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From the Windy City to the City of Firsts

By Audrey Haugen

Five words that sum up my weekend at the Chicagoland DanceSport Challenge–NQE:
dance, dance, dance, dance, dance. Okay, realistically: dance, fun, dance, laugh, dance. My point? I danced a lot that weekend, had a ton of fun with my teammates, and wouldn't have had it any other way. This was my first time attending a National Qualifying Event, and it was just how I imagined and hoped it would be.

Friday was spent last-minute packing and driving for six hours from Minneapolis to the Windy City. Walking into the hotel was definitely one of the highlights of the trip for me. It was one of the most beautiful hotels I had ever seen, and I was "geeking out," as they say. Don't believe me? Just ask my teammates. After checking in, we went to the ballroom and watched the professionals dance in the evening session. Following this amazement, my roommates and I went to our room, listened to music, played around with different ballroom hairstyles, and eventually decided to sleep.

Feeling ever-inspired by the elegance witnessed the evening prior, I went into the Saturday morning Smooth session with excitement. I was focused on the goal of making it into the final round. My partner Josh and I danced the best that we ever had that morning, and sure enough, we got into the final round. When we saw our number appear on the screen, I almost cried. Yep, that happened. I was struggling to contain my sheer glee. Then, to top off the whole experience, we placed fifth in Bronze Smooth! We also got a ribbon, which should not go unnoticed. While there will always be room for improvements, I could not have been happier with our performances.

Saturday morning came and went, and we went out on the town to see the "Bean" and eat dinner. Nothing beats eating "real" food after a day of dancing and consuming protein bars in place of breakfast and lunch. Following our excursion in downtown Chicago, we spent the evening watching more dancing.

The evening competition was filled with beautiful gowns, elegant hairstyles, and incredible performances. I will never forget some of the performances that we watched on Saturday night at the "Pro Show". Women in gowns dripping with Swarovski crystals and graceful floats, along with men in well-tailored suits, floating, swaying, and gliding around the floor. I can only hope that I didn't leave a puddle of drool on the floor from my jaw being dropped for so long.

Following this ineffable experience, preparations included eating lots of dessert and watching videos in preparation for our next day of dancing…because that's what dancers do to relax.

After a few hours of sleep, Sunday morning came bright and early, and we were back in the ballroom hitting the boards again. Bronze Rhythm treated Josh and I very well as we placed third, which gave us a tricked-out "necklace," a.k.a. A medal! We were ecstatic, to say the least.

Going into the afternoon session of Standard, it was time to focus once again on our goal and to both our surprise and delight, we made it into the finals in Bronze Standard as well. We went back on the floor and gave it everything we had remaining. Ribbon status: achieved yet again.

After many pictures were taken, tons of makeup scrubbed off, and bags repacked, we were on the road again; (cue that classic Willie Nelson song). Six hours in the car were filled with long conversations, Mad Libs™, jokes, stories, and general merriment. Though arriving back home Sunday night was nice, it meant that I was no longer making memories of that amazing weekend; all I was able to do was think of them with fond remembrance.

If all goes according to plan, I will see, "The City of Firsts," in a few months for the Baltimore DanceSport Challenge. "Good Morning Baltimore" from Hairspray will be my alarm clock song each morning and I could not be more thrilled about that! But, in the meantime I will just dance, study, dance, sleep here and there, and dance some more. That way, when it's time to leave for Baltimore, I will be all prepped and ready to dance, dance, and dance some more.