You have taken the plunge. Your coach/instructor/partner mentioned the word “competition” and you said “Yes!”.
First: remember to have fun. It’s why you’re doing this in the first place, isn’t it?
Second: Make sure you have really, really good shoes. Not only to practice in, but to compete in. You don’t want to break a (shoe) heel in the middle of your cha-cha or mid-cambio. Getting the right shoes will not only ensure your feet are comfortable, but that you are well supported and able to glide. Having danced in lower quality shoes at the beginning, I quickly learned that a high quality dance shoe feels like nothing else. It is probably the most comfortable thing in the world – and it’s got a heel. But do stick within your comfort zone -- if you’re not comfortable in a 3.5inch stiletto, don’t do it. Choose a lower, wider heel. And invest in practice shoes. Practice shoes will not only save the wear-and-tear on your competition shoes, but they’re generally a Cuban heel (or a dance sneaker) which allows for greater stability while you learn your steps. Don’t forget, however, to take at least one to three sessions to practice in your competition shoes so you can get used to them. Never step on to the floor in a shoe you haven’t danced in.
Third: You practice. And practice. And practice some more. Preparing for a dance competition is different from your usual lessons. The focus is different, the atmosphere in the studio gets more intense as others around you prepare (in a good way; the buzz is incredible). And just when you thought there weren’t any more details to look at in your tango…you were wrong. Your head might start to swim a little, but there will come a moment when it all clicks and you scream “THAT’S IT!” (true story).
Fourth: Breathe. Breathing is key. Do it. And remember: your instructor would not have suggested this if she/he didn’t think you could do it. If you’re feeling nervous or think you’re getting stage-fright, TALK TO YOUR INSTRUCTOR. They can help you. They’re awesome that way.
Fifth: Sleep. Drink lots of water. Eat healthy. Relax. This might seem like a no-brainer, but in the intensity it helps to be reminded that these are important things.
And finally: Let it go.
Yep. Let it go. You’ve spent weeks and weeks practicing for this event. In a few moments you will step onto the floor, in front of the judges. You may have nerves and that’s fine. But let them go. Don’t focus on them. Focus on the fact that you a) look more fabulous than usual (seriously), and b) you’re doing what you love, and c) you know your stuff. So get out there and dance your best. Pay no attention to the judges. Dance for yourself. Dance for your partner. Dance because you love it. This is a celebration of all that. And yes, medals are nice. But really? When you and your partner walk off the floor smiling, knowing you did your best and had fun doing it…well, there’s nothing like it. It’s a rush. It’s amazing.
Good luck. And see you on the floor.
...and don’t just take my word for it. We talked to some judges and here’s what they had to say!