my dancing.  Following that, we switched to smooth and had the first run-through of 3 of the 4 smooth routines on the competitive floor.  I caught my heel on my dress during the waltz so bad I had to stop to unhook it, but other than that, the routines went really well and those in the audience loved them.  Boss and I had so much fun we were both quite ecstatic. I don’t think the routines could have gone better.

Friday night was Latin time and again, more fun. The crowd was great and all my routines went really well.  The only ‘sour’ note was during the open paso 1-dance.  The music that was played did not follow the usual paso phrasing, had no highlights and was cut short.  The result was that the choreography didn’t fit with the music and we had to try to keep adjusting.  Complaints were made by multiple dancers and it was fixed for the 5-dance scholarship.  That was the highlight of the evening–I got second of 3 in the open scholarship, but on a personal note, I was able to dance through all 5 routines, including jive with full energy.  While there were little mistakes here and there, I truly felt great about how I was dancing and ended the evening on a high note knowing that I had danced at that competition better than I had since before my diagnosis.  I was truly ‘back’.

Saturday morning began bright and early with more latin that also went equally well.  I still placed at the bottom, but it was very close in a lot of dances, especially rumba.

After a good break, and some coffee, it was back to the hall Saturday night for the standard and smooth scholarships.  The evening started out difficult with the one dance events, and I honestly had to give myself a little bit of a ‘time-out’ because I was finding myself unreasonably anxious.  It was likely due to fatigue, but the good news is that I was able to pull myself together for both the 3-dance and 5-dance scholarships.  Again on a personal note, I was able to dance through the entire 5-dance and only ‘faded’ in the VW. Despite that, I was able to take some points from the 3rd place competitor, which I did not expect in the open event.  I was able to fully rally after the VW and did a great foxtrot and powered through the QS.  It was a real personal achievement for me after so many months of struggling to get through a waltz and tango.

After the standard was a quick change for the smooth and that was about fun, more than anything.  The surprise for that was that I won the single dances, and got second in the 3-dance scholarship, coming very close to first!  I really did not expect that, but was over the moon happy with how the routines went–for the first time competing in open smooth and those routines, I could not have asked for anything better.

I truly could not be happier with how this competition went.  I was very proud of myself before we left for being able to overcome my medical challenges and do the solid preparation that was needed, but I am doubly proud of how I was able to dance–it wasn’t about just ‘getting through’ all the events–it was being able to dance.

The competition did exactly what I hoped it would do.  It gave me a strong indication of where I am and what the next steps should be.  It also let me know that I am at a point where I can really start to ‘dig in’ and get back to focusing on improving my technique and training at the level I want to.  I will meet with Boss this week to discuss the future, focus, goals and the plan moving forward.  I am looking forward to it.

On a different note, I got the text and paper done for my first course of my masters and working my way through the second.  It will keep me busy over the next couple weeks so I am sorry in advance if I don’t post too much.  I hope to get a couple more in this week, but no promises.

I hope you all had a weekend as great as mine!

As ready as ready can be

Last lessons before the competition are done!

Today was about putting together last minute pieces to the smooth VW and ironing out a few ‘odd spots’ that creeped up in some of the routines as we were running them today.

I feel very good about where I am right now.  Will the routines go perfect and be as strong as possible? No, I don’t expect that, but I do know that the routines will go as well as they can and I will be dancing them instead of just trying to ‘get through’ them.

I realized earlier this week that I am actually quite proud of myself for making the health decisions I did last month that ultimately led to me getting back to being ‘myself’.  Because of that, for the last month I have been able to train better and harder than I have been able to in over 2 years, and the difference is incredible.

On top of that, I am right ‘on target’ with my studying for the week, and aside from a break to get the mandatory mani/pedi for the comp, I should be able to finish up all the work for this week before we leave, leaving me able to relax some and perhaps even get a ‘jump’ on next week’s work over the weekend.

I have one of my dresses back and ready to go, and the other 2 should be ready by noon tomorrow.   I know my dressmaker has been working constantly to get all the stoning done and what I saw of the dresses tonight look absolutely fabulous.  I can’t wait to wear them and sparkle all over the floor.

I got the instructions/demonstration for doing my hair today and it kept itself up all day through 2 intense lessons, acupuncture and a lot of sweat.  That’s promising 🙂

I hope everything goes as expected tomorrow, and plan to just enjoy the experience competing this weekend.

After all, I have already won–I am able to dance again!