Randy and Gen competing at Enter the Blues || Photo by Ben
I have flipped flopped back and forth many times about my own views on dance competitions. By nature I am a very competitive person and there was a time when I have taken them, just way too seriously. Competing is in my DNA, something that has been a part of me ever since I can remember. Taking dance competitions way too seriously in the past however has been an actual detriment to my performance and overall enjoyment of these events. I worried about which moves I was going to pull off during the competition and whether or not the alignments were going to work based on where the judges were sitting or standing. I tried to predict which songs were going to be played based on the dj that was spinning for the comp or familiarized myself with the repertoire of the band. Tie or no tie? Should I wear a hat? What if I dance with a taller follow and the hat hits her face? Seriously, all random questions and self-doubt I could have done without.
What I have finally come to the conclusion is that you are never really ready for a competition. You are never one hundred percent, “I did everything I can to prepare” ready. So why stress yourself out?
You know that you’ve spent the countless hours practicing, rehearsing, and watching youtube clips to try to gain any sort of insight that will make yourself look awesome in the eyes of the judges. You’ve gone to great lengths to pump yourself up in the hopes that you might actually believe that you deserve to win this competition. Sometimes you actually do believe it and it helps you get through the next five or so minutes when you’re out there in front of everybody. No matter what though, whether you think you’re ready or believe you’re supposed to be up there, the competition cordinator counts you in, “five, six… five, six, seven..”
… and there is nothing left to do but dance your face off.
This is my BluesShout roundup post! Wahoo! The first half of the post really is just all the vids that I shot while there. Everyone loves watching dance videos right? I’m sure most of you blues fanatics have already seen my BluesShout videos on Facebook but here they all are just in case. I would really appreciate if you guys/gals are able to post the names of the performers and competitors (and what order) so I can appropriately tag them.
The second half of this post are some notes and musings about my blues dance process for the past year in regards to “training” in blues dancing. A lot of people I know in the dance community are real naturals for getting things in a dance context. Sadly, I’m not one of those naturals. My way of offsetting my cumbersome self is to take lots and lots of notes (even though most of it usually is incompressible). Fun times.
I’m sure you know this but Montréal has a very competitive social dance culture. Whether that is solo dancing competitions such as Juste Debout, or swing competitions around Quebec and north-eastern United States, it seems like most people I know are competing in some form or another. Montreal is a great city to grow as a dancer. Being around highly motivated dancers pushes me mentally to make it out to those extra practices when all I really want to do is just chill and play Mass Effect all evening long.
As expected, the more competitions I do, the less nervous I get. Perhaps I’m just getting a big older as well but at the end of the day, social dance competitions are not that really such a big deal. It’s fun to dance and do it in front of people but placing or winning is not why I go to those events. While it’s great to win and get recognition from your peers, I must always write that I have no aspiration to be a globe-trotting dance instructor, nor am I anywhere near that level anyways but that’s besides the point.
What I have been finding more though is that it’s hard to stay calm when people I know are competing or performing themselves! I get all shaky and start biting my nails (nasty habit I know) and can’t help but yell whenever I see them pull something off that I know they have been working on. I don’t even need to be there in person either to get nervous – for example, when I watched the Boston Tea Party videos from this year. I was pretty much yelling at my computer like a madman the entire time in joyous celebration. At Starbucks.
At TUX (the best small but big lindy hop event in Toronto, amiright), there were two competitions – a newcomer jack and jill and an open jack and jill. I was honored to be asked to judge the open jack and jill though I have a sneaking suspicion that I was only asked to keep me from drunkenly smashing into other dancers during the competition (the first step is admittance). One of the judging criteria for both competitions was “spirit” or the essence of lindy hop. The question of the day during my bus ride home – given all things are equal from a competitor skill level point of view, how does one even judge “spirit”?
Is it like this?
But obviously not everyone is going to be as awesome as the Harlem Hotshots…
A phrase that was being thrown around Followlogie this weekend was “dancing from a place of truth”. While I personally do not understand it myself one-hundred percent in the context of the lindy hop world, the way I right now is to always gain inspiration from other dancer’s movements but be proud of your own.
“Dancing from a place of truth” was being thrown around so much this weekend that I was beginning to wonder what had prompted such change within the dance instructor community. My thoughts – as dance instructors and organizers of lindy hop scenes around the world get older and more mature, there is also a parallel gradual increase of … existentialism (?) undertone in their teachings. I mean, who doesn’t want to spread their beliefs to as many people as possible. I feel that dancing in our community (and sometimes communities) is becoming more of a sense of being and purpose rather than just an activity we do for fun and social reasons. This definitely describes majority of people that I know nowadays and applies to me even more so that I can describe here in words. I’ve always admired dancers who display such confidence and surety in their dance such as Frankie Martinez and my new personal hero Alain Wong from Cats Corner. I don’t quite have it yet in me to dance to my ability when the world is *actually* watching, but I’m making strides towards it.
The above picture is by Bertograph.ca from Montreal, a super great photographer who constantly wows me with the sheer amount of quality pictures he posts up from events. And yes, that is my angry dance face ;)