The Long Awaited Day 2 of Ballroom Diaries: March 5-Breakfast of Champions

I get up at seven and put on my base back-up: moisturizer, NARS liquid foundation, MAC translucent powder, Tarte cheek stain, and tinted lip balm. I left the eyes and the lips for after breakfast. I headed down in just jeans and a t-shirt.

Breakfast at a comp is always an interesting event. It's one of the few times an amateur actually gets to see professionals not only in street clothes, but without make up. I can't tell you what a true rarity it is. And it is certainly good for the ego. From the stage these women often look gorgeous: long lashes, full glittering lips, deep tans, and flushed cheeks. But seeing them at breakfast without any make up at all, not even base, one sees the puffy eyes, the laugh lines, the sallow skin, even the blemishes.

Professional dancers often look older than they really are, especially without make up. My former teacher Oleg looked like he was in his mid thirties, not his early thirties. His wife, Irina, was the real shocker. Although she looked to be in her late thirties, she was actually only twenty-seven. She was younger than I was, which no would have guessed looking at the two of us. So I do have that on the professions.

Most of the other groups filled up entire tables, but I was the only one from my studio there and so I sat alone at a table and had breakfast.

I allow myself to eat whatever I want because I am going to burn off the calories anyway. Even carbs. Saturday I was dancing from about ten thirty in the morning until three in the afternoon. Tell me I didn't burn off my morning toast, I dare you. Also ballroom comps are one of the few times I allow myself to have bacon. Again I figure I'll burn it off too.

The trick at comp breakfast is to eat just enough to get you through the day. There is no lunch break at comp and so dinners are served early, usually at about five in the afternoon. So breakfast has to get you through the entire day. Of course, if you are like me and dancing in the early heats, you can't just stuff yourself. You have to eat just enough to fill you, but no so much that you cramp or get sick. And eating with all that adrenalin pumping through your system isn't so easy either. I had one of those ideal breakfasts that one sees in cereal adds or on the show Friends. I had OJ, tea, plain low fat yogurt, cereal, eggs, and bacon.

I headed back up to the room to finish dressing. I put on my eye make up (NARS eye shadow in nymphea and twisted, NARS liquid liner in Sri Lanka) ,including the false eyelashes. I put on my lipstick ( congo red with brown sisley lip gloss). I dry and spray my hair. ( Think of the movie Hairspray.) I added several layers of glitter to my body and my eyes. Because it was loose glitter, I will shed it all over my partner, the dance floor, and anyone crazy enough to hug me through out the day.

Finally, I put on my pantyhose, my nude leather dance shoes for smooth, and my Betsey Johnson dress. Over the dress, I put on my Victoria's Secret robe. I threw a couple of make up maintenance items into a small bag, and I was ready to go down stairs and meet my partner.

"Do you wanna dance?"

You haven't lived until you've seen a real dance competition. The first time I went, I walked into the ballroom and the entire dance floor was filled with women in tailor made ballgowns swirling to a Viennese waltz. Watching a period film just doesn't capture how stunning it is. Feathers and crystals, deep saturated colors-reds and blues- so as to catch the eye of the judges. This year yellow and orange were particularly popular. Two women had sunflower themed dresses, which brightened the windowless ballroom.

I walked into the ballroom and saw the competitors practicing and suddenly I didn't regret going. I didn't feel alone like at breakfast...

...until I sat all alone at my studio's table and waited for the other three studio dancers to show up.

Taliat showed up very late. Most of the other tables weren't filled. The morning heats are for beginners, those who have only been dancing a few years. Our routines are not exciting to watch, even to other beginners. The more advanced dancers linger at breakfast, chat with former teachers and other students they haven't seen since the last comp, or maybe even enjoy a late sleep in order to be fresh for their first heats. Some of them are practicing solo performances in the hallway. Others are simply sitting in their rooms helping other competitors to get into their costumes, or fix their hair, or spread gossip. The few of us in the ballroom are there because we have to be.

Taliat arrived in time for a few practices dances with his breakfast in a box ( which means he slept late and got to breakfast right before it closed).

The thing about dancing in a comp is that it is a lot like acting in a show, you put in months and months of practice. You go to costume fittings, you run lines, you play with props, you set blocking, you add bits, you remove bits, you have dress rehearsals, you modify costumes and sets. Then after all of this time you go out and perform. All of this effort culminates in a performance that is over in about two hours. And even if the show runs for two months, the preparation takes up far more than the actual performance.

So after two years of dance classes, three different teachers, several different dresses and shoes, steps learned and relearned, steps worked and reworked again, all of that time comes down to one hour of dancing in front of three judges. And no matter how hard you prepare, you always come off the dance floor thinking "That's it? All that effort, for this?"

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