WEST COAST SWINGBeyond My Wildest Dreams

by Joanie Fuller

Phoenix, the biggest Jack & Jill convention this side of the Pecos. I knew the competition would be stiff, and in my mind I was planning on being thrilled if I just made the semi-finals. When that did happen, I thought that I would be thrilled to the highest power to make finals. When that happened, I thought Joanie was in over her head. Talk about competition! People from all over the U.S., all levels, all ages, all REAL good. Did you ever feel as if you didn’t belong? Too late now since the chairs are set up and the camera is rolling.

Sitting in those chairs has got to be the most humbling experience ever. Talk about quivering knees. I had to dig deep into my psyche of dance theory to mentally rehearse as I sat there pretending I’m cool. Legs together, tight anchor, feet in the direction your moving, no bouncing, propel forward, lead with your center, stand up, sit down, fight, fight, fight. GO TEAM!

I’m aware of concepts like the "magnet between the knees," but my magnet seems to lose its power about the third measure and my memory of ever hearing about it fades as I fight to keep my identity in that minute and a half. Who am I? What do I know? What will I wow them with? Gosh, I dunno! I can’t even remember my first name. Turn that dang camera off while I think, will ya! No second chances? No take-overs? Cruel world, isn’t it!

I drew a great partner and he was dressed to the nines! Yeah! That’s what it’s all about! Looking great is half the battle, and the easiest part. Smiling, that’s the other half and the most difficult. It’s so tough to process dance data quickly and spontaneously while you try to remember that nagging word "technique." Bits and bytes of information flash before your eyes and no Pentium to process them. You realize it’s time to clear your screen, press ESC and let her rip!

As we danced, I heard cheering coming from all sides of the ballroom. It sounded great! Pals from San Diego, pals from the Press Box, convention acquaintances. Such a neat bunch of people cultivated over such a short period of time. I remember craving a big glass of water since my throat felt like I’d swallowed a dozen cotton balls.

As the music began everything seemed to fade from sight including my peripheral vision. Ever feel like a Roman gladiator out in the center of a huge arena? I knew it wasn’t a dream because my legs were shaking. I just kept my eye on that cutie pie I was having this 90-second relationship with. His calm demeanor really eased my nerves. Look ma! I’m dancin’! I watched his eyes and believe it or not, they told me plenty. He’d raise his eyebrows whenever he was cooking up something neat for us. Now that’s communicating!

Later, as the Winners’ names were announced, I was still stunned to have gone as far as I had. The first two names called were 5th place. I listened nervously and couldn’t believe that was MY name being called. I had become so used to defeat, but not this time. With my partner in hand, I raced up to the winner’s circle to collect a beautiful trophy and an interesting white envelope. I smiled for the cameras in total disbelief that I had made it up there with the big kids, 5th out of what seemed like an army of couples.

As I stood there soaking up my 15 minutes of fame, flashbacks of my Wednesday night lessons passed before my eyes, including the torment I’ve put my instructor through in my quest to steal all of her neat steps. I remember borrowing her shoes just to see if they’d work for me as well as they work for her.

A measly 5th place you say? Hardly! It means the world to me. It makes six months of weekly private instruction sound like a drop in the bucket, and all those Friday nights at the Press Box worth the long, hard, hour-and-a-half drive. Onward!