Can you think of a time when you did better at something than you ever had before? A moment when you rose above every challenge, defeated every obstacle and saw the toughest times through to the other side!
Think of how it felt to finally break the surface of the water and get past the hardest moments when you truly thought you were going to fail.
That’s how it feels for us as we approach this 2018 Winter Showcase! With all of our fellow schools in attendance, Arrowhead is proud to see our students show with such confidence, such excitement and a deep love for the reason we are all here: Ballroom Dance.
We’ve all come down a hard road, pushing ourselves to the max to train and prepare… Teachers perfecting their craft and Students putting in the practice time to make sure they hit their goals. And it all culminates at the February Winter Showcase in Phoenix! The excitement in our studio is crazy…
From having all of our out of town students fly in to share in the spectacle, to having a great turnout of 52 energized Arrowhead team-members, we are ready!
So many of us have moments when we feel like these events are never going to happen for us. We all get discouraged from time to time. But it’s those times, when we have sunk so low, that we rise highest towards achieving our goals and pushing to new heights of excellence! It’s when we have been broken, and lost that we heal and find our way.
Without the experiences of the past year, our Arrowhead team would not be the shining star that it is today. From saying good-bye to good friends as moving out of state or job changes took them away, to saying good-bye to our past, we are very happy to show that these lessons have brought a great deal of change to our perspective in the studio.
We have greater respect for each other as recent events have drawn us closer, and we have a great deal of hope for our student’s future as they continue to amaze us with their passion, commitment and hard work! It is all these things together that make us look at each other and say with confidence that we are making this our best Showcase ever! Our loudest, happiest, most dazzling event yet!
We are bringing more energy, more passion and more excitement to that ballroom than any other studio can boast and it’s happening this weekend! There isn’t anything we can say for this, save that we are so very grateful for our Arthur Murray family, our Students and most of all, each other, for collectively making all of this possible.
Thank you, and we’ll see you on the floor!
-The Arrowhead Staff
There couldn’t be a more exhilarating experience for a dancer than to step out onto a gigantic floor, under a brilliant glow, wearing the most flowing dress… shoes feeling like a sturdy part of the feet, as though they are an extension of your body… a hush steals over the room as the MC announces the dance …and the music floods into the ballroom from everywhere, like a fantasy wind made of sound!
And if that’s too much fluff for you, you could take the more clinical explanation, which would reference such things as adrenaline, blood-pressure, cardiovascular circulation and the dizziness that comes from hot spotlights pointed at you from all directions.
Either way, you look good. ;D
It can be intimidating, in the beginning, to approach the idea of going to competitions. Many questions are brought up, and fears ignited. But there needn’t be any worry! Pro/Am Competition is among the most anticipated of all the dance events! And it should be:
- Sparkling dresses everywhere…
- Dashing suits as far as the eye can see…
- Classy Dinners every night…
- The best Hotels and service…
- Relaxing and exotic locations…
- A huge ballroom floor!
- Staff performances!
- Watching the Professionals compete!
- A whole weekend with your teachers!
- Traveling with your dance family!
What could be better? Ask anyone who has gone and they’ll tell you that the energy and excitement of an Arthur Murray Dance-O-Rama is absolutely unbeatable! The vendors alone are worth a day’s perusal, and the memories! What great memories…
Win or lose, everyone goes for their own reasons.
Maybe they want the titles, and compete with the trophies in mind.
Maybe it’s the feeling of being cheered on by such an enthusiastic audience.
Maybe we simply want to continue to make those memories, year after year.
Whatever it is, we come back, and we look forward to spending time with the friends we’ve made at studios from other states and countries. We build up one another as we deal with our own nerves and find ourselves laughing over the silly mistakes and high-fiving over the triumphs.
We cheer for each other. We hold out for the results to find out if our friends achieved their goals, and we realize something new about ourselves. Every time.
For many, it’s never been about the glitter or the fame. But about personal growth. Competitions are a unique opportunity to challenge oneself to break through new barriers and re-invent the dancer we were before into a fresh creature. A more confident more. A stronger one. Passing through round after round can transform us into faster adaptors, braver steppers and bigger performers, if we let it.
New heights we might never have pushed to can be achieved merely by the encouragement of another dancer in the on-deck area. Someone who has stood in your shoes and can smile and say the words you need to hear in order to lift your opinion of yourself and move better than you ever have before… There’s nothing like the feeling of realizing that everyone out on that floor isn’t actually trying to compete with you at all.
They’re actually pulling for you. In this Arthur Murray family, we’re all cheering for each other. We all want each other to win. And in a way, because of that fact…
…we all do.
So when you go out there, feel the exhilaration! Enjoy the excitement and let it push you to dance your heart out before the weekend is up. Grow more in a few days than in a few months at home! Make new friends, expand your Ballroom family… and come back year after year.
To do it all again.
Upon recently being asked what our personal Dance Goals are, the staff at Arrowhead Arthur Murray had many varying answers…
Future Competitions were named, new practice schedules talked about, dedication to the standard of quality we teach at our school, and many other ideas came up. But this is nothing new for seasoned dancers. Each of us know that to excel, we have to set and achieve new goals all the time to move forward with our skills. Likewise, we guide each of our students to do the same!
So, here are some common goals that come up for our students and some practical advice about how to move towards them!
- I want to feel more Graceful.
- Ballroom is one of the best sports for making anyone feel they have grace. A great remedy can be a combination of practicing the basics at a super slow pace on your own, and becoming as mindful as you can about how you move. EXERCISE: Go through simple figures and become aware of where your arms are, how straight your posture is and if your footwork is correct on every step! Move as though performing for a huge audience in slow-motion!
- It’s important to me to develop better Floorcraft.
- Practice. Practice. Practice. Dance every song you can, with as many different partners as you can. The challenge will develop your critical thinking skills and the more confident you get with the steps you know, the more steps you can add to your repertoire!
- My leg lines and feet need to improve.
- The best exercises to improve the look of your legs and feet can be explained to you by your teachers, but as a rule, foot exercises should be an essential part of any dancer’s warm-up! They not only make your dancing look better, they strengthen the ankles and knees to prevent injury. Be sure to talk to your teacher about this goal for more ways to achieve it!
- I want to feel the music so that my dancing has more emotion and personality.
- Don’t we all! The easiest way to bring more emotion out in your movement is to dance to songs that you know and love! Beats that make you sway and tap your feet, or hits from your favorite bands will always give you stronger emotions when you hear them! Make a playlist for your practice sessions and push outside your comfort zone. You’ll be shocked at how much embodying the emotion of a dance will make your lines longer and picture steps bigger.
- At my next competition, I want to win Scholarship.
- This is a fantastic goal to set for yourself, and will take a lot of planning with your partner. You’ll want to create a game-plan, decide on key points in your dancing that will need extra focus and make the time for coaching and extra lessons to prepare. Also, be sure to perform in from of as many audiences as you can to ensure your nerves don’t get the best of you.
When setting your goals, be sure to remember: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-Framed. That way you can be sure to reach your desired results as long as you focus and don’t give up!
One last thing:
Here at Arrowhead, we really care about what our student’s personal dance goals are, and incorporate them into the lessons we teach to support you the best that we can. So please share your plans and desires with us and let us help you raise your dancing to the level that you dream about!
Perhaps the greatest thing I ever heard a Dance Teacher say, is that “Stiffness Kills Dancing”.
Our stress builds up, we practice too much or too little and we get so rigid, so locked up that we can’t figure out how to be smooth or graceful anymore. Heck, maybe we never were, and we just didn’t realize it yet.
One thing is for sure, if our back is too inflexible, we can’t stretch in a line… If our shoulders make it up around our ears, and our legs get too straight… we can say goodbye to a nice head position and proper footwork!
But dancing is also the cure for stiffness, if you ask me.
Let’s face it, we dance to LOWER stress, not to increase it!!! The music, the steps, the challenge and fun all rolled up in silly goof-ups and great spins, ending in dips…
Dancing is where it’s at! Such a workout and you don’t even notice it! Calories being burned by traveling boxes and Cuban motion… all the stress of the day’s work, the weeks deadlines just melting away.
So how can we ensure that the side of this battle which we are cheering for, wins?
Here’s some ideas for tipping the balance in Dancing’s favor:
- Make a conscious decision to have stronger Heart than fear.
Ask yourself if you think Courage outweighs fear, and say yes. Because it’s true: if fear was stronger, you wouldn’t be on the floor in the first place, would you? So ask yourself again, and answer with conviction:
Your Heart is stronger than your fear.
- Give the movement all you’ve got. Attack it!
Say to yourself you’re gonna try it the crazy way, full-out, just once. Just to see. And then really go for it! Push, drive, swing as far as you can! You’ll be surprise the reaction you’ll get from your ‘stiff’ body, and the difference your partner will feel!
- Tell whomever you’re working with that you’re serious today.
If you need accountability, tell your partner that today’s practice you’re really going to focus on letting go, getting outside the barriers, breaking down walls and everything else standing in your way of shaking off the rust!
- Be patience with your body. Listen to it and find new ways around challenges.
Sometimes you will push yourself in a direction or through a step, and no matter what, it still feels awful. Don’t let yourself blame your body and it’s ‘problems’ for it; there’s nothing wrong with you. There are, however, two options here: ONE, you can try changing the way you’re doing it, ever so slightly to find a variation which feels better, or: TWO, you can seek out advice from a dancer you trust who can watch and help explain to you what they see that can be improved or done differently. That way, instead of hitting against the same brick wall over and over, you can find a way to climb…
- Put on the most motivating music you can find. Something you can’t stand still to.
Nothing loosens up a body full of stiffness like a good song and sweet vibrations! Find your inner hippy, gangsta, fighter, ballerina, star or Blackpool finalist by digging the music you’re listening to. Try songs that make you imagine yourself on the biggest, grandest floor you’ve ever seen, striding confidently across it with comfort and ease… maybe put those headphones in and shut the world out to get in the right mindset.
- Dance by yourself and break all the rules you’ve learned. Get loose, then go back to practicing with a new flexibility in mind.
Once in a while, every dancer should shake off the rules and dance only what they feel! If it’s figures and steps, fine, but do them against the LOD, with more turns, different timing… get funky with it, or add in lyrical movement and different styles mixed together. Get out of the rigid ideas of ‘This is a _____ step’ or ‘the timing is _____’. Let expectations go and just move to the music.
Following these tips when you get stuck will help you to shine new light of stiff muscles and reach past the stress! You have to let Heart win. Let yourself try things that may not work! Ask questions you’ve never asked and learn through the stiffness, what you can do to release even the most stubborn parts of your spine.
If we’re fighting a battle between rigidity and fluid motion, we may find that changing our mindset to follow suit goes a long way towards achieving the win. So remember to let new ideas or odd inspirations have their due. Be a little silly… or a lot. And give yourself the chance to be freer in your mind, so you can be free in your body, too.
If you’re a part of the class of dancers who live for the large floor, sparkling colors and flashy performances, you might go through something like this around an event like Showcase:
The Build Up
You set your goal of being everything you can be. You visualize it. Imagine the music, the storey-telling. Plans are made, excitement is soaring: you look forward to everything about that day (or days) and can’t wait to live in each moment!
Making the steps and the connection feel right is hard, and you may worry that stagnation is creeping in on your piece of art, making it not everything you wished it could be for this occasion, but your partner or teacher tells you it’s going to be alright, that it will all work out. You try not to be nervous.
In the last and final practices of your routines and dramatic finishes, you find those big moments finally making sense! The dips land right, the lifts are smoother than ever before and you finally figured out why that one trouble spot in the routine felt off (and corrected it)! Flying high, you can’t wait to see everyone’s faces as you take your bow and walk off the floor…
This is the part of your event story when you regret that the idea of performing ever even entered your mind and you want to go back on everything you’ve ever said about wanting to get on that floor. Dancers of all levels experience some degree of this emotion before each performance. Even the best can sometimes have it the worst, but no matter who you are, nerves are a part of the dancer lifestyle. The important thing is to remain calm and focus on your work of art! After all, you’ve prepared well. There’s no need to let fears get in your way.
Ahhhhhhhh, the stomach dropping as the music from the rutine before you fades away. The sensation of wanting to run screaming. The embarrassment of being in front of so many people. Being convinced that your routine or show-piece isn’t anywhere good enough for this crowd. Then, deciding to dance for you and your partner and falling into the familiar flow of your chosen music. Getting to the end without breaking anyone’s leg or falling down, and bowing to actual applause! It’s over! Feeling so thankful when you finish with a flourish and everyone is clapping.
So many emotions after its all through! Congratulations from people all throughout the rest of the night, some you don’t even know! Hugs and handshakes from dancers you respect and train beside. Happiness. Joy. Gratitude. Giddiness. The desire to do it again… Everyone laughs with you about how much fun this whole night is and what craziness it took to prepare and pull off! You’re so happy your piece is over and you get to relax and enjoy in a whole new way.
Much as you want to talk about your performance all night and day, your fellow dancers have experienced their own achievements being realized and their own fears faced, some for the first time. You have to come down from your high a bit to listen and support them in theirs. It’s the good-sportsmanship in you, besides; they supported you, too!
After a long and harrowing distance, you’ve achieved a goal, reached a dream, checked something off the list and really accomplished something extraordinary. You feel great, and everyone around you feels great. It’s great. You take a deep breath, as it starts to sink in. It’s over .
The event is in the past. The pictures will immortalize it forever. The videos have already been watched a dozen times in two days. Normal life is pushing in on you with it’s… normal-ness. You miss the lights. The tablecloths. The glamor. Normal life is kind of dull, at least visually. You look around your workplace, but your mind is still glimpsing images of swirling dresses and expanded frames… echoes of catchy quickstep music still replay in your head… You think to yourself that you should have done a quickstep, two… maybe next time. Sigh, but next time seems so far away! You wish fervently that you could have a night like that every weekend! Dazzle the audience every time with your spins and points! Why do events have to be so amazing and then… be over?!
To be perfectly honest, these are feelings every earnest dancer goes through. Whether they dance for a living or just for fun, they have to navigate these emotional peaks and valleys.
Handling these stages might look something like this…
The Build Up : Set a goal that is in your heart. Something you truly desire to work for. Dream with passion and vigor.
The Work : Take this project seriously so as to not waste you or your partner’s time. Be a fervent worker and practice .
The Breakthrough : No matter what, focus on the good. Use the moments when it all comes together to propel you further forward into a better challenge! Always move forward.
The Fear : When you want to quit, say this to yourself: “I’ll quit after.” Works every time.
The Performance : Let go of the people watching, don’t worry about who sees what. Just dance with your partner and love every second of it! This is what you showed up for.
The High : Remember to accept everyone’s words with positivity. Be courteous, thank them, don’t go on and on about how awful you think you were because you’re embarrassed about the attention, just be polite and gracious. Enjoy your personal win!
The Handoff : When your fellow dancers have taken their bows, make sure you give them the same glory they gave you. Tell them what you liked about their dancing, and make their moment in the spotlight as awesome as yours!
The Rest : Once it’s all said and done, you can enjoy the general glamor of the event. Take the time to think about why you love these performance opportunities. Watch the transformation of the dancers around you as they gain in confidence and experience. You were once like them. This is a wonderful way of growing and becoming the dancer you always wanted to be. Rest and appreciate everything around you. Be in the moment!
The Crash : There is only one cure for the depression which follows the end of a big event. One single cure for the sadness, loss of direction and purpose which engulfs a serious dance-lover… Another Build Up, and a new plan for your next performance.
So set up your next plan! A new goal! Don’t let the crash get you, but instead use it as a way to push on towards your next big high… and another great achievement.
You’re in the On-Deck area when you hear the music fade out and clapping sound. You take that deep breath that doesn’t necessarily settle the nerves in your stomach. You straighten your posture, feel the connection to your partner, even if you don’t look at them; you have their hand and they have yours.
You step out onto the floor. The room is called to a silent focus. On you. The judge in your sightline is already watching you. The shimmering skirts rustle around for a moment and come to rest in their places. Each of you has less than two minutes to dance, which could seem like a lifetime, or only a breath, but few precious seconds will determine your placement with the judges. Better make this the best round of the night.
How do you deal with Pressure?
Does it make you upset? Anxious? Frustrated? Fearful?
Why do we face it? Again and again? Why do we walk onto the ballroom floor and stare down our greatest challenges? Even terror?
Why do we come back?
This past July, Our friend Elena faced the competitive floor with both nerve and desire. Entering a competition that is the largest in Arthur Murray, and rivals some of the biggest in the world. She battled dozens of other women in her category, not to mention plenty of internal conflicts with emotions and exhaustion. Why did she do it…?
What did she get in return, other than the obvious victory and honor that came along with winning the Associate Bronze Scholarship and the Top Female Student Award in Associate Bronze?
Upon reflection, she had this to say:
“What did investing in Unique do for me and my dancing? Really, Everything I needed! It humbled and inspired me, grounded and exalted me, energized me when I thought I had nothing left, and only left me wanting more! It is the beauty of competition with the camaraderie of team sports, a chance to meet friends and create mentors, add to the bond in partnerships, and learn things you never could without it: How to appreciate and love everything you and your incredible instructors and amazing coaches have worked towards. Best of all, it’s a chance to dance your heart out, like no one is watching, while making connections with everyone around you!”
Pressure, it seems, didn’t make Elena anxious or fearful enough to prevent her from running headlong into one of the best debut competitions she could have hoped for. No, it has made her Strong. Resilient. Determined.
When you want to succeed at a Competition:
We all get caught up in comparing ourselves to others on the floor, but in order to be our best, sometimes we have to put blinders on. Block out the other competitors, choose to feel like you’re floating on the floor or soaring in the sky, but don’t notice anything about those dancers swirling around with you.
Be your own best friend and remember to do two things for you and your dancing:
- Forgive yourself when you make a mistake, and
- Congratulate yourself on doing a good job.
If you can be honest about your weak spots and still celebrate your tiny victories, you are on the road to greatness! It’s like all those inspirational quotes you might see as you scroll down your newsfeed:
Look in the mirror.
That’s your competition.
Stop competing with others.
Start competing with yourself.
It’s all true. The moment you begin to dance as though you only want to be a bit faster than last round, or slightly smoother than before, you’ve already gone miles beyond the person who’s looking over their shoulder at the dancer they envy and feel is better than them. All of the sudden, there is no other dancer. There is only you and your partner on this floor, spinning, turning, rolling in and back out and landing the dip on the perfect note!
The music is faded out. You present to the audience. Bow and acknowledge your partner. You know everyone saw the difference in your dancing from before. You can hear it in the cheers and clapping. You walk off the floor with a silent knowledge: that you competed with your old self.
And you won.
That’s how you walk on and off a dance floor and Dominate.
The choice you make to compete isn’t really that difficult. Even if you’re only a little curious, it’s worth trying it, just once. If only to experience what it feels like to decide who you’re competing against (yourself), and totally flatten them! Every single time.