Archive | November 2011

Warwick Competition

Surprisingly, when you consider how I was completely dead to the world last Monday, I was actually able to leave my room after another competition! It took a lot of willpower, but I had some pretty big incentives (namely that I have two essays due by Thursday and knew that the library would be the most efficient place to study).

Thank goodness that the coaches left at 7:45 am for the Warwick competition that was actually in Birmingham instead of at 5:45 like last week. I was actually able to see daylight before we hustled inside the ballroom! I was really nervous for this competition. Dan and I learned a brand new quickstep routine in an hour on Friday, practiced it for another hour on Saturday, and expected to perform it on Sunday. Some would say stupidity, others would say confidence, I would say masochism. But all in all, we both feel like we danced the best quicksteps we have in a competition yet, so it didn’t matter that we didn’t place πŸ™‚ We also tied for 7th with another Oxford couple for Waltz which means we didn’t make the finals for that either. We were honestly surprised because we felt like we danced very strongly, but you can never be sure of what the judges are looking for. Needless to say Dan and I are going to work our behinds off in Ballroom until the next comp. Well, we’ll be doing the same in Latin so basically we are just extremely motivated to work really hard.

Latin went better than ballroom. I switched dresses this week because after looking through the photos from last weekend, I realized justΒ how short my dress was (oops) and that it wouldn’t show any hip motion so a new dress was a better idea. At least I now have a super awesome dress to wear in general! With tights of course. I was more worried for Latin than Ballroom because after we looked at the tape of last week’s dance, Neil completely corrected my technique. Now normally that would be a good thing, but because of the holiday last week, I didn’t have the chance to get more feedback from Neil on how the new technique was working. So I was basically going in blind. And freaked out. And nervous. And thanking my lucky stars for Dan being cool and collected. After we made it through the first round, I stopped freaking out. I figured that if my technique was really horrible and I wasn’t doing what Neil told me, we wouldn’t have been marked. So obviously Neil was right as always. Even more evidence…we finaled in Cha Cha and Jive!!!! We didn’t final in Cha Cha last week so Dan and I were over the moon. Looked like it was going to be a Latin day! With the support of the entire main team telling us how great our Jive was looking, we went out on the floor and had a blast, ending up 5th in Cha and 3rd in Jive πŸ™‚ And securing a spot on the Oxford F team again which made the first division in the Team Match πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

Now at first I was a little sad because I felt we danced a lot better than last week yet we placed lower. Then I remembered that Cambridge, Cardiff, and Imperial were all at the competition this weekend and weren’t last weekend so it was a much harder field to compete against. And Dan and I hadn’t practiced together all week. And it is often a matter of subjective judges. And it doesn’t matter…we had fun and felt like our dancing improved and that is the important part.

After all the awards were given out, the room went crazy with more Macarena, conga lines, cha cha slide, Grease songs, Time Warp, Cotton-Eyed Joe…the list goes on and on. It’s awesome how we can all just blow off steam as an entire dance room and have fun together. Then it was time to sit out in the freezing cold waiting for the coaches back to Oxford. By 1:30 am, I was in my nice warm bed, showered, motivated, and ready to bring on 8th week. I can’t believe it has passed this fast already. Paris in 5 days, home in 9, and I’m already homesick for Oxford.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM!

Mom, before you read this, grab some tissues just in case. Everyone else, I apologize for the sappiness.

So obviously, today is my mom’s birthday. Because I’m in England I won’t get to spend it with her for the first time, and by the time any card I’d send her would get to California, I’d already be home. But that won’t stop me from thinking about her all day.

I really do have the most amazing mother in the entire world. She is the most important person in my life, and for good reason. She has been there for me through everything in my life, happy or sad, good or awful, calm or dramatic. And she never stopped showing me that I was loved and safe. I don’t think that most people really appreciate how important that can be. But sometimes, just the knowledge that one person out there loves you unconditionally can be enough to get you through hard times. And I had that knowledge every day of my life.

Now, a lot of people say that their parents are the best, willing to do anything for them. But no one compares to my mom. I’m in awe of how generous she is, how she is the first person to help someone out, how she does not judge people for anything, how she holds our family together, how she loves my dad and with him has given my brother and me a warm and stable home, the list goes on and on. And she really has done more for me than anyone can possibly imagine or understand. I don’t know what I would do without her.

Mom, I love you so unbelievably much, and I wish I could be there today on your birthday, but know that I am thinking about you and miss you and am so incredibly thankful to have you in my life.

❀

Thanksgiving

Yesterday was a little bittersweet: the first Thanksgiving away from home, but my college was kind enough to put on an English version of an authentic American Thanksgiving dinner for all the visiting students and our tutors. While definitely not as good as Thanksgiving is at home surrounded by my family, it was a wonderful substitute to sitting on my own all night moping in homesickness (well, I would’ve had Latin rehearsal, so I’d have been moping there).

We started with drinks in the Principal’s Lodging, which was so crowded that half the time I was literally standing in the fireplace. Don’t worry no fire was in the grate. Then we went down to the Old Dining Hall for a Thanksgiving Feast, generously cooked by our head chef. Of course, he is very insistent on maintaining his gourmet reputation when it comes to formal dinners, so it wasn’t quite an authentic dinner, but it was still relatively close and everything was tasty. Having the food mostly pre-portioned on our plates prevented the majority of us from ending the night with the traditional massive food babies in our stomachs–though some of the boys still ended up in food comas and I have no idea how! The best part was definitely the delicious pumpkin pie with vanilla bean cream…sooooo good. Probably the best pumpkin pie I’ve ever had (Sorry, Mom).

After dinner, we had some entertainment. Sam sang a beautiful mashup of “Somewhere over the Rainbow” and “What a Wonderful World” and then I did 1 minute of Cha Cha on my own because I couldn’t find a partner. Not an experience I want to repeat in the near future. Luckily, no one there knew any better, so they didn’t realize that I forgot my dance and my feet fumbled all over the place! Then we sang a few songs, which was a little weird but apparently the Brits love to sing, and indulged in some Winter Pimms or Apple Cider in my case.

Overall, not a perfectly traditional Thanksgiving, but I still got to spend it with my friends (and the principal because somehow I ended up sitting next to him) and my Oxford family, so it was a wonderful substitute. Happy Thanksgiving!

Post-Essay Lethargy

It happens three times every two weeks: the “I just finished an essay yesterday and have no motivation to work today” syndrome. It gets rather annoying actually, but annoyance doesn’t make me any more likely to gather the mental strength and work on another paper. Usually I can do it if I am in a library, but not in my own room.

Yes, I know the obvious solution is to walk to a library, but yeah…today I’m a little too lazy even for that. My room is just extremely cozy at the moment and the weather outside does not look fun. So I guess instead I should just accept that no homework is getting done for the rest of the afternoon and indulge myself with yet another lazy afternoon. MaybeΒ I can read oneΒ article…and maybe not.

Maybe I should just live in RSL and then I’ll always be productive! Haha

Nottingham Competition

Head’s up, this is a longer post because it was a super eventful day, but it’s worth it I think haha

I’m pretty much useless today. I’ve spent the entire morning passed out asleep, I can barely focus on walking around much less cleaning my room or dong homework, my feet ache like no other, but it was totally worth it!

Yesterday was the Beginners Ballroom Team’s first competition at Nottingham University! The day began with a miserable 3:30 am wakeup to shellac my hair into a bun and cake on makeup, including false eyelashes that I haven’t had to wear since my previous dancing days (and let’s be honest, half the time I didn’t wear them then either). My hair didn’t move the entire day though so I guess it was worth the no sleep. Then I met one of the other girls who lives on my street outside and we walked to where the coach was picking us up, at 5:15 am, in complete fog. The walk normally doesn’t seem that long, but it is when you are carrying a mini suitcase full of dance clothes and shoes and supplies and work that you haven’t admitted to yourself won’t get done. And the whole grocery store of food shoved into a tote bag as well, can’t forget that fun part of the weekend.

The beginners all piled onto a coach and headed for Nottingham, barely recognizing each other with the crazy hair and makeup. We made a short pit stop for breakfast and were in the competition by 9 am.

We had about an hour to finish getting ready and warm up before the competition was to start with Beginners Waltz and Quickstep first round. The beginners all line up and are divided into 5 heats of about 15 each. The first round didn’t really cut out that many people, I don’t think. I lost count of how many rounds we did total per dance, but eventually it gets down to 2 heats for quarterfinals, one heat of 12 for semifinals, and then one heat of 6 for finals. But going back to the start of the comp…

Waltz was our first dance and Dan and I (couple # 269) were in the fourth heat. Our waltz was really clean and on time, especially when you consider that it was our first ever time taking the floor in a competition! We weren’t really nervous because it’s waltz; we both felt comfortable enough to make it through the first round as long as we stayed on time. I think we may have had a minor collision, but when you consider how many BEGINNERS are in a single heat, collisions and traffic jams are the rule not the exception. Quickstep round 1 was another story. For some reason, I completely panic at quickstep. Maybe because it’s the one dance I had never ever done before, maybe it’s because I can never seem to hear the timing, I’m not sure, but it is the only dance that I forget my choreography and how to follow and how not to trip over my own feet. This is where I become the luckiest girl to have Dan as my partner. The guy was amazing. He kept us on time, mumbled out the steps to me so that I could follow along, maneuvered us around people and got us back into the dance when I would stumble. He was incredible! Any success in that dance was 100% due to him.

Dance after dance after fiasco of quickstep after waltz, our number kept getting called back. We had some breaks in between as they would do heats from the Novice, Intermediate, Advanced, and Ex-student competitions as well, but it literally seemed like every other heat was a Beginners’ qualifying heat. Almost every single couple from Oxford made it through the first two heats of both dances! And as the couples were whittled down, Oxford’s percentages got higher and higher. Which is pretty amazing when you remember that the other schools have a 4 week head start on us as our term begins so late. Then it was time to announce the beginner ballroom finals for waltz and quickstep…4 of 6 waltz couples from Oxford and 3 of 6 quickstep couples!!! And for me, at least, the shocker of the entire day…Dan and I made BOTH finals! Yes, even the kiss-of-death quickstep! And luckily our last quickstep was our best, as was our waltz, and we ended the ballroom portion of the day right before lunch and got ready for Latin (results are all done at the very end of the day so we had no idea what we placed, we were just happy quickstep was over).

Some of the Beginners dressed for Ballroom

Onto the Latin half of the competition.

Dan and I were not really nervous for Cha Cha or Jive. Cha is the dance we have practiced the most and the two are the ones we have the most fun doing, and since fun is the whole point of the day, we stressed less about the Latin dances and how we would do in them than we did in ballroom (ok, than I did. Dan was cool as a cucumber all day). The Latin portion works the same way as the ballroom, whittling the couples down until there are finals of 5 or 6. As expected, we had a complete blast dancing our two routines. I know Neil will probably tell me that I didn’t use my knees enough, and people on the team saw a judge or two put us through to the next round because every time I raised my arm, my dress raised too and exposed my shorts (thank goodness for conservative dance spandex!). So not all dance judges are gay. Though we may need to put Dan in tighter trousers to get the gay judges on our side as well. And it was awesome to watch the more advanced levels as well. It gives us something to aspire to. Then we had semifinals in both dances, and in Ryan Seacrest form, the current amateur Latin World Champions did a demonstration performance in a long commercial break before the announced the final couples.

Cha Cha

Thanks Ryan Seacrest for doing that all the time and giving everyone else the go-ahead to do it to.

The demonstration was incredible, and then it was final announcement time. Dan and I did not make the Cha final, but we did make the Jive final, so three out of four finals in our first competition is not bad at all πŸ™‚ And our last jive was the most fun we had had. We also got some pretty cool news because of it…the main team was short two Latin couples for the team match, so Dan and I and one other beginner couple were slotted in on the E team! We were temporary main team Jive competitors! πŸ˜€

Next up, before the team comp, was open Salsa and open Rock n’ Roll competitions. Nick and I (another beginner) decided last second to enter Open Salsa…never having danced together apart from one dance at a ball…no routine…no idea what we were doing…pretty much just a completely stupid idea after dancing all day (remember, there were about 6 rounds per dance for the comp plus practice time and the team trial coming up in an hour). Or so we thought. Somehow, by some utterly ridiculous judging snaffoo or stroke of luck, Nick and I made it through to the semifinals haha. That means we were in the last set of couples to be cut prior to the finals. No idea what happened, how we did it, or what the judges saw in us, but it meant that we each got another semifinal notch on our dance belts πŸ˜‰

So with three finals and two semifinals in five dances out of the way, it was time for the team trial.Β They put us both in main team Latin costumes so Dan had to wear a chest exposing shirt and I was in one of those sparkly, swishy dresses that completely expose your back and are straight off of So You Think You Can Dance. So. Much. Fun. Totally worth having to dance three more times to get to wear that outfit. I felt like a real Latin dancer! And I was doubled over laughing at Dan’s shirt on the sidelines. Our team qualified for Division I, but didn’t make the semifinals. Again, had too much fun to care and was just so overjoyed to be able to dance on Main Team and represent Oxford in a sparkly dress. And to do more Jive πŸ™‚

First Place Winners Beginner Jive

Last thing was Award Presentation (after a massive conga line started by the Oxford team and growing to include the entire comp, and then the Macarena, and then Grease Lightening). Dan and I were really not expecting to do great in Ballroom so imagine our surprise when we not only got SECOND in waltz, we got THIRD in quickstep!!!! (funny insert, I fell down the stairs getting off the podium for the waltz award. Yup, I’m graceful). I mean, I thought we were going to be knocked out first round, so to make it all the way to third place is incredible!!! And my friends Polina and Arnie won both of the Ballroom dances, so Oxford was 2 for 2 first places in the Beginners division. So proud of you two! Then was Latin. The first places continued as two more of our friends won the Cha first place, and then it was time for Jive. They kept calling numbers for the 6th, 5th, 4th, and 3rd places…then second place…and it wasn’t us. Meaning…WE WON FIRST IN JIVE!!!! πŸ˜€ *giddy happy four year old dance* Soooooooooo happy and proud of us that I can’t even put enough smiley emoticons. And even more pride-inducing, it meant that the Oxford Beginners team SWEPT the first place awards!!!!!!!!! And remember, we were two to four weeks behind every other school!

After Oxford A Team accepted the Award for the Team Trial (yeah guys!) it was time for our final waltz and getting back on the coach for a fun three hour drive home after a perfect day πŸ™‚

Of course having been up dancing for 24 hours straight, I slept through my alarm and therefore my research meeting this morning, and missed my lecture. But I think I need the rest because next week…same thing again at Warwick! Keep it up Oxford!!

Pro-soap-ag-no-shah

Still have no idea how to pronounce it, which is going to be a problem in two days when I read my essay out loud to my tutor. And considering every other week I feel like I’m doing something to make a bad first impression worse, I’d better practice.

I should have picked a different disorder.

But anyways, because it’s a two essay week, I never posted about the rest of my weekend. I know you have all been waiting literally on the edge of your seats to find out where we traveled to this time…and you’ll have to wait a little longer (gotta love the cliff-hangers!) because Saturday night was a ball.

Seriously, a ball. Not in the colloquial “it was fun” type of ball, but a supposedly true black tie ball thrown by the ballroom dance team. Okay in all honesty, it looked like AOC’s senior dance (aww flashback to getting Cody to slow dance). Apparently everyone here would have called it a school “disco” but I won’t because then I’ll just start thinking about all the terrible music that came out of the disco era. Shiver. But as much as I honestly don’t think that it was worth 25 pounds, I had a good time dancing with my partner, other guys from main team, a few girls (who thank goodness knew how to lead because I certainly don’t, Eusebio taught me too well), and just generally hanging out with my friends on the Beginners team. And I realized that we may need to help a few of them on their JIVE (you know exactly which person you are!). It did make me want to fork out the money for a real ball experience though. HopefullyTeddy Hall is throwing a ball this year.

Onto the traditional Sunday travel day! We decided to get a later start, so we took over the Dawson Street kitchen and made oatmeal pancakes and eggs and had a lovely breakfast, despite the pancake fiasco that in hindsight made no difference. Let’s just say it’s a lot different making pancakes in a frying pan than on a griddle! The rest of our day was pretty much our standard: a pack lunch, random rooms in random buildings where we learned a lot about nothing we will ever really need to know like some history and stuff, then walked down the High Street to this cafe called the Rose for our cream tea. Kelsi and Jordan thought that it was the best cream tea yet, but I kind of differ. I think the scones tasted the best and the clotted cream was what we have been looking for, but I like the atmosphere of the older tea shops, the ones that have a sort of character to them. But I really enjoyed it. Then we went to the Miller Building for some more learning and just hanging out talking before going to a french restaurant, where I actually…wait for it…tried escargot! And didn’t vomit!

No in all truth, the restaurant was AMAZING and such a great ending to the day. It was like a vacation in our own home because…we ended up not leaving Oxford. We all have two essays due this week so we decided to stay back, but we weren’t going to give up our cream tea hunt πŸ˜‰ And it ended up being a good thing because I made a lot of progress on my prosopagnosiewhatsitcalled essay. Two more days to say that right.

I Sconse Anyone and Everyone

Last night was my very first Oxford crew date! Since no one is going to know what a crew date is, for those of you in college it’s like a frat date party. For those of you not in college, it’s basically when a men’s sports team invites out a women’s sports team for dinner and a night of drunken shenanigans, usually at a club. It’s a pretty common thing, and the guys we went with as a Ballroom Dance Team literally only formed a rowing boat in order to get away with holding crew dates. Lucky for us at least because it was a blast.

We started the night at the Keble College MCR (Middle Common Room, aka the graduate students’ common room) for cocktails and munchies. It was that awkward part of the night when you keep forgetting everyone’s name because you meet so many people at one time. I still don’t remember a lot of their names, only a few guys that I was hanging out with and all but one or two of the girls. Next we went to this Indian restaurant called Jamal’s that is basically meant only for renting out for crew dates so they serve terrible food (which wasn’t as bad as everyone prepared me for) at inflated prices, but allow everyone to get smashed and rowdy and bring their own alcohol.

During dinner, people mostly get drunk from this game called “Sconsing” which is basically a drinking version of “Never Have I Ever”. I now know more about some of the people on the ballroom team than I ever wanted to! Some of the sconses were pretty tame, most increased in raunchiness as the night moved on, but at least with most of the tame ones all I was doing was staying hydrated! No alcohol for me last night at Jamal’s. It would take more than one blog post to tell all the funny stories from last night, and I won’t break the Crew Date Code (which I don’t know if it actually exists, but I’m initiating one in my case): most of what happens on the crew date, stays on the crew date. For the safety of my fellow dancers of course.

After Jamal’s we went to Wahoo, a club on the other side of the river in Oxford. I haven’t really been out since Freshers Week, but I had so much fun! I almost got kicked out when Ania and I danced on a table, but we apologized profusely, were not belligerent, and the security guy let us off with a warning. ADVANTAGE OF BEING A GIRL, part Two. See? I knew another one would come up eventually. As the night went on, we slowly lost people until I have no idea where any of them ended up, but I got home safely, escorted by one of the guys for any family members reading this worried about my walking home at 1:30 am from a club on the opposite side of town. I was in bed, asleep at 3:30, just four hours away from my wakeup call this morning for rehearsal.

But it was all worth it πŸ™‚ Bring on the next crew date!