US Open of Swing Recap

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As I sit here watching Sunday football on a cold afternoon, it’s hard to believe that just over a week ago, Andy and I were primping and stretching in preparation for our US Open debut. It’s crazy how quickly months of prep can go into just 2.5 minutes of performing. I’m sure anyone who’s ever planned a wedding or a big event has felt the same way… so much thought goes into executing every detail—only to have it all end in one day.

That said, I’ve loved using this week to really reflect on the experience and glean as much learning as I can from it. I’m sure, though, that the lessons from this will continue to roll in as time moves forward.

The morning of the big performance…

We’d practiced together the night before, and had finally gotten the chance to rehearse for the first time on the big floor only just that morning.

For all the worrying, stressing, and ruminating I’d done the weeks and months prior, I was happy to find that on the day of the actual performance, I was calm and excited to get out on the floor. After our early morning rehearsal, I had spent the remainder of the morning pressing our costumes, gluing on more rhinestones (there’s no such thing as too many), getting my thought ready for the day, and even taking a nap before I beginning the primping process.

We had to report to the green room at 2:10pm, even though our position as 15th in the lineup made us perform closer to 4pm. In that back room, there was a piece of ballroom floor about 10 feet by 8 feet for all 22 couples to use to warm up (aka NOT a lot of space). But we made due.

Andy and I took our turn on the floor to run our routine, and for me personally, it wasn’t going so well. We kept running into the other couple on the floor, my spins weren’t coming out cleanly, and at one point I stepped off the edge of the floor and my shoe twisted off—causing my heel a lot of discomfort. All this within minutes of going out to perform. Grrreat.

I thought to myself, “This is the moment where mental training is key.” I knew that I was perfectly capable of dancing though the pain—but I also knew that if Andy and I weren’t connecting well here, it would show up in our performance. And at that moment, things weren’t looking too good. Right then, we were called to get “on deck,” meaning we were up next.

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Oh dang. That’s us. It’s now. It’s really happening.

I knew I had to shift my thought and get into game mode. As any athlete, speaker, or performer knows…it’s so much more about the mental game than the actual physical game. Get the mind right, and the rest falls in place. And, confession, “getting into game mode” for both of us looked more like some bad dancing from the “shake it off” music video. Once we’d gotten that out of our systems, I took Andy’s arm and we walked up the stairs to make our entrance. We decided to really enjoy the next 3 minutes, focusing on soaking in as much of the experience as possible. The music ended from the couple before us, and before we knew it, it was our turn. We took a deep breath together and stepped out onto the floor.

Time seemed to move so slowly out there, and as we hit our final pose, I felt nothing but satisfaction for the performance we’d just given. Because of our diligence in practicing, I felt like it was another practice run—except that we got to share it with all our friends that day. And I realized only later, that I hadn't felt any pain while dancing either. 

Earlier that morning, I’d found this stanza in a poem by Richard C. Trench to be quite helpful: “For we must share, if we would keep that blessing from above; they cease to have who cease to give: such is the law of love.” I knew that ultimately, this couldn’t be a selfish endeavor for it to be truly successful. I’ve learned that the secret to living is giving—and what a better way than to share a gift than to dance it out?

Once backstage again, hugs from friends and texts and messages started coming in right away from friends who were watching online from all over… it was incredible to feel so much support from our community (and a shout out to all those who have sent texts, messages, comments, or emails over the last week—it’s been such fun to share this journey with you!).

Post-performance emotions:

— Exhausted: after not sleeping well for over a week before the Open, I’m definitely grateful for the time to just breathe again. I’m also enjoying the fact that I now have about 50% more space available in my mental hard drive, now that it’s no longer occupied with ruminating over the US Open prep. Which also means that I can also focus on all my upcoming projects! So many fun things(and books) to come…this is only the beginning. :)

— Deep satisfaction with our performance: with only one minor error, I’m still so proud of us for holding ourselves well out there (and not choking under the pressure), and for beating the fear that tried to impede our progress and following through with this big goal. I can hardly describe how rewarding it is to take a vision like we had, and to have worked hard to make it happen. It truly was a victory over fear and the resistance that came up so strongly throughout the process.

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— Humble and inspired: I’ve shared with a few people that this experience was like playing in a D1 game as a D3 player. And while we were as prepared as we could’ve been, we knew that this would be more about the opportunity to “play” with the D1’s in the Classic Division. And although we didn’t make it into the Finals, it was equally enjoyable to cheer on our friends who did make it—and it was an incredible show of talent and hard work that evening.

Results: We received 22nd place out of 22nd couples. However, what I love about the entire experience is that the placement hasn’t affected how I feel about our performance at all! I felt (and still feel) honored and humbled to be out on the same floor as our fellow competitors that day. Sure, I’ve been tempted to feel embarrassed or ashamed of getting “last place,” hesitant to share that with people when they ask. But when I go back to the root of the experience—we knew that we’d be going up against some of the best west coast swing dancers in the world. We knew from the get go that it was more about envisioning and going after a goal that would push us into becoming better dancers and more resilient people in general. I keep going back to the fact that this experience was largely a practice in taking a vision, figuring out a way to make it a reality, and then working our butts off to make it happen. And we did! That, right there, is the victory. And thankfully, getting last place hasn’t overshadowed that fact. And ultimately, I know that this is just the first step of many in continuing to take ideas and bring them to fruition throughout my life and in my life’s work as well.

Thank you all for your support, encouragement, and interest as we’ve gone through this experience. And cheers to all of us, Living our Dance this year! Onward!