We stayed at the outer banks as long as we could but we had to be home in time for Erin to do her next dance competition at a small Highland Games not too far from home. So we got home on friday evening and the next morning Erin and I were there.
This was Erin's second competition and I have a lot to learn about this all of this, though I'm learning more and more as we go along. One thing I'm learning is the same thing I'm learning about what goes on at some other activities my kids have been doing, like softball for example. There is a level of precision and professionalism and attention to detail that I just assume in everything, but almost always reality falls short of that.
This was a serious competition with no trophies given for merely participation. The kids have worked very hard, winners are determined, the dancers in the top skill level are competing for prize money. It seems kinda important to get the details right.
In girls softball the umpires are trained and paid but you just wouldn't know it when you watch them work. In Highland dancing I saw some very strange judging by a paid professional during Erin's first competition and though I think the judging was better this time, there was a big problem with the music. Commonly they have a live piper play the music at competitions but at this one they used recorded music.
The beginner group was first, dancing the Fling. When the music started I thought, "Hmmm, that sounds weird. I've never heard Fling music like that before," but dismissed it as my own ignorance. After all, I don't even sit in on the girls' lessons, but I know it isn't the same as the practice music we have at home, on a specific CD the teachers directed me to get as being standard Highland dance music.
The music here was sorta kinda similar, but really kinda not. None of the beginners were able to step off at the right time when it started. The judge ordered the music stopped and restarted. They did a little better the next time, though she also signaled them, which normally wouldn't be done and wouldn't be necessary. Erin looked a little off while doing this first dance and then she became lost and missed several parts. The other kids looked kind of off too.
Erin was furious as she joined me off stage.
"WHAT was that music?!?"
"I screwed up the WHOLE THING!"
We talked a while and I told her I noticed the music was strange also and it seemed to be throwing off a lot of people but if she just listened for the beat and did the she knew that she'd be fine.
The next dance was the Sword and though the music was still strange, she did better this time.
And the music apparently was an issue for most everyone. I was watching some of the Premiers (the dancers at the very highest skill level) and some of them were being clearly thrown way off by the music too, something I've never seen before since those dancers have been dancing for YEARS. Among the six Intermediate dancers (the class right below Premier, still a couple of classes above beginner), four of them were disqualified during one dance for being so out of step with the music. The judge let all six redo that dance. This was all entirely unheard of.
I walked over to Erin's teacher and asked her what's going on and she was positively furious that they weren't using standard recordings. As kids were making huge mistakes and the judge ordered songs restarted throughout the morning she was visibly very annoyed. I thought she was annoyed at the kids for their mistakes, but as it turns out, Erin's teacher explained that she was annoyed at the organizers for having screwed up.
Erin danced in all five possible beginner dances. At her last competition she only did four because she didn't feel that she knew the fifth one, the Flora, well enough yet. I guess the whole music problem caused someone to finally change the CD because when it came time for the Flora a conventional recording was finally used.
Erin's timing here is a little better than the girl next to her:
And later the eight beginners were lined up together to receive their awards. Erin got a fifth place medal for one dance, a fourth place for another, and for the Flora, the newest dance for her, she took second place!
She explained her much better performance in the dance she's had the least practice with by saying it was the only dance that used the right music. In that she was absolutely correct.
As much as these events are clearly stressing me out, Erin enjoys them. Competition #3 is coming on labor day weekend.