So I did the thing this weekend, and it is still pretty hard to wrap my head around. About 4 years and 10 months ago, I found my first dance style in the form of this thing called "West Coast Swing". I just hit a milestone that, when I first started dancing, I thought would never be obtainable in my lifetime. I officially qualify for the All Star division.
This is going to be just a dump of my thoughts on the whole thing. It might get long, it might be boring, so feel free to keep scrolling, but if you keep reading I hope you at least find it enlightening.
I want to start off by saying I love the new format of the rules (2018). I know it is not perfect, but I think it is a big improvement over what it was, and it is really nice to have clear guidelines. I fall right in the middle of qualifying for All Star but not yet forced out of Advanced. I have put so much thought into this exact situation (because I have been hovering just short of it for quite a while now) and I have really just been trying to figure out what is best (which of course changes from day to day). For those of you who don't know me super well, I am an engineer both by career and at heart. I am very programmatic and I love my numbers and percentages. I actually post of a lot of my personal data here http://www.kylelapatin.com/competition-results(this is my old site and a new one is in progress thanks to Elyse Laferriere but no release date as of yet, but it will be epic).
This is going to be a story, because it all matters to my reasoning. If you don't care THAT much you are welcome to skip to the TL;DR at the bottom ;).
When I started dancing, I was not in love with dance. I did it because I was dating a girl who did it, and I really enjoyed the environment, the people, and the music. About a year into it, I did learn to love the activity of dance but I still didn't identify as a dancer. It has actually been a fairly recent thing (within the last 2 years for sure) that I started to identify as a dancer (and to this day I still struggle with that title). Athlete, Technician, Engineer, and even Leader are much easier for me to relate to, but as others have pointed out to me many time, I am also a dancer.
Fast forward to when I entered advanced: I was super nervous competing with all of these people I literally looked up to since day 1. I had a ton of success to start (I was almost 2/3 through in the first 4 months), and I started mentally preparing for the next division. I started really pushing myself in all areas of my dance, and I started slowing down my success (which I expected and was fine with). But there came a point where, what I was feeling, and the results I was seeing, started separating and I started getting really confused. With confusion came frustration, and with frustration came doubt. And that is where I have been for almost the last year. In a division I was originally very successful in, I started having trouble even making finals. Everyone started asking "aren't you in All Star yet?" or "wait, you didn't make that final?" and everything started snowballing. I would watch my videos from the past and I could see clear improvement, so why weren't the results showing it? I sought out teachers, mentors, judges, tried to learn more, tried to work harder, but I am sure everyone who has competed in this scene understands to some degree how unclear the answers can be.
I really can't thank my coaches, teachers, mentor, friends, and girlfriend enough for the support they have given me. If it wasn't for them and their kind words, I would have definitely given up and possibly left the scene all together.
So here I am with 48 points, but only a 55% final rate in Advanced. I know that doesn't seem too bad, but since (and including the) last Summer Hummer I only have a 45% final rate. I do not really like the idea of leaving a division I am making finals less than half of the time, to move to a division I will likely be making finals much less than that. Not to mention, when I do make finals in All Star, spotlights are regular, and I would really love more spotlight experience in a division where I am less expected to perform, and perform well (Advanced).
Fortunately, I had some real light bulb moments this weekend, almost all of which were just internal/mental. I am really considering the pros and cons of competing in each division. The things I that make the most impact on my decisions are: 1) Am I truly ready? I want my partners to be happy they draw me (just like everyone else) 2) I need more spotlight experience, and I would rather get that in a division I am less pressured to perform and entertain the audience 3) Finances - costs definitely matter, and some events offer discounted or free passes for All Stars 4) Confidence issues - I have for a long time had confidence issues and the last year hasn't put me in the best place for that. I would love to stay in Advanced a little longer, but at the same time, what if I struggle to make finals just as much even though I could be dancing in the division higher?
I have to take a minute to call out my coaches who have made huge impacts on my dance (both physically and mentally). Order from oldest to newest (how long I have been working with them): Jordan Frisbee Tatiana Mollmann Courtney Adair Sean McKeever Alyssa Glanville Robert Royston There are definitely so many more who have helped shaped my dance even more, but these are my biggest influences.
Here is my decision for the rest of 2018 for competition plans for the events currently on my calendar: Atlanta Swing Classic - All Star Swingin' New England - TBD (leaning All Star) DC Swing eXperience - Advanced (assuming I have not gotten an All Star point yet) New Year's Event - Advanced (assuming I have not gotten an All Star point yet)
By this point, depending on a lot of things and possibly the above results, I will probably pursue 2019 100% in the All Star division.
If you made it this far, I just want to thank you for reading. I do not think there is enough transparency in our community, I would like more of it, and this is one of the way where I am trying to contribute to that. But I really have to thank Kristen Shaw for a post she made a while back about her competition journey. It is really easy to get caught up with where someone is right now in their dance without realizing where they have come from. I have literally every video I have ever gotten from every competition I have ever been in on my website, because I want my friends, my students, and even just any new dancers that know me, they can (and should) aim higher than me (regardless of background, or current skill level).
I do have to say, the things I like most about finally getting to this position I am in, is that I am hoping it opens a few more options for me to help make an impact on the community (example - I get to participate in ASC's ambassador and newcomer programs by signing up as an All Star, and programs like that really mean a lot to me). As much as we all hate these titles, most of us realize that in some situations, they are very much used for judgment. I have already started deejaying and teaching more, and I am looking to expand that in the future, as well as pursue some judging (whether that be mock or official). If you know any event directors looking for new/young deejays, instructors, or judges, and you are a fan of the things I am doing, please send them my way.
Thank you for reading, and looking forward to dancing with you!
-WCS is my first dance, and in just under 5 years, I went from a non dancer to the All Star division -I've been having a bit of a struggle lately, just like I know every friend I have talked about about this dance has had at some point -I have really great coaches, inspirations, and friends -My division plans currently are, ASC-AS, SNE-AS, DCSX-Adv, NYE-Adv