I began dancing back in the days when only spiders made webpages but I recently did my first competition. I knew competition is an excellent learning experience, however, it was never part of my dance goals.
My favorite dancing partner, Sachiko, always encourages me to learn new stuff in dancing including "scary dances" such as viennese waltz. For me to do the fancy stuff and scary dances, I needed more instruction especially private lessons.
I was fortunate to schedule lessons with Maggie Zacca (Maggie's schedule is so busy that it is easier to schedule a Space Shuttle launch than to schedule a lesson with her). Before I am to perform a showcase dance with Sachiko, my dancing needed improvement. Maggie asked me about competition but I had no interest.
Maggie is one of the top dance instructors in the Bay Area. She can help you learn techniques in dancing and master these so they can be a piece of cake, something you will never forget for as long as you live. She teaches at the Fred Astaire Dance Studio (http://www.fredastairesj.com).
However, at the Saphire Ball, a month before the International Grand Ball, that's when I decided it's time for me to become a "real ballroom dancer." A dancer with competition experience.
There I was..., thought I was gonna die! Well, maybe not that bad but this was the first time I danced with a number on my back and my dancing scrutinized by judges with scorecards.
There is not that many people on the floor as compared to social parties but the music lasts only 90 seconds. Maggie did plan for us to do a mini-routine in order that I lead and dance to all regulatory requirements for the dance level.
Another challenge in competition is to keep your head and stay with the your dance plan. You can only dance as good as the skills you have so it is pointless in trying to "dance really good." However, competition is not the place to do silly moves or patterns like you would do a parties. Entry and exit from the dance are also key elements for your heat. Enter the floor and begin the dance like the big time competitors and end the dance with style. These don't require a lot of skill but a great attitude sure makes your overall dance spectactular.
Showup ON TIME, EARLY, and READY. You want to be relaxed as you are lined up for your heat, just like being geared up and ready for skydive. Incidently, the lineup for our floor entry reminded me of a lineup of a 10-way out the back of a Skyvan.
Well, I didn't win any first places but got a few thirds. Supposably, first-timers winning first places are rare. Yes, I wanted to win first place but I also just wanted to live through this comp, like doing my first skydive, and not be a total turkey at it. Every studio in the Bay Area was represented at this competition, and I was competing with some very good dancers. However, I am now a REAL ballroom dancer with my share of "there I was..." stories. Plus I have a plaque to prove I did it, kind of like a Mach 25 club patch for experienced astronauts.
A helpful item is to reserve a video of your dance. These are arranged prior to the dance, and one of five cameras will follow you around on the floor. These tapes can then be used to analyze your dance. It may be painful to see yourself on video because the camera doesn't lie and you will see your mistakes. However, these are excellent tools to identify problem areas so fixes can be made. Same application as what NTSB does for crash-testing.
Win, lose, or draw, I had a great time. I even won the honor as being admitted to Team Zacca.
Maggie with her boys: David, Scott, me, and Rich.
Later that night, it's time to party and watch how the big kids (professional champions) dance. I have not scanned in photos of these people but there are photos of professional champion dancers at this site http://www.ballroomdancers.com.
I also enjoyed meeting elegant ladies that I have not seen in a few years such as Helen and Marilyn.
Brenda, another favorite of mine.
Of course, I had to get a photo of Maggie and I below the big banner.
International Grand Ball Championships website
Pick School of Ballroom Dance (the studio that organizes the IGB)
More on Maggie (Posted December 2000):
Take a look at this pretty dress I got for Maggie from ebay. Here she is at her music station of the Fred Astaire Dance Studio.
Not only that, she models it quite well. This style is also what Gina Lollobrigida wore in her movie with Frank Sinatra; click here for that photo (Gina's dress was white).
Dancing is a high risk activity and your analytical brain functions can be seriously impaired or lost as a result of your participation in dancing, parties, and related activities.
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