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On December 7, 2012, I took part in my first ever dance competition, the inaugural Galway Lindy Hop Championships!To be clear, I’m not a huge fan of competing in dance. As I mentioned before, I don’t dance to compete, and that was partially why I was never a huge ballroom dancer. I dance for the music and the company and the fun. So when my buddy in Kilkenny suggested we compete, I refused at first. Sure, part of it had to do with saving face; after all, in most of the videos I’ve ever seen from comps at lindy events in the USA, the dancers are shazam good. Like, really. And I knew I wasn’t at that level of anything. I’m not a conscientious enough dancer, I don’t pay enough attention to technique, yadda yadda. But he was persuasive, as was another friend, and they assured me it’d be a supportive environment. It’d just be for the craic, after all. So I caved.

And so it was that I found myself being bussed to the Connemara Coast Hotel with a bunch of other dancers, most of whom I’d met along my travels through Ireland. The venue was very nice; along the coast of Ireland, they had decked out the ballroom with a lovely banner and the floor was a nice, live wood. Seeing so many familiar faces from nights out swing dancing in Cork, Dublin, Kilkenny and Galway made me feel better, although I was still nervous as heck!

I had signed up for 2 events: Jack & Jill, which is where you don’t know who your partner will be until the dance itself, and the Open Lindy–often also called a “strictly”–where you choose your partner beforehand. I was dancing with Rory, with whom I’d be dancing basically for 3 weeks straight only a short time before.

They finally called my heat to dance, and I was wildly nervous. So nervous, in fact, that although I was given 2 great leads to dance with, I totally let my butterflies get the best of me and didn’t allow myself to follow, or be creative, or basically do anything right at all (at least, that’s how it felt.)

Disclaimer: For some reason, some of these videos may not be visible in the USA. I’m not sure why…so sorry in advance if you can’t watch some of them! Also, if you’re interested in watching the whole competition–including fabulous solo charleston, great up-and-comers, and more, you can do so here at the Galway Swing YouTube channel!


Here’s my heat; my partner and I start on the left hand side and move around the floor to the back so we’re a bit hard to see…
Here again I start at the middle and then end up obscured. Sorry!

After the Jack & Jill, I felt a bit less nervous, if only because I had gotten the first part over with. Next up was our Open dance. Rory & I are in the back left! (Note: This is the video I’ve heard doesn’t quite work in all countries…)


We made it to the finals! Different from the heats, which were “all-skates” (where all the couples on the floor dance at once), the finals were “spotlights,” meaning each couple had a few chances to impress the judges with a couple bars of music a piece.

I personally felt like I did a better job when we were dancing in the all-skate. It may come as a surprise to some of you, but I’m not a huge fan of being in the spotlight for dancing, especially when there are so many amazing dancers around you watching and judging and competing! But anyway, here are our final spotlights. We completely forgot that the last song had an all-skate at the end, hence the crazy floorcraft at the end.

 


The winners were Bobb & Sarah (2nd spotlight), second place was Noel & Ciara (1st spotlight), and third was John & Dierdre (5th spotlight).

Although we didn’t place, I had a great time and I learned a few things.

Thing 1: I hate watching myself dance. Plain and simple. Ugh. It’s like hearing your voice being played back to you. Which is kind of a shame, because one of the best ways to improve one’s dancing is to watch yourself and see what you need to fix!

Thing 2: My friends were right, it was a totally supportive environment. People were clapping and cheering for everyone, and that made the event a lot more fun and not cutthroat.

Thing 3: Once you get the first part done, the rest is a lot easier. After my first dance, I was a lot less nervous, and although I didn’t perform my very best the whole time, I still managed to be proud of what I did and had a ball.

And, Thing 4, (I don’t know how many times I”m going to say this): Ireland, I love you. 

A huge high five to the event organizers, Paul Neary & Sarah McHugh, for doing a fabulous job, and to Andrew Miller, dance photographer extraordinaire!

 

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