Working Girl’s Guide to Comps

I titled this for the “working girl” because it’s for those dancers who try to attend comps on a budget — like ME! There are lots of very wealthy pro/am dancers out there who don’t have to do that. So … if you’re one of those, this probably isn’t the page for you. 🙂 But for those of you dancing on a dime here we go:

Riccardo-Cocchi-Yulia-Zagoruychenko-7DANCING: Of course, take as many lessons as you can afford. Group classes are cheaper if you want to supplement your private lessons. One time I committed to attend as many group classes for six months as possible. My dancing took off. But, at the very least, commit to practicing drills every day at home — even 30 minutes a day in your socks on the kitchen floor can be huge. Ask your teacher for some drills, if you haven’t gotten them already — I have no doubt they will be happy to give you some homework. If you’re in the same situation as me, there are no amateur men dancers to practice with, so the responsibility falls on you to practice by yourself. But, it’s FREE! 😉

Strictly Ballroom -- supposed to be over-the-top ????

Strictly Ballroom — supposed to be over-the-top ????

DRESSES/COSTUMES: Plan well in advance. If you are going to buy a custom-made dress it’s going to cost you somewhere between $4k-10k and take several months to come to fruition. Another option is to look into used dresses or possibly rentals. You can buy much cheaper dresses on eBay and places like that. Or, you could be one of the crazy ones, like me, who makes her own. It does save a massive amount of money, but should only be attempted if you have a little bit of the crazy in you — trust me! Here are some of my takeaways when it comes to your dresses:

1. If you feel like you look amazing in your dress it does wonders for your confidence on the floor. If your current dresses don’t boost your confidence, dump them immediately and start over!

2. Choose styles that flatter your strengths. I’ve seen many dresses on the floor that do anything but flatter the wearer.

3. Get an outside opinion. You may not be a very objective voice on your strengths and weaknesses — ask someone whose style you like to help you. Often, female teachers at the studio can be a valuable resource in this.

4. In order to stand out on the floor — and we need to since we don’t get to go to comps every other weekend and hang with the organizers and such — choose a bright color. I saw this over and over at the last comp I was at. With all things being equal, the eye does get drawn to bright reds and pinks, etc. Remember, the judge has only seconds to look around and if you’re like me, they don’t know you — you must catch their eye, and if the level of dancing is pretty equal and they know some of the other dancers, you gotta make an extra impression. I watched for this specifically at the comp — who won and who didn’t. It was uncanny. (I have to rethink my own dresses now too!) When you start winning everything and they recognize you, or you win the lottery or get a sugar daddy, or somehow end up marrying Maks or Val, etc., then you can wear whatever. 🙂

Check out my resources link for some dress ideas.

There's a place for this look -- and it's not the ballroom ... or is it?

There’s a place for this look — and it’s not the ballroom … or is it?

HAIR/MAKEUP: It’s really not that hard to do something yourself. But, you can pay to have it done at the comp, it’ll probably cost you another $150 per session. However, there are some great tutorials online which you can use to help you develop your own skills. That way, you don’t have to get up at 4 am for your appointment when you don’t even dance until 9 am. There are a lot of professionals and teachers who do their own — especially their own makeup. If every dollar counts, than start practicing. I practice some hairstyles at some of my lessons to see what would happen to them during some intense practice. I also get feedback from my teacher about them. Lessons are also a great time to test different eye liners and see how they hold up during the sweating process. 🙂

Check out my resources link for some tutorials.

This is one part of ballroom I really wish would change. Wish all skin colors would be acceptable and beautiful. If only the pros would adopt this attitude ...

This is one part of ballroom I really wish would change. Wish all skin colors would be acceptable and beautiful. If only the pros would adopt this attitude …

TANNING: I must admit that I used to do it the cheaper way — or so I thought. I went to one of those chain salons and did the stand-up booth. Those things are a comic nightmare! 😉 There are bottles of tanning solution that you can apply — but, you can’t do it alone, and you might not be comfortable with your teacher doing the dirty work — neither would he. I’ve seen several male dancers out there wearing tanning solution on their dance clothes from the tan in a bottle. Nothing like a big tan handprint on the back of a man’s white Latin shirt. My teacher has been very clear about not wanting that to ever happen to him. Ha! But, I finally asked around and found an organic spray tanning salon that was the same price as the booth. I will never go back. Spray tanning can be personalized and adjusted for different parts of your body that need extra help. A good aesthetician will work to meet your specific needs.

EXTRA TIPS: 

1. Be sure to practice early in your costumes. There could be some significant alternations that need to happen once you see how they respond on the dance floor. Things move around and need adjustment. It’s just the way it is. Plus, those dresses can be very heavy and you need to see how it feels and if you need to adjust.

2. Always have two pairs of shoes for smooth and rhythm. I have a rotation. The new ones become the competition and special ones. The old ones become my practice and social dance ones. However, I have paint pens that I purchased from a craft store to color in the insides of those satin heels that seem to get worn down so quickly. Shoes are expensive and you can keep them looking somewhat presentable if you find yourself in a pinch and need to wear the old ones. (Happened to me. Was thankful to have that back-up pair!)

3.  Don’t forget your emergency stash! What is this, you ask? It’s those things you may not think to bring, but might be very glad you did! I asked some of my dancing friends and I will include their ideas and my own:

— Safety pins (there is always someone who needs these. If a strap gives or a hook or zipper breaks, you’re gonna be scrambling for one)

— Protein bars, snacks, power drinks, etc. (you might not make it to breakfast or lunch because of your heat schedule and you gotta keep your energy up! Trust me, no place will be open when you need something quickly. It’s Murphy’s Law here. I bring those EmergenC packs for energy boosts and they work great. Much better than energy drinks, I think, no sugar/caffeine crashes.)

— Extra hairnets (this is for those of you doing your own hair. Just plan on having a new one for every day of dancing and a back up. You never know what will happen.)

— At least two pairs of eyelashes. Again, something will happen to one of those crazy lashes if you only bring one pair — guaranteed. And while you’re at it, just bring a fresh tube of glue. I use that glue for hair ornamentation as well, and you don’t want to run out! (you can use plain old Elmer’s glue for the hair pieces as well)

— Band-aids or natural colored first aid tape. If you don’t have it, you will accidentally cut yourself or scrape your foot with your heel or something really exciting like that. And I guarantee your partner doesn’t want blood along with your tanning solution on their clothes.  They just don’t.

— Bobby pins. This is a great back up plan for whatever could happen. I’ve seen girls get their hair caught on their partners sleeve or something and there are no hairdressers sitting around in the ballroom waiting to fix little accidents.

Miracle spray

Miracle spray

— Got2Be glue spray. This is probably the most amazing tool when it comes to hair. Spray this on and your hair will not move. I promise. And to get that and the glue out of your hair at the end of the night — just start with a nice blob of conditioner first. Work that thru and then go to shampoo. The conditioner causes that sticky junk to just slide right out of your hair. It’s magic.

— Nail Polish. Even those fancy nail jobs can chip. I saw an interview by Shirley Ballas and she said that grooming — all the way to chipped or not chipped polish — was incredibly important on the floor. So, just be safe in case you need a touch up.

— Ibuprofen or pain reliever. Those old dogs will be barking or that knee will seize up or the lack of sleep will cause your head to pound. Eliminating nagging pain will be in your best interest on the dance floor.

— Essential Oils (This is from me. I’m a big fan of them and use them for aches and pains and for de-stressing and calming. I also put them in my water to get me energized and focused. You can ask me if you want to know more, but I know it’s not for everyone.) 🙂

— Breath mints or gum. Wow, you’re gonna need those. No one wants to dance with bad breath in their face. Plus, it helps to keep your mouth from getting that “dry” feel from nerves. You can only sip so much water before you have to make trips to the bathroom and some of those dresses are not so easy to get in and out of quickly.

— Kleenex or tissues. Yep, that’s so much easier on your face then bathroom paper towels. Your nose might run from a weird allergy, or from exercise, or from crying because you won first place in your worst dance, and you’re gonna want them. Plus, if you’re like me, there will be sweat. If you don’t bring a towel with you, tissues are the next best alternative.

— A jacket. You gotta stay warm. I find my best dancing comes when I’m already a little sweaty. And when you sit down after dancing, you will get cold quickly and you want to keep your muscles warm — they definitely keep the ballrooms on the chillier side. Maybe your studio provides you with one of those robes or jackets. Bring it. You’ll want it for sure.

— Some extras dancers suggested: A writing instrument or highlighter. Camera. Lotion. Vodka. Headphones. Leg warmers.

— Sense of Humor. This is the most important tool. Don’t take it too seriously. competitive-ballroom-dancing-e4c2cb39c3402b5807efd2f3ce51df

This is just a beginning. There is much more, I’m sure. But, prepare, plan and then have a party. 🙂 You can learn so much at a competition. The studio owner where I take lessons says that one competition is equivalent to 30 lessons. Pushing yourself to dance up to the level of the other competitors, watching other dancers show their routines and styles, meeting other people with the same interests, attending available workshops, etc., will all grow your dancing tremendously!

This page is a work in progress … so, I’ll keep working on it!

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