New Level, New Devil: Unexpected Challenges We Face As We Advance

After winning a World title at the Closed Silver level in American Smooth last year, my teacher and I decided to skip Gold and move straight up to the Open division. A whole new world of possibilities opened up as the syllabus became just a starting point for our dancing, instead of the structure that our dancing had to fit into. Open presented the opportunity to be more creative and build routines that were more uniquely me.

As excited as I was to expand my dance horizons, the first few months of Open lessons were rough! I knew, of course, the choreography was going to be more challenging. I would be learning moves that weren’t necessarily defined by the syllabus or that came with fixed timing. We were going to incorporate more tricks into the routines, like runaround turns where I have one leg lifted up in the air. So my physical strength and flexibility would be tested. 

There were other challenges that I didn’t expect. For example, I didn’t expect it to take me months to understand and remember the Open Waltz choreography. I’ve always been good at memorizing routines, so I couldn’t understand why this routine refused to stick in my brain. Part of the problem is the routine kept changing. More possibilities mean more drafts. Along with the new moves, I had to learn this new process of building our routines, which included completely changing a section after I spent hours practicing it over the previous weekend.

The rules by which I danced were changing or becoming obsolete. I spent years training my body to have fantastic posture in frame. Chest up, shoulders down, head left, etc. But in Open, my upper body was permitted a much greater range of motion. One Smooth coach describes it as a scale from 1 to 10. You could fold all the way forward (1), bend all the way backward (10), be aligned vertically like in a proper closed frame (5) or be anywhere in between. My muscle memory was firmly set at 5, so when my teacher told me I should bend forward more in a move to make it bigger and more dynamic, I heard alarm bells in my head and my body fought the movement.

I had to start unlearning old rules that didn’t apply anymore. It’s similar to going from Bronze-level American Waltz, where you are required to close your feet, to Silver-level American Waltz, where you pass your feet. Maintaining that 5 in your posture is exactly what you need to do in the Closed levels, but it doesn’t make sense for Open where the idea is to be more creative and expressive in your movement.

Another surprise challenge was feeling like I was a beginner again, even after winning a World Champion title. I suppose it was a little like that feeling when you graduate high school as a senior and then start college as a freshman. Suddenly, you’re the new kid again.

I struggled with fresh waves of self-doubt as I tried to memorize changing choreography and adapt to new ways of doing things. I was a World Champion dancer, but moving into Open made me feel like a newcomer.

As dancers, we always have something new to learn or something old to improve on. The education only stops when we do. The most recent chapter in my dance education has included a lot of lessons I didn’t expect, and I’m sure there are many more to come. It doesn’t mean the old chapters or lessons are thrown out; there is just an added challenge of knowing when they will help and when they will hinder the current learning.

Have you recently entered a new level in your dance education? Please share your experience!

2019 UCWDC Chicagoland Dance Festival Recap

Alas, another weekend full of dancing has come and gone. Isn’t it always so hard to go back to work on Monday? In case you were off doing your own dancing, here’s what you missed at the Chicagoland Dance Festival.

Chicagoland Country & Swing Dance Festival Preview

This weekend, hold onto your hat and point your dancing shoes towards Chicago for the 32nd annual Chicagoland Country and Swing Dance Festival. This event has it all - qualifying events for the United Country Western Dance Council’s World Championships, points events for the World Swing Dance Council Jack & Jill swing dance registry, and it’s a part of the original Hustle Dance Tour. 

Armen Tsaturyan & Svetlana Gudyno Victorious In Rimini

And things keep changing! The third GrandSlam of the WDSF calendar year has officially concluded here in Rimini, Italy, and we found ourselves face to face with some intriguing occurrences!

Evaldas Sodeika & Ieva Zukauskaite Continue Success In Rimini

We are in Rimini, Italy, and the second day of the GrandSlam series is soon to commence, but we cannot forget about the excitement that filled the halls of the Rimini Expo Centre just last night! From a total of 148 couples, one champion couple was crowned—Evaldas Sodeika and Ieva Zukauskaite of Lithuania achieved their third WDSF GrandSlam title of their careers, making them the undefeated champions of the 2019 series.

WDSF Rimini GrandSlam Prepares Latin Dancers For Worlds

The Standard competition will kick off this weekend’s upcoming event in Rimini, Italy, and the Latin session will highlight its end. 

Italian Dancers In The Spotlight At Rimini Standard GrandSlam

And we are back! Off to Italy we travel as we come to stream live the third GrandSlam leg of the year. To be exact, we will be on the eastern coast of the country in the town of Rimini. This is the second year that a GrandSlam will be hosted in this seaside community in a country known for its art, fashion, vespas, pizza, and pasta, as well as impeccable performance in the world of competitive dance.

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Evaldas Sodeika & Ieva Zukauskaite Continue To Dominate

After a few days to reflect upon the competition in Paris, it’s time to recap the second leg of the WDSF 2019 GrandSlam series in the Standard division.

Orange Blossom Dance Festival Starts The Summer Off With A Bang

Summer is officially here, dancers! Another great UCWDC event is in the books and we are already looking forward to the next. Competitors came ready to show off their skills and it resulted in a great weekend of dance.

Top Russian Duo Earns Their 12th Latin GrandSlam Title

Armen Tsaturyan and Svetlana Gudyno of Russia have done it once again! Here in Taipei, they have earned their 12th WDSF GrandSlam title, and they did it with an air of impeccable ease. The night was theirs and they owned it.