Opinion: Dancing forges bonds

OK, I’m just going to come right out and admit this column is going to be emotional blather as I finally start to come down

Observer Editor Tracy Hughes and her Dancing with the Shuswap Starts partner

Observer Editor Tracy Hughes and her Dancing with the Shuswap Starts partner

OK, I’m just going to come right out and admit this column is going to be emotional blather as I finally start to come down from the high of the successful Dancing with the Shuswap Stars event on Friday night.

It is no word of a lie to say how amazing it was to go from the hokey pokey to being a cha cha champion in just a few months. (Just don’t ask me to do any other dance… I have a one-dance repertoire.) At first, I could barely stand up in my high-heeled dance shoes and ended up with weeks of bruised feet from stepping on myself. Then there were the unfortunate hits to Orlando Robertson’s poor face. To his credit, he never gave up on me. Sometimes I’m sure he felt like as much my therapist as my dance teacher.

I know I am safe to say that for all of the contestants, this took us way out of our comfort zones – if our comfort zone was Earth, this event pushed us out on Pluto.

Facing a dance floor surrounded by more than 450 people (or 900 eyes, as City Dance pro Heather Stranks pointed out) is pretty anxiety-inducing. But there’s nothing like gut-wrenching fear to bring a group of people together.

Most of us couldn’t stomach dinner that night and it was interesting to see how we coped with nerves backstage. There was a lot of deep breathing. Some of us kept running through the steps, while others didn’t want to jinx it. There were various theories on whether a drink beforehand was a good idea. I ended up putting on my headphones and listening to some crank-me-up power tunes to take my mind off all the waiting.

Performing last felt like the time slot of death!

One of the best parts of the event happened behind the scenes, as every team enthusiastically supported each other’s efforts. We knew this wasn’t easy. We lived it. And I feel like all of us now share a special bond – like we are the Proud Dance Warriors of Salmon Arm. It was trial by fire in front of that audience, and all of us rose to the challenge. We’ve all made, or enriched, some amazing friendships along the way.

I know it sounds trite, but winning wasn’t the important thing. As soon as I hit that dip and Orlando caught me, it felt like the greatest victory ever.

While the event was about raising money to expand the chalet at the Larch Hills Ski Area, I feel like I was given an incredible gift by this experience.

First is the knowledge that, if I could do that, then I have no reason to fear much else in life.

And second, as a mom of three with a full-time job, it’s really easy to get bogged down in your life and put everyone else’s stuff ahead of your own. With this event looming, there was no way I was missing a lesson or a chance to practice. Doing this was a huge motivating factor to make myself a priority.

Based on the amazing success of the night, I’m certain this event will be back next year.

And, let me tell you, I’ll be happy to be in the audience.