This week while on a coaching lesson, I was reminded of the importance of the pre-competition state of mind. As a competition gets close, several emotions ensue: excitement, nervousness, and trepidation to name a few. You want so badly to do well that quite often you become a little crazy. Every little thing irritates you; there are too many people on the floor, the music isn’t right, and you are having difficultly remembering your choreography. Trust me, I have been there.
What if I told you this is completely normal? It may not be easy, but it is possible to keep your pre-competition cool.
1. The last few weeks should not be used for learning choreography or making changes.
It is of the upmost importance that all of your choreography is learned and well rehearsed at least 2 – 3 weeks before the competition. No changes shall be made after this point. Any steps that are not working should be set aside and saved for when you have more time to develop them.
2. Focus on presentation.
Now that you have your choreography rehearsed, the last few weeks should be spent on enjoying the dance. Your lessons should be used for connecting with the music, your partner, and developing your expression. Stress should be low because you are expressing yourself, dancing to the music and enjoying all your hard work.
3. Do complete run-throughs (without stopping!)
Part of what you are graded on during a competition is floor craft. If there are a lot of people on the floor during your rehearsals, that’s great! This gives you a chance to practice maneuvering around others without stopping and starting over. Imagine you are mid competition and you stop and start over because someone got in your way? Part of being a good dancer is learning how to be flexible with your choreography. The best way to do that is practice on the floor with others. My instructors purposely schedule their rehearsal time with other professional competitors so that can practice adjusting their steps.
4. Did someone say costume check?
Always practice in your costume and shoes ahead of time. I have seen a lot of interesting costume malfunctions in my years of dancing. I’ve seen skirts raise up, tops go down, pants get split, among other things. (I know your thinking…and that’s a problem, why?) If they only would have tried dancing in them ahead of time, they would have known and made the necessary adjustments. Do not buy shiny new shoes during this time either. I made that mistake once! Yes, only once. I decided I would buy new rhythm shoes 2 weeks before my competition. I heeded my own advice and practiced in them and developed the worst blister on the back of my heel. That was a painful lesson, but I’m glad to say I made it through the competition. There are so many other reasons to practice in the clothing you’re going to dance in. It feels completely different and sometimes it’s distracting to dance in a costume; the weight of the dress, the rhinestones, the man’s open shirt…also very distracting!
5. No pressure, right?
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the reason we start to feel pressure or become stressed normally stems from our (here it comes) “irrational standards that we set for ourselves”. Do you expect the routine perfect to be perfect? Good luck! Most seasoned professionals don’t do it “perfectly.” The difference is they don’t let one little miss-step throw them off. The goal should be to learn how to recover as quickly as possible and without letting anyone “see you sweat.” I was just telling my staff stories today about a top rhythm competitor that fell while her partner was spinning her as they where being introduced. No skin off of her back, they went on to take the competition by receiving 1st place.
Most importantly, you want to remember why you decided to do this in the first place. The benefits will completely outweigh any little obstacles that may occur. Becoming a fabulous dancer is a process and all good things come to those who wait. Each competition or performance is just one more step to an amazing journey that we call ballroom dancing. Take a moment and see all that your have learned and accomplished, you should be so proud of your progress. We are!
Remain calm, have fun, and enjoy yourself. You’ve earned it!
Check out Christy’s previous blog on avoiding the post- competition blues by clicking here
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