Instep Dance Magazine Articles
Reprints of monthly column as first appearing in Instep Dance Magazine.
The Challenges of Competition
By Rick Allen, DC
Competition and exhibition can be fun and exhilarating. They also demand our best. That means we face greater challenges for our body and mind. For instance, what challenges would you invision if you were competing in the City of Roses Ballroom Classic? Would they be more physical, such as taking care not to injure a knee hurt, for example, in skiing? Or would your biggest foe be mental, perhaps the fear of being on stage before several hundred eyeballs? How would you handle these and other challenges? Well, join me as I pose these questions to several of our local competitors. (This is a personal sampling from dancers to whom I have spoken in the past few weeks. I'd love to hear from more of you on your personal challenges. Drop me a note, send me an e-mail, or give me a call.)
Mr. Rick Pride has challenged his body to the maximum for close to twenty years as an instructor and competitor, rising to a national championship with Catherine Joy, DC. He has taught dancing on land, starting as a Fred Astaire Dance Studio instructor in 1979, and at sea, having worked aboard cruise ships. He teaches almost non-stop in the greater Seattle and Portland areas. He is in demand as a coach, a judge, and even as a dance organizer, having just completed the City of Roses Ballroom Classic. He demands a great deal from his body, which shows in his superb teaching and exhibitions. There have been physical challenges along the way -- a fractured heal, a jammed wrist, a dislocated collarbone that still doesn't set correctly, and, in just the past year, a fractured toe and a torn cartilage in the knee, not to mention the usual bumps, bruises and strains to which any athlete is subject. Thank goodness, he had a chiropractor for a partner while competing! Rick credits Dr. Joy with helping keep him in top form.
Rick also commented on two specific mental challenges: keeping new material straight and focusing nervous energy. These are challenges we all face learning new material. They are heightened during a performance or competition.
As a professional instructor, he may have five similar cha cha's in the Pro-Am competition. How does he keep them straight in his mind? When choreographing the numbers, he really tries to fit the dance to the music. Then the music guides him and his partner during the competition. He also mentally visualizes the routine, rehearsing it in his mind. Our mind remembers best in pictures, breaking information into "bite sized" chunks. That's why you can remember faces better than names, unless you have learned the trick of associating a mental picture incorporating the person's name with his or her face. That's also why phone numbers are broken into chunks three and four digits long.
As a competitor growing up showing horses over fences in English horseshows and, more recently, a dance student performing in exhibitions, I've used the same "mental movie" to remember my courses and routines. It works best for me when I go into the practice with an "assumptive attitude," that is, assuming that I can and will be able to remember the routine, breaking it into chunks of five to seven steps with the help of my instructor (this may vary from person to person), combining the chunks into larger units, and, very importantly, feeling the movement both physically and then mentally as I rehearse. This usually works well for me, taking me through moments of tension. Nevertheless, there have been moments when I was glad to have a partner nudge me with reminder, helping me past a brief lapse. As my wife, Barbara, and I had completed half our wedding dance last June, I went blank for a second."Did we do the zig-zag part already?" Yes. I was all set to do the first half all over again! Thank you, Barb, for keeping us on track!
Rick Pride likes to keep the mental edge when about to go on stage. In other words, he worries if doesn't have some nervousness. He then channels the nervous energy into the performance. His current partner, Alison Chinn, also tries to channel her nervous energy into a top notch performance. However, unlike Rick, who tries to maintain his normal activities, she prefers to isolate herself before competition. The road is different, but the goal is the same: visualize the routine and channel nervous energy.
Dave Watson advises, "Focus on just one area to do better in the performance. For instance, keeping his right side back during the Tango."
Gwen Gillman at the Fred Astaire Studio is a perfectionist. When she has her routine down pat, there is no pre-performance anxiety. She looks above the crowd (using proper posture as mentioned in previous articles), smiles and has a good time. It shows. Gwen does, nevertheless, have a challenge: getting tired from all the practice. Good nutrition and rest are essential for her to do her best.
Jo Ellen Jarvis, who performed with Ken Hashagen at the February USABDA dance, also is dedicated: she practices 4 to 8 hours per week, often going past 9 pm, which is still "not enough." Like Gwen, she is a young performer with a lot of stamina. To keep that going for the long run, she'll need to keep up the program of good nutrition and rest. Dancing at this level is ATHLETIC, so you have to treat yourself as an athlete.
Lastly, Jo Ellen's back "went ou" last year a week before a key performance at a Blazer game. She said that when she hobbled into practice, 5 of the 11 other dancers gave her a card for their own chiropractor! Bravo! Proper professional care is a must to keep in top shape. Don't wait, though, until you are hurting, with a major repair job required for your body. Many sports and wellness-oriented chiropractors and massage therapists see their "healthy" clients on a regular basis to help keep them just that way. A quick monthly tune up is super. The frequency and depth of treatment, though, really depends on your personal needs.Error processing SSI file
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