(Migrated from Myspace.)
So this past weekend I taught at the Gulf Regional Lindy Hop Championships in Florida, where I was a judge for all of the contests on Saturday night. First of all, I need to complain that because I was judging all 6 rounds or whatever there were, I hardly got in any dances all night, even though there were people there I really wanted to dance with! (Jeramie, Adam, Don…) And then the late night was a blues late night, which was lame, because I really just wanted to dance some plain old Lindy Hop. Instead I just got tired and sat down. So much for the complaining. At least the jam was freakin AWESOME and I got to go out there a couple times. Didn’t have the nerve to bust out my solo charleston, but someday I will…
On the up-side, it was really interesting and fun to get to watch and evaluate everyone in the contests. Being forced to rank people in order (1-10, or however many couples there are) makes you think about what’s really important to you in dancing. Is it tricks? Aerials in the fast competition? Good lead/follow? Musicality? Spirit? How do you compensate and get objectivity when you want your friends who are out there to do well? A lot of thoughts like that go through your head, and unless you’ve planned ahead of time (and even then it can’t help you all THAT much), you’ve got about 3 minutes to answer all those questions for yourself and put something down on paper that reflects the answers. And feel accountable to those answers and be able to articulate why you placed someone where you did if they ask you about it. A lot of the judges looked at things differently than I did (I think we were all kind of looking for slightly different things), but I think actually it’s good to have people out there who have different values & emphases. That way contestants aren’t being held to just one person’s standards.
The strange part is thinking about how seriously everyone takes competitions. (side note: I think this is especially a problem in the Balboa community!) Myself included. I know how hard it is not to let your ego and your sense of “how good is my dancing, really?” get caught up in the numbers: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, didn’t even make finals… Sylvia Sykes has the best attitude ever about competitions. Anyone who’s never heard her talk about it needs to go ask her next time you see her. When you’re out there, and people (like me) are passing judgment on you, it’s hard not to feel it as “people are passing judgment on me.” If you’re in a contest, you’ve got to get placed somewhere. Which means you’ve got to be judged, evaluated, compared & contrasted, with the other people in the contest. I don’t think it’s always ‘fair’, and I do think you have some sort of advantage if the judges ‘know’ you. But in the end it comes down to how you danced for those 2 minutes, that one day, with that one person, to that one song. So it’s not about having your dancing–as a whole–judged. It’s a tiny sliver of your whole dancing career and ability that’s frozen for one second in time. And in the end, nobody really remembers who got first or who got last, but what you went out there and did that was memorable. I’ll remember the contests this weekend for how well I thought my friends did in the slow ALHC qualifier–I was really proud of them all. And for how much fun and energy and sheer out-of-controllness the solo charleston contest was. I didn’t feel like I was judging, I felt like I was cheering them on. In fact, I wanted to be jumping up & down and yelling, but I thought that would be a little bit inappropriate. 😉
I haven’t thought about judging at Showdown too much, but this weekend brought it up for me a little. I think it was a good preparation to get me thinking about what I value as good dancing and as what really counts when you get out there on the floor in front of everybody. But it’s still just for those 3 minutes, with that one person, to that one song. And maybe everything comes together and you really shine for that one moment. Or maybe not, and you haven’t lost anything by it for trying.
I’d be curious to know if your thoughts on judging competitions have changed at all in the past two years, especially as you do it more and more often (and if so, how).