Help Support Vincent and Daisy!

I found out recently that a fellow ballroom dancer, Vincent, has been diagnosed with a cancerous tumor.  The collegiate (and formerly collegiate) ballroom community is very tight-knit and many dance friends have been super supportive of Vincent and his fiancee Daisy during this difficult time.  One of their friends started a crowdfunding campaign to help Vincent and Daisy with medical costs that are not covered by insurance, which has quickly surpassed its initial goal in just a matter of hours!  This is just proof of how  dancers are so generous and take care of one another!

Even if you don’t know them personally, you might have been a customer of theirs or seen them vend as VE Dance, as they have been travelling quite a bit to different dance competitions and events.

Their situation especially hits home for me, as I had a good friend and suitemate in college, Lauren, who lost her fight with cancer at a young age.  Like anyone else, I have known too many people who have had to deal with cancer – some won their fight, others did not, and others are still living with illness.  Any support – monetary, emotional, physical, whatever – is so meaningful to anyone fighting this tough battle.

Please, please consider donating, or passing on this link to others if you cannot do so at this time: Indiegogo: Medical funding for Vincent and Daisy.

Relatedly, Beata, a world champion dancer, is also fighting against cancer, and a page has been set up for her support as well: Partner with Beata.

You Know You’re a Collegiate Ballroom Dancer When…

You think $100 is a whole lot to pay for shoes.  Ha, just wait until you see prices for legit costumes.

There’s always some sort of partnering or dating or partnering AND dating drama going on.

From RealityTVGifs

From ReactionGifs

You have no idea who your partner will be for the next competition, which may or may not be next week.

From Tumblr…somewhere.

Girls are always on the prowl for a skilled male partner.

You’re cool with sleeping on a dorm room floor for the night.

From Tumblr somewhere.  Sorry, no animated gif here.

You are borrowing a skirt from a teammate but have no idea to whom it actually belongs.

You want to get a drink post competition but have to consider whether any of the people you are with are underage.

From Tumblr user a-crosstown

You have lots of friends from colleges all over the place.  Who all seem to know each other somehow.

From giphy. I couldn’t find a fitting gif, so there you go.

You have some pretty intense ballroom crushes.  EIther opposite- or same-sex, doesn’t matter.

From someone’s blogspot.

You go from raggedy sweats as a uniform to glammed out competition mode with a flip of a switch.

Not sure where it’s from, but Disney originally, obvi.

You’re willing to drive 10+ hours to a competition but never to fly.

From Giphy

You scrounge money for occasional private lessons a couple times a semester.

From YummyPets.com

You regularly go to sleep at 3 am and wake up at 5 am to get ready for a competition.

From SurvivingCollege.com

You bring homework to a competition but inevitably don’t even touch it.

From reactiongifs

You are not quite sure how old anyone is….they could range from 17 to over 35.

You wear a costume that belongs to either the team or a team member and it has been used by at least five people in the past couple of years.

From Tumblr somewhere

You want to just leave already, be it from campus or the competition or team dinner, but it takes the team almost-literally years to go anywhere.

From Tumblr somewhere.

You just love everyone, because the collegiate ballroom dance community is a fantastic one! Much Ballroom Love!

From Tumblr somewhere.

MAC Part 2

Going back to the MAC!  It was so great that we need to re-experience it!  Just kidding. We’re competing at the Mid-Atlantic Championships this weekend, which conveniently has the same acronym.  Not much to say here…we’ve practiced a few times since the (other) MAC two weeks ago, run some rounds, and tweaked some styling in our smooth foxtrot routine.  It’s mostly a smaller competition than the MAC, so I’m going to be lazy and skip the tanning.  Our smooth events only have three couples each, though our standard events are more substantial in terms of numbers of competitors, both starting at a quarterfinal.

One thing that will be nice about this comp is my dad will be attending and plans to take lots of pictures.  He’s been very into his new hobby of photography and took some excellent shots at a recent competition.  Hopefully he will recognize me….he does not seem to register my identity (as his own daughter) very quickly when I am in full ballroom-glam mode.  It’s both sad and hilarious.

I will also be attending another collegiate competition next week, but dancing with various other people on the team and not my regular partner.  Mixing it up a bit! And even doing rhythm. Crazy, right?

Ballroom Bargains, January 2015

I frequent various dance apparel and shoe websites in my free time (or to procrastinate…ahem), and was inspired by my good friend’s Lululemon blog (old dance friend, actually!) to pass on those deals to you.  I don’t know if this will become a regular feature or what, but we’ll see how it goes.  Please let me know if you have any luck with these, or insider knowledge about other websites!  Also, shop responsibly 😉

Women’s Dance Shoes:

Freed Holly Latin shoes at Danceshopper. Marked down to $59 from $119, in a wide variety of sizes. I have never tried these, personally, but my first two pairs of Latin shoes were Freed, and they were pretty good and cheaper for the UK brands.  This seems like a steal!

Capezio Lorelei Latin/social shoes at Danceshopper.  Marked down to $70-ish from $250.  They’re kind of crazy, but maybe you want them for a performance or social dancing.  Not generally recommended for competition purposes, but if you’re a unique person, do you!

Capezio Jemma Latin/social shoes at Danceshopper.  Marked down to $70-ish from $209.  I think the white/silver ones are pretty nice for social dancing or maybe even for competitions if you are super super pale.

IDS Tanya Latin shoes at Danceshopper. Marked down to $77 from $119. I think this is a solid brand, though I’ve never tried them.  Very basic but pretty criss-cross-strap Latin shoe, works for competition.

Supadance 1029 from Danceshopper. T-strap Latin shoe, comes in a variety of colors, sizes, and heel heights, priced from $87-$115.

Ray Rose Monsoon in size 8 (UK), 3-inch heel, from Back Bay Dancewear.  $60.  Very specific, but an awesome deal on a great shoe. Normally 2.5-3-times in price.

Freed Valencia practice shoes, slip-on style, 1.5-inch Cuban heel, from Danceshopper.  Marked down to $59 from $118.  I have a similar model that laces up instead, Roma, that I like a lot! I’m on my second pair of those.

Supadance 1227 oxford-style practice shoes.  $104- $118 from $139. Some really nifty patterns!  I’ve never seen stingray patterns on ballroom shoes.  Hmmm really tempted to get these myself!….but, poor grad student who spends too much money on ballroom already 😦

Werner Kern Laura standard court shoes from Back Bay Dancewear, $79.  Haven’t tried this brand, but I’ve heard good things.

Supadance 1012 standard court shoes with instep strap, from Danceshopper.  $104-$126 from $149. These are pretty popular, but I prefer the diagonal strap of the 1004s. The security of the strap is really nice.

Supadance 1008 standard elasticized court shoes with round toe, from Danceshopper. $110-ish from $149, only comes in smaller sizes.  I had a pair of these and they were nice, just weren’t the right fit for my foot.  They’re quite popular.

Supadance 2003 standard pointed-toe court shoes with wraparound strap, from Danceshopper. $110-ish from $149, smaller sizes. These are a newer model, I think.

Women’s Dance Clothing (prices aren’t all listed because they are highly variable):

Zdenka Arko slitted smooth/standard skirt, M/L and red or yellow, from Danceshopper

Espen Salberg long-sleeved ruched crossover top, from Danceshopper

Espen Salberg halter-ish top, from Danceshopper

Lulu Couture Black Swan long-sleeved drapey top, from Danceshopper

Santoria Kinanu black and white top, from Danceshopper

Arc Crystal Halter Top from e.K.Clothing, $19, L turquoise color only

Sheer Overlay Halter Top from e.K.Clothing, $18, comes in larger sizes but runs small

Boy short dance pants from e.K.Clothing, $5!!! ESSENTIAL and they come in all sorts of colors to match your dresses

Santoria Miolenae Buckle practice trousers, from Danceshopper

Gaucho pant from e.K.Clothing, $18 in a variety of sizes and colors

Chula ruffled Latin skirt from e.K.Clothing, $23 in fringe sizes

Embossed lace dress from e.K.Clothing, $27, medium in black/jade.  Good syllabus USA Dance-friendly option with no sparkles.

Tulle Standard/Smooth Dress from Light in the Box, $62 from $155, variety of colors and sizes.

Men’s Stuff! (I don’t know much about these, but here are some links anyway.)

Freed Latin Competition Shoes, from Danceshopper.  Marked down to $69-80 from $138. Wide variety of sizes, though it looks like most of them are wide-width as opposed to regular-width.

Freed Standard Practice Shoes, from Danceshopper.  $69 from $138.  Lots of sizes.

Satin tie from e.K.Clothing, $4, in a variety of colors, to match your partner’s outfit or just add some general schnaz.

General site links:

Danceshopper.com sale section. US site that should have quick shipping on in-stock stuff and I believe you can still return sale items just kidding, clearance is FINAL SALE, so make sure you want it.  I ordered some men’s shoes from here recently that got stuck in customs for over a month, but I don’t think that’s normal?

Dance-shop.com clearance (from the UK and limited sizes, but great deals and it doesn’t take as long to get to the US as you might think.  I’ve gotten shoes in a couple of weeks before.  Keep in mind the exchange rate and shipping.)

DuoDance – (UK) They claim that their sales will end, but there is ALWAYS a sale going on.  Also, relatively fast shipping for overseas.

Light in the Box (China?) sells all sorts of stuff. Quality is probably all over the place, but they have some pretty good designs and are very inexpensive.  I bought a bridesmaid’s dress from them recently, and it was of surprisingly high quality and quite cheap.  I think things take a while to get made and ship to the US.  They have some insanely cheap costume dresses (under $100) that you could use for collegiate comps.  I would probably not get shoes from there, though.

VE Dance (US). Vince and Daisy are local, very nice, and have established themselves as makers/importers/makers/whatever of quality bargain dancewear – it’s less expensive than the luxury brands but very nice stuff.  And thus super popular among collegiate dancers and recent graduates.  They also travel quite a bit, so you can try on stuff in person.

Dancesport.co.uk (UK) sale shoe section and sale apparel section. Lots of good stuff, clunky-looking website, but very helpfully organized by size.  Haven’t ordered from here, personally, but I’ve heard they’re good.

Cherry Culture sale makeup – they sell mostly NYX, which is a great bargain brand and has lots of ballroom-y bright colors.

Post-MAC Update

So it’s been a week, but I haven’t had any time to get my thoughts down on this competition/trip (grad school craziness).  All-in-all, it was amazing!!!  The worst parts were the two 10-ish-hour drives, but with friends, good music, and podcasts, it’s manageable.  Just not something I want to do all the time.  (Of course, I’m traveling to the DC area for the USA Dance Midatlantic NQE in three weekends, but never mind that…).

Anyway.  Staying in the competition hotel was a fantastic idea and now I totally understand why the pro-am folks almost always do that, even if they’re local.  So, so convenient to just run up to your room to change or chill or whatever, rather than find a corner in a crowded ballroom to stash your stuff, have to change in a bathroom stall, etc.  I wish that the MAC was in its traditional venue of Manhattan Center in Midtown, which has a nice regal feel to it, but the hotel was fine (other than the staff seeming to not give a crap about anything, but that’s a separate issue).  Driving there was relatively easy.

On Friday, I had absolutely no events to dance until Masters of Syllabus (MoS) Standard in the late afternoon/evening, and it was great, because I had severe lack of sleep.  So I was just around, cheering people on, and trying to be generally helpful.  We hadn’t practiced syllabus stuff almost at all prior to the comp, so MoS was a lot of lead-follow (which started out a little clunky) and trying to resist doing open moves.  I didn’t feel like wearing one of my costumes, so just stuck with this purple syllabus outfit I have (made by Dance America, love it!) and some bling, which was an approach that one of my friends also took.  I heard from her that someone from the judges’ area or thereabouts approved of our simpler approach, which is nice to know  Mostly, I was just lazy and didn’t feel like dealing with all that volume/floatage.  We got to the final out of a first round and ended up placing 5th, so clearly attire does not matter if it’s classy and your dancing speaks for itself. Woot!  Similarly, the champ Latin winner had an unstoned black dress and just some classy stoned accessories, including this awesome ear cuff thing.  Not that I’m that cool, just drawing a similarity there.  Interestingly, every single champ Latin finalist was wearing black or white.  Mostly black.

MAC Champ Latin Finalists

Saturday was full full full of dancing.  I think I danced at least 50 individual dances in all.  I was exhausted by the end of the day, but it was a really “on” day.  Jesse and I made quarters for novice and prechamp standard, and missed the semi for novice by a single mark.  Big improvement over last year’s MAC and woot, qualifying for Nationals.  We also had our best round ever during the prechamp first round, and importantly made it through quickstep without effing it up!  It’s a common issue.  I now know a lot of people in these events, so that was really nice seeing good friends from undergrad and bumping into other ballroom friends (sometimes literally, on the floor).

The BF (who hadn’t danced rhythm in five years) and I finaled in silver rhythm, and it was pretty fun. Then, smooth! Jesse and I finaled in prechamp from a quarter, and then danced champ.  This was our first time really dancing champ smooth (last competition, we were the only couple), so we freaked out when we found out we had made the final from the semi of 12.  I literally screamed a little, and if you know me, I am not a particularly excitable person (except when it comes to cute animals and food).  I was close to dead from exhaustion by that point, and joked to Jesse that we could just stand there in the final and not dance, because we’d get 7th anyway.  But we ended up placing 5th, which was, again, unexpected and fantastic.  Mayo Alanen was generous enough to sponsor scholarships for those two smooth events, so that’s always a nice bonus.  He seems super nice and I’d love to have a lesson with him at some point.  The winners and many finalists (I think) are his students, so I think the money will just go back to him in some form, but it’s nice nonetheless.

Saw some spectacular champ standard dancers, and the whole thing ended with some slightly controversial results.  The winner was a couple with better dramatic, athletic, WDSF-style shaping, but worse floorcraft, while my (and many others’) favorites took second – they were more balanced, I think.  The 2nd place guy looked familiar and his name rang a bell, so I thought he was one half of a youth 10-dance couple I had loved from a few years back. It turns out that he is that other guy’s brother!  Ridiculously talented families, man.

Sunday was a fun day in the city, watching the Broadway musical If/Then starring Idina Menzel from the 9th row (!!!), eating lots of good food (highly recommend Cook Shop and Stanton Social Club), and doing a moderate amount of touristy walking around stuff in the cold rain.  Overall, fantastic weekend, and I was sad to go back to my normal boring life.

I was really happy with our dancing, but being the way I am, am always looking to improve.  A few major things now – shaping/huge steps in standard, extending shapes and polishing transitions during smooth, and some posture stuff.  Looking forward to a couple of lessons this week!

Edited to Add: Also, so many of the Midwestern dancers who traveled to this competition killed it! I identify as more East Coast, but have come to adopt this area of the country.  I think the East Coast has a better reputation for good dancers, but the Midwest people proved to everyone that there’s some fantastic dancing there as well :).  Also! MAC has the best team match.  Where else are you going to see Robotic Hustle and 3-person Argentine Tango?

Dancing is more fun stoned. Here’s how to glue rhinestones on practically anything, Part One.

Well, I would’ve done my own post, but this one is so good, I’m just going to pass it on to you. Enjoy!

Against Line of Dance

So! You have some perfectly good piece of clothing, or item of dancewear, or a shoe, or a cat or whatever, and you think, “Self, this really would look a lot better if it sparkled like CRAZY.” Congratulations! I agree with you! Let’s glue some rhinestones on that action!

In this series, I’m going to walk you through an actual recent stoning project and give some general tips on what to do, what not to do, and my own process that I’ve developed over the course of screwing up a lot. As always, questions and your own experience and tips in the comments are greatly appreciated.

All the advice in this post is going to be designed for the At-Home Stoner, but it’s also a good guide to check out if you’re buying a ballroom dress, or something that already has rhinestones on it, so you understand where your pricetag…

View original post 1,671 more words

Commence OSB Freakout!

Just kidding, it’s already been happening for the past couple of weeks.  And OSB, I mean Ohio Star Ball, one of the biggest ballroom competitions/galas/shindigs/extravaganzas in the United States.  Very technically, I am competing this weekend in the US National Collegiate Dancesport Championships, one of the few collegiate-only comps, that happens to share a space with the Ohio Star Ball, which has amateur, pro-am, and professional competitors.

Anyway, it’s a big to-do, and also my regular partner’s and my first and only competition this academic year.  And we’re doing champ smooth for the first time (admittedly, by ourselves, but that’s a different sort of scary.) Pressure’s on, but I’m also trying to remind myself to just have fun.  And to try and survive quickstep.  Oh yeah, and I am also leading bronze and silver Latin for the first time, which is another source of excitement and terror. Will I spontaneously fall back into the follower’s version of the jive basic or do what I’m actually supposed to do as a lead? Will I blank out and do ten thousand New Yorkers on default mode? We shall see.  I forgot how boring bronze is, with the limited number of things you can do.  But I guess that will be working in my favor.  Also, it’s been a while since I’ve had to be a part of an event that has like 6+ heats. Oy.

Also, this year, PBS is filming the pro events as part of America’s Ballroom Challenge again! Exciting stuff, as this was cancelled a few years back.  Maybe it’ll lure the world champions out to OSB? Fingers crossed.  I’m also looking forward to checking out all the sparkly stuff, since a bazillion vendors come to prey on our vanity and love of shiny things (well, and to make a living, of course).

Here are a few awesome showdances from years past for your enjoyment. Sorry if they’re repeats.  Also, holy low resolution!

Teaching Psychology and Teaching Dance

This past year or so, I’ve gotten a decent amount of experience in teaching, both in the area of social psychology and in dance.  In fact, it’s easy to mix up the two when people ask me, “How is teaching going?” and I have to clarify what they’re asking about.  I’m on my third semester of teaching introduction to social psychology (in various forms) and in my second semester of teaching dance at a beginner level (specifically the beginner class last spring and the intermediate class right now).

It’s really interesting to me, seeing the parallels between an academic course and a dance class.  Certainly many differences (hopefully no one is falling asleep during dance class, but you do see that happen now and again!), but also some common themes and similarities.  For one, attendance drops off after the first class.  The first day of the semester (also known as reading-the-syllabus day) is when you’ll actually see all of your students in one place, at least until exams roll around and suddenly students you don’t recognize at all show up to take the final.  “Hmmm, I’ve never seen you before.  I guess you’re in my class, or taking this exam for fun?” Similarly, the very first day of dance class tends to also be the biggest, as people are trying things out and seeing if this is something they want to do, seeing if they’re in the right level, etc.  After that, class size shrinks noticeably, which can be somewhat discouraging, but at least it means the people who are coming actually want to be there!  Another similarity is the lack of facial feedback you get from people.  So many blank stares.  Give me smiles, confusion, something to work with!

The other major parallel between the two is how when teaching, you have to boil down everything you know to the core ideas and essentials.  If I were to throw every nuance I know at people new to some concept, it would just go way over their heads and confuse them.  It’s tempting to just give a big ol’ information dump because we want people to know a lot right away, but it’s better for everyone to keep things simple.  I have all this knowledge and want to share it with you!  But I have to hold back consciously.  For example, for every dance, we just have to start with the basic steps, described in only basic terms.  We’re just working on getting people to have some semblance of a frame/connection and putting their feet in the approximately correct places.  Adding in nuances of posture, proper body contact/connection, hip action, rotation, swing, sway, and so on, would just be too much for someone just starting out.  Once they get the basic idea, then we can add these technical ideas on top, one layer at a time.

In social psychology, it would be lovely if I could discuss ideas on a higher level with my students, but they clearly do not have the knowledge base and understanding that I do, given that I have about 6 additional years of focused experience.  We instead just have to focus on essential concepts and theories.  We can’t get into advanced technical models with mediation and moderation, which would just make no sense to most students (I didn’t know what mediation was until grad school, and you probably don’t either, and that is fine!  In a nutshell, it means X caused Y through Z.  Like, making a powerful pose with your body leads to increased volume of speaking because it increased confidence. I just made that up, but it sounds plausible, right?)  What are the most important ideas for this topic, and how best can I convey them to my students?  How do I make some topic interesting, easy to digest, and personally relevant to them?  Real-life examples seem to be the best way to illustrate concepts, I’ve found.  Particularly in funny videos.  Students LOVE videos.  Cognitive dissonance is a fun topic, but since it’s been around for a long time, there have been more detailed breakdowns of when it does and doesn’t happen, and apparently some of the “classic” cognitive dissonance study effects aren’t so easy to achieve, as one of my colleagues has found.  But we can’t go into all these details yet.  We just have to communicate the basic theory and how people discovered it, first.

Another thing involved with all types of teaching is learning to be really patient. Really, really, really, really patient. Sometimes, even if you tell people the same things over and over, it will just take them a lot of time to listen, understand, and be able to use what you’ve told them from the beginning.  In the social psychology writing class, I give them what I perceive to be simple instructions about how to include citations.  But to those who are not used to in-text citations and APA (American Psychological Association) format/standards for scientific writing, they forget to cite, or try to cite but do it completely wrongly, and might continue to do so for multiple papers, despite multiple corrections.  Another writing example is passive voice.  We teach students to favor active voice over passive voice (for example, “I did this” rather than “something was done to me”), but it’s another concept that takes a while to sink in and become a habit.  Some students still mix up correlation and causation, even though it’s a basic, super essential idea in science.  Basically, just because one variable correlates with (or predicts) another variable, it does not mean that it causes it!  See here for some good examples.

In dancing, we might repeatedly tell newer dancers to turn their feet in/out, keep their elbows up, not look at their partners/their feet/the floor, stand up straight, straighten their legs (or keep them flexed) and so on and so forth, but everyone develops some bad habit of some kind (or ten, or twenty).  Or they incorporate it once, but then go back to whatever incorrect thing they were doing before.  But I have to keep in mind that dancing is really, really hard (well, at least for most people, superstars aside)!  Learning the basic change step/natural turn/change step/reverse turn pattern in international waltz made no sense to me whatsoever when I first started.  It took a while!  Similarly, the now-basic-seeming fan in international rumba and cha cha was totally confusing at first, but relatively easy now, with years of dance education and experience.  Given all these difficulties, it is all the more rewarding when students have that “Aha!” moment and really get some new move or concept.  Or correct some issue that they’ve been struggling with.  Or within a few months, take dance more seriously, practice a lot, educate themselves, and improve vastly.  That’s such a fantastic thing to witness, whether I had a small or bigger role to play in the improvement.

Probably the best aspect of teaching things I love is being able to share that love with others.  I love social psychology and I love dance, and it’s fantastic to help other people fall in love with them as well (or minimum, develop some level of appreciation for them).  One difficulty in that process for me is communicating that very thing – I am generally a very mellow person and it’s rare for me to convey outward excitement about things, even if I feel that way about them internally. (Exceptions: food when I’m hungry and getting to sleep more. Also shiny pretty things.)  Sometimes it feels forced to show that enthusiasm more on the outside, but it’s something I’d like to work on.

Ballroom in a Few Gifs

Not remotely original, but I figured I’d give it a shot. 🙂

Eating after a long day of competition

When someone gets in your way on the competition floor

After putting all your makeup/hairspray/product on

(via)

Making a callback when you felt like you danced like sh*t

(via)

When someone wears something crazily unflattering at a competition

When an awesome samba comes on

How I feel at 5 am with a lot of makeup on and very little sleep

When my brand new shiny court shoes get scuff marks on them after a single practice

(via)

How to Tan for Competitions

So one odd thing about ballroom culture is that you’re expected to tan.  For whatever reason, pale skin is not “in,” even in the dead of winter.  How this came about originally might have been just the desire to not get washed out by the dance floor lighting, but some, particularly those who dance rhythm and Latin, have taken it to the extreme.  Some people tan so much, their skin color practically looks like that of another race!

My personal opinion on tanning is that no, you don’t absolutely have to do it until you reach the higher levels (open amateur, maybe silver or gold if you’re doing pro-am), and even then, it’s not the most important thing when it comes to grooming.  Looking pale but having your hair and makeup nicely put together is probably fine.  And, if you’re a standard or smooth dancer, you can get away with tanning less (or not at all).  If you’re an open Latin/rhythm dancer, it’s much harder to get around it, and coaches may say that you have to do it.  (Another way around it is to wear costumes that cover up most of your upper body, wear dark fishnets, and plenty of bronzer).   Anyway, it’s a personal decision and ultimately you can decide whether you want to try it out or not.  And, if you decide to do it, please do it correctly.  I have seen many a tanning disaster, and trust me, people notice and will talk about it. And you don’t want to be that person on the dance floor.

Personally, I tried tanning a couple years ago, and have done it a few times this past year, particularly for bigger competitions.  I don’t think it affects my results at all, but it does help me get into ballroom mode.  And I do get relatively pale over the winter, though not nearly as much as some Caucasian people are.

Tanning Option 1: Get a real one.

So, this means tanning bed or hanging out outside and sunbathing.  Not recommended cause of the whole skin cancer risk thing, but it is always an option if you can get darker naturally and easily.  (I would actually prefer to do this because my natural tan color is nice, but again, skin cancer risk thing.)

Tanning Option 2: Spraytan at a salon.

This is a bit pricey, from probably $15-$50 depending on what you get.  I haven’t tried it personally, but basically you can get sprayed down in an automatic booth thing (Mystic Tan), or personally airbrushed by a professional.  They use the same DHA stuff that is in all fake tan products, but this will probably ensure a nicer tan than you doing it yourself, and even a darker one.  Also it’s just more convenient to have someone else do it for you.  Some businesses will even come to you to perform their airbrushing services.  Try checking Groupon or Living Social for discounts on tanning services.

Tanning Option 3: Fake tan at home.

Probably the most viable option for most people.  There’s bazillions of fake tan products on the market that fall under a wide range of prices, but they all work the same way.  DHA (dihydroxacetone) is the active ingredient, and it reacts with the dead skin cells in the top layer of your skin to dye your skin brown/orange.  The higher the DHA content, the stronger the effect.

Within the at-home products, you have lotions, mousses, and sprays.  Lotions are probably the easiest to use for beginners.  My current favorite is a spray product, Body Drench Quick Tan, but it’s a bit trickier to get the hang of.  If you’re especially flexible you might even be able to spray your own back without the help of someone else.

Step 1: Exfoliate.  For a few days before you plan on tanning, make sure to exfoliate really well in the shower, using a body scrub product or a good loofah or exfoliating gloves.  If you have dry skin, those spots will absorb more product than others and become darker and you’ll look blotchy/uneven.  Dry hands in particular are prone to this, but also elbows, knees, and ankles, so make sure to pay special attention to those spots. Afterwards, moisturize well with a good lotion!

Step 2: Prep.  Shave a day before tanning, since shaving afterwards will take off some of your new fake tan and applying tanner immediately after shaving might irritate your skin.  Either shower right before tanning (making sure to dry off completely), or shower and moisturize well ahead of time (like in the morning) so that your skin has plenty of time to absorb the moisturizer.  It’s best to tan right before bed, so you can leave the stuff on overnight to develop fully.

Step 3: Moisturize dry spots – use a light moisturizer on your elbows, knees, and ankles, which will create a barrier and also dilute the product.

Step 4: Apply tanner.  Best to do this naked in the bathroom, or in your underwear.  I’d start from the bottom up, so get your legs, then torso, then arms.  Get a friend to help you with your back, or resort to awkwardly bending around yourself.  Whatever works!  If you use a lotion, really rub it in evenly, more than you’d would with a typical lotion.  Circular motions may help avoid streaks.  They also sell tanning mitts that protect your hands and help the product go on evenly. With a spray tan, make sure to keep the nozzle 8-10 inches away from you, or else you’ll get dark stripes of color, and keep the spray going back and forth, not staying in one place for too long.  Also, if you go the spray route, do it in the bathtub or else spray residue will get everywhere.  Generally you do not rub the product in with sprays, unless you get a weird blotch or runniness.  In that case, blot lightly with a tissue or you can try rubbing it in lightly.

Step 5: Cleaning up – wash your hands.  Repeatedly.  Or else you’ll get the orange-palm effect, which is not pretty.  (Wearing disposable glove is another option.) Hang out while everything dries, and go over any uneven spots with more tanner, with caution.  Once everything is done, put a bit of tanner on the back of your hands and rub them together, making sure not to forget your fingers.

Step 6: Put on some dark, loose-fitting clothes, and go to sleep.  If you have light sheets, you may want to lay down a towel.  I personally haven’t had trouble with tanner rubbing off on my bedding, but it’s a potential issue.

Step 7: Wake up, take a shower.  Don’t worry if it looks like all of the tanner is going down the drain – if it worked, your skin should be a couple of shades darker than it was yesterday.  Just avoid scrubbing too hard.  Out of the shower, keep your skin well-moisturized to prolong the tan.

Some Notes:

You can tan your face or not.  You might want to go with a lighter coat, since you can always darken with makeup, but you can’t really go lighter.  Don’t forget your neck and ears.  I don’t think my face reacts well to tanner, so I prefer to just tan my body and make my face match with darker foundation + bronzer.  Another option is to mix tanner with a face lotion to dilute it, and apply that.  Don’t forget to go all the way to your hairline! Also remember your neck and ears.

Tanner has a very distinctive smell that occurs with the chemical process.  I used to think it was super gross, but have gotten more used to it.  Beware!

If you want to get darker, you can do multiple coats the same night (let dry in between!), or put on another coat the following night.  Some products are also designed to get you darker (those advertised as a dark shade rather than a medium shade), but that carries more risk of streaking/unevenness if you haven’t done this much before.

If you use lotion, wearing plastic/latex gloves are a good option to protect your hands from getting dark.  Another option is to use a tanning mitt.

Recommended Products:

Body Drench Quick Tan Mist – smells like vanilla or chocolate or something, which helps a lot with the icky fake tanner smell.  I think you can just spray it on the competition day too, if you wanted a boost, since it has a nice dark instant color.  It’s relatively rub-resistant once it’s fully dry, but I don’t know how sweat-resistant it is.  I’ve gotten good results from it each time, so long as I am careful about applying it evenly.

L’Oreal Sublime Bronze Self-Tanning Lotion – available in most drugstores and very popular with my team.  Easy to use, smells alright (sort of fake lemon-y).  One weird thing about it is that it is super glittery, so it’s not advisable for application day of, particularly for men.

I haven’t tried the following products personally, but have heard/read good things about them.

Jergens Natural Glow – another good option for first timers, this is a gradual self-tanner that you apply like a regular lotion over multiple days.  It’s much more subtle and buildable.  Might not be enough for a competition, though.

St. Tropez Mousse –It’s supposed to be a very good product, and even has some kind of odor-neutralizer.  Disadvantage – much pricier.

Protan – super intense liquid that you use to paint yourself, with a sponge brush.  This stuff will get you super dark, so I’ve heard, and is favored by pro ballroom dancers and bodybuilders.  I think it also can be pretty drying, however.

Sex Symbol Aerotan – instant tint (does not dye your skin) that is good as a last-minute boost to whatever you already have. It is also shimmery.

Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs – another instant tint available in drugstores, that is kind of a paint that you can use all over, either in addition to or instead of self-tanner.

AeryJo – super shimmery makeup that will get you instantly dark.  Favored by a lot of Latin dancers.  It’s pretty pricey, though.