If you've been following the "private lesson quandary" thread, this will be familiar. I competed for the first time at the BC Dance Challenge last weekend, novice Jack and Jill division, West Coast Swing. It was awesome and I'm worried I might get hooked on the rush. But I get ahead of myself. It always starts like this. My body never gets nervous until the last minute. I'm sitting at the ballroom thirty minutes before the competition time and my palms are tingling. I felt the same way when I first played music in public - my muscles jitter and it feels like my extremities are crawling with ants. Oh ladies, if you knew what a bundle of nerves I was… Everyone else in the ballroom was social dancing, sizing up potential partners and, I assume, potential competition. I was twitching in my seat, front and centre. A woman walked up to me and asked if I wanted to dance. She was my salvation and my doom. Aphrodite and Venus, my Valkyrie made flesh. I had no idea who she was. What's a gentleman to do? "Of course!" I said. This is social dance, and my rule is – never turn down a dance. Once I was on the floor, it was wonderful. No nerves, no worries, just the swing of the music and my partner. And then, the song was over. I realized I needed to keep busy, keep dancing. I thanked my saviour profusely, then I looked for a friend who was also competing. I danced with her. And then someone asked me to dance. And so on. Don't stop, don't think. And then it was time. They called up twenty followers first. My buddy elbowed me and commented on the followers he wanted to draw. Me? I was in a haze. I barely remember my name being called. I just remember lining up with sixteen other guys and then being separated to the side with half of the ladies and half of the men. Three songs, three partners. I watched the first group dance. They were good, too good. I would have started to worry, but there was no time. Our group was up. I apologize that there are no epiphanies to be had. I was advised to stick to the basics and do them well. I can't even remember who I danced with to the first two songs. They were wonderful partners and I'm sure they would kill me if they found out I forgot. Ladies, I may not remember your names, but I will always remember the dance. The last song was "Man of La Mancha", and I love it. Better yet, I drew an old salsa friend. If the first two were wonderful, this was beyond that. My partner knew exactly how to play me and draw me out, and she did. We took risks, we played with each other. I wish I danced as well with my first two partners. Afterward, I felt down because I knew I could have danced better. Danced more, I dunno. I felt like I held a lot back - that was my strategy, but it felt wrong somehow. A friend and I went out to eat before the variety show, then came back about 30 minutes before. We were talking with a local instructor when he offhandedly commented that the results were up. We looked at each other, paused, then ran for the finalist list. My jaw dropped when I saw one of my friends on the list - he said that he was pretty sure he didn't make it, and he actually had LEFT the event for the night already. I scanned down, and my jaw dropped even further when I saw my name. I let out a whoop, grabbed my friend and hugged her tight. I practically vibrated with glee. After congratulating the other finalist who was there, I made the happy call to my friend who had left. That was extraordinary. The next day, I was socializing with another guy finalist, and he said that we all get at least a point. Huh? I apparently earned a place on the WSDC competitor registry. Hmm, interesting. I think that's pretty cool, and from how he says it, I think that's a good achievement. Then he commented that the finals would be judged on a per-couple basis, not individually. What? Uh... so that means I can drag my partner down? The enormity of my achievement (and my responsibility?) just crashed down on me. I knew most of the followers on the list, and trust me, I'd hate to disappoint any of them. When I sat down in the ballroom before the finals, everyone else in the ballroom was social dancing. I talked to the friend that had left last night, and he said something that made complete and total sense to me. He said, "I'm going to bust out all my moves today. Hey, it's not like they can eliminate me anymore." It was weird - like a veil has been lifted. Or maybe it was just me waking up. I've been holding back, but now I guess it's time to have some REAL fun. Luckily, I drew the same partner I got for the last song yesterday. Yes, "Man of La Mancha" girl. As the music started and I botched the starter step slightly, a wave of panic coursed through me, but I suppressed it and kept going. And then I was just social dancing with her. Sure, I probably butchered some of my technique. But I had fun out there - and she was playing with me. The moment I remember distinctly was I was walking around her, intending to swing her out as I hear a phrase end coming. She looked at me while I was walking around, and I realized that she was in a perfect position for a spin. Cue an assisted one-leg spin (hell, I don't know what it's called), a check, and into a tucked turn in time to hit a cymbal crash. That was no choreography, and I loved her for that. I was there for the awards ceremony, and I knew I didn't place. The other guys were far too good. But, I danced the way I wanted to dance, and it turns out later that I was at 7th place, right behind two friends. I really can't argue with that - we had a good laugh about it afterwards. All I can say is, onward to Seattle's Easter Swing! Let's see if I can't do better next time.