After a week of drama in Nashville, “New World Champion” sounds pretty good!


Worlds was a Roller Coaster Week

My Worlds Buckle, bag and jacketFor those who like it brief…  First the two big bits of news:

1. My dance partner and I won the Couples Silver II division and we are brand new “World Champions”

2. I won a spot on the US Team to attend the WDSF World DanceSport Games to be held in Kaohsiung, Taiwan in Sept 2013.

Those of course would be a couple of “high spots” on the proverbial roller coaster.  I had fun, of course but since when has my life ever been a drama free zone?  Hmmmm?

Well, friends, neighbors and all eight of you actually reading this, let me give you the play-by-play.

Day 1 – Sunday the 30th

Southwest Airlines Painted Postcard on wall in Nashville TNIntended to be a relaxing travel day, the Cowboys unexpectedly, some would say miraculously, made it to the very last game and almost made the playoffs.  Why? you ask,  does this matter?  Especially to a NON-sportsfan like moi?  Well, it doesn’t.  But it matters to my roomie who was booking the flights and thus travel plans had to be re-arranged to accommodate the game time.

We arrive safely in Nashville, get to the Gaylord Opryland and I go to the practice room where I meet some awesome dancers from South Africa and my roomie goes to the Sports Bar.

After 3 hours of practice mixed with some meet & greet for me and 3 hours of watching the Cowboys make fools of themselves for him, we meet and head off to our .5 star accommodations at the EconoLodge.  You did notice the “.” in front of the “.5 star” right?  Hey, I’m on a budget!  OK!  Dance lessons aren’t cheap ya know!

Day 2 – Monday the 31st — The DanceGames / Olympiad

Days Inn in Nashville TNDon’t fret, I’m not really going to tell you about every meal we ate and every bump in the mattress…  Considered it, but hey, that isn’t “drama” that is “drudgery”  *grin*.   And it is all about the Drama!

There were of course lots of things going on at Worlds, but this is Worlds as outlined by Tony which of course means that I’m hitting the highlights which were on the top of my VIP list.

After we moved from the EconoLodge to our usual “Days Inn” which is about two blocks from the Opryland, (don’t ask why we stayed in two hotels…I did say “drama” didn’t I?)  Ahem.  Moving on…

WDSF World DanceSport Games…Monday was the Dance Games, also known as the “Olympiad”, a precursor event to getting DanceSport into the Olympics and qualifying event for US citizens wishing to gain a spot on the US Team headed to Kaohsiung Taiwan in Sept 2013.

Every national team selects its team members differently and this particular event was how some of the spots on the US Team were to be selected.

I was ready, I was psyched, and I got to the Gaylord early to do a bit of practice and…. [cue the foreboding music please] …of course, there was drama.

As I was walking to the practice room, I noticed that my left knee felt stiff and sore.  Back in late Nov, getting ready for Christmas in Dixie I had strained the knee.  I was able to dance Dixie, but when I got back home I had to go on a “light dance” practice schedule for two weeks to allow it to recover.

I got to the practice room, stretched, warmed up and started running my routines.  The Smooth dance was great.  The Rise and Fall gave me some problems but I was able to get through it.  Then.  Da, da, da, DUM!  The Pulse, as in lilt, as in Polka, as in bouncing, as in LOTS of bouncing, and fast bouncing was NOT pretty.   Ugh.

Graphic showing knee in pain and staging revolution against ownerMy knee proverbially pulled out the pitchfork, flaming torches and started the revolution right then and there!  So, I switched to Cuban…. Same story second verse….my knee just was not going to be happy doing either of those dances.

Ok, I tried the fifth and final dance, a fun “Novelty” dance called “Your Disco”.  All going well until beats 7 & 8 where there are these two hops.   Can we say “Hell no?!”  Well friends and neighbors, my knee said it just fine.  And I heard it loud and clear!

I have to tell you at that point I was within an inch of just cutting loose and bawling.  I can not describe how much I wanted to win a place on the US Team.  And here, the day of the competition had arrived, and my knee is buggin’ out on me?! Aaaaaaaaiiiiiiiieeeeee!

So, I tried, “running” the dances again, this time babying the knee, trying to dance the dance without stressing the knee.  No-go.  Houston, we have a problem.  These dances are NOT easy dances.

They have spins and turns and crosses and jumps and… let’s check out this sample of the Pulse called “Thrill of the Chase” to get the idea.  The video is from a competition in Korea earlier this year.

See what I mean?  After trying for another hour, I eventually decided that unless they slowed the music to a crawl, and just let me “walk” the dances, there was no way I was going to be able to dance it.  Even if I did manage to get through the dances later that day, I would be running a real risk of aggravating the injury and jeopardizing my ProAm and Couples Competitions later in the week.  But if I scratched all the line dances but the Smooth, then maybe with rest the knee would recover enough to be able to dance those other divisions.

I went to the awesome Mr. Bill Robinson, the US Team Coach and told him the bad news.   He asked me if I could do any of the other dances in addition to the Smooth.  I told him “I can do the Rise & Fall.  It isn’t pretty but I can do it.  And I’ll have to do a sweep instead of a ronde, but I can get through it”.   Here is a video of the Rise & Fall from the same Korean competition:

Screen Bean Jumping for JoyLittle did I know that in the very next instant, the Roller Coaster which was “Worlds Week”, was about to move from the lowest point of the ride and head back up into the stratosphere.

Bill looked at me, and in what will be permanently branded into my memory for the rest of my life, said  “If you can do two of the dances, you qualify for the Team.”

I bet he didn’t know I could shriek that loud.  Or give such a good bear hug.

Well, he learned both.  Instantly. *GRIN*  I went from being on the verge of tears and ready to just crawl into a hole or bottle of whatever the bartender had closest, to being the happiest guy on the planet in zero point one seconds.  Shazaam!  My entire week had just been made!  Woot!

I almost kissed him, but that would have started rumors and there would have been scandal…

Advanced Line Dance Worlds 2013Ok, when my feet returned to planet Earth, I knew that I could still win a spot on the US Team.  Now I just had to dance those two dances.  And I did.  To my credit, the one dance that I was able to full out at my normal level of dancing, I took 1st Place!  Woo Hoo! 

Although, by scratching 3 of the 5 dances, I gave up my chance at a medal in the Olympiad, I still won a spot on the US Team by placing in the other 2 dances.  Yeah Team Tony…  Uhmmm… Team USA! (with Tony on it… *grin*)  China here I come!  Yeeeee Haaaaaaawwwww!

Day 3 — Tuesday, Advanced Male Line Dance Classic

Advanced Male Novelty Open and Teen Divisions Worlds 2013I had signed up for three divisions of Advanced Line: Silver (50+), Diamond (40+), and Crystal (30+).  I went to the practice room the next day and tried out the knee, better but still not up to speed.  Again I faced the choice between “dancing through it” or playing it safe.  I decided to err on the side of caution.  After all, while deciding to scratch the line dance was difficult and not a lot of fun, it only affected me.

Blowing out my knee would affect my fellow am students and my coach.  Between her three students she had a real shot at winning Top Teacher.  She came in 2nd which with only 3 students is awesome!.   And on Friday and Saturday, I had my couples competition.  In other words, in line, there was just me; in the other divisions my decision would affect other people.  So, I scratched 3 of the 5 dances in each line dance division.

Again, in the one dance I was able to dance “at full strength” I placed very well, taking 1st in Silver, 1st in Diamond, and 2nd in Crystal, against an awesome dancer from South Africa who took 1st in Smooth and 1st overall in that Division.  Bravo!

Day 4 — Wed, Rest Day

Opryland hotelAfter practicing late on Wed, I decided to drop all of my Polkas in the ProAms the next day.

I calculated that the pounding on the knee would not be a good thing.

So I watched lots of dancing and let the knee rest.

Day 5 — Thursday, Intermediate Male ProAms

ProAm Intermediate - Waltz - Worlds 2013Just for the record, the next time I sign up for FOUR divisions of ProAms, somebody shoot me.  Ok?  Just put me out of my misery before I even get started!  Ok, ok, I had a blast, but by the end of the morning I didn’t know if I was coming, going, or dancing.  Four Divisions is just too much DRAMA, even for moi!

A big HUGE round of thanks to the Floor Co-coordinators Earl and Lisa, both of whom came and rounded me up a couple of times as I lost my way and lost track of which heat was up and pretty much lost my mind in general.

I felt great all the way through Triple Two, Night Club, Cha-Cha, Waltz, and Two-step, then….

ProAm Intermediate - East Coast Swing - Worlds 2013Da, da, da, DUM [cue the ominous music] I faced the “East Coast Swing”  and there friends and neighbors I learned exactly where the injury in my knee was located.  OUCHIES!  I made it through, but my West Coast was not all that awesome because my knee was hurting, literally, from the pounding it took in the East Coast.   Still, I made it through.  Four divisions of seven dances each for a grand total of 28 dances for the day.  Woot!

I took 5th Place overall in Open (18+), 5th Place overall in Crystal (30+), and did not place in the top five in either Diamond or Silver.  *sigh*   The Intermediate Male ProAm is a TOUGH division.  These guys can dance!   I know most of these guys and count them as my friends and let me tell you these gentleman have worked hard this year and they deserve their placements.  Just to be on the floor with them is a thrill.   Well done guys!

So, my strategy of scratching line had worked.  I was able to dance ProAms.

Day 5 – Advanced Ladies ProAm and Intermediate Couples (Silver 50+)

My awesome dance partner Donna had to dance in the Advanced Women’s ProAm division (dancing two age divisions) in the morning then she would have a four hour break before dancing couples with me.  She did awesome!  Placing 3rd overall in both of her divisions.

Intermediate Couples - Worlds 2013With my most awesome dance partner now the proud owner of two top five finishes and headed off to the room for a much deserved rest, I *gasp* walked through my routines on my own.  You don’t realize just how much import lies in that simple statement, so let me tell ya.

In seven years of dancing, I have NEVER been able to “walk through” my couples routines on my own.  I have to have a lady there.  I am so visual that I have an extremely difficult time going through the routine without my dance partner present.  I was amazed when I discovered in the practice room that I had acquired the ability to do it.  And I’ve done it a couple times since.  Finally!  Other guys have been able to do this for ages, but not I.

This was a GREAT omen!  Flash forward to the assigned “warm up” times for couples.

No fabulous dance partner in sight.

Ok, don’t panic.  (but she’s NEVER late)   Don’t think about how Tony is always the one one running late, never Donna.  She’s late she’s late she’s late, good thing I was working on polka because the rhythm was perfect.

R1-05477-022AOk, the DJ has now played Triple Two and Polka, and Night Club and still no dance partner.  Eeeek….  Nobody I know has her number and my cell is in my dance bag in the main ball room.  Do I go call or just trust her to be there?  Eeeeek!!!!  Visions of of dance partners at the bottom of stairwells were flashing through my head…  I mean Donna is *never* late.  Have I mentioned that my awesome partner is always on time, (well, very very very very rarely is she late and she calls when something’s up, but cell phone… ballroom… inaccessible…. EEEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeeeekkkkkk!!!!!)

Then like a sunrise over Mt. Fuji, like the sun sparkling on the entrance of the Louvre in Paris, like the rainbow over Niagra Falls, she arrived.  Ok, so I was a little nervous.  Sue me.   Uhm did I mention that she’s almost never late?

But the rest of the day went awesome.  We danced very well.  Only the Polka was rough because it was the newest of the dances we’d put on the floor and we hadn’t practiced it as much as the others.  But all the others went fine with little or no problems.  I felt that all the dances were solid and that they were, at least from my viewpoint, they were the best I could put on the floor.

R1-05476-0029-editedFlash forward.  There were seven couples in our division.  They acknowledged individual dances in the top five for two of the seven couples.  Then, called the fifth place couple.  Not us.  They called the fourth place couple, again not us.  We were still in the running fro one of the 3 top spots.

Here I have to give you some background.  I have four friends who also dance and compete and they are in the same division as my partner and I.  And I know how hard they’ve been working this year.  I know how hard Donna and I have worked as well.  And all of us are just about neck and neck in terms of skill level.

On any given day, toss a coin as to which of the three of the couples place first when we all go head to head.  Each of us this year have been on that top spot on the podium at least once this year.  And all of us have improved over the course of the year.  These are my friends and I’m proud of how well they’ve done this year.  So I was fairly certain that unless there was something unexpected that the three of us would be vying for the top three spots.

Shock and aweThe fabulous Jennifer Jefferies called out Third place:  Ron and Joan.  Then she called out Second place: Greg and Tylene.  And that’s when I knew.   We had gotten it.

Check out the look on my dance partners face.  My roomie had the camera pointed at us awaiting the results.

Shock pretty much sums it up.  I thought we had a shot, IF we did our job, but I also know how hard my friends had worked.  I knew that no mater what, the contest was going to be close and depend very much on what the judges saw and when.

Here is the best part.  After the awards, and the photos, and the presentations, and all the hugs and all the kisses, you get your “scores” which breaks it down as to who placed exactly where, right down to the individual judges marks.

And, [drum roll please] there was a three-way-tie for first place!

They had to take it out to a tie breaker and after the tie-breaker, only 1 point separated each position.  3 points for 1st, 4 points for 2nd and 5 points for 3rd overall.  Wow.  That basically means that 1 judge looking at the wrong spot at exactly the wrong split second, decided this contest.

I am so thrilled for my friends because I know how much effort goes into this and I’m proud to have been in a three way tie for the top spot with them.  Rock on!  🙂

Day 6 — Intermediate Couples, (Diamond 40+)

This was a TOUGH division.  We placed a dismal last.  *snif*  Where’s the booze.  I need to drown my sorrow.

All kidding aside, the other couples were awesome and I had a great time dancing with them.  And talk about a proverbial kick in the pants and providing some added motivation to work harder this year, well that I got in droves!

Highlights from the “rest of Worlds”

In no particular order here are some memories that stick out in Tony’s weird and wacky brain:

  • Watching my fellow Teammate receive his Gold Medal and hear the US anthem play during the Olympiad and vowing to myself that when September comes, I’ll be “uninjured” ready to go, and in top form.
    ..
  • Watching the other flags and anthems play and realizing that this is really happening.  Dancesport is really going to make it into the Olympics!
    ..
  • Team South AfricaMeeting the awesome folks from South Africa and making new friends: Portia, Sipho and Johan.
    ..
  • Watching the lovely young lady from South Africa dance who was dancing in her own universe and the rest of us were privileged spectators.   When she danced, she glowed.
    ..
  • Renewing friendships with the ladies from Team Japan.
    ..
  • Watching a teen from the UK who at the beginning of her Waltz looked a wee bit nervous but as the music started transformed and danced one of the most beautiful waltzes I’ve ever seen.
    ..
  • Watching friends of mine in the Crown Couples Division dance the most amazing inspiring Waltz.  It was simply magical and breathtaking.  When they came off the floor they were surrounded by people applauding them.
    ..
  • 408623_10151358625767240_401619161_nWatching the Open Advanced Men compete in line dance.  Wow.  What can be said?  These guys are awesome.  After the classic competition on Tuesday, two of them were poised to move to the Superstar division.  Whoever won the Advanced showcase competition on Thursday would graduate to the highest level of our sport: Superstar.  I’m glad I’m not a judge because these gentlemen danced their hearts out.  There was nothing left back in the dressing room.  An amazing performance!
    ..
  • Fighting with the Starbucks vending machine. Loosing.  Having to walk what felt like a quarter of a mile down the hallways of the convention center to find the next closest coffee machine. Have I mentioned I’m not a morning person?  And that I’m addicted to caffeine?  Hmmm?
    ..
  • Meeting Kendall in person, who I first met “online” via YouTube because I spotted her video of the line dances that we were both learning.
    ..
  • Trying to learn to pronounce another half dozen foreign names correctly, and probably messing them up.  But I tried.  (This one is for you Joachim – *grin*)
    ..
  • Watching the Superstar competition.  OMG!  When I grow up I want to dance like that!

    ..
  • Meeting the most delightful couple on Saturday night during the Show and Masters Competition who had seen an article about Worlds in the Nashville paper and decided to come watch.  It was so much fun meeting them and sharing this most awesome sport with them.  It made it even more fun for me answering their questions and explaining some of what was going on.
    ..
  • Meeting dozens of people at the Opryland who were there for other conventions who were hanging out at the entrance to the ballroom and giving the low down on what was going on and telling them about the discount entry ticket so they could come on in and watch.
    ..
  • The video crew chair dancingWatching the synchronized arm waving and dancing the video crew did between heats.
    ..
  • Listening to Rob Glover and Jennifer Jefferies, the most awesomenest MCs on the whole planet.
    ..
  • Putting on my “World Champion” jacket for the first time after they finished the embroidery.
    ..
  • Standing on the top spot, realizing that all that hard work had finally paid off.  Three years of practice, and lessons and effort and realizing that the just inches to either side were some my best friends in the world.
    ..
  • Having not one, not two, not three, but FOUR Pros/Judges pull me aside and give extremely valuable feedback.  The coolest bit was that all of them said exactly the same thing AND it matched what I had already identified as my biggest area of weakness which needed work.  It was extremely gratifying to hear from the proverbial “horses mouths” (hmmm…not that I”m calling these awesome peopple horses or anything like that, and what is the plural of mouth anyway?)Moving on…  So, I already had a plan to fix what I had identified as my biggest problem area before I came to Worlds.  To hear these talented individuals tell me I was on track is priceless.  I can not adequately say how much I appreciate them, the time they took to speak with me and the contribution they make to our sport.  From the deepest part of my heart “Thank you.”

And of course there is more.  It was such an awesome week.

The World’s Bug(s)

Google Flu Trends mapOn Thursday a lot of us started having this little “cough” in the the back of the throat.  Just a nagging little tickle.  Nothing uncommon when you get a lot of people in a group like that.  Add in a dash of stress, allergies, and changes in humidity different from home and voila, lots of coughing.

Little did I know then what I know now.  The whole US was kicking into it’s busiest week of the Flu season.

By Friday, the cough was stronger but nothing too bad.  After all I danced and snagged a World Championship title that day!  By Saturday though the cough was so strong and persistent that I begged my roomie to find a gift shop and buy me some cough drops so I could get through the comp without coughing my lungs out on the dance floor.  At that point, I didn’t think I was coming down with anything.  I just thought it was allergies.

Sick with the fluI make it through the end of the competition, but the East Coast and West Coast were not quite up to the levels of the day before.  And I’m still coughing.  Enough so that I start to wonder if I was coming down with a cold.  That’s when I started hearing buzz around the dance event that there were several dancers who definitely had caught cold and that the TV was saying that the Flu was spiking across the US.  After awards, I got a bite to eat and that’s when I felt the fever coming on.  By the time the Show and Masters Competition started at 7, I definitely was sick, but there was no way I was going to miss the show.

Saturday night, we made a pit stop for more cough drops and some cough medicine. The next morning, Sunday, there was no doubt about it.  I was sick as a dog with a very high fever.   We got home, and the bags got as far as the hallway and my body made it to the bed where I was down for the count for the next four days.  The fever finally broke on Tuesday but made a brief comeback on Wed.  Finally gone for good on Thursday, but since then “nagging cough” and icky drainage have been having their own party.  *sigh*  Having been through this once before, I know that the cough will be around for at least another week.

So, that was Worlds.  Tomorrow I’ll share my “plan for the new year”.  The short version is that this is going to be an awesome year!  And tell you about my first day in ballet class.  Short version, it was awesome.

See ya on the dance floor!

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About TxCowboyDancer

Eight time Country Dance World Champion. I love to dance. In the middle of a journey, transforming myself from "unemployed and out-of-shape" to "in-shape and full time dance instructor, writer and graphic artist."

Posted on Sun, Jan 13, 2013, in Misc and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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