They make me sick to my stomach. I get in front, and my mind goes ” .” While this is fresh on my mind, I want to share how I feel — not because I want the encouragement or techniques on how to get past the “deer in the headlights” effect, but because the more I understand how I feel, the more I will be able to combat that feeling in the future.
The setting: I am at the Jubilee Jazz Revival, and it’s been great; One Leg Up was playing, and I absolutely loved every song in their set. As such, I was having a great time, despite some wardrobe challenges and shoe issues.
I love solo dancing to good music, but comps are another thing. A little bit of goading, though, and I agreed to compete — if only for giggles and shits. Realistically, this is a small event, and it’s just for fun…but it still makes me nervous, and I wasn’t particularly confident or interested in competing. I planned a couple of easy entrances, thought up some of my favorite moves from the Tranky Doo, and I was done. Easy, right?
For the all-skate, I felt okay: I did some mostly-clean, moderately creative solo work. But when that first spot light came on, I completely forgot what I was doing. Tranky What? What’s Charleston? Am I supposed to look at the audience? WHY ARE YOU ALL LOOKING AT ME? MY SHOES ARE SO INTERESTING…
The worst part is that I knew the song. It’s by the New Orleans Racket Makers, and it’s actually one of my favorite songs to solo dance to. It’s a good, moderate tempo, with some great musicality and fun hits. But it wasn’t until the third spotlight that I was able to calm down enough to remember how the song went and dance with the music — and finally, that spotlight went mostly okay! But that was all I had, and the song was over, and I had no chance to sit in my groove and really enjoy the dancing.
I think the most frustrating part is how many people came up to me afterwards to tell me what a great job I’d done. Granted, most of those people were beginning and beginning-intermediate dancers who are just impressed that a few people had the balls to stand in the middle and pretend to know what they’re doing. Regardless, I knew I didn’t do a great job. The only remarkable thing I did, in fact, was actually get up there and try…but I wasn’t prepared, and I don’t feel like I gave it my all.
And there, folks, I think we have the bottom line: I didn’t give it my all. I half-ass competed because I was nervous and I know solo jazz isn’t my thing (yet), and so before the dancing even started, I gave myself a mental “pass” if I didn’t do well. I gave up before the competition started. And so to have so many people tell me how great a job I did is…well, it makes me embarrassed for myself. Maybe if I’d been in the right mind set, or if I’d planned on competing and I’d choreographed a couple of phrases — maybe then I would have been more confident and I would have put more into it. But I wasn’t feeling it, and I was nervous, and so I backed out of throwing myself into it. So much for that plan I’d made, right?
Now that I think about it, I don’t even think it’s that I drew a blank in those first few counts of my first spot light: instead, it’s almost like I didn’t even care to write something. I knew I wasn’t going to place, and so I didn’t even try. And that, my friends, is absolutely the worst thing you can do to yourself, whether dancing, competing, job hunting, working, or existing in day-to-day life.
So, for all future comps, I resolve to not compete if I don’t think I can give it my all. And if I agree to compete, no matter my reservations? Well, then I will make a social contract with myself: to always smile, look at the audience, and (at the very least) do my best.