Winning WSDC Jack and Jills

Winning WSDC Jack and Jills……should never be your goal!

Thats right, I said it. I’m a competitor myself, a judge, and a WSDC event director but I just said it. Don’t try to win a WSDC Jack and Jills competition! Doesn’t that seem like a contradiction? It might seem so on the surface, but lets look a little deeper and I’ll explain my point.

At my core I’m a teacher. I desperately want to educate people. I want to use my years of experience on the dance floor to make it easier for you than it was for me. I like using dancing as a metaphor for teaching the lessons of life. In life we set goals but along the path to those goals we invariably encounter set backs. We need to use our life skills to navigate back to the path to achievement. That is why I enjoy competitive dancing. Not necessarily for the win, but for the journey. Its a long game.

As competitors we practice, take lessons, learn to overcome our nerves so we can have our best performances on competition day. It’s a process, a process that we can learn a lot from. The results of the competitions are only feedback. I want to repeat that statement. The results of the competitions are only feedback. They are not even always a reliable predictor of your dance abilities. They should NEVER be tied to your self-esteem. Your competition results are just someone else’s opinion of your dancing coming from a 4-6 second window of time, hardly something to write home about.

WSDC Jack & Jills are not the 100m dash

In a foot race like the 100 meter dash determining the winner is easy. The first person who crosses the like is the winner. Determining the winner of a dance contest is far more complex at best. Determining the winner of a J&J, in my opinion that is about as complicated as you can get. There are so many variables in picking a winner. Music variables, partner variables, technique, timing, and teamwork variables all wrapped up in a scenario where a judge has 4-6 seconds at make up their minds. Yikes! Its a wonder judges do as well as they do.

Even though judging competitive dancing is inherently difficult, competition can be an valuable learning too! During the competition prep process I like to teach my students to focus on the things that you can control. You can control who you take lessons from, what type of work ethic you have and your own mindset. In short you can control yourself. You can’t control your partner, the floor, the music, your position on the floor, your judges and a myriad of other things that might affect your outcome. Determining the winner of a 100 meter dash is easy. Determining the winner of a dance contest? Much more complex.

There can only be one first place?

Why Jack & Jills are great!

At their essence, Jack and Jill contests are a measure of your social dance ability. The raw ability to take a random partner and a random song and make something magical out of it. Those magical moments exist but often times they are not predictable. In the end as we improve as dancers we have more and more good dances and less and less um, not so good dances. As you improve your overall dance skill set, your Jack and Jill results will in turn, as a whole, reflect that improvement. Just remember that you can’t take any single contest result too seriously.  A  professional poker player can’t get too emotional about one hand, and a Jack and Jill dancer can’t get too emotional about one contest. You have to play the long game. My rule of thumb for my students is 3 contests. We look at our results in 3 contest blocks to look for patterns. We use those patterns, not the individual results, to help drive our decisions on what to focus on improving.

Still determined to win a WSDC Jack and Jill?

Work on improving the overall quality of your dancing! Too many times I hear competitors ask “what do judges look for.” You’ll often hear judges say things like “Technique, Timing and Teamwork” or “Good solid basics.” Really what they mean is “Everything, everything is important’ but I don’t have time to explain everything so I’ll try to distil my answer for you into something you can chew on.”

The quality of everything is important. In novice its obviously important to have solids basics, great partnering and impeccable timing. However when looking at the winners of different divisions often times it seems that difficulty, musicality and performance seem to be valued. I tend to agree!  I also fully understand that you cannot achieve a high level of difficulty, musicality and performance without mastering ALL of the technical underpinnings that support such performances. They have it all! I mean do you think that the high level all stars struggle with basic timing or footwork or turn technique? Absolutely not.

Reevaluate your approach

So if winning is your goal, I suggest that you evaluate your approach. Take the pressure of winning off. Make it your goal to have a solid performance each time out. Create a plan to work hard outside of competition. Improve all of your skills one by one. Start with the most basic ones and work outwards. Use your WSDC Jack and Jills results as feedback as to what is working and what is not. DON’T over react to individual results. Keep working on improving and wait until you have 3 new results before you start to change your approach. I think if you do this you will enjoy a gradual stress free improvement in your dancing. Oh and guess what? You might actually win a few WSDC Jack and Jill’s competitions along the way!

Happy Dancing!

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