Category Archives: Crystal AB

(Semi) Live! Behind the scenes competition blogging, part two

I’m back home again – I really tried to update LIIIIVE, but I’ll tell you the honest-to-God truth:

(1) I was working my tail off.

(2) When I wasn’t working I was out carousing with other dancers.

(3) When I wasn’t carousing or working I was passed out dead asleep so that I could continue to do (1) and (2).

Y’all, it was super fun. The other issue is that until yesterday, I had my competition nails on, and I don’t know about you, but I find it absolutely impossible to type with those stupid bastards. It hurts, and it’s awkward, and I am usually a super fast typist so it irritates the hell out of me.

But! I did keep notes! So for anybody who loves ballroom competitions, who’s considering competing, who just generally finds the whole thing fascinating because it is a tan and sparkly circus sideshow, I present, in no particular order, DO’s and DON’Ts of ballroom competition, followed by some stuff I learned at this comp that was new to me. (I’ve been doing this crap for a while, but this was my first time on the judges’ side, so it was pretty instructive.

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DO dance as many heats as you possibly can. Look, competing (as a student) is expensive, no lie. I get that. All the professionals get that. But if you’re going to do it, I swear to God, you will have infinitely more fun if you dance 80 heats as compared to 15. You’re already there, you’re already looking fabulous, you might as well just do it! There is nothing, NOTHING worse than sitting and watching other people dance and thinking, shit, I should be out on that floor.

DO enjoy yourself! If you’re going to be out on the floor, please be having fun! If you look terrified or bored, it is just a bummer. Just enjoy the hell out of it; the judges will forgive a lot if you smile and take genuine pleasure in your dancing.

DON’T overdo it on the dress. Be sensitive to what flatters your particular body type and your dancing. I know that I always say, it’s ballroom, more is more…but ladies. Seriously. Sometimes, no, it is not. If your dress has feathers and ruffles and stones and netting and gloves and a goddamn cocker spaniel, it’s probably too much. You want people to watch your dancing, not whisper about the dress.

DO own your floor. That part of the floor you’re dancing on? It’s YOURS. It belongs to YOU. You are the Lord High Commander of that part of the floor – own it! Take up space! Do not allow other people to impinge on your sovereign territory! I was watching some friends of mine compete in the pro divisions, and I’m telling you, there were seventeen or eighteen couples out on the floor. I was looking for these friends and couldn’t find them – why? They weren’t owning their floor.

DO show up to the on-deck area. Don’t be an ass about this. If you are a pro and you are dancing with six different ladies, I get it. You can’t line up on deck every time. But if that’s you, it’s YOUR responsibility to be on your shit and not miss a heat. Do not make the deck captain come look for you. Do not make the MC announce your number over the loudspeaker. Embarrassing!

DO be pleasant and courteous to everyone. You know why? Well, number one, it’s decent fucking manners, and what, were you raised in a barn? But if you need a more politic reason – you never know who is behind you, or who is paying attention. People remember. Keep your mouth shut. Be pleasant. If you need to talk shit, roll out of the ballroom and wait until you are in a secure third-party location.

DO get over yourself. At the end of the day, it’s still a damn ballroom dance competition. It’s pretty ridiculous. Don’t take yourself too seriously.

Oh, I almost forgot – this is probably my number one rule:

DO cut the waistband out of your fishnets. Ladies, you look beautiful. You have these amazing dresses, you spent a ton of money on them, your hair and makeup looks great! Please please please please please do not wear fishnets with the waistband cutting you in half like a sausage. I don’t care what kind of shape you are or aren’t in, it’s still visible. And it looks bad. Fishnets are made of elastic. Your dress has a built in bodysuit. Get some scissors, cut the waistband off your fishnets, and they will still stay up and do their job and you will have a smooth line.

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And here is some stuff I learned, in no particular order:

• Being able to haul ass gracefully and still smile at the judges is worth something. Way to not fall down and still BOOK it across the ballroom! One judge said to me, “Girl, you were RUNNING. I was watching you more than I was watching the pros compete. It was more interesting.”

• The best hair spray (maybe ever?) is got2b glued freezing spray. Seriously, I did my hair Friday afternoon and then worked my tail off Friday evening and then went out and fell into bed around 4 and then I got up and showered around 8 am (I kept it from getting too wet) and MY HAIR STILL LOOKED PERFECT. Awesome.

• All judges mark differently. Some are done scoring thirty seconds in, some wait until the music stops to write down their order, and some do a rough draft order and then revise it as they watch the heat. The moral of the story is, if anybody tells you stupid things like, oh, all judges do x, they are wrong. Wrong!

Smashbox makes this really amazing concealer. If you are, I don’t know, let’s just pick a random example, going out drinking and dancing till five in the morning and kissing a bunch of random boys and girls and then rolling back to your hotel room and trying to look ballroom polished and fabulous for a seven am call, THIS IS YOUR CONCEALER.

• Always overdress. (That’s one of my rules for living, actually, but I saw it in action this week.) There was a lovely girl, brand new trainee instructor, who showed up to the last evening’s formal banquet and show in what was basically a sun dress. Nobody cared, really, because whatever, but she was uncomfortable. Always bring an extra evening gown, or something that is black tie appropriate. You never know. It’s ballroom, baby. You can’t overdo it. (Except for the feathers + spaniel dress situation, but that’s been covered.)

• The judges notice and remember bad behavior on the part of professionals. As a student, the event is for YOU. The pros are there to make sure you dance well and have fun, not to be tools. Not only do the judges notice and remember, they tell each other about it and laugh and laugh and laugh and then they do not call you back when you are on the floor with your professional partner. (See above, don’t be an ass.)

• Students are amazing. Seriously, it is so awesome to see them improving and learning and dancing their hearts out on the floor. It is ABSOLUTELY what makes this the best job in the world. If you are a student – thank you!!!!! You are the best.

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Live! Behind the scenes competition blogging, part one

So I got into town this morning, all ready to go! I think it is going to be really hard to work this competition and know that I am not dancing at all – that completely sucks. There are lots of (bullshit and non-bullshit, but mostly bullshit) reasons why that’s the case, but it still sucks out loud. I predict having several drinks and bitching at length about that situation around Friday or Saturday evening.

I love ballroom competitions. They are weird, and artificial, and bizarre, and AMAZING. There’s something about them that is just so great – I don’t know what it is. Thank God that I have a competition coming up in two weeks that I am dancing in; and dancing a shit ton, as well. Given that I am ALREADY getting bummed out about not dancing, and we haven’t even convened yet, it’s a pretty good sign (and a good heads up in the Making Life Choices division) that next time I do one of these bad boys I better be on the floor at some point.

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I remember my first real competition as a new baby dancer; I had no idea that you could make ladies’ hair do some of the things they did to it. And of course, not knowing ballroom hair from a hole in the ground, I did mine very badly with, like, no hairspray at all, and it fell down into my face during the samba, nearly killing some innocent bystanders with bobby pin shrapnel. Never again!

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So at this competition, I am working as a runner – the person who runs around and picks up scoresheets from the judges (who usually stand on the edge of the dance floor) and delivers them to the scrutineer (who inputs those scores and tabulates the placements for a particular heat). I haven’t done this job before, really – I’ve been a deck captain (the person who gets everybody in the next heat lined up – “on deck” – and ready to go so that the competition runs smoothly) and have assisted the judges before, but that was at a much smaller event. This is a big national competition, and it will be very interesting to see how it goes.

So why am I doing this? Couple of reasons:

(1) It’s a great way to get to know the judges and the national-level folks at various studios and organizations.

(2) It pays pretty decently.

(3) If I can’t be on the floor with students or a pro partner, it’s the next best thing.

I am going to be super ballroom about it, though – I want people to see me doing my job and know that I am a DANCER, not just some random flunky who wears a lot of black. The kiss of death question is, “so, do you dance?” You bet your sweet ass I do. So hair, nails, tan (although not so much tan as I would do if I were really competing) and ballroom-business attire… a chimeric hybrid of dancewear and business attire that says, yes, I know how to WORK IT on the floor, but right now I am being professional and organized, excuse me, I know this blazer looks awesome and my skirt is HELLA flippy.

We have our first judges’ meeting tonight at six; I better get my fake nails glued on before then.

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