Today was Honours first Highland dance competition since July 1st of last year. You might remember that I blogged about some of our challenges last summer. The plan I laid out there has been somewhat successful.
Honour did go to physio, and the therapist did have a few exercises to do, and we did do them a few times over the summer. But then school started, I stopped doing the exercises and so Honour did too. She did ride the stationary bike for a bit over the summer with James. But then that slowly petered out. She did use her highland dance notebook for longer than the previous two measures, probably a few months. But that also lost steam. Her dance chart has had up and down popularity. It's not yet all filled in; I think it has about 20 more spots on it or so.
Circumstances didn't help her determination very much. There were a couple competitions in the fall that we couldn't put her in because of lack of funds. End of summer is a killer time for us, as we wait for my various music teaching jobs to kick back in. I was also suddenly realizing that I wasn't as aware of the competitions any more, because I don't attend any of her classes like I used to. Once I started teaching three nights a week, I lost the luxury of sitting in on her classes for an hour or two a week to keep abreast of the goings-on. James was usually picking her up from class and he didn't think to check the bench her teacher usually leaves the application forms on, and Honour didn't have the initiative or courage to ask herself.
She was registered for a competition in London around the third weekend of November, but two days before it, James was rushed to hospital with what turned out to be a pulmonary embolism. Then there were no more until the new year.
Honour triumphantly brought home a handful of competition registration forms about a week and a half ago. The deadline for the soonest one was only two to three days later, so I rushed to get the forms in the mail when suddenly I realized that she didn't have her new 2014 dance card. I had to race to get that sent to Whitby and hope against hope that it would get back to me on time. It arrived four days ago. Phew! Then I had to get the form sent off to join the dance organization that was hosting the comp, or else pay a fee for non-membership. Since the fee for membership is about the same cost as non-membership fees for two competitions, and her next one in a few weeks is being hosted by the same group, it made sense just to join in case another comp comes up later in the year. I only hoped it would arrive and be processed before today's competition, lest they stop me at the door and make me pay the non-membership fee in order for Honour to compete. Then, as I was doing all this mailing, I realized that her Aboyne costume didn't fit any more. It had been snug and short-ish last summer at Embro, so I knew it would be hopeless now. Kijiji and a dance mom from Welland came to the rescue with a gorgeous practically new Aboyne outfit that we picked up only two days ago. The final challenge came when we got home from getting the new outfit and I had her try it on so I could take pics to send to her teacher for approval. Her ghillies (dance shoes) didn't fit. I suddenly remembered how snug they were last summer and how much she had complained about them. Sigh. Providentially, one of Honours dance studio friends had outgrown her hers and was willing to pass them down. By yesterday afternoon, everything was in place. (If you don't count staying up until 1am hemming the new skirt, and lengthening her old crinoline).
The competition was in Cambridge, which is about a 45 minute drive from our house--when the weather is good. We had to be there for 8:30am and didn't really have any option but to bring all four kids. James was scheduled for some gigs this afternoon so we had to take two vehicles, which I wasn't thrilled about. Despite many of the roads being yucky with a thick layer of snow, we still made it on time.
The competition looked to be not as large as many we've been to, and I was happy about that. Checking the program, I found that Honours group only had 10 girls. Usually we've seen groups a little larger, even up to 18.
We got her registered and then found some of her studio-mates along with one of the junior coaches getting warmed up. Ghillies on, vest hooked up, everything looked good and we were ready to start.
The Fling was on the docket first and I was glad for that as it's a strong dance for Honour and her best known. Her group was called to line up and after saying a prayer with her I watched her cross the gym to find her spot, spray bottle in hand to take the dust off her feet.
I should have realized that after so many months of being out of competition that the first dance up would likely be rough. I knew she had been nervous and it really came out as she became distracted and completely missed some crucial steps and turns not too far into the dance. My heart sank and I felt tears threatening. She returned to the bench and refused my comforting arm across her shoulder. Her face was miserable and I finally left her to work it through on her own.
With the groups being smallish, it wasn't long before her next dance was up, the Sword. This is another one that she's done well a number of times before in competition. Up she went to stand before the crossed swords and with my nearly silent cheering from the bench, she worked her way cleanly through the three sections of the dance. Relief made it's first appearance and she was a different girl returning to our spot on the bleachers.
The Sean Trews was soon upon us, a dance she's competent in and has placed 3rd and 5th in previous competitions, back in Beginner level. She seemed to handle this one with no issues, though I find these days that I'm not as adept at seeing missteps or bloopers as I was back in beginner level. The distinctions are becoming too fine for my rudimentary skills.
We bustled off to the change room to don the new Aboyne and have it checked by Rachel, the junior coach. One minor adjustment to the length of the skirt, accomplished by flipping the waistband down once, and she was beautiful and ready to go. I felt my nervousness return as Rachel made last minute corrections to the final step of her Lilt--ones I felt certain she wouldn't be able to get under her belt in time. Still, she went out and performed quite well I thought.
By 11am, the dancing was done and the waiting began. The judges and organizers have to gather all the scores and determine the medal and trophy winners--this always takes a bit of time. About a half an hour later, they began awarding the Primary level dancers with their participation gifts, followed by medals for the top scorers. Three tiny boys, always a hit with their kilts and vests, cleaned up most of the first, second and third place finishes.
Honour's group would be the last announced, so we waited through the two Beginner levels, and one Novice level, before the numbers for her level were called. In Highland dance competition, only the dancers who receive a medal are called to present before the audience, so that tense moment as the MC calls out the list of numbers is a killer. Too well I remembered the previous 3 or 4 competitions when Honour's number had not been called. Saddest parenting moment ever.
The relief that washed over me as I heard that blessed "2-2-5" today was enough to bring me to tears, which I hopefully hid from my benchmates, none that I knew personally. I watched her delighted face light up and she skipped to join the line, her dance card clutched in her hand (her lanyard has gone missing to hang it from her neck).
I had been praying simply that she bring something home, any medal placement at all--and she had up to 6 chances per dance. Once she joined the line of winners and the possibility of returning home empty handed was banished, my hopes began to rise once more. Could she possibly win a first, second or third, and earn a stamp on her card? That barren, stampless, Novice level card until now?
The previous group finished their awards and Honour's line trooped up to the staging area. They began with the Fling award and I hardly listened--we knew there was no chance of a Fling win. Next, the Sword. First place was called....second place....number 225!! I was stunned and thrilled and James and I flapped our hands at each other.
Sean Trews was dance number three and I nearly fell off the bench as 225 was called for first place. The lady beside me, waiting for the afternoon competition to start with her older daughter, turned and beamed a smile of congratulations. The Lilt awards were called without a peep to Honour however; I guess she must have misstepped somewhere along that line.
What a happy, relieving day! As a dance mom friend remarked when she heard the news, "Aw, Honour's got her 'groove' back!". :-)
I spent the afternoon finally organizing Honour's medals onto this presentation board that her teacher gave us way back near the beginning, nearly 4 years ago. It took a bit of searching through emails, facebook posts, messages and many files of pictures, but we finally compiled all the dates, dances and placings of all her medals, save for two which are still confounding us. At the bottom are the medals she's received from her annual dance exam. Honour is now highly motivated to reach her next goal: make it up to Intermediate level by the July 1st Embro competition. I'd better get her registered for more competitions!