First time competing in DanceSport

A beginner student shares his experience of participating in his first DanceSport Competition - Hollywood DanceSport Championships 2014.

Date added to ADN: Tuesday, Nov 04 2014
Originally Published: Tuesday, Nov 04 2014
By Michael Jahoda


The journey began with observing couples dancing together, moving gracefully, sensuously
- art in motion, joy in motion. I want to do that ! !

So, I started lessons in Salsa, and was clueless as to where the path would take me !

So far, the path has led me to understand and experience the discipline, hard work and powerful control
necessary behind the graceful, easy looking movements of skilled dancers.

Teaching class, Alina, is a high energy, nimble, whirlwind of dance movement, shooting rapid fire instructions;
now basic - now right turn -now susie Q- now cumbia - now right turn and add this - now double tap
-now left turn and then add this -on and on - more and more complex movements:
she is moving fast and makes it look so easy and often you just can't keep up !

( I am frustrated, so I complain that she is making things difficult for some people to keep up with her.)

Alina responds;
"Students learn by being challenged; you cannot learn unless you are being challenged !
I did not expect anyone to remember everything that I am teaching tonight !"
"You just have to understand that learning how to dance is a process, and it takes commitment and patience.
And of course you are going to feel frustrated a lot of times when you don't get something right away,
that is natural and again, it's the Learning Process ! ''

She added," if you want the easy stuff, stick with the Beginner Class " ( my male ego is insulted )

me -( Well, ! ! I don't want the easy stuff, I want to be able to do what you are trying to teach us ! !
Even the beginner class is challenging ! ! )

More lessons, and things that seemed impossible become easier; sometimes I can actually
keep up with Alina's footwork ! ! and remember some complicated lead that she is showing us !

After a few months, Alina suggests that I consider training to enter DanceSport competition.
Alina invites me with;
"Competitions are exactly where my passion is! Over the years I watched my competitive students
excel in their dancing tremendously, since working towards competitions you always have a goal,
and then you accomplish it !"

"Training for DanceSport accelerates the improvement of your overall dance skills."
"That's where you're actually rewarded for performing the right technique!!"

I was curious, and started, as an experiment, to see if this was actually something that
I could do, since I still felt that I was a very clumsy beginner, and did not know very much about dancing.

The lessons became more physically challenging, every slight movement of arms, legs, feet, core, hands, etc.,
was analyzed and controlled to meet a specific form, which always seemed impossible.
I often had the strong feeling that I could not do it and wanted to quit.

Week after week my teacher showed me foot and leg movements and patterns, body core positions, arm
positions; different patterns for Cha-cha - different patterns for Rumba - all of which felt difficult, awkward and
almost impossible.
All these movements and patterns seemed like scattered pieces of a puzzle that I could not not put together
and now the competition was only weeks away.

Fear and panic took over, I had no idea what I was supposed to do at this competition !
I was certain that I made a wrong decision trying to do this.

Alina; "I totally understand how you feel since it's your first competition. Lots of adrenalin!
But it's only a dance competition, what's the worst that can happen?! "
me-( that I look like an idiot )

"Trust my experience, you are doing very well and are more than prepared to dance in a Newcomer division."
me- ( I trust your experience, but I don't trust mine )

I cannot sleep at night; I want to take a slow boat to China; I really made a mistake!
I don't feel confident that I know what I am supposed to do at the competition ! !

Alina; ( with only four more lessons left before the execution )
"Trust me, you are going to know your routines by next Saturday."

At this point I have resigned myself to death by humiliation on the dance floor.

But in the next lessons some kind of magic happens, Alina goes over the routines, again and again,
repeating the basic structure of the routines and I am starting to feel like I will remember them.

Some of the pieces of the puzzle are fitting together. I feel less stressed. This happened all of a sudden,
a quick turn of emotions from fear and panic to mild nervousness. I can't explain it; maybe it was magic.
Maybe it was Alina repeatedly telling me to stand straight, stretch tall, head high, stomach in,
feel confident,over and over until it started working.

I tried to consciously maintain this feeling of confidence, that I was going to remember the routine
and that it was expected that I would screw up at times.

I drove to the event and entered the dance floor with mild to moderate nervousness;
entering the dance floor was like entering another world, dancers dressed in glittering, fancy attire
that swirled and complimented their energetic and fluid movements.
I think my enjoyment and fascination of the activity, observing the showgetting into the rhythm of the music, helped relieve some of the nervousness;
I was not going to die -
Once out on the floor- I was nervous but felt happy that it had started;
I tried to keep my body stretched and tall, head up, to keep my attitude positive,
attitude of body was connected to attitude of mind and emotion;
I had total confidence in my teacher-partner and was starting to have the fear replaced by fun.

I made mistakes, but did not dwell upon them. I just kept moving to the rhythm, like my teacher told me to do.

It was over quick. The worst part was all the fear in anticipation of the event.

Alina ;'It will be lots of fun!!"
me- before the event(fun for you, amused by my blundering attempts)
me- after (she was right, it was fun ! )
Alina: "Competitions provide a very friendly environment, you'll have a blast and will do really good!
I'm looking forward to it!"
me- before(still not convinced )
me- after(O.K. she is right again !** ) Now, I want to do it again ! !

** I have always admired Alina's skill, depth of experience and ability to teach,
and really never doubted that what she was saying could be true,
I just doubted my own abilities and thought that Alina was over estimating my skills and ability to do what she was teaching me.

She was correct in all of her observations, I just did not have enough experience to see what she saw.
That is part of the Process of Learning.
Alina to me, after it was all over;
"I'm very proud of how well you did today, it just shows that limits can be pushed and dissolved !"
Thank you for pushing me to push

myself, Alina !

About the Author:

Michael Jahoda started dancing at Dancify Studio in Redondo Beach, CA at the end of spring 2014. Salsa was his main passion, until he tried International Style Cha-Cha and Rumba. In November 2014 he entered in his first DanceSport Competition, where he got 8 first places out of 8. Beginners luck or hard work and patience paid off?!

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the AccessDance Network. Be aware that imagery is copyrighted and often licensed for use on AccessDance only. Copying of images is strictly prohibited.

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Redondo Beach, CA 90278

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