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A First Time for Everything

Surprises at Dance Fest

By Alexzandra Enger

Back in January, my partner Jackson proposed that we dance Novice Smooth at this year’s Dance Fest. I was conflicted, simultaneously excited and terrified by the prospect of dancing in an evening show for the first time. This year would mark my third Fest and beginning of my third year dancing, and oh boy did I not feel ready to crack into open. I’m not one to turn down a challenge, though, so we began hitting our choreography and technique with extra vigor. When registration time came, we sealed our fate. Novice smooth was in our sights.

With two months until the comp, we didn’t have the time to choreograph entire routines so instead we worked on implementing specific open moves that we could intersperse with what we already knew. Some of our new moves, like our Viennese intro with the horse and cart, took lots of time and practice to get down but as things like this usually do everything worked perfectly when we stepped onto the floor. I’m the kind of performer who feeds off the crowd’s energy, so that coupled with the pressure to both perform well and be competitive no doubt had an energizing effect on our dancing.

I’m fairly certain everyone wants to win when they go into a competition, and while Jackson and I were no different our goal for novice was simply to not place last. Setting high goals is never a bad thing; having something to aim for is a fantastic motivator and reaching that goal always feels oh so sweet, but setting yourself up for disappointment is something to be cautious of. I am, at least. Our hopes were high, but as we’d never competed in open before our threshold for being pleased with our dancing was a bit lower.

When we walked off the floor, teammates and strangers alike kept coming up to us to say how much they’d enjoyed our dancing. Obviously this was a huge ego-booster and we already knew that were incredibly happy with how we did no matter how we ended up placing. We weren’t finished dancing for the night, as the team matches were up after awards for the open categories, so we occupied ourselves with changing costumes, watching the other open performances, and running over our team match material.

When it was finally time for placements to be announced and awards and scholarships presented, we joined the clump of bedazzled dancers on the floor. I’ll be honest, everything announced before they got to our category is a giant blur. When they did finally get to Novice Smooth, though, everything seemed to move in slow motion. The emcee seemed to take his sweet time on purpose, intent on torturing us all with the building anticipation. One number after another was called, but none of them were ours. I expected every single next number to be ours, and I was in total disbelief when he got to second place and didn’t say ours. Jackson and I had just won Novice Smooth. I was equal parts ecstatic and disbelieving, and Jackson had to all but drag me and my numb legs up to claim our ribbons and scholarship, graciously sponsored by the wonderful Daniel and Rosemary O’Connell.

Photos were taken and celebratory hugs were had, but we weren’t done dancing quite yet. The team match was still to come and after that we volunteers had to prep for day two of the competition. I didn’t get home until after 2am and had to be up again at 5am to pick up coffee and bagels for the judges and officials, but I didn’t mind. I’d just bottle up my lingering excitement and use that for fuel for the rest of the weekend.