Phew! What a weekend. After only 5 hours of sleep over two days, roughly 2,000 photographs, and countless heats of my friends dancing, I made it home alive. Dance competitions are always really interesting to me. It's great to see your friends go through the motions of getting ready, figuring out what they have forgotten or left out, getting nervous, dancing, winning or losing, and ultimately doubting the very decision they have made to dance. That aside, we always end up with an awesome collection of bizarre stories that come out of each comp.
I started my day around noon on Friday. Everyone was already in the ballroom getting ready to dance so I just setup shop, took a few light readings from the room, adjusted the white balance and off I went. Most of the Friday session went off without a hitch. All of our friends danced really well. The best I'd seen them dance. Of course each and every one of them came off the floor growling about something they had messed up or executed poorly. Then always comes the question of didn't you see it? I always have to remind them that not only did I see it, but I always do so in great, scrutinizing detail through the camera. Also that I know their routines now after seeing and shooting them so many times, and that because of that experience I can tell them whether or not it was better or worse. Not to mention that I'm a dancer and a pretty good judge of it. Of course they never believe me and wander off mumbling or collapsing into fetal position, sucking their thumb and crying. Ok, maybe not that bad, but you get the point.
Friday was split into two sections, the daytime event and nighttime. The ridiculous thing was that there was only a 30 minute break in between the two sessions. So in that time we had to get back to Kora and Simeon's room, everyone had to get ready, and most importantly get something to eat at the hotel restaurant. It was insane. If you had taken an X-Ray of my stomach that night, you would see the sandwich I choked down still whole in it's original state. Aside from that, the night well really well. All the scholarship events were in the evening and true to form, all of our posse did well. There was also the Amateur Open Champion and Pre-Champion Standard event. Steven and Sophie danced really well though I think their Latin is better. They placed second in the Pre-Champ. To end the night, Kora and Simeon won the Professional Showdance event. They came off the floor much like their students, really upset about how they had danced. I felt they danced the routine really well since I had see it in competition now for the fourth time. Then after a late dinner I was in bed by about 3:30AM with a 7:00AM wake up call.
Saturday started with me picking up Sarah at 7:30 and heading down to the ballroom (Sea-Tac Hilton). Our dance family was already close to being ready and some were even warming up already. After a quick breakfast the dancing began. It was just like Friday except today was Standard instead of Latin. It was during the morning session that my first interesting thing occurred. I had a break in between some heats where our group wasn't dancing when I noticed this guy and a girl handing out business cards to people as they made their way down to our corner of the ballroom. It turns out, they were the professional photographers brought in by the organizers to shoot the comp. When they got down to our end they gave one of group a card and she told them she didn't need it since I was there taking photos. Now I was busy dumping my memory card onto my laptop as this was all going down, when I got a rough tap on my shoulder. I turned around and this guy was already walking away, and he looked back motioning me to come with him. I walked over and this is what happened:
First off, Stephen Marino the photographer is an POMPOUS ASSHOLE.
Pompous Asshole Stephen Marino: What's your name?
Me: Jeff. You?
Pompous Asshole Stephen Marino: Are you shooting pictures of the competition?
Me: Yes. Are you?
Pompous Asshole Stephen Marino: Are you charging for your photos?
Pompous Asshole Stephen Marino: Really?
Pompous Asshole Stephen Marino: Are you sure?
Me: No. Why don't you ask me again and see if the answer changes?
Pompous Asshole Stephen Marino: Because the people over there said you are shooting pictures of them.
Me: Yes. They are my friends. I shoot my friends who are competing. Isn't that what friends do?
Pompous Asshole Stephen Marino: Well that's a problem for me.
Pompous Asshole Stephen Marino: You're affecting my business.
Me: So what? I'm allowed to shoot photos, just not videos.
Pompous Asshole Stephen Marino: Well you shooting photos and just "giving" then to your friends affects my business.
Me: Well that's really not my problem. I'm going to go back to shooting now.
Pompous Asshole Stephen Marino: Do you know who I am?
Me: No, and I don't care.
Pompous Asshole Stephen Marino: You should know who I am. *shoves business card into my hand*
Me: *throws business cards over my shoulder* I really don't care who you are.
Pompous Asshole Stephen Marino: Ok
Pompous Asshole Stephen Marino: Do you want me to go to the organizer and have him talk to you?
Me: Go right ahead. In fact I have some things I need to tell him too about bringing in asshole vendors that harass paying patrons. I'm sure my friends will back me up too.
Pompous Asshole Stephen Marino: I flew in from Atlanta and you're affecting my business. You need to stop.
Me: Well if you were to shoot better photos and charge more reasonably for them we wouldn't have this problem now would we?
Pompous Asshole Stephen Marino: *wanders off muttering*
Can you believe it? What a jackass! First off, it's none of his business who I choose to shoot as long as I'm not selling the photos at the comp. If I choose to sell them outside of the comp on my website, that's my business. Which I don't. I've never charged for photos before. Then he has the balls to tell me I can't run around the ballroom to shoot and that I need to stay in my assigned seat. Has this joker ever been to a ballroom competition? While you are technically assigned a seat, no one ever really pays attention to it. At least never to my knowledge. For him to have to resort to bullying and intimidation for his business to succeed is ridiculous. Jokes on him though. Not only did he screw himself out of any business from our group of dancers (which is quite substantial) but he also screwed himself out of any business that Sarah and I might give him later when we start competing. What a dumbass. I'm a firm believer that if you provide a good service with quality products at a reasonable price, people will buy it. It doesn't matter what your competition is, as long as your products are sound and your people skills are above average.
Back to the dancing. After the morning session we all headed back to the room where everyone shared their fun stories so far from the day. Simeon had stayed behind to watch a few students who were dancing in the afternoon. It wasn't long before he texted us saying he was falling asleep. Sarah, Patrick and I went to relieve him. After the dance events were done, Lucy, Patrick, Sarah and I decided to go get food. We walked about a mile down the road to a Subway. After that Patrick needed a milk shake so we made it over to a Jack in the Box. Then of course seeing the milk shake, Sarah had to have "real" ice cream so we all ended up at Denny's. In her defense though, that sundae really was delicious. More crazy things happened on our lunch trip including Patrick acting like a 10 year old with a milk mustache and insisting on playing the crane game in an attempt to win a stuffed dinosaur for his daughter, three sketchy males getting arrested outside the Denny's, and the waitress misinterpreting my response to her "have a nice day".
Going into the evening session we were all back in the room getting ready for the night's events. Sarah was over helping Lucy (who was painfully under prepared in supplies) with her hair. During this time I thought it'd be a good idea to start experimenting with my hair since we'll need to figure it out eventually. So I told Sarah to slick it back. It took Simeon and Sarah, half a can of industrial strength hairspray, a comb, a brush, and a hairdryer, 30 minutes to get my communist hair to comply. The result was a Yakuza looking Jeff. Everyone got a kick out of it. So it's back to the drawing board. I think we'll try the Victor Fung approach next time. Grow out the top middle part of my head and shave the sides really close.
One in the ballroom, I was getting a lot of confused looks. With the new hairdo everyone asked if I was competing that night which puzzled them even more because it was Latin this night. I love messing with people. Sarah and I actually made it out onto the floor during their social dancing section. I discovered how grooved the floor really was. I've been to a lot of comps and this floor wasn't really that great. They could have done better. After that more scholarship events as well as the Amateur Open Champion and Pre-Champion Latin, and Professional Champion Standard event. Simeon and Kora did really well, placing second. It was funny watching their Quickstep through my viewfinder. About halfway through I realized Simeon was doing his long side over and over again. Three times to be exact. Turns out he had to modify his routine because they kept running into another couple on the floor and couldn't quite get back on track. What made things funnier was when Simeon actually thought the song was over and dropped his frame, only to realize it was just a lull in the music. We all had a good laugh about this after. Once all the dancing was done Sarah and I met Kora and Simeon along with their coach and adjudicator Glen at 13 Coins for a LATE dinner.
To wrap up this long post, Seattle Star Ball, as with all dance comps was a combination of A LOT of fun, too little sleep, and unhealthy food. I have glossed over MANY other crazy things. You really need to come out and join us for one of these events to really get an idea of what it's like. You won't regret it. I'll be posting up the photos from the competition soon on our photos tab as well as Facebook. Congratulations to everyone who participated! All of your hard work has paid off! It's the best I've seen everyone dance so far! Keep it up! And don't buy anything from Pompous Asshole Stephen Marino Photography!