Coming Full Circle

I feel a little sheepish writing down my version of events from this weekend. Partner’s blog has already detailed everything so well and accurately, and about three days ahead of me, that I’m a little embarrassed to tell the story so many days after it happened. In fact, the number of times I’ve begun to write this post, only to exit out of the page either in a fit of futility or a sudden case of the snoozes, probably exceeds the number of words I’ve already typed. But as much as I’d love to leave the day in Dan’s very capable blogging hands, I have to admit that there is only a small readership crossover and I should probably explain the weekend as well. Of course, I’ve been so tired lately that I may need to review it myself through his blog (slash copy-past-cite at least one passage).

Why the exhaustion? Let me digress for a moment. Waitressing is freaking hard. It’s not really all that mental challenging, though remembering a large party’s order or a heavily modified one takes some practice and prioritizing an entire restaurant’s worth of customers when you are the only waitress on the floor for a six hour shift requires a mental Tetris game to be on constant PLAY mode. Ok so maybe it’s more of a different challenge than those I face at Oxford in my tutorials. But I didn’t really expect how physically demanding it would be. My average shift is 7 hours, with the shortest ones being 4.5 and the longest being a few 10-hour ones on Friday nights. And when we fill up, things get hectic. You have to greet new guests and manage who sits at which table, hot food has to be delivered first, then hot drinks, cocktails, and cold food/drinks; every time you go back and forth between the tables and the tills, people need to be checked on, order items, pay their bills, have their plates cleared. You have to juggle the tables and their orders with the bartenders and the kitchen staff, which sometimes can get pretty heated, and remember to be as polite and friendly as you can with everyone despite how tired you get and how much your feet ache because the tips all go into a pool at the end of the night. But I prefer those hectic shifts to the ones where you have no tables and so spend your entire shift scrubbing the restaurant. It’s a new challenge, but it keeps my mind off of schoolwork and dance for a few (read a lot of) hours each week, so I’m grateful for it.

So the night before the Varsity match this past Friday, I had one of those grueling 10 hour shifts at closing time, meaning that the last hour was spent begrudgingly cleaning the restaurant for the night. I didn’t even get to sleep until 2:30, getting only 4.5 hours of sleep before my hateful alarm woke me up for my makeup and packing time. Thankfully the match was being held at Iffley Sports Centre, a five minute walk from my place, so my wake up time wasn’t even earlier. The match was supposed to start at 9:30 am, so Dan and I did our traditional quick run-through of each dance before resting and stretching so as not to wear ourselves out, then found out that The Other Place was late, automatically making the competition run at least 30 minutes behind for the entirety of the day.

Love you B-Team!

Here is where I steal from Dan’s explanation of the actual process of the match. I was confused until just about the last round of Jive, so I followed the advice of “know your letter and listen for it” thereby dancing when they told me to with no forethought. Just go out there, dance, and try not to do Quickstep to the Waltz.

“The varsity match is the competition between Oxford and Cambridge. Each university selects an A team and a B team of nine couples each. The A teams from each university compete against each other in the ‘Varsity Match’, and the B teams face off in the ‘Challenge Match.’ Thus, there are 36 couples competing. In each team, the couples are divided into three 3-couple pools. Thus, for the Oxford A team, there are pools A, B, and C, each with three couples; the Cambridge A team has pools D, E, and F. The heats are then a round robin format: A vs. D, A vs. E, A vs. F, B vs. D, B vs. E… etc. In each heat, the six couples (3 Oxford and 3 Cambridge) are ranked from best to worst and assigned points 6 to 1 accordingly. Then, the round robin is repeated for each dance, waltz, quickstep, cha cha, and jive (henceforth WQCJ). At the end, the points are totaled and a winner declared for each of the Varsity and the Challenge matches. “-Dan, aka Partner,

This was a very unique competition experience for the two of us. First of all, we had all brand new routines that were at the Intermediate level instead of our typical Beginner level that we had never performed before. One could argue that that made it more fun for us, and it’s true that I had a lot more fun dancing in this competition than in any of the others. Second, this was the first competition in which we had absolutely no expectation to do well. Because each round is like a 6 couple final, there was no elimination, but you still don’t want to end the lowest in your heat. As Beginners in an Intermediate competition, we fully anticipated being last in every heat. So absolutely no pressure! Any place above last was simply a bonus! It was actually really freeing and lightened us up out of competition mode and into fun, spirit mode. And I don’t care how we actually placed (though cool note, one judge marked us third place in all our rounds for Jive!!), I’m just so unbelievably proud of how far we’ve come since we were paired up in only October.

Making a run for it in Quickstep

After the conclusion of the Challenge Match, there was a quick break for photos and then it was on to the actual Varsity match. That was a really cool opportunity to watch the best of Oxford and Cambridge compete on the same floor. Because of the round robin style of heats, we were able to watch the full routine of each couple out there, really appreciating their talent and style. Oddly enough it also afforded us the opportunity to understand the power of partner dynamics: because of eligibility rules, some partnerships were split up and rearranged, and we could really see where that hurt the partnership, performance, and overall scores of certain couples. I wonder how Dan and I would look if we had to partner other people? Probably miserable as we have way too much fun together! 🙂

Totally in character during our “Phantom of the Cha Cha” or “Mr. and Mrs. Smith-Cha”

The match only lasted about 90 minutes due to the format, so we had plenty of time for a late lunch and to change back into our fancy outfits for Beginners Ballroom rounds. Those rounds gave me perhaps the funniest moment of any competition I have ever danced in. Dan and I, members of the B Team in the Varsity match, were knocked out first round in Waltz. We have never been knocked out first round in any competition, in any dance, ever. The rest of the Oxford main team looked at us in confusion, and then we all started laughing out loud. The problem was obvious: because we have spent practically two months preparing Intermediate level routines, we actually forgot how to dance like Beginners and completely blew the dances. Pretty much hilarious. Thankfully, we partially redeemed ourselves in Latin, finalling in both dances despite messing up our routines a bit. Four days later, I’m still giggling over the irony. And Main Team seemed to get a kick out of it as well. Happy to provide entertainment, as always, folks!

Fast-forwarding to results.

Unfortunately, Oxford lost to Cambridge by a mere 10 points (ultimate heartbreak!) which is basically a tie considering the scores were 1882-1892. Not even .01% difference in scores. The Challenge match was a bit more obvious, 2000-1750ish. Oh well, we’ll take back our trophy next year!

Speaking of trophies, for the Beginners results, Dan and I placed 5th in Cha, and WON 1ST IN JIVE! It was so utterly poetic. Our very first competition as Beginners, we won Jive, and now 6 months later, at our last competition as Beginners, we win it again. We have come full circle 🙂

Jive Beginners Champs 🙂

But even more exciting for us was an award we definitely didn’t expect at all, in fact we didn’t know it existed. We won a coaches’ award for the couple who not only works really hard, but also brings great spirit and smiles to the team as a whole, “who make the team better just by being on it” and so on. It isn’t restricted to a Beginners Team thing either, this award was for the entire team, and they honored Dan and me with it. We both agreed that it was far more rewarding and touching to be given The Bowl (as we now call it) than any of our other trophies or medals from the entire season.

Receiving The Bowl

However, in true Dancesport fashion, the fun didn’t stop when the last award was handed out. We still had to attend the Varsity Ball with our Cambridge rivals that night. If anyone remembers the last OUDC Ball I went to, it wasn’t much different, just more people crashing into you during Viennese and Quickstep and a lot less dancing on my part because I was so exhausted. What made it better was the demo (and you know you’ve been dancing for too long when you tap your partner on the shoulder during the National Champions’ demo and gush about how beautiful the footwork is on her double reverses) and the enhanced friendships I got to enjoy this time around. At the last ball, we barely knew each other, and now we really are like a family. And I am so freaking proud of each and every one of them ❤

For me, the exhaustion has only been compounding with the next morning having a shift at work, a double shift yesterday, and a shift today. And then there is the shift tomorrow as well. Oh and somehow I need to find time to do my Oxford research? Bring on the coffee!

Best Friends, Best Partner Ever


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