Back in August, I handed out my tips for stretching your dance competition dollars, especially when you are the only student going to a pro-am ballroom competition with your teacher.
Now a few months later, I find myself feeling like the only student NOT going to competition. Competing in pro-am ballroom has gone from expensive to too expensive for me and I’m taking a forced hiatus.
In between searching for every last dollar in my budget and feeling sorry for myself that I just don’t have enough to compete, I started to feel adrift, like I was lost in ballroom wilderness.
Competitions had become important milestones for me in my ballroom journey.
They were a way to measure progress and determine where to go next. Competitions were the goals that I worked toward in each private lesson
and the reasons that motivated me to get my butt to the studio to practice on my own.
Goals are essential for any journey
They keep you motivated and accountable at the same time.
A goal is a challenge you set for yourself with a built-in reward for completing it.
Goals give you the “why” behind your actions. Ballroom dancing is no different, and competitions are great goals to work toward.
But as students, we’re not dancing or competing for a living, we’re doing it for the sheer JOY, and for the feelings of accomplishment and growth. We still work and live outside of the ballroom world, and sometimes that reality interferes with our ballroom fantasy.
After my competition budget had to be rerouted to other things, I found myself quickly spiraling down into a depressed funk. I could still afford my private lessons, but WHAT WAS THE POINT of taking all of those expensive lessons if you don’t get a chance to show off your stuff or test your skills?
Should I even continue dancing?
That last question was quickly answered with “OF COURSE!” but I recognized that I needed to find replacements for my competition goals in order to stay motivated and feel like I still had a purpose. I needed a new “why” that was more specific than “because I love dancing!”. If that was reason enough, I would be satisfied with social dancing.
I know I’m not the only one struggling to balance ballroom dreams and financial realities.
When you don’t have a specific event to work toward, it can also feel hard to justify the money spent on lessons.
To keep your dancing dreams alive and avoid getting lost in ballroom wilderness, talk with your teacher and set some non-competition dance goals. They should be goals that will challenge you, keep you engaged, and feel rewarding when you reach them. The goals should also be sufficient distraction from the competitions you’re not going to.
Here are some ideas for non-competition dance goals while you wait for the path to competition to
1) Learn a new style.
Learning a new ballroom dance style requires a new and different focus compared to building on a style you have already competed in. To date, I have only competed in American Smooth.
With no upcoming competition that would require lessons to focus on Smooth, it’s a good time to start adding American rhythm or even Standard to my repertoire. And it will be months before I feel like any new style is “competition ready,” which means I won’t be itching to test them out on the floor any time soon.
2) Switch roles with your teacher.
If you’re a woman, learn to lead. If you’re a man, learn to follow!
Switching roles will completely confuse your brain, in a fun way, and give you a fresh perspective on what you’ve already worked on. You will also find that your dancing improves when you switch back to your normal role. If you ever toyed with the idea of teaching ballroom one day, being able to switch roles will be critical.
3) Review the syllabus.
From bronze to gold, the different levels of skill in ballroom require you to know different steps. If you get a sense of accomplishment from checking things off, go through the dance syllabus with your teacher and find out how much you actually know!
Depending on your level, this goal may not take long to achieve, but it’s another one that will benefit you in the future if you ever thought of becoming a teacher.
4) Enter a team match.
Although this goal still requires some expense, these mini in-studio competitions are a good alternative goal, if you have still have a little bit of money left in your competition budget. You still get to dance in a competitive setting, but team matches don’t carry the same high cost as the big competitions. You’ll also have the chance to get some feedback from a judge!
5) Perform at a practice party.
This goal will require cooperation from your studio’s owner/manager, but it’s worth a shot! Ask if you could perform some kind of solo or spotlight dance at one of your studio’s next parties.
You’ll get the thrill and challenge of performing in front of an audience without the extra cost of signing up for a showcase or recital. If your teacher is willing and able, the two of you could choreograph something new together, or you could dance one of your competitive routines as a
Have someone record your performance, so you have something to review and work on afterward with your teacher.
Although nothing quite matches the rush you get from going out on that ballroom competition floor, there are other possible goals to work on. It sucks to feel held back because of finances, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still feel accomplished in your dancing.
Don’t give up, and keep saving those pennies!