It’s been quite a while since I last posted, but a conversation I had recently with a fellow Shag dancer from Denmark inspired me to delve deeper into a phrase I had been given in a conversation a few years ago, and also share my thoughts. Now I have only ever entered two dance competitions, so I shouldn’t in anyway be considered an expert in competition camaraderie, but from the little experience I have had, I can vouch for its existence, and here’s a little glimmer into why it is important.
My Danish friend and I, had both ended up entering the Munich Shag Battle, with our respective partners, and we were chatting about our nerves prior to the competition. It was then that I recalled a conversation I’d had with another Shag dancer at the Hot Rhythm Holiday weekender in Texas. I’d been asked why Sharon and I hadn’t entered the Shag competition there. I’d probably given some excuse about going up against the awesome competition or something similar when the rebut was, “you’re not competing against other dancers; you’re competing with other dancers”. It was a subtle, but very powerful turn of phrase that penetrated deep into my psyche.
Now coming from the UK where competitive swing dancing is almost non-existent, I’m not sure if that phrase is common knowledge elsewhere, but it struck a chord with me. I think it also did the same for my Danish friend, which caused me to think about it a little deeper.
Competing “against” other dancers implies a selfish wish for them to fail, for us to be better than them, and as such we close our minds to what they can offer us or our community. When we compete “against”, we cease to cooperate for the common good and just seek to defeat our foe.
Competing “with” other dancers implies a partnership, where each and every one can learn from each other. Dancers compete “with” by sharing their patterns and techniques on the dance floor and testing capability. If accepted by other dancers those patterns and techniques can be adapted and improved upon. This in turn benefits the entire community further. Competitors who compete “with” do not seek the failure of others; they support and encourage participation, best performance, and success for all.
This cooperative competition is what makes the swing dance community so strong. It’s how the dances developed back in the day, and it’s how we will all continue to improve to be the best we can, no matter what level we’re dancing at; competitive or not.