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Competing With vs Competing Against

I started this post in the beginning of April, just after spending the weekend at Heartland Swing Festival in Des Moines, Iowa, competing with my friends. While the above video is from Steel City Blues' Solo Riffin' contest this year, it still demonstrates something that I think has become a major theme in how I view competition anymore. Riffin' as a concept is about throwing down with your friends, and trying to bring the best out of them by pulling out all the stops yourself. "Oh, man, that's what you've got? Wait until you see what I have next!" is basically the essence of riffin'.

This particular competition mindset is really helpful for me. Once I stop having to compete against the other dancers, I can more freely experience the music, which helps me actually just dance my dance.

I loved this competition so much. Throughout it, we all tried to pull each other up into our world, our ideas, our musicality. The moment before the final all skate, where I got everyone to buy into the idea that we are a circle, we are airplanes, and NOW we break is a silly one, but it is my favorite thing in this competition. It showed that regardless of the outcome, we were there, together, and willing to be silly together for the benefit of the audience.

One of the strange things that happens when you've been competing for a while is suddenly, every one that's on the field is someone you know and respect and are excited to watch compete. I can't even count the number of competitions where I got distracted right before it was my turn in a jam because my friends did something incredible. Each competition is like a tiny reunion of all of the people you look up to and push you to dance your best. It's only a matter of time before I end up accidentally screaming right through the first eight of my phrase.

And the thing is, the day that happens, I'm going to be so pumped for whoever it was that threw down so hard that I couldn't pick my jaw up fast enough that I'll probably have a really ridiculous dance then too.

The nice thing about this mindset is it frees you from "what didn't I do? What didn't the judges like about me" sort of worry. When you're there to see your friends succeed, and to make sure they do so by giving them something spectacular to try and outmatch, those questions fade away. They become "what can I do next time to top *that*"

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