The build up to last weeks semi-final was wrought with fatigue, tension and stress. Our rehearsals were a worrying mix of short , powerful bursts of positive progress and then draining sessions of frustrating drudgery.
Mary struggled with choreography, spending many hours doubting her efforts, while I struggled with exhaustion, stomach cramps and a generally depressed grumpy vibe. However, our desire to come back strong in reply to Tess and Grant's phenomenal performances in the previous week could not be quelled. We wanted it bad.
Our main strategy throughout the week of rehearsals was to concentrate on getting the technique right and specifically to address my posture and strength from the core. I worked really hard on creating a solid base in my core and thereby dance from the centre, through the floor and avoid the flailing lack of control I tend to exhibit from time to time.
We had a really tough session on the Wednesday. We were racing against time, having only barely finished the choreography to both dances as the tension in the build up to the epic two couple elimination in the semi finals loomed. In fact, our Tango was without an intro or an outro. The pressure was on.
Mary had wanted to do a couple more hours that night in reply to the five hours we had already done that day and the countless more in the preceding rehearsals and I was having none of it. I was gatvol, tired, and full of kak.
I figured that we were pushing ourselves too far and that if we didn’t have it by now that night it would prove to be fruitless and may just take the oomph out of our drive for the big day following. Mary, bless her, sensed that I was reaching some sort of breaking point and decided that we should just fly into the remaining hours of the afternoon rehearsal and leave it at that.
We decided to soldier on, take a break in the evening, and then treat the Thursday as a rehearsal, going hard at it during the day and drive straight on through into the performance.
Thursday felt like what I imagine the Comrades marathon must feel like. It was tough. Our first foray onto the ballroom floor was (as always) nothing short of disastrous. It always takes a while for me to re-orientate myself to the dimensions of the floor and it’s atmosphere which is way different to the rehearsal floors we work on.
The Tango, especially gave me problems. We just couldn’t get through the entire routine and we were still without an intro. We kept at it though, with a dogged determination, and the sweat flowed freely in makeshift rehearsal rooms in the empty shell of a building that is the Carlton Hotel.
By late that afternoon, my energy was down and I had been blown away by what I had seen of Grant and Tessa’s Tango and Paso Doble. They seemed flawless and are always so well prepared on that Thursday morning. There were real moments of doubt throughout the day when I felt like we just didn’t have what it took to outscore them, or Cindy and Jonathan for that matter.
However, it must be said that I love the two routines that Mary had come up with for the night and I felt a deep affinity for the nature of both the Tango and the Paso Doble. I did truly believe that if I didn’t cock them up we could also have a winner on our hands.
I went into a very focused zone in the two hours before the show and just spent as much time as possible visualizing the routines on the floor and practicing them over and over wherever I could find a space.
Tess and Grant scored very highly for their first dance, I can’t remember exactly what because I was trying very hard to focus on what we were doing but I do remember that it was way over our highest score in the competition so far.
As we walked out onto that floor I squeezed Mary’s hand really hard and she told me that when she felt that she knew we were going to do something special. The actual routine is a blur, I remember this constant voice in my head saying things like; ‘keep you elbows up, drop your shoulders, push down through your supporting leg, lift your chin, drop your shoulders, hold your core, heel - toe, focus, contra, don’t break your frame etc’
The feedback from the judges was amazing - I can't remember exactly what they said, I just remember that it was rad.
And then the scores. Four tens for the Tango and three tens and a nine for the Paso - giving us a total score of 79 out of 80. The mind boggles.
Needless to say we are through to the finals. I am still a little bit in shock, totally exhausted and happier than a pig in poo.
See you guys in the finals.