Don't be fooled by the title. It's not going to be about how to win at JnJs and Strictlies. Heck, I don't know what that formula is, nor do I want to know it because it probably involves not being authentic and catering to the views and opinions of judges. Which brings me to this: Too often I see dancers, of all levels, simply gutted for not having made finals....or the next round of contests. Gutted to the point that they are no longer civil to other people, they're depressed, crying, getting wasted, and pretty much the whole weekend is ruined. Hate to say it, but I used to be one of those dancers. I went as far as throwing out an award for placement at a very prestigious event because I felt that I had deserved a better placement. Boy, that award was very aerodynamic! ;). Another question to ask is why are these events/contests so important to us that we feel the need to always come out on top and win? One possibility could be that it's a stature game. Meaning that only when we make the finals and top 5 "elite" crowd, will we be noticed and talked to or about. Is it because no one remembers or even cares to remember who else danced and tried? Is it because of the point system, where we constantly check to see how many points we have and when the new points we just earned will be posted? This is how many dancers are choosing to live their "dance lives"....and maybe they're happy doing it...or think they're happy. I have roomed with quite a few dancers who seem that way to the general public, but have confessed that they are constantly stressed and tired of keeping up appearances. I know I was once one of them too...just trying to keep up appearances. It's exhausting! Here's a bit of a reality check, courtesy of my wife Sarah, who told me this after I was extremely disappointed I didn't make finals...even though I honestly thought I danced well enough (at least, better than some that made it...I was 2nd heat.) She said:"Come Monday, no one gives a shit...or remembers...who made finals". And that's very true. After the event is done, all the "thank yous" are posted on Facebook, and it's on to the next event on the calendar. So why is it that we place such importance on the results of these contests?
I believe that we all need to set goals in order to feel accomplished and to feel that we are moving forward in our endeavor. But I also feel the dancers for whom the weekend is ruined are setting those goals too high, therefore setting themselves up to fail. "I hope I make finals" or "What should I wear for finals?" are very commom phrases I hear or get asked. The higher the expectation, the harder the fall. Don't get me wrong, I also want to make finals, I also want to win. After all, I'm a competitive dancer. But my mindset, now, is very different than it was. I choose to approach the weekend with small goals in mind. And I can have more than one goal. And not one of those goals is to make finals. To give you my own example: I was struggling with my posture in the dance, and for the longest time, that was my goal for the entire weekend. I would dance my rounds and as soon as I walked off the floor, I would ask wife:"Was I standing up straight?" I felt like a winner if she said "Yes!"...#Winning!! And it felt really good that I made progress in something that was difficult for me. Sometimes I did make finals...other times I didn't. But the sense of accomplishement wasn't diminished but the fact that I wasn't in that final top 10. The goals you set don't have to be dance technique oriented either. They can be whatever you want them to be. For example, Sarah allowed me to share that at a recent event where I had asked her to dance strictly with me, when she found out it would be spotlighted, she wanted to scratch. And like a good husband, I gave her a dose of her own medicine and reminded her that maybe in this case just showing up is #Winning. When she walked off the floor, she was smiling and really proud of herself for showing up and letting herself be seen.
Some of you may simply just feel like winners by having the courage to step out on that competition floor for the first time. It's a scary place to some. To some, #Winning could be asking that one really good dancer to dance during social time. Others may overcome that fear of dancing in Classic or dancing their first Spotlight dance. For me, the key to #Winning is to not let myself be defined by the contest results, by what the judges think, by what other people think. You define...YOU! You decide what makes you happy...in dance and in life.
I would love to hear some of your #Winning moments. Use the comments box below if you'd like to share them. Thank you for reading.