Dance Scores Can Deliver a Gut Punch But Don't Mean Failure

By: The Girl With The Tree Tattoo | Katie Flashner

I had just given the best performance of my ballroom life. It was the scholarship round for pro-am Closed Silver American Smooth at last month's Embassy Ball in Irvine, CA. I felt strong, balanced, and in tune with the music. I was having fun and feeling fantastic!

When we finally lined up for the results, I focused on my breathing to calm my nerves while my teacher and I waited to hear our number called. After placing second and third in my single dances, I thought for sure I was in the top three again but also prepared myself to get fourth. There were very good dancers whom I had not competed against before. I didn’t want to be caught unprepared and feel disappointed.

“In fifth place, couple 128…”

I smiled big and walked up to accept my envelope and line up next to the sixth- and seventh-place couples. Fifth? I focused on keeping my face looking happy and grateful and not at all like I just got punched in the gut. I was confused and disappointed. I just danced the best I’ve ever danced, and I placed even lower than in my single dances? Lower than I’ve EVER placed in my three-plus years of competition? What happened? What did I do wrong?

I didn’t do anything wrong. I did dance my best. It felt like an amazing performance and my teacher agreed. Our performance isn’t the only thing determining results though. There are a hundred variables that are out of our control when it comes to judging. The placements will not always reflect how well I danced. 

This issue affects everyone, from the top professional to the newcomer student. Judging in ballroom dance is subjective because ballroom dance is an art form as well as a sport. How well you dance is not the only factor determining your results. Do you have a good connection with your partner? Does your costume fit you and your on-floor persona? Are your hair and makeup done well? Are you showing off, oh I don’t know, a full back tattoo? 

This conundrum of our results versus our performance can be hard to process. My internal demons were on it at Embassy. 

“You danced your best and you still weren’t good enough.”

“Guess you’re a top dancer only when the ‘real’ top dancers aren’t around.”

My bruised ego fed right into my deepest fears about my dancing. The problem was I was trying to correlate two things that don’t always correlate. My ego was connecting my results only to how well I thought I danced and disregarding all of the other variables out of my control.

After I let my ego nurse its wounds for a bit, I realized my result didn’t really matter. I mean, it matters because I’m competing to win. Everyone wants that top placement. We’re human. We have egos, and why enter a competition if you’re not aiming for first place? It’s not the only goal, though, and certainly not the primary one. I danced my best and I felt amazing doing it. That’s the higher goal, and in that, I excelled. 

I may not always get the results I want or hope for, but I won’t stop trying. My “best” at Embassy was not my peak. As long as I keep working to improve my dancing, I will be successful. I know it’s cheesy, but I believe it: Your only true competition is the person you were yesterday.

About the Author

Katie is known as the Girl with the Tree Tattoo because of the tree of life tattoo that covers her entire back. Through ballroom dancing, Katie has discovered who she really is and what she is capable of, despite the demons of fear, self-doubt, and anxiety that live in her head. She shares her experiences on the Girl with the Tree Tattoo blog and in her book series, "Dance Diaries," with the hope that she will inspire and enable others to overcome their fears and become more confident and joyful ballroom dancers.

The Oregon Doctor Whose Dances Went Viral In The Best Way Possible

As we know very well here at FloDance, there is nothing in the world that brings as much hope, inspiration, love, and human connection as dancing. Even in the midst of COVID-19 and the difficulties that this global pandemic has caused, people are still dancing. And there's nobody who has demonstrated that better than Dr. Jason Campbell, who practices at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. 

Why Dancing During a Pandemic Is Important, Even If It's Tough

The coronavirus pandemic has stranded all of us in our homes, and for dancers, that's especially difficult! We like to move, sweat, rehearse, perfect our routines, and express our creativity with our bodies. This whole lockdown thing is almost making that impossible.

Keeping Up With Your Dance Training

Being sick is the worst! Being sick when you’re a dancer is the ABSOLUTE worst. Not only do you feel horrible, but you also can’t do what you would normally do to brighten your mood—dance! Now, as many of us know, the same could be said for staying in quarantine.

2020 UCWDC Country Dance World Championships Recap

Wow, dancers! What a way to end the week! The 2020 UCWDC Country Dance World Championships started with some wonderful dancing by the ProAm divisions and this year, the competition included over 6,500 entries! It just kept getting better and better as we moved into the Couples and Line Dance events, finally culminating in mind-blowing performances by the Classic Masters group on Saturday evening. 

The Best Time of the Year: 2020 UCWDC World Championships Preview

It’s time again for the UCWDC Country Dance World Championships, friends! Held at the beautiful Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville, Tennessee, next week promises nonstop dancing in the form of workshops, daily competitive events, and nightly social dancing. Dancers, amateur and professional alike, from around the world have been preparing for this event all year. Some will be competing at Worlds for the first time, while others are returning to defend their titles or try for a second title at a new level.

Two-Steppin' Down Santa Claus Lane

The final competition of 2019 is officially complete, which means Worlds is just around the corner! Couples who qualified to dance in Nashville at the UCWDC Country Dance World Championships are surely making their final tweaks and adjustments and preparing to compete on the biggest stage in country western dance.

Dancing in Dixieland

Happy Holidays, everyone! This weekend will mark less than two weeks until we find out if we made it onto Santa's Nice List. Can you believe it? Here at FloDance, we’re taking a break from shopping and gift wrapping to attend Christmas in Dixie, the final UCWDC competition before Worlds! That means it’s sure to be an exciting weekend.

A Dress Rehearsal for Worlds: Recap of 2019 Dallas Dance Festival

One sign of a well-run event is one where a lot can go wrong behind the scenes without anyone attending the event ever noticing. During the awards ceremony at Dallas Dance Festival, one of the organizers, Dave Getty, shared how the dance floor went on a little adventure before finally arriving at the hotel much later than scheduled and how they finished setting up the ballroom with only 30 minutes to spare before the doors opened on the first day! Aside from a few sleep-deprived staff members that morning, you never would have known without him telling the story.

A Dress Rehearsal for Worlds: What to Expect in Dallas

Happy November dance fans! The weather is getting cooler, the days are getting shorter, but the dancing just keeps ongoing. Things are heating up in the dance world as we get closer to the Country Dance World Championships, held in Nashville, Tennessee on December 29, 2019, through January 5, 2020. There are only a few events left where dancers can qualify to compete at Worlds, one of which is the Dallas Dance Festival happening this weekend.

30 Years in ABQ: 2019 New Mexico Dance Fiesta Recap

While most of the country was experiencing cooler fall weather, things were heating up in Albuquerque this past weekend! The 30th anniversary of the New Mexico Dance Fiesta included some amazing dancing and close competitions.