Deb and I drove down south for the weekend, not to go late season leaf peeping but to gawk at something entirely different. This weekend was DCDI, DC Dancesport Inferno, a regional competitive ballroom dance event held at the University of Maryland in College Park. Some 20 schools and organizations were represented from the northeast (Columbia, Stony Brook) to the south (North Carolina), which is said to be the largest representation yet, a sing of growth in the sport. There was something like 300+ couples in categories ranging from Newcomer to Bronze to Silver to Gold to Prechamp to Champion. The newbies alone had something like 100 couples registered to compete. Some schools only had one couple representing them while GWU came with something like an army of 70 dancers.
We got down Friday night and took Kate to dinner, thinking it was our best shot at having her to ourselves for the weekend. After that, as Team Captain, she had a lot of organizing and corralling to do. Sure enough, at 5:45 a.m. Saturday, she was up and activating the phone tree to make sure all the competitors were up and moving.
When we got to the competition around 9, things were just starting. They began with the Bronze competitors that comprise the second largest number of competitors, I think. Kate danced three different times during the morning and then focused on her team. She’s been saddled with the bad luck, both last year and this, not to have a steady partner that has impeded her ability to compete. Her newbies, I’m told, we scared witless at the prospect of their first dances, but most visibly relaxed after that crucial first outing on the dance floor. Also, each veteran was given a pair of newbies to mentor so there was a great deal of “mothering” going on which helped tremendously.
Basically, after a first round of one dance, say Waltz, completed, they moved on to the first round of the next dance, such as Foxtrot. In each experience category, most dancers did multiple dances so they kept returning to queue up for their next turn. Meantime, the professional judges were marking which couples they felt should move on to the next round and their numbers were flashed onto a big screen so they knew when they were to dance next, if at all. This winnowing process continued until the final round of, say, eight couples, each of who would then be awarded a ribbon during the awards portion of the day.
As a result, we were constantly watching and rooting, screaming out numbers in support. Kate was thrilled we got to meet so many of her teammates and friends but we also got to know them by their numbers. I don’t know the names of the newbies that impressed me in Latin, but I yelled myself hoarse for “214”. Since GWU was the largest school population, the cheering section proved loudest and most boisterous (we were the only seated section to perform the wave, for example). As Saturday wore on, the Emcee played to the GWU section a bit showing remarkable good humor.
The schedule was packed and as a result, things began to slip. The only breaks were for lunch and dinner and each got cut down to about 20 minutes. The Saturday event, scheduled to end around 9:15 p.m., closed down an hour after that. It helped that in two different categories there was only one couple competing so it made things pick up.
GWU had one silver couple and one gold. The gold included Loren, the former Team President, and the most accomplished dancer in the bunch. She and her partner Matt somehow found 309 hours a week to practice for months. Loren has, in many ways, acted as Kate’s mentor in both academics (thanks to similar fields of study) and dance. She was terrific to watch on the dance floor as well as work with her teammates. Her mom and two aunts came up from Durham to watch. They came loaded with tons of food for the team so during for lunch, the team could line up and receive turkey and cheese wraps. Liz, Loren’s mom, and I had identical stations set up making wraps as fast as possible to keep everyone fed and the line moving. She also brought snack bars, gum, bottled water, candy bars, bagels, muffins and so on. An amazing, supportive and cheerful family.
Sunday’s competition was much the same, although this time the morning featured Smooth and the afternoon Latin. Kate was dancing three Latin numbers which were her most favorite so we agreed we’d stay as long as possible to see how she did. The day was a fair repeat of Saturday with maybe a little less cheering and kids being a bit droopier between dances. We found ourselves seated this time around parents with kids competing from other schools so as long as no GWU kids were in the heat, Liz had us cheering for these others in our section.
Kate danced with two guys, both good friends, and she was happy with how things went, even though she didn’t make finals in her three dances. However, the national competition is coming up in two weeks, in Ohio. If things turn out well, she’ll actually attend with a partner, a guy she danced with last year from UPenn. They renewed their acquaintance during the weekend and when he said his partner wasn’t able to attend, suggested they dance together. We’re crossing our fingers this works out well.
Interestingly, even though the schools came en masse, it really came down to individual couples and their performance. No one was keeping tallies which school received the most ribbons. In the practice room, I watched as people from different schools gave pointers to one another. I also watched as the GWU bonded, cheering each other on, getting ecstatic when several of the newbie couples received their very first ribbons and seeing to it, they were looked after.
We had to leave before things wound down but had a terrific time watching our daughter in her new element. She was happy, confidant, and largely in control. There’s a lot of logistics to being the captain before and during a competition and we’re proud of her in so many new ways.