by Sarah Luna

See my introduction to this series here.

I mentioned before that this past weekend was my last ballroom competition of the semester. The Big Apple Dancesport Challenge is held at Columbia University in New York City. I had high hopes for it this year because of the incredible experiences I had last year surrounding that competition. I didn’t expect it to be the same–different people, different circumstances–but I knew that it would be special.

Most of the other ballroomies carpooled down to the city Friday afternoon. I stuck around in Ithaca to hear Billy Joel, so that meant that I had to catch the 1am bus to NYC to make it in time. I thought this out beforehand, and decided that it was doable. After all, I had walked across Spain before; taking a bus to NYC in the middle of the night by myself should be no problem. It would be an adventure!

I returned home after Billy Joel and packed my hiking backpack with my dresses, undies, shorts, and makeup. I had to streamline things since I was travelling by bus. I looked up the subway schedules, the address of the ballroom, and the ETA of the bus. I even drew a map on a flashcard of where I had to be (just like SP!). I had approximately 30 minutes to get from Port Authority to the university before I had to go onstage. What if I got delayed?

I decided to wear my maroon dress on the bus. My partner had taken my big red dress with him, but I wanted to make sure I could be stage-worthy in case I didn’t have time to change. It was also 30F, so I pulled on my grey pants, my boots, a maroon long-sleeved shrit, my black leather jacket, and a teal scarf. Exhausted and excited, I was ready. My bag was packed; the shell was placed; I was a pilgrim once more.

Somehow I managed to sleep on the bus. Being 5’4″ has advantages sometimes. I was able to curl up in the fetal position with my backpack at my side. Although queasy and uncomfortable, I could at least close my eyes. The bus stopped in Binghamton to pick up more people. Two smokers sat down behind me. I stepped outside for some air, but the station was locked and rather sketchy.

I remember being cold, hungry, queasy, headache-y, and uncomfortable. Then I heard noise around me and saw the Port Authority sign out the window. The first part of my journey was complete.  I stepped out unsteadily and latched my backpack around me. This was my seventh time travelling through the terminal, and I could walk confidently. I navigated the escalators and watched the people around me go about their morning routines. Dressed in my jeweled colors, with my leather jacket, my skirt flowing over my pants, my disheveled curly hair, all I could think was Bohémienne:


There is something inexplicably wonderful about transitions. Seeing Billy Joel in Ithaca and then dancing in New York City required a massive physical transition. Watching versus performing required an emotional transition. Movements themselves (thinking of rumba walks here) are defined by transitions.

Transitions are where we are least steady.

I met a Harvard ballroomie at the subway station. He didn’t know where to go, so I told him to follow me. We conversed about our teams and the different problems we had. I was surprised to hear that he was a junior who danced pre-champ. I told him that I was a grad student dancing silver. We reached the university and parted ways. He said that he would cheer for me.

I had left Ithaca at 1:30am, arrived at Port Authority at 6:45 am, and walked into the ballroom at 7:20am. I had made it. I was ready to dance.