Friday, May 13, 2011
EMERALD BALL 2011
By: David Easa, M.D.
The Emerald Ball was not what I expected. Thinking this was just another competition that I would gain experience from, I didn’t exert any extra concern until I looked up my heat schedule. Wow, there were tons of entrants; much more than I had experienced in my other comps. In fact, thankfully, as I later realized much later that this comp was one of the 3 largest comps of the year, and serious minded competitors participate in this on their way to the national championship in Orlando, Florida. Thankfully - because I would have felt even more pressure and stress knowing how big and important the Emerald Ball is. Indeed, I was competing against many of the best competitors in my age group, but I didn’t realize this until it was almost over!
The venue was the LA Airport Hilton, not a bad hotel, located on an uninspired avenue on hotel row just a stone’s through from the airport. That's OK because folks come to compete, not to vacation or sightsee. The lobby was clean, modern, but cold, a few places to sit making you feel like you are in a fishbowl, and the choppy footprint suggesting that it was modified a number of times without much planning or thought. Now, dance comps are expensive enough; it was really irritating that small bottles of water were being sold for $6 at the hotel sundry shop– reminding me of the coke I bought a few years ago in Copenhagen for the same amount – our poor dollar is quickly losing value and respect! The bottle water cost pissed me off enough to send me walking three long blocks from the hotel to a gas station with a kiosk that had bottled water on sale…2 liters/ $2.50 - it was my best find of the week in California.
We arrived on Wednesday. Thursday was Latin, Friday Standard, Saturday Rhythm, and Sunday Smooth. I danced the last 3 days of the competition since I do not dance international style Latin…something I hope to add to my repertoire some day. So Thursday was a relax day preparing me for what was to come….58 separate events....spanning each day culminating on Sunday where I was to dance from 7:20AM to about 6PM! It was hard keeping up ones focus with such a schedule, but other competitors did it without much thought and so I had to suck it up. Nevertheless, the schedule was difficult enough to make me miss a good part of the night time competition - wanting to collect some sleep in order to prepare for the mental and physical challenge, but I managed to hang in there to near midnight on Saturday night as well as the full evening’s events on Sunday night.
The professional competition was amazing and I had a chance to witness the amazing skills of Victor Fung who, with his beautiful dance partner, dazzled the spectators with amazing skills far beyond other mortals giving the impression that the other competitors on the dance floor were planted there for show, just to highlight the extent of their superior skills.
The professional dancers were perfect physical specimens. The men were beyond fit, wearing makeup and with hair perfectly cropped and groomed (lucky them); the women were so beautiful and plentiful that I am beyond feeling amazed. Blond beyond blond, exquisite brunettes and other beauties with pitch black hair, perfect unblemished features, smiles and white teeth, perfect long frames, legs so powerful and perfectly shaped, etc…. But not all of them were conventional looking. One professional dancer stood out; I had encountered her before in several other comps. She was striking! Tall and thin, eastern European but tanned 4 shades too dark, her eyes were black from a generous application of shadow and her thick plastic lashes reached far from her face. She was beautiful in her own right, and a fabulous dancer but I suppose she wanted to stand out for the judges to take notice. I believe she succeeded in this goal.
Our group from Honolulu included me and another student, Maria H. Maria danced with Lucas, and I with Yanna. Now, I need to again emphasize the serious context of this competition. With between 11-12 thousand entries, and with the entrants coming from the top contender group, you were competing with the best in your age group and division. This was not just a local competition where amateurs were filling the slots to try their luck and test their dance skills and maybe even have some fun without having to travel across the planet to get there. This was the real thing.
Maria did fabulously, particularly in Latin and Rhythm and came in 3rd and 2nd in the senior multi-dance championships. She had a full schedule with day and night events and tolerated the grueling schedule extremely well. Maria deserved her success as she continues to improve over time! As for me, I was surprised by my level of success as well as my 58 dance events. I was particularly happy about my success in American and International waltz, and tango.
My dance instructor Yanna tells me a lot of things to help my dancing, very few get immediately assimilated. This is not for lack of trying, but I do not really GET it without some defining moment. She has recently been teaching me to be in the moment and not look in the distance as if I was contemplating the meaning of the universe or looking for some cosmic message. I did indeed experienced moments when I felt "in the moment" when dancing American style waltz and foxtrot and it felt wonderful and natural and my body was able to respond more fluidly and naturally. Fortunately the judges rewarded such expression but unfortunately, I was unable to extend these fleeting moments into a more consistent display. Still, it’s a start.
The other aspect I have to work on is how to react when colliding or near colliding with other competitors during the dance heat. When I first started competing, I was petrified of navigating the dance floor and the possibility of colliding with other couples and my dancing reflected my fear. Now, I am in total denial…I do not see anyone else on the dance floor but myself until I crash into someone in midstream. Unfortunately I have not learned the skill of maintaining my composure in these situations. I tend to lose my frame, forget my steps, look frightened and lose my concentration….this is horrible! Sometimes I can recover but often I transform instantly from an increasingly confident contender to a deflated blank shell. It is as if someone instantly drained all of the blood from my body and I no longer existed. More challenges ahead for this want-to-be dancer……! Hopefully, I can conquer this demon.
Finally, stay tuned for comments from my upcoming trip to Blackpool, Prague, and New York. Yes, I will be going to the World Championship Ballroom comp this year in England.....of course, just as a spectator......