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My First Big Competition

MichComp 2014

By Kevin Viratyosin

Kevin Viratyosin and Karen Maldonado in promenade
We left Minneapolis early in the morning on Friday, April 4th, the day before the competition in Ann Arbor. I tried to sleep like some of the others on the bus, but I was restless and my algorithms homework wasn’t helping. I had just joined the University of Minnesota competition team at the start of the semester, and this would be my first “big” competition. Dance Fest, our most recent competition and my first, had been an amazing experience, and the day after, I remember thinking that I couldn’t wait for MichComp to come around. Having experience with exactly one competition, one which I now realize had been very cleanly run, I had a rather singular picture of how this upcoming dance competition would go. It bewildered me how MichComp could be compressed to begin and end in the span of a single day. As it turns out, the secret was general disorder.

The competition started at 8 a.m. with the first event, bronze smooth waltz/tango. I was in it. We were asked to queue, and we automatically started to try to order ourselves by number. I had a relatively low number, so I found my place near the head of the queue (while the tail started to stretch halfway around the very vast floor). Then the announcer told us, in the interest of time, to just line up however we could, to throw order out the window. Well, I was already there, almost the top of the first flight of the first event. I guess my partner and I were hitting the ground running—or waltzing, as it were.

It was a while before I really stopped. Between my actual rounds in bronze and newcomer, checking for callbacks (some of which weren’t posted in time for the round), trying to incorporate feedback from a couple of teammates, and wondering if I had enough time to change between standard and rhythm, even if I wasn’t dancing, my mind was still running full-steam.

I had been told that big competitions get messy, but some things still threw me. Smooth and standard were crazy. All three of the judges lined themselves up along the same long wall, only a few meters apart. Even if they weren’t looking at only the couples right in front of them, everyone thought they were. So, let it suffice to say that going down that particular wall required some floor craft, and not being able to get to that wall induced some stress. Rhythm (and I suppose Latin, too, but I didn’t do Latin) was better; one judge actually started walking amongst the dancers. Just make sure not to do a crossover break and hit her in the face.

Of course, as the day went on, the events started to fall behind schedule. I knew to expect this, but I hadn’t realized how much I would miss having absolute times. “They’re still running [insert round] for [insert level and style]? Okay, the schedule says we were on the floor an hour ago, but I think I still have some time to [insert activity].”

Looking back, I realize that the amazing thing was that, despite all of the chaos, everyone was in a really good mood. Maybe to everyone else, this was normal, or maybe no one really noticed. Competitions are a strange new world for me. We all come from different schools in different states. For many of us collegiate dancers, dancing is just one of the many things on our minds—work, classes, getting enough sleep—but when we get to that competition and put on our dancing shoes, suddenly dancing and loving dance become the number one priority. It’s something unifying, something that makes us strong. Throw two already large flights on the same floor at once because you’re hours behind? We’ll still dance with a smile, because that’s what we came to do.