So after only 2-3 months of instruction (mainly only private lessons), our instructor convinced us to enter our first dance competition. At Arthur Murray, there are a few different kinds of competitions, but towards the top are the showcases that each city puts on. These are a refined, yet extravagant affair. Ours was held in a local upscale hotel. Now I do have to admit, getting to the hotel and checking in as a “dancer” or “performer” has a certain level of style and panache to it. I think at that point my opinion of this whole thing started to take a turn for the better. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
So for those few months in preparation, my wife and I decided that if we were to do this, we weren’t going to go overboard. 2 dances was all that we could handle: Foxtrot and Waltz. We chose these because they were both in the smooth category and both of us love to dance the waltz. The waltz preparation wasn’t too bad. We added a couple of steps to the routine that we hadn’t learned before, worked on my frame a bit, but that was about it. The Foxtrot, on the other hand, was a whole different can of worms. You see, for the most part, the steps don’t change in the Waltz. All the action happens above the waist (or at least it did in our simple routine). With the Foxtrot, all the action happened with the steps changing to different rhythms and timing. Now, keep in mind that I am already not a very strong lead at this point and am deathly afraid of stepping on my precious wife’s feet and the Foxtrot with all its step changing glory was ripe for the steppin-on-the-feet. Then, our instructor decides to step it up a notch and throw in a fancy move that would get the judges’ attention: The Grapevine. For those of you that have danced the Foxtrot, you know what I mean. This is a smooth move if executed correctly. If not… not so much.
So we trained, got our routine down and there we were. Standing in the hotel lobby where the next day we were going to have to dance those 2 ominous dances in front of a full crowd of people, but most importantly this would be the FIRST time I would have ever performed in front of people (much less a judging panel). Let’s just say that when my number got called, I was shaking in my dancing shoes. We both were actually. But the dances went fine and they went very quick! You don’t realize how quick 90 seconds is until you’re trying to beat the clock getting your routine done.
After we danced, then we could sit back, relax, and watch all of the other wonderful dancing all the while wishing that we had done more but half thankful we limited ourselves. We saw great sharp dancing and cherry picked the dances that we wanted to try out next.
Then, after all the dancing was over and all the costume fringe was swept from the floor, it was time for the awards ceremony. To our surprise, in my FIRST dance completion (or competition of any kind), we won a trophy: Best Newcomer Couple! Can you believe that? Now we were an award-winning dance couple.
We retired the night by sharing wine and appetizers in one of another dance couple’s hotel room with a few other dancers. It’s at this point where I realized that this is more than a hobby, more than a sport. There’s a culture around it with friends, excitement, nerves, and satisfaction when things go well.
So I guess I’ll finish this article with this: Guys, just by stepping on a dance floor, you’re leagues ahead of 80% of the men out there. By taking dance lessons to improve your skills, that number jumps to 90-95%. To compete and win? Well you get the idea. I guess a bit of a proud moment started to emerge. It’s at this point also where I started to own the fact that I am a ballroom dancer. Make that a competitive ballroom dancer. Now, mind you, I saw the video. It was just one step above my wedding first dance, but there was a number on my back, judges in the stands, and multiple couples that served as obstacles. Oh yeah, and the trophy to take home. It’s a long road from there, but that was definitely a high point.