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Collegiate Dance Nationals

A Timeline

By Alexzandra Enger

For any dancer, especially a collegiate or syllabus dancer, competition time is hectic and fast-paced, to say the least. Between ladies waking up at ridiculous hours to prepare abnormally intricate hair and makeup, to dancing for sixteen hours without a wink of sleep, one can easily say that a competition is an exciting event.


5:00 AM
A contemporary cha-cha starts playing from my phone next to the bed, rousing me from an incomplete sleep cycle. It's time to get ready to leave home for the charter bus that will take me and my team to Columbus, Ohio, for the competition.

6:07 AM
After jumping off the light-rail train on campus, we make a pit stop at Starbucks® next to our pick up location; venti mochas all around!

6:30 AM
All of the team is here on time and ready to start loading—a first. We might actually leave the city on time this year, but I don't want to jinx it; knock on wood.

Four people insist that they have to visit the restroom. We're not stopping until noon, so we encourage them to race to the Rec Center to use the facilities.

6:45 AM
In some act of magic, everyone's back on the bus and sitting in a seat. A partner check ensues, and aside from the one rogue follow who has already made plans to fly into Columbus, everyone's here. It looks like we won't have ten people frantically calling any still-slumbering dancers in an effort to wake them up and get them here. We left on time and half the team has fallen back to sleep already.

10:17 AM
Rays of morning sun wake those of us in the front of the bus. It's clear at this point that my body has betrayed me and won't let me go back to sleep, so I fake it for a while with half-hopes of tricking my brain into going into standby mode once more.

10:54 AM
It hasn't worked. I'm still awake and I think someone's singing show tunes somewhere on the bus. We've also entered the "cell service void" that is the middle of Wisconsin. Those who happen to have Verizon silently flaunt their privilege by scrolling through Facebook® in front of the rest of us.

12:22 PM
We're in Madison! I'm starving since I was too lazy to climb over my seat buddy to get my cooler out of the overhead bin earlier. We stop at a mall and I scan the options in the food court. Sadly, there's nothing there that won't kill me. Food allergies are fun, amiright? I settle for the Starbucks® in the bookstore across the hall. It's a good thing that caffeine has a negligible effect on me or the two triple shot mochas that I've had in the past six hours might have made trying to nap later a bit difficult.

Sometime later in the afternoon:

We find ourselves in the middle of Downtown Chicago. Pro tip: unless your bus driver is basically a pro, don't try this. Our bus driver was a pro, so except for the odd rouge hostile driver sharing the road with us we were good.

6:03 PM
We stop for dinner. I don't know what city we're in now, even though I'm the one who picked it out. I know we are in Ohio, though. There's a Culver's here, so I finally get to eat a hot meal. Their wheat-free food is pretty good, actually, and is usually my choice for on-the-road meals. Once we get back on the bus, we learn that the events tomorrow will be starting earlier than had been planned, so we now have to leave the hotel at 6:00 instead of 6:30. Sleep sets in again.

10:58 PM (9:58 PM, Minnesota time)
We pull up in front of the hotel. In no time at all, everyone has their room key and is heading upstairs. Instead of going to sleep like responsible people who are planning on waking up at 3:00 AM, my roommates and I watch an uncountable number of Beyoncé's music videos on YouTube. Good decision, right? We rationalize it by claiming it's motivational material.


1:05 AM
We finally head to bed. Instead of setting an alarm, I set a timer for 2 hours.

3:31 AM
I have overslept, of course. I'm still the first one up, so I get some quality time with the awesomely large mirror.

4:15 AM
My companions awaken. I'm not very far along, mainly because I've got so much hair that needs to be tamed. Even though I got up a full forty-five minutes before they did, we all finish our hair at the same time. Time to start makeup and, feeling ambitious, I put on two pairs of false eyelashes and achieve unanticipated success.

5:45 AM
Everyone's downstairs and ready to go. We board the bus and head off to the convention center. Check-in goes smoothly, and we file into the ballroom and start preparing for Silver Smooth. We get a rare opportunity to get an early feel for the competition floor since it's empty. I stop checking the time at this point because there's exactly one clock and two outlets in the room, and aside from having no pockets in my dress, I'm trying to conserve the battery of my phone for later. Silver Smooth starts. Bronze Smooth starts.

11:16 PM
It turns out that we're getting Chipotle catering for dinner! I join the group going to pick it up. Many stares are received as five of us waltz into the restaurant with outrageous hair and makeup. In my head, I think, "I promise, we're not in a vaudeville show. Our appearance is fairly normal for us, I swear." People are overjoyed when we get back, since we didn't tell them we were bringing lunch for everyone .

1:00 PM
Latin starts right away and, since I'm not dancing Latin, I venture off to the vendor halls to try on dresses.

3:12 PM
I discover that I really, really like fringe.

4:45 PM
We're going to be heading back to the hotel soon to get changed for the evening show at the Ohio Star Ball, so I reluctantly step out of the gorgeous rhythm dress I've been wearing for the last half-hour.

5:12 PM
We change, and Tijen puts on a dress that instantly makes all the other girls in our room jealous. I realize that I don't have time to shower, so I guess I'm going to the evening show in competition hair and makeup. I won't look too out of place, I figure; this is ballroom after all.

7:30 PM
The evening show is starting, but I'm still distracted by the light show appearing on the ceiling. Latin begins. Only after we get back to the hotel do I realize that Yulia and Riccardo were dancing twenty feet from me. Standard comes on right before we get ready to leave, and I'm on cloud nine. This is what I really wanted to see. Everyone's crashing off their ballroom dance high now, so we head back and go to sleep.


4:00 AM
Time to wake up. This time, I got four hours of sleep. That might actually be a record. Repeat hair and makeup process from yesterday.

6:30 AM
Time to leave! Back to the convention center. Upon arrival, we discover that the entire ballroom was accidentally torn down last night so we have to wait in the lobby for half an hour while the convention center staff puts everything back up. We start a rumba circle dance and are successful in our attempts to convince a few other dancers to join us.

7:02 AM
We're finally allowed to enter the ballroom. Today, I start around 9:00 instead of around 7:00 like yesterday, so I'm not in a big hurry. I lose track of my phone in the black hole of shoes and dress parts that is my suitcase, so again, I have zero concept of time, and instead start going by what round of which dance is up next to tell.

First round, Bronze Standard Waltz/Quickstep
We're in the second flight. I'm itching to get out onto the floor, and waiting in the wings between dances is a special form of torture. We make it to the next round!

First round, Bronze Standard Tango
I've got a special love for Standard Tango, and I'm really happy when my partner and I make it through. We repeat the above two steps multiple times in the next two hours, and we've made it to finals! I think I've danced at least thirty times in the past couple hours alone.

Final, Bronze Standard Waltz/Quickstep, and Tango
The finals for Bronze Standard Waltz/Quickstep, Foxtrot, and Tango are all at the same time, so those of us who aren't in at least one of them hang out on deck while the others dance. When it's time to go, smiles dominate faces, concealing fierce competitive streaks and boundless excitement.

Post-Finals, Pre-Awards
The Gold and Champ Standard dancers are having their finals right now, so I run to the dressing room to change out of my syllabus costume and into an insanely sparkly dress for team match. My partner and I are dancing quickstep. I make it out from behind the thick maroon curtains earlier than I expected and have a good ten minutes to just sit in the bleachers before it's time to receive ribbons and hear the results.

Awards ceremony
There's a distinctly non-ballroom song playing, and at least three dozen couples pour out onto the floor. They do Bronze first, of course. In waltz/quickstep my partner and I got fourth out of one hundred thirty-one couples, and in tango we got second out of one hundred and two couples, so it was a pretty good day.

1:00 PM
I sit in my dress for a couple hours, partially out of exhaustion, and partially out of not wanting to take it off.

6:00 PM
Time to head home! We make a pit stop for dinner, and another for a bathroom break. I find no sleep on the bus home, so I'm awake in the dark, alone but for the bus driver, for thirteen hours.


7:00 AM
The familiar sight of the University Avenue parking ramp comes into view. In record time, people have unloaded and scattered into the wind to either go home for much needed sleep or to go to class with all their luggage and their makeup still on.

7:37 AM
After a light-rail trip, I'm home. I don't have class until 4:00 PM today, so I take a too-hot shower and sleep in a welcoming bed for a few hours, before resuming the life of a college student.