Dress Stoning Update!

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Dress Stoning Update!

Quick little preview of my semi-completed new smooth dress. I’ve finished stoning all of the flower lace appliques with a mix of heliotrope and volcano Swarovski, and I think it turned out pretty well. Might add some fuchsia stones later to the ruched fabric when I have the time/money. The whole process probably took about 8-10 hours spread out over two weeks, roughly?

Good and Bad Practices

Well, with regard to my last post and talking about not having enough time to update, I suppose I spoke too soon. Time to use my insomnia for productive things such as blogging instead of doing actual work like I’m supposed to…  Anyway, I wanted to share some thoughts I had about practicing.

If you’re dancing regularly and have a partner, I’m going to assume that you practice fairly regularly.  Perhaps more often if you’re a competitive couple, though social dance couples and partners practice together all the time as well.  You can also regard social dancing a type of practice, too.  I’m sure you’ve all experienced awesome practices and disastrous ones.  So why is there this variability? Why can’t we have awesome practices every single time?   (That would be amazing, right?)  I don’t know if I can answer that, but maybe at least I can discuss what goes on in a good versus a bad practice.   Two of my partners would have these idealized perfect practices in their heads and be pretty disappointed that we couldn’t dance like that each and every time.  My response would be, well, things can’t always be perfect (though of course this is what we strive for).  Nerdy side note: I proposed that practice/dancing can go towards the asymptote of perfection.  It can steadily approach it but never quite get there…

The best practices tend to include these qualities:

  • Things seem to be working.  The dance just flows well, sometimes without putting a ton of effort into it.  You feel very “on” and it’s a magical feeling.
  • You get along with your partner.  If there’s any critique, it’s respectful and well-received.  Lots of statements such as “I feel” such and such and “I think” such and such seem to help with this (well, unless it’s something like “I think you suck!”), rather than things like “You aren’t” doing something good or “Why do you keep” doing something wrong.
  • Concepts you learned in your lessons (private or group) make sense and you can apply them to your dancing.
  • Being in a good mood!
  • Feeling productive – that you got a lot of work done, efficiently.
  • It’s fun! Pretty simple.

The worst practices, on the other hand, are the exact opposite:

  • Things are sucking.  No matter how hard you try, you can’t get X figure or Y concept to work, and you can’t figure out why at all.  It’s super frustrating.
  • You are not getting along well with your partner.  I’ve been through this, with a cycle of criticism-overemotional reaction-frustration-anger, etc.   The very very bad practices end with drama, someone storming off in a huff, or people refusing to talk to each other.  Or even worse, screaming matches, crying, etc.  This is clearly an exaggeration, but not unheard of.  I’ve been both a participant and an observer for these kinds of practices.  Yikes.  (No screaming for me though, but perhaps everything else…)
  • Using lots of “you” language in criticism certainly doesn’t help with the above. “You aren’t dancing well,” “why aren’t you moving?”, “you keep doing this wrong.”  Bad bad bad. AVOID.
  • You try your best to apply new concepts from lessons but for whatever reason it just doesn’t make sense or you can’t make it work.
  • Coming in with a bad mood or ending with a bad mood.
  • Maybe not being productive – especially when you feel like you’re trying your best.  But things just aren’t feeling any better, or they feel even worse.
  • It’s not fun.  It feels like work.  Or worse, torture.

These are clearly polarized examples of good and bad practices.  There’s of course everything in between, but that’s not nearly as interesting to write about, right?  I think something to keep in mind is that you can’t always have that perfect practice.  Sometimes you’re in a good mood coming in, sometimes you’re in a bad mood.  Dancing could cheer you up or worsen your mood, depending on how it goes.  Sometimes you’re “on,” and sometimes you just can’t get it.  And that’s okay!  The point of practicing is that over time, we’ll be more “on” and consistently good all the time, but that takes a LOT of practice to get there.  And by the time you feel that you’re good at something, you’ll learn about something else you need to work on to get better.  Asymptote, like I said.

Personally, I think it’s best to accept the ebb and flow of practice and be conscious of what you can do to maximize the positive aspects.  It’s perhaps easiest to apply this to interpersonal interactions with your partner – being respectful, being nice, being considerate, but still offering positive critiques when appropriate.  Also, being partners, there should always be that element of equality – both of you have something to bring to the table, even if perhaps one partner has more skill than the other, or is better at this particular thing than the other.  It’s a partnership, not a dictatorship.  (Pro-am has a different dynamic entirely, so this applies more to am-am partnerships.)

Disclaimer: none of this is based on psychology research, just my own experience and intuition.  I can think about it in a psych way though, just give me some time 😉

Stoning Party

So I’ve been super busy since the semester started, and unfortunately haven’t had much time to post anything. This is not a particularly interesting post, so sorry about that. I’ve been doing lots of stoning recently! By that, I mean gluing shiny things on things. One reason for that is that the girl who rented my Latin dress dry-cleaned it, so it’s cleaner, which is great, but the dry cleaning solvents affected the glue somehow and some of the stones have been coming loose :/ .

On a more positive note, I finally got some dress floats made for my standard/smooth dress.  It had floats originally, but I lost one of them at the Manhattan Amateur Classic a couple years ago, because sometimes I’m dumb like that.  The floats aren’t 100% what I had in mind, particularly with how the armbands were sewn, but they’ll function fine, I think.  Importantly, they needed some bling, so I took care of that.

Pictures below:

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Yes, that is just random stuff I stretched the bands over, so that they’d stay stretched out while I worked. If you stone stretchy fabrics while they’re not taut, then the stones might pop off when you stretch the fabric to put them on.  So I hear.

5-second stoning tutorial: For my method, I use Gem-tac glue, make dots wherever I want them to go, let them dry for a few minutes so they get tacky, then use this rhinestone picker-upper tool with some kind of wax on the end to pick up stones and stick them on.  A little glue should spill out from underneath, once you press the stone down, so it forms a little rim and secures the stone better.  Let dry, and voila!  I found that this fabric soaks up the glue quite a bit, so I used more glue than what I’m used to.

I ordered a new unstoned standard/smooth dress recently, which is due to arrive any week now (that sounds like it’s a baby, ha).  I plan to get a bunch of nice stones for it, so the before and after pictures of that project will soon follow! And be more exciting! Potentially.

Horrible Things That Have Happened to Me on the Dance Floor…

…yet did not cause the end of the world…

1) Have fallen on my butt, completely sprawled on the ground (I believe about three times). Often with a shoe popped off.  There is video evidence, but I won’t help you find it 😉

2) Had my skirt slowly roll down so much that I had to yank it up not-so-subtly in order to not moon the poor audience members

3) Arrived to the ballroom (after sprinting from the parking garage) literally about a minute before I was supposed to be on the floor (comp was running earlier than the previous day), changed while running to line up, and danced! (And made a callback, miraculously!)

4) Had my necklace snap off and get loose in the middle of dancing smooth, so I (more dramatically than I intended) tossed it off to a corner (as not to step on it or have anyone else step on it)

5) Completely blanked out on the routine – both in competition and in showcase (this has probably happened at least a dozen times)

6) Gotten hit directly in the head by a smooth-style explosion arm (from a rather tall lead) and got the wind knocked out of me for a second or two

7) Knocked heads with someone while in frame

8) Danced off of the floor, possibly close to hitting a judge?

9) Danced completely and utterly off time, making faces at my partner because we disagreed about the beat/phrase

10) Made an utterly-clueless facial expression because I’m bad at hiding that

11) During a solo-couple on-stage performance, did a  deep lunge but wobbled around off-balance like an idiot for what felt like a solid 10 seconds. Awk.

And now, for things I’ve witnessed from other dancers:

1) Buttons popping open on a borrowed Latin shirt. Round after round… (you know who you are if you’re reading this, and it’s all good…)

2) Hooking the bottom of a skirt with a heel and actually completely mooning one side of the audience

3) Collisions galore

4) Various body parts popping out that should not be doing so…

5) Awful tanning disasters (think…green.)

6) Hair flying loose from fancy standard hairstyles

Take-home point: **** happens, you deal with it, and move on! 😀

How-to: Ballroom Makeup

The general take-home message for how to apply dance makeup is: go bold or go home! I always feel like an idiot when I leave the ballroom and go someplace “normal” during a competition weekend. In ballroom, if you look kind of like a drag queen, it means you’re doing something right.  We’re talking crazy bright colors, big fake eyelashes, shimmer, glitter, the whole shebang. What is the point, anyway? Well, if you think of ballroom dancing as being similar to performing on a stage, you want to be able to see your features clearly from across the floor. This means, highlighting your eyes (make ‘em look as big as humanly possible), accenting your mouth with a colorful lipstick, and rouging your cheeks. I won’t be able to explain makeup application as well as the Youtube makeup guru gals, so I’ll just go over things briefly and you can spend a few hours watching videos and filling in the rest.

Foundation: I hate it. But I wear it for ballroom comps, using a sliiiiightly darker color than my natural skintone so that I don’t look washed out. In fact, I probably go lighter than most girls in terms of coverage – I like to mix a tinted moisturizer with a darker foundation, then apply it with either a makeup sponge or a dual-fiber brush for a stippled effect. Blend blend blend, making sure you don’t have that foundation line that ends at your chin (trust me, not a good look). Bring your foundation down to your neck. Concealer under the eyes and over any flaws, more blending, then set everything with a matching powder and a big fluffy brush.  If you’re particularly oily, you might want to stick with a powder foundation, so long as it has adequate coverage.  Or a liquid/cream that is supposed to have a matte finish.  Also, applying a primer before foundation is an option – I’ve tried it a couple times, but don’t see a huge difference though, personally. If you feel comfortable contouring (which, of course, is all the rage right now), then go ahead and do that with darker and lighter cream colors.

Eyes:

First, Urban Decay Primer Potion or your primer of choice (I’ve heard Too Faced is another good one). In lieu of primer, use concealer and powder over your lids.  Primer makes your eyeshadow pop and keeps it from fading or moving throughout the day, which is super important especially if you sweat a lot.  You can also use a cream eyeshadow as a second base, particularly a white one if you are using bright colors – this will keep the color bright. Lots of white pearly highlight below the browbone (really pack it on), then I usually do a smoky eye in either a neutral color combination (gold/brown, or silver/black) or purple, depending on my mood.  Neutral is a little harder to make dramatic, so really pack on the colors and shimmer, and be sure to use a dark color in the crease, like a dark brown or black.  Use a heavier hand than you’re used to – this is even beyond nighttime “going out” makeup. Then I add a thick line of cream, gel, or liquid eyeliner in black, in a cat-eye shape with a flick/wing in the outside corner.  Doing this with a pencil first might help for precision. Also, I just discovered that going over this with a really dark black powder eyeshadow makes it even more dramatic. Add lower-lid color and/or liner if you want.  You can really go crazy with eye makeup here in ways you can’t in everyday life, so take advantage of it!

Curl lashes, add some mascara, then plop on some fake eyelashes. The biggest Ardell-brand ones at CVS are great along with Duo glue in white (it dries clear), and I can re-use them a bunch of times, so long as I peel off the gunky glue off of the lash strip. (P.S. Peeling off my fake lashes at the end of the day is SUCH a good feeling!!)  Fake lashes are really pretty essential to making my smaller Asian eyes pop.  If you’re blessed with huge natural lashes you might be able to go without, but otherwise, I strongly recommend them. They just add a ton of drama and open your eye up, which especially helps with a more neutral, subdued eyeshadow look.  Please do practice putting them on ahead of time, because there’s a learning curve with using them.

Other options: glitter eyeliner or glitter eyeshadow, fake eyelashes with little rhinestones at the base, multiple liner colors, slightly wacky color combinations (cause, why not? So long as they’re somewhat tasteful).  Ballroom is one place where matching your eyeshadow to your dress is not a faux pas, but actually commonplace.   One thing that really helps with intensifying color is applying eyeshadow wet and packing it on with sort of tapping motions instead of brushing or sweeping across the lid.

Edited to add: fill in your eyebrows! I recently started doing this and I think it makes a really big difference.  It’ll look a bit intense up close, but really adds to the polished made-up look.

Awesome purple eye:

How to apply false eyelashes:

Liquid eyeliner:

Brows:

Cheeks: Any bright powder or cream blush should do, so long that it works with your skin tone. For extra contouring, use bronzer in the hollows of your cheeks and a highlighting powder on top of your cheekbones and forehead. I haven’t really gotten the hang of contouring yet, but if you want to try it, check these videos/guides out:

Lips: This is the easiest part. Line your lips with a neutral liner (one that is close to your natural lip color), then fill in with a shade of your choice. I like to do a pink berry-ish color for standard/smooth, and a Snow White true red for Latin/rhythm.  One is softer, and the other is more bold/in-your-face.  Lipliner can help define your lips and keep bright colors from spreading beyond your lipline. Personally, lipstick is all I need, but some people might like to add a lipgloss for extra shine (but don’t do this if your hair is loose, because it will stick to your lips and drive you nuts).  You might want to blot so that it’s less likely to smudge or get on your teeth.  Some girls like to do a dark liner with a lighter lipstick, but I’m not a fan of this, personally.  I don’t recommend using a nude color, so we’re going to break the normal emphasize-eyes-or-mouth-but-not-both rule.  Your mouth will just disappear from a distance, and it’s probably the most expressive part of your face.

For products, you can get by perfectly fine with drugstore products, so long as they are sufficiently pigmented.  A light, sheer, natural look is not what we’re going for.  I recommend NYX, L’Oreal, and Revlon, which are all available at drugstores and/or Ulta. I’ve also heard great things about Morphe and Makeup Geek eyeshadows, which you can order online. Maybelline makes awesome mascaras.  If your skin is finicky, you might want to go for nicer higher-end foundations. Ulta and Sephora will have basically anything you could ever want/need.

Nails: Nice nails are a bonus, but not a necessity. The classic ballroom look is a French manicure on long nails. But, colors are fun too! A classic red or a subtle pink are both great, or maybe something that goes well with your costumes.  Some girls like having those long acrylic nails, but those are a little intense for me. I started growing my nails out for ballroom, but short nails are perfectly okay, too.  The key here is good grooming.  I’ve recently ventured into glue-ones and love using them! They’re so much faster than painting your nails with polish, and look perfect.  They’ll make doing everyday things a bit harder, though, so keep that in mind.  Also, file off the rough edges to avoid scratching your partner or snagging them on things. The point of long nails is to extend your lines and complete the whole done-up look.

Do you need to do different makeup for different dance styles? Well, no, not really, but there is a general trend for Latin/rhythm makeup to be stronger and standard/smooth makeup to be softer.  A lot of people like this sort of “exotic” look for Latin/rhythm, whatever that means.  A bit heavier on the liner, a darker lipstick, maybe extra black eyeshadow in the crease.  You might also want to add some more bronzer as well.

A few good full-ballroom-makeup videos:

Products I Recommend:

  • Revlon Colorstay Liquid Liner
  • L’Oreal HIP Cream Liner Discontinued…but it looks like L’Oreal Infallible Lacquer Liner is its replacement?
  • Urban Decay liners
  • Maybelline Full ‘n’ Soft Mascara and Lash Sensational Mascara
  • L’Oreal Voluminous Mascara
  • Shu Uemura Eyelash Curler (it’s seriously the best, at least for my eye shape)
  • Revlon Super Lustrous lipstick
  • NYX powder eyeshadows and Jumbo Eye Pencils (especially the shade Milk)
  • Urban Decay eyeshadows (especially the Naked palettes)
  • L’Oreal Infallible eyeshadows
  • Maybelline Color Tattoo cream shadows as a base
  • Urban Decay Primer Potion
  • Urban Decay Heavy Metal Glitter Liner
  • NYX Brow Gel
  • NYX powder blushes (normal and mosaic)
  • NARS powder blush in Orgasm (classic)
  • Urbam Decay All Nighter Setting Spray
  • Kiss Everlasting French glue-on nails
  • Essie and Revlon nail polishes
  • Seche Vite Dry Fast Top Coat
  • Ardell false eyelashes
  • Duo lash glue

On Being the Baaaalllroom Dancer

By this title I mean, being a ballroom dancer and finding yourself in a more social-dance situation with people who do partner dancing that are not official ballroom styles falling under the International/American style umbrellas.  Examples are salsa, swing (East coast, West coast, and everything else), and Argentine tango.  For me, it’s both fun and a bit awkward.  There’s lots of moves I’m not all that familiar with, but I know the basics well enough to follow.  And, being a trained ballroom dancer, I am pretty decent at following, but sometimes my guess goes wrong.   But the unknown aspect of it makes it kind of exciting!  It’s especially fun when I’m led in something I’ve never done before, but it actually works out.

Another thing on my mind  during this situations is how I have to turn down my ingrained technique and try to fit in, to not stick out like a sore thumb with swinging hip action and knees and bounce during swing, or doing Latin line arms in salsa.  Nothing wrong with dancing ballroom technique in these situations, but if I feel like I’m a visitor in some different culture, I should try to embrace what they do, even if it feels kinda wrong instinctively.  (Funnily enough, my first experience with social dancing was with swing, but if I had any swing habits from then, they are now thoroughly wiped away.)  We had a multiple-dance-club event recently and it was amusing to me, seeing all my ballroom friends do their typical ballroom technique thing during some basic swing, while the swing club people are all more grounded and sorta hunchy in an athletic way, wearing Keds while we’re in heels and Latin shoes.  Not that there was anything better or worse about either interpretation of the dance; it was just an interesting contrast.

For Argentine tango, you have to kind of go with this closer, smaller frame and get reeeeal comfortable with your partner.  I’ve been told I need to relax more and lean into my partner more, which is just not what you usually do in ballroom tango. I’m all used to “Hey, I’m out here to the left and nope, I’m not looking at you!” rather than “Oh, your hand’s waaaay around my back….alright, then.”

Sometimes people get real defensive about what is the “real” form of a dance – you see this a lot on Youtube when people see International or American tango and are all, “this isn’t REAL tango” and get upset about it.  Okay, so it’s not the original form of the dance, but it is equally legitimate as an art form and sport.  Ballet didn’t used to be on pointe, but now it is.  There’s dozens of different styles of hip-hop, but they are all “real.”  There’s lots of different versions of things and they all deserve acknowledgement and appreciation.  And I wish there was more cross-talk between the different partner-dancing worlds, because we all have a lot to learn and gain from each other.  That’s probably about the mushiest thing I will write about on this blog, but there it is.

Ballroom people, wouldn’t you love to be able to learn how to do this? They are amazing (and were quite good teachers, I might add.)  The video’s from a swing event, so maybe there was already some good cross-talk going on there 🙂

Hurrah!!! And Some Smooth Inspiration

I just turned in the take-home part of my PhD qualifying exams and have thus ended a summer of endless studying and stress. I don’t know how to convey clearly what the process is like to people unfamiliar with grad school, but it involved having to know basically ALL of social psychology (even stuff I hadn’t learned before) and remembering lots of studies and citations, but also thinking about it all on a deeper level.  And then writing 6 essays in 4 hours, and 2 longer ones over the course of a week.  But now that part is done, thank goodness. Huzzah!

Anyway, my partner and I have been working on some new smooth routines recently, which have been really fun and energizing.  In the past I was always sort of afraid of smooth (not that I’m not now) because it’s more independent and expressive than standard, two things that I feel aren’t really in my comfort zone.  Separate me from a partner and I go into “oh no, what is happening now” mode sometimes.  We haven’t done Viennese yet, but I wanted to share this lovely routine by one of my favorite smooth couples, Jonathan Roberts and Valentina, though their partnership was rather short-lived (but very accomplished!)

Bonus video. Watch for the amazing standing spin around 1:20. Sorry for the blurry quality.

Happy back-to-school season for the students (and parents) out there!

On Self-Related Motivations and Ballroom Dancing

Motivation in the conventional everyday sense refers to what drives people to do the things they do, which corresponds pretty well to the psychological study of motivation.  But motivation in the psychology sense not only refers to what underlies people’s behavior, but also how they seek out information, interpret information, and encode it in memory.  Specifically, self-related motivations underlie much of our everyday doings and thoughts, and there are a few that psychologists study in particular.  These scientists might even go so far to dub them the fundamental motives.  And, surprise surprise, these can all relate to dancing and how we learn how to dance!

Self-Enhancement

Basically, people like to do things and think things and find out information that makes them feel good about themselves.  They prefer to read positive feedback to negative feedback and remember it better.  Some argue that this motive overpowers all other ones and is the automatic one, the one that kicks in without us even trying (Sedikides).  Most people think they are better than average at any given thing (driving, social skills, and so on), which is statistically impossible (Svenson, 1970).  People are very accepting of positive feedback and more critical of negative feedback.  Self-serving bias makes us take credit for success and blame outside factors for failure.

How self-enhancement relates to ballroom: Well, who doesn’t like getting a compliment?  Whether it’s from our longtime coach or a complete stranger, getting complimented on our dancing is a fantastic feeling.  Getting a compliment on hair or makeup or an outfit will more than suffice as well.  Particularly when we have put ourselves out there in front of a bunch of strangers, getting confirmation that we don’t look like idiots is indeed a nice feeling.  I would say most people think they are better than the average person in their lesson/class, unless they are anxious and particularly clumsy-feeling.  In competition, most people probably think they danced better than the average person, and therefore deserve a callback – that’s why not getting a callback is so disappointing.  It’s probably easier to remember competition successes than to remember failures, for the most part…or at least we spend more time trying to think about the successes.  When we get negative feedback from a coach, we probably automatically think, “What? I don’t do that” and then have to override that impulse to fix whatever problem it is.  Also, self-serving bias can definitely play a role in how we understand competition results.  When we win, it’s because we danced great! When we didn’t do so well, it’s because the floor was slippery or our partner did something wrong or people kept bumping into us or the judges didn’t like our outfits.  Also, even if we do badly, we socially compare downwards to make ourselves feel better, finding a standard of comparison to whom we can feel superior. “At least we were on time, unlike couple X.”

Self-Consistency

We like to find out things that confirm what we already know about ourselves.  We like to think we have a good sense of who we are and seek out information that supports that idea, because we like consistency and predictability (Swann, 1985).

How self-consistency relates to ballroom:  This might sound directly counter to self-enhancement, but if someone thinks they are an awful dancer, they (at least on a conscious controlled level) would prefer to hear negative feedback to positive feedback.  “I’m terrible, and these people agree.”  People with low self-esteem prefer negative feedback, because then they have a consistent view of themselves and get confirmation from others about their view.  What’s interesting is the cognitive-affective crossfire situation – people with a negative self-view emotionally (affect = emotion) prefer positive feedback, but cognitively prefer negative feedback (Swann et al., 1987).  I know, it’s twisted, but it makes sense – they have both the self-enhancement and self-consistency motives going on at the same time. Haven’t you encountered this social exchange before? “You did a great job dancing out there!” “Ugh no, I did horribly!”  I’m not saying that dancers who are self-critical (which might just mean they have high standards for themselves) necessarily have low self-esteem, but perhaps they had a low evaluation of their dancing at the time, and at the time would like a compliment on one level but prefer criticism on another.

Self-Appraisal

Basically this just means that we want more information about ourselves, to see where we stand.  An accuracy motivation, to see if what information we have about ourselves seems to be correct.  Often this ties in with the motivation of self-improvement, which I think is pretty self-explanatory.  You have to know what you’re good and bad at before you can take steps to improve.

This motive I think plays the most into the learning process – we take lessons, seek feedback from more advanced dancers, and pay professionals lots of $$ to tell us how we are doing now and how we can get better.  Looking at judges’ scores and scouring YouTube videos of our performance help to fulfill this motivation, to see where we stand.  Practicing and staring at ourselves in the mirror for hours on end definitely help to fulfill this drive (though staring at the mirror and convincing ourselves of our innate, undeniable hotness is more in the lines of self-enhancement 😉 ).

Overall, I think the most interesting motive is self-enhancement.  There are so many ways that people make themselves feel better, even if they are deluding themselves just a little bit (or sometimes a lot!).  As someone studying psychology, it’s interesting when I catch myself or someone else using one of these self-enhancement strategies.  Hell, it feels really good to have my dancing or my dress complimented by a rando.  Didn’t get a callback? Judges didn’t see us.  Or the music was weird.  Or my shoes were super slippery. Obviously.

But hey, on the plus side, having these slightly positive illusions about yourself is good for happiness, mental health, and well-being in the long run, so they can’t be all that bad (Taylor & Brown, 1988).  Being ever-so-slightly arrogant (or confident, self-assured, positive, whichever word you’d like to use) about yourself seems to work out well for people in the ballroom world and everywhere else.

Having Fun on the Dance Floor!

I want to write a whole post on this because I totally understand the performance-anxiety thing.  As a kid I used to perform in piano recitals and would literally be shaking in fear as I approached the front of the room.  Once I screwed up so badly I had to start the whole piece over again.  Somehow though, the prospect of dancing in front of people no longer makes me nervous – at least in the competition setting.  If my heart is pumping faster than normal, it feels more like positive adrenaline that will help me perform my best.

Remember that you are not alone. Your partner is there to support you and will (hopefully) fill in the blanks of your routine if you suddenly forget what comes next. (By the way, this happens to me more than it should…whoops.)  Even if something happens, your lead and following abilities should kick it and it’ll work out fine.

If you forget your routine completely, you can always fall back on lead-follow.  That is the essence of ballroom dancing, isn’t it? Good technique and practice should take care of it.

There are tons of other couples on the floor! No one will notice if you screw up. And even if you do mess up, no biggie. No one is perfect. I’ve even seen a video where Riccardo and Yulia had to do a balance check.

Even if you screw up and fall on your face, it’s okay. Really, it is. Trust me, I’ve wiped out at least twice on the floor (literally, my butt was on the floor, dress flying up all around me, and I had to find my shoe that had popped off) and it’s okay! You get back up, you start where you left off, and often the audience applauds you.  It happens.  And if and when it happens, you know that probably the worst possible thing happened, and you moved on with your dancing and your life.

I don’t do this as much as I should, but just really feeling the music and translating it into movement of your body is really part of the essence of dancing, isn’t it? So really get into it, feel the music in your bones, and the rest of your body will take care of itself – that’s what those hours and hours of practice are for.  Don’t overanalyze your technique and worry about what your feet and arms are doing.  Just think about being big and showing the music in all that you do.

Play with your partner and the audience!  Easier to do when you’re apart, but you can still do this in standard, even. You can catch his eye and slip him a coy smile when you shift from closed position to promenade.  In a corner, flirt with the audience. Find someone to connect with and try to make them smile.  If you’re ballsy you can even play with the judges, but tread with extreme caution.

Express each dance’s character. That means, don’t just plaster a smile on your face.  Let your face be expressive but not cartoonish.  Be romantic in waltz and rumba, sassy in samba and smooth foxtrot, and cold and bitchy in tango.  Reflect these characters in your movement as well, and your performance will be that much better for it.  Figure out what story you want to tell for each dance and narrate it with your body and face.  Sometimes the music is atypical and has a different feel from what is typical – the best couples can embody that.

Just letting go can do wonders for enjoying yourself, and often it makes your dancing even better than when you’re thinking about everything you’re doing. Good luck!

Things I Can Do Because of Ballroom

Along with learning how to dance, competitive ballroom dancing gives you lots of other random skills! I can now…

  • Wear heels higher than 2.5 inches
  • Change in about 2 minutes, in public (when necessary)
  • Put full crazy makeup on in under 10 minutes
  • Apply fake eyelashes
  • Grow my nails long
  • Do French manicures on myself (once without the sticky guides!)
  • Glue shoes back together
  • Judge Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance more harshly than the actual judges
  • Put a fake bun in my hair, invisibly
  • Have practically full body contact with strangers
  • Stand up straighter
  • Dance in front of people without feeling nervous
  • Wake up at 4:30 am
  • Go hours without eating and not even realize it (well, sometimes)
  • Stay in perfect strangers’ houses
  • Instantly tell if a particular dance can be done to a song on the radio
  • Pack very quickly
  • Rhinestone things
  • Drive up to 6 hours after a full day dancing with little sleep
  • Travel all over the place
  • Have conversations with people while dancing