ballroom dancers

The 5 Stages of First Time Dance Competitors

We all know too well the 5 stages of grief. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance are considered to be the process that all of us go through to handle grief.

I was sitting at home watching Star Trek (you don’t get to be a super dance geek without being a little geeky in other parts of your life too) and they mentioned the five stages of acquisition, as told by the Ferengi. Infatuation, justification, appropriation, obsession and resale. I thought about every purchase I had ever made and how I had gone through those stages during every major purchasing decision. The more I thought about it, it made me laugh, why does everything come in 5 stages? I spent a little time on Google and found the 5 stages of death, change, love, learning a relationship and of course grief. With competitions around every corner I wondered, what are the five stages of committing to your first dance competition?


The Five Stages of first time dance competitors.


1. Curiosity.
We have all noticed when competition time comes around, people’s faces start going up on the poster and the tone of the studio changes. Suddenly there are more people in the ballroom practicing before group class and during your lessons. The whole studio seems to be vibrant with energy and everyone is dancing as hard as they can. Pretty soon there are more and more competitive level spotlights at the party as the competitors are gearing up for their big event. At first you think “that would be fun, but everyone going is such a high level and I will never be that good of a dancer”. Then you realize that there are new students going to the next Dance- O-Rama and they haven’t even been dancing as long as you have! This is usually the stage where you realize that you don’t have to be an amazing dancer to go to a competition but that going to a competition is what makes you an amazing dancer.
*Pro Tip: here are the thoughts everyone has before a competition
-Am I good enough?
-Will I let down my teacher or my studio?
-Are these for me?


Competitions are for students of ALL levels, no matter how long you have been dancing. There are however many factors to consider when deciding WHICH competition is best suited to you, so tell your teacher or the manager of the studio if you are interested in competing or even just learning more about it! The only thing that can disappoint us is not trying something you want to do. Seeing a student overcome fear, being bold and trying something new is the whole reason we are dance teachers!


2. Intrigue.
Yes intrigue is different than curiosity. In the first stage you had just caught wind of all the excitement and thought to yourself “This is something I want to do!” In the second stage is where you take that first big leap and tell your teacher in a confident whisper “That looks like fun”. Don’t worry; we know that it can be a little intimidating even bringing up the idea to your teachers, so if you give us any kind of inkling that you interested we will make sure to bombard you will all excitement and enthusiasm you have come to love and expect from you teachers at Arthur Murrays. This is also the stage where we set you up a meeting to get more information about the event you are planning to attend (or information on how to decide which event to attend). These can be done one on one or as a group. Sometimes the studio will host group meetings and invite students we think are interested in competition. The benefit to a group meeting is that usually there are competitors from past events there who can tell you all about their experience and as always we can take the time to answer any and all questions you might have.


3. Preparation.
So you signed up for the next competition! You’ve booked time off work, you’re getting flights in order and now you need routines. Do not worry, your team of teachers is going to work with you one on one in your private lessons and make sure that you are prepared and well rehearsed. They will also give you tons of stuff to practice and work on, to make sure you maximize you time in group class and party. There is a certain level of responsibility you take on when you commit to a competition. This is not a responsibility you hold to the studio or your teacher, but to yourself. A promise that you are going to develop your dancing, trust the team of professionals helping you and that you will set realistic goals for what you expect to accomplish from your first competition.


4. Anticipation.
Week after week you have studied your routines, developed you skills, practiced on the floor and you still don’t feel ready. I have some good news and some bad news. You will NEVER feel ready for your first competition. This is the unfortunate reality of performing. However the good news is that you will feel and be completely prepared. You will have run though your routines so many times that you could dance them with your eyes closed and gone over the schedule so many times your ready to lead your partner onto that floor at the perfect time. By now you have created a vision in your head of what this competition is going to be like, how friendly the people will be, how intimidating the judges will look, how big the floor is and exactly how stunning you’re going to look in your new costume! Here comes more bad news, your wrong. No amount of practice will prepare you for what it’s like to be on the floor with other competitors, the floor will always be bigger than you pictured it and a little more intimidating than what you’re used to at showcase. Your costume will look even better than you thought after you get that ridiculously dark spray tan your teacher told you to get (yes they are serious, we are not trying to “pull one over” on you). Most importantly the judges may look terrifying, but when you meet them you will realize they are friendly, kind and big dance nerds just like you!


5. Resolution.
You will notice that actually being at and performing in the competition is not one of the stages. The whole competition is going to go by so fast you will barely even have a chance to realize how nervous you are, how much fun your having and how much you have developed leading up to your event. My biggest advice for you is to slow down and live in the moment. Enjoy the event because that feeling is going to have to last long enough to get you to the next one! It will almost seem like the flight was longer than the festivities and that’s ok. After a couple days you’ll start to remember all the small details that made going so worthwhile. When you get back to the studio and catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror you can’t help but think “Damn, I look good”. They say dancing is 20 Percent about what you do and 90 percent about attitude! Suddenly all your Arthur Murray friends will be taking notice of the dramatic changes in your style, technique, lead and demeanour. You finally get to see your investment pay off and you are going to like it. Here are all the things that don’t matter; Top Student Award, Top Teacher Award, Top Studio Awards, First, Second and Third place. What matters is that you succeeded! You attended your very first competition and made it out alive. You are a better dancer because of the commitment you made to yourself and your dancing. There are always going to be dancers better than you and there are going to be dancers that you are better than. The most important thing is to use your competitions as a bench mark, keep attending, keep kicking butt and taking names and with the help of your teachers, you will be able to reach all of your goals in no time!

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