Ballroom Dance > Big Guy Has Doubts About Competing

Discussion in 'Ballroom Dance' started by ceterisparibus, Sep 11, 2017.

  1. ceterisparibus

    ceterisparibus New Member

    Hi everyone,

    Long time lurker, first time poster. I tried looking for a thread on this topic but haven't found one, so I figured I'd post and ask.

    I'm a big guy (and not big and tall, just big - think 5'9" and 280+). I started dancing about a year ago. My journey into this started with private lessons -- I had to learn one of the Smooth/Standard dances for a social event that I was attending. After the event, I found dancing enjoyable, so I stuck with the private lessons and sprinkled some group lessons on top. I find it fun and honestly, relaxing. (I enjoy my job, but it's all-consuming and takes up all of my mental energy, so it's nice to think about something else like figures and frames for a change.) I've probably lost some weight, too, although I really haven't been keeping track.

    My pro instructors recently have encouraged me to start thinking about competing. Although I'm a fairly competitive person, I'm honestly terrified by the proposition. I didn't know much about ballroom/Latin before I started taking lessons (never watched DWTS, Strictly, etc.). But when I did my due diligence and started researching competitions, I was intimidated. In my mind, ballroom dancers are tall, sleek, and elegant. I am . . . not. Even compared to amateur competitors, I just don't have the build. Plus, in my age group (I'm 29), there are probably going to be a bunch of tall, good-looking dudes. I go to a lot of formal events so I know how to look good in black tie/white tie, but for competitive ballroom, I just don't think I have the look.

    I've been working on Smooth routines (VW and Foxtrot are my favorites) with the thought of maybe competing with one of my pro teachers in the next few months. (I've done a few lessons in Rhythm and may ramp that up.) I can get through my routines just fine, although I am working on the little things, and some things just require a little extra effort by virtue of my body mass (e.g., "pendulum swing" action).

    But I really wonder whether it's worthwhile for me to compete. I'm fortunate enough to have the resources to pay for private lessons and competitions (I know they cost a pretty penny), but I don't want to go down this road if all that's there for me is a series of last-place results just by virtue of my figure and look. (And for those who are going to suggest "lose weight" as advice, please know that I've been trying for decades.) I can't tell my instructors honestly think I'm ready to compete, or if the studio (independent) is just pushing competition on me because (1) it's just what you do and (2) competition helps everyone's bottom line.

    For what it's worth, I've watched the videos of John Lindo doing WCS for encouragement -- he's awesome, but (a) I don't have his height and (b) I don't have his decades of experience, so I'm not going to look that smooth.

    Sorry for the long post and for the various insecurities. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!
  2. RiseNFall

    RiseNFall Well-Known Member

    Try looking at some of the "why compete" threads to help you think about why you might want to compete. The reasons you cite above are probably part of why your teachers are encouraging you to compete, but there are other reasons as well. I started to list some of them, but I'm just going to point you to the search function instead--I would just be repeating what you'll find in the other threads. The one thing I'll throw out there is that if you decide you want to compete, don't wait until you are "good enough" or "ready". Getting out there is part of getting ready...for the next time. ;)

    (I'm not addressing your question directly because the majority of people who compete have to figure out why they want to do it when they are not likely to win. Most of the people who compete in the Olympics know they don't have a realistic chance of medalling, but they go anyway.)
    Dance Redeemer likes this.
  3. DanceMentor

    DanceMentor Administrator

    First, welcome to our forum which was started in 2002 and has been a place where many people share their stories just like you. I think the main person that you must compete against is your current self. Everybody is too "something" right? :)

    If you believe that competing might be a way in which you could improve yourself, maybe the challenge would be the perfect thing for you to do. Of course, this is something that you must decide for yourself and it sounds like an important decision so we appreciate you asking us and hopefully you will be better for it.
    Sania and Bailamosdance like this.
  4. FancyFeet

    FancyFeet Well-Known Member

    If you've only been dancing a year and are thinking about dancing pro-am, don't compare yourself to high-level amateurs or pro dancers - they've been dancing for decades, and likely do it nearly full-time. They're elite athletes, and are NOT representative of the expected build/approach/standard for the majority of the dance community. At lower syllabus levels, you'll see a wide range of builds and levels of fitness. At the height/size you mention in your post, you will be on the larger side, TBH, but it won't be a bunch of super-fit people and you as the major outlier. I've seen a good number of dancers at 5'9"ish and about 230-250. Google for "bronze pro-am", etc. to get a sense of what's out there.

    There are sometimes ulterior motives at work when competition is broached as an option, but I say given the interest you express in your initial post to give it a try, even if only to see if you like it! Pick a smaller, friendly competition, and go in with the 'let's just see' approach. If you can dance, your size will not have an impact on your results at the levels you'll be competing. Mostly, people will just be impressed to see you out there and will be encouraging. You'll probably find that you get a few cheering you on. (There's always the odd jerk. Just ignore them. If you love to dance and have put in the work, you deserve to be out there on the competition floor just as much as anyone else.)

    And remember, if you hate the entire experience, there's no need to do it again. Competition is absolutely not for everyone. It's up to you to find the aspects of dance that you like and to build your experience to include them (and avoid the ones you don't). Your money and time = your decision on what and how much :)

    Last, I will say that appearance starts to matter more at higher levels... but if you get hooked and decide to compete regularly/seriously, your dancing and cross-training hours will go way up, which also tends to change body composition.
  5. j_alexandra

    j_alexandra Well-Known Member

    Welcome to DF!

    I can name you at least two gentleman pro-am competitors who place well, and often win, even though they are fairly sizeable guys, not skinny-minis. They started somewhere; you can, too. If *you* want it. Not your studio, not your instructors. You. If you decide you do want it? The competition world awaits.
  6. MaggieMoves

    MaggieMoves Well-Known Member

    Like others said, there are plenty of less than perfect dancers on the floor even at high levels. Competing is expensive though, just stick to a financial limit and don't exceed it.
    Loki likes this.
  7. As someone who does not "look like a dancer", I completely understand why you are uncertain if it makes any sense to compete. I agree with Rise and Fall -- it's helpful to read through the old threads about "why compete". Similarly, it helps to talk with others in your studio who compete about why they enjoy it and find it rewarding; competing may - or may not - be something that you would find rewarding. I put off doing competitions not only because I felt that I don't "look" like a dancer, but because I didn't feel like a dancer and I didn't see myself as a dancer or as "competitive" with the other dancers.

    The first time I competed it was a way to share a social experience with a friend who loved competing but, due to health reasons, wouldn't be able to for much longer. I loved that experience because I got to share it with her. My placements were pretty mixed, but my dancing was pretty mixed. I'd rushed to be able to go with her, and some dances were more prepared than others. I didn't place well on the unprepared dances. This was comforting - at least this first time out, my results seemed to have everything to do with my dancing and nothing to do with "my look". Also, as Fancy Feet noted, most people at the comp were very encouraging. No one said anything remotely negative about my weight, look, height, dress (granted I was in Bronze 1), or seemed surprised that I was dancing. I learned I could compete for reasons other than just trying to win, and it was okay not to have "the look".

    For me, I have found that I can use my performance at a comp as a measuring stick to help me understand how I'm improving-- not the results, but the actual performance. Over time, I've also used a comp as a reward to show off what I've worked very hard to learn and to share time with dance friends. I still compete pretty infrequently because the competition itself isn't a big draw for me, but it definitely has a place in my dance experiences. I'm not sure I would have gotten past concerns about "my look" and whether I was "competitive" if I hadn't had my friend's initial encouragement. If you can afford it and have any interest, I do think it's worth trying to see how it might fit into your own dance journey.
    Sania, FancyFeet and Mengu like this.
  8. ceterisparibus

    ceterisparibus New Member

    This is all very helpful and encouraging. Thank you! I do have a very competitive drive, so the inherent incentive is there.

    And as I keep telling myself, if Ed Balls (former British Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer) can make it to Week 10 of Strictly Come Dancing, I can be competitive, too...
    Sania likes this.
  9. MaggieMoves

    MaggieMoves Well-Known Member

    I absolutely loved Ed & Katya, but I think 3/4 of Ed's work was done by Katya Jones being so fricken entertaining. It definitely rubbed off on him too... but you want to do better than that. :)
    Mr 4 styles likes this.
  10. Spookisgirl

    Spookisgirl Active Member

    I have also seen examples where bigger gentlemen have competed and done well--both in am/am and pro/am. In the end, your size is a limitation you place on yourself. Don't let it be an excuse. I am also not 'built like a dancer' but I have done very well at comps (placing in top 3 for my age and level consistently), and I likely never will be. But despite that, I have come to discover some advantages from my size--including things like being very grounded and able to use power in my legs to travel more. We all have strengths and weaknesses and as you compete more, you will likely find yours--if you choose to compete. Don't let your size determine that decision for you. Make the decision based on what you want to do and dancer who you are.
    Sania, j_alexandra and Dance Redeemer like this.
  11. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

    Hi ceteris, competing always is seen as a supreme discipline, but I think social dancing also is very interesting. I´m no competitive dancer, and my dance style (argentine tango) is only sparsely competitive. So I take a different view: Isn't it as enriching to be a highly coveted dance partner at socials. Isn't it fine to have no difficulties in choosing a lady for festivals, dance-holidays, or city-trips? There is so much interesting stuff to experience in the world of dance besides the changing room.
    IndyLady likes this.

Share This Page