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Hello lovelies! I’m sitting here in the beautiful Loews Vanderbilt Hotel in Nashville, TN. Yesterday I competed in the Volunteer State Dance Challenge in the morning and evening sessions for Open Gold Latin. We placed first in all of the single dances and first in the scholarship! The competition itself was really nice; everyone was so friendly and the atmosphere was really positive. My nerves got the better of me in the morning session and I was pretty bummed with my performance. When you’re all decked out in hair, makeup,and costume, the whole dynamic changes. A competition atmosphere is so much different than just practicing in the studio. Also, I was SUPER winded for some reason (I may have been holding my breath lol). So for the night session I really just focused on having fun and performing my heart out, and it really paid off! I felt so much better about that round. After my first dance I usually get my nerves out and can just really let loose.

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I got my hair and makeup done by Linda Doyle and she did such a great job. It really relieves some pressure when you have someone else doing all that stuff for you; I get stressed out if I try to do it on my own, plus I know absolutely nothing about ballroom hair. I was SOOOOOO pleased with my dress and headpiece. They wereย made by Maria Chitul from Ballroom Sparkle. The dress looks like something a goddess would wear with the beautiful bead work and royal colors. Everyone seemed to love it as much as I do.

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One thing I noticed is that I really feed off of a great crowd. If the ballroom is full of excitement, cheering, and photography, for some reason I tend to bring it more than if the ballroom is dead. I got to watch the Professional Latin after my heats and that is always really inspiring. You can tell that they really feed off the crowd too. One of the couples (I forgot their names) were fabulous! The guy was so fast and sharp….his Jive was on point. I love watching people who really love dancing and putting on a show.

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I am super grateful to have such a wonderful coach who really believes in me. He is super funny and constantly keeps me smiling, even when I want to throw up from nerves lol. I watched several of my videos and even though they are not perfect at all, I can see substantial improvement from where I was almost a year ago. Watching the videos also helps me to see what I need to work on, and finally understand certain things that he has been telling me to do. I really hate watching myself on video because I am so critical, but it helps a lot. I also loved having my family and John’s other student Lynn here supporting me. They all encourage me and help me feel confident about my dancing which is really great.

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Everything about ballroom competitions are fabulous from the costumes, to the sparkles, the continuous music, and of course, the dancing. I am now SUPER pumped for USDC in September (which is in Florida). I know the competition will be fierce but I am going to work extremely hard to prepared. No matter what I always want to give it my all and enjoy every second.

For the love of dance,

Ashlyn Tori <3

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*Photography by Christal’s Camera