10 Things You Need to Know about the District Showcase
Twice a year the Arthur Murray Dance Studios in Northern California and Nevada assemble to hold one of the largest dance events in the country.
Let's keep this in perspective though, this event isn't big and spectacular because it's always been that big and spectacular. Not to mention, repeat participation doesn't occur if the experience doesn't deliver.
The following list will include District Showcase Tips, some history, and all the things you need to know about the District Showcase... or, at least, the top 10.
Note: While you may be reading from an area outside of Northern California, many of the tips on this list can apply to any dance event.
1. Humble Beginnings
Up until 2008, the District Showcase had as few as four schools participating: San Jose, Redwood City, Hayward, and Carmichael.
Today there are 15 studios in attendance: San Jose, Redwood City, Hayward, Carmichael, Los Gatos, Millbrae, San Francisco, Walnut Creek, Livermore, Fremont, Stockton, Folsom, Santa Rosa, Napa, and Reno.
In years past, this event would draw about 1000 dance entries, start at 9am and finish after midnight. Not anymore. Today the District Showcase moves at a slightly quicker pace completing anywhere between 5000-7000 dance entries all before 6pm.
This is done through improved back-end logistics utilizing a team of top shelf administrators seasoned in assembling an event like this. It's also through the work of the teachers and managers transitioning their students from one dance to the next in a timely manner.
While it may seem like a fast pace, it's a definite improvement over the opposite experience of years past.
There may be a moment where you wonder if you're at summer camp, a Tony Robbins workshop, or a sporting event. Enthusiasm from the students and teachers is what boosts the energy in the room for both the dancers, the judges, and the spectators.
So we encourage you to yell, whistle, and clap - even during a Waltz - as this is the best method to turning the volume up on the energy and turning the volume down on nerves.
4. Your Most Important Audience
At some point you may start thinking, "I just want to focus on my social dancing" or "I don't need to perform" or "it's not like I'm trying to look like a professional" - and the truth is, you're right. You could do all of those things.
But here's the thought behind this, and any other event like this. You're participating in a pressurized environment. It's meant to gradually bend, not break, your comfort zone all so you can dance in front of your most important audience.
Coincidentally, it's not the distinguished consultants there to watch you, your teachers, or the students from all over. It's your friends and family. There will come a point, just when you least suspect it, that they will ask you to show them some of your moves.
Doing that will take a lot of confidence, and this is the event that will give you a reservoir of it.
5. There Will Be Feedback
This could have been titled "There Will be Judges" or anything else that sounds imposing or scary, but feedback is the name of the game for the District Showcase. Each and every dance you do will have feedback by a panel of the top Arthur Murray examiners in the industry.
This allows you and your teacher the opportunity to not only audit how your dancing is progressing, where you can make improvements, and develop a strategy for the next one, but it is the starting point to a conversation with one of those examiners in person back in your studio. There they can add context, offer tips, and give you some valuable insight to help you continue your progress.
Ever want to know more about what the dance consultants are looking for? Read 31 Things Dance Judges Want to See You Do
6. 2 Days
Up until a few years ago, the District Showcase was a one day event. Not anymore. After receiving special approval from Arthur Murray International, this event was expanded to two days.
This greatly enhances a student's ability to improve and adjust from their day of dancing. In years prior those same students would have to wait a full 6 months to build on their showcase progress, now with two days, it's less than 24 hours.
7. New Dance Styles
Your teacher may ask you to participate in dance styles that you may not even be able to pronounce and, most certainly, aren't dances that you set out to learn when you first began your lessons. There's a reason for these dances.
A newer dance has far less criteria in your mind than your favorites. This is a great advantage to log more time on the floor with less of a mental burden - we refer to these as "low criteria dances" - and, not to mention, they will always be fun and help to improve your overall dance skill.
8. Closed and Open
You're going to hear terminology thrown around, like "closed heats" or "open heats". Here's a quick primer:
Closed = The moves you use can't exceed your dance level. No choreography.
Open = The moves you use can extend outside of your dance level and choreography is permitted.
Heat = The term for each freestyle throughout the day, plus a corresponding number. Ex. "heat 220 is Closed Cha-Cha".
9. You're Going Country
Maybe you decided to hold your horses on the Country Western dancin' this time 'round but partner, you'll see why your teacher was fixin' to have you try it once you arrive at the showcase.
If low criteria dances are the trick for dancing without thinking, then consider the Country Western your ultimate move.
Not only are you dancing in jeans, but it's fun, a little rowdy, and even gets the crowd going. Not to mention, it's the first segment of dances on the very first day. Which means the C/W can get you into past the nerves faster than some obscure Western movie back robbing reference.
10. The Stages of Dance Confidence
To get a pilot's license, you need 40 hours of flight time. For dancers, getting past your nerves won't take as much time at the showcase.
Adrenaline can cause anyone with a heartbeat to feel nervous but with some careful planning, you can chip away at the nerves until there's nothing left but excitement... and some sore feet.
The Nervous Stage - In the first 25 dances you start with, you're going to feel nervous. The key here is to understand that this is the first step in a process and not a stage to evaluate the total value of your decision to participate.
The Acclimated Stage - From 26-50 dances in, the fog in your brain will lift and you'll begin to feel moments of enjoyment and flashes of how you might feel on a lesson, or at a practice party, at the studio.
The Awareness Stage - From 51-100 dances you'll hear the music, maybe for the first time all day. In addition, it's during this time that minor adjustments like posture or dance frame seem to click and are done with intention. This is the stage where students really begin to see the benefits of the event and the process of their progression.
The "Too Tired to Care" Stage - From 101-???. Runners reach a point called the "runners high" and ballroom dancers have "too tired to care". It's the stage where you're completely over your nerves - done, finished, that's all she wrote. The result is a layer of confidence that becomes your new comfort zone. The one that let's you shimmy, smile, wink at the judges, and bow to your adoring fans once you're through.
There's a big risk to attending one of these events. After all, you could attend, let your nerves get the best of you, and wonder whether this hobby is right for you.
Yet, considering what's at stake, why would your teachers invite you to attend?
Consider for a second that your teacher is risking a lot by asking you. You know, since you probably didn't start your first lesson begging for the first opportunity to dance in front of people.
So everyone is risking something. Your teacher are staking their professional reputations and the trust you have in them, while you're risking a big uptick in adrenaline, heart rate, and nervous butterflies.
Seems like a fair trade.