AdamDance musings

dancing, personal

Well, it’s been the worst of times, it’s been the best of times, to semi-quote those cliched novels. For those interested in my Lindy Hop and other dancing adventures, read on. 🙂

I’ve been doing less and less Lindy Hop lately, partly because I’ve felt burned out on the swing scene a bit, both dancewise and otherwise. I’ve reached a sort of plateau where I feel I should be a lot better than I am, but I’m not quite sure how to get there or even if it’s worth all the effort. I miss two of my favorite teachers who moved away (Paul and Sharon) whom I really learned well with, and I’m a bit overwhelmed by all the new faces in the swing scene nowadays.

Additionally, the increasingly heavy emphasis on fast music and slow blues — neither of which I’m very good at — is making me feel more and more like a fish-out-of-water around here. My visit to St. Louis for a blues dance workshop weekend to get a jump start on blues fell flat when I got really sick with allergies and also was (perhaps partly due to the sniffling and sneezing?) totally ignored amidst all the cliques. It was the complete antithesis of the warm and welcoming camps I’ve been to in the past, like Herrang and Swing Out Northwest.

Just one good thing from the camp: at the end of our last class, our instructors put on a 7 minute version of “Summertime.” When they announced that they’d be playing it, I cringed and almost ran out the door; that was, after all, the same song that scarred me years ago when I asked someone to dance at a Lindy event before I knew what song was being played… and, too shy and not smart enough to gracefully exit, I subjected myself and my follow to a truly torturous 7 minutes of faking blues when I hadn’t an inkling of a clue of anything past the old sway-back-and-forth-like-junior-high-kids. I had tried to put on a courageous face when my follow, after the first 30 seconds, asked with clear disgust: “Um, do you KNOW how to blues dance?” and I replied “No, but I’m willing to fake it!” But I didn’t try blues dancing (or even faking it) for literally years after that.

So, anyway, to make a long story, well, long… this “years after that” in St. Louis, I made it through the same song quite nicely, so it was a personal triumph of sorts. Undoubtedly more interesting to me from a symbolic standpoint than any of you poor saps still reading this entry, but hey, as I’ve said before, it’s my blog. Guaranteed fascinating and informative, or your money back! 🙂

* * *

So, anyway, I’ve thought about just calling the whole swing/blues thing quits again a lot lately, but then every once in a while (apparently just often enough) I have such a wonderful dance and I just have this humungous grin on my face and I’ll go home happy, vowing to stick with it all. From an acquaintance of mine who gushed “That’s the best dance I had all night!” to other wonderful follows who literally run up to me to catch a dance… it’s just hard to throw it all away.

Plus following is still fresh and fun for me, even when I don’t plan on following! :-). For instance, at one of my birthday jams recently, my friend Elizabeth started off leading me, and that triggered an unexpected and pretty hilarious chain of guys and women jumping in to lead me in my jam. Only Kathy, bless her heart, gave me a brief break by following. But it was all good… totally a blast, and I’m proud that I managed to get through it not only unscathed, but looking almost decent, apparently.

I also had a delightful and unexpected birthday jam at Stanford’s recent all-night “Big Dance” as well, with lots of really nice people — many of whom I didn’t even know — coming in to dance with me. Plus my friend Graham thoughtfully helped me get through the 34 (!) birthday pivots I had to do afterwards, and — despite a slight bump (okay, total crash) into a neighboring couple — we all survived.

* * *

Over the last few months, I’ve also taken some basic classes in latin dancing and waltzing. Of the two, I think I’m more partial to waltzing at this point, because when comparing the social scenes… well, salsa seems to be — on the whole — much more of a drinking / pick-up-chicks-in-high-heels scene, whereas non-ballroom’y waltzing seems much more laid back, friendly, and less competitive. Oh, yeah, and unlike the couple of salsa clubs I’ve been to, at least all the waltz songs don’t sound the same, and I can actually tell when one stops and another begins.

You laugh. I still remember (again, cringing), when a woman asked me to dance in a salsa club and I kept thinking to myself, “Self… okay, you’ve done all 3.14 move you know how… when the *@&!#( is this song going to end?!?!?!?” About 20 minutes later, I realized — as my partner politely excused herself — that the song was really many songs seemlessly tied together. What in heaven’s name is going through those DJs’ minds when they pull crap like this? “Heh heh, I know… right after the beginner lesson, I’m going to skillfully crossfade 10 5-minute songs into each other and see how long those newbies last on the floor!” With waltzes, I may only know a tiny tiny number of moves, but at least I can be pretty assured that the boredom’ll be limited to 3-5 minutes.

And actually, the aforementioned PivotKindness friend Graham recently praised my waltz basic, and that made me very happy. So, while I may bore my partners to tears, at least they’ll be twirled around in a relatively comfortable way :-).

* * *

But anyway, I really need to do some thinking about how I want to be spending my time, my effort, and so on. On one hand, it’s tempting to really push myself to get over that Lindy hump/slump AND also start taking some waltz public and/or private lessons so I can more fully enjoy the FridayNightWaltzes. But on the other hand, I’ve been meaning to get back into my music composing, which — while unfortunately pretty solitary — can be truly rewarding when I’m disciplined. I wish I could snap my fingers and get by without sleeping, or create more hours in the day…

5 comments… add one
  • Graham Jun 5, 2005

    Okay, so in the spirit of sharing these kinds of memories…

    One of my first waltzes was probably about 8 years ago, at the end of a contra dance workshop. They were just going to play a waltz, since that’s a traditional end to a contra dance evening, even though they didn’t teach it in the workshop. So I was about to slip away quietly when a lady I didn’t know asked me to waltz. I protested, of course, saying I didn’t know how.

    “Oh, that’s okay,” she said,

    (wait for it……)

    “you just lead.”

    C’mon, lady! What were you thinking?!?

    Anyway, five pitiful minutes later I managed to escape with my life if not my pride, and within only two or three years actually started taking dance lessons and learned to waltz for real. Now, it’s one of my favorite things to do.

    The moral of the story, of course, is that no matter how bad of a start you get off to, there’s always hope. 😀

  • Graham Jun 5, 2005

    Oh, and I was going to say something about moves, too. When it comes to fast turning waltzes, there are really only about 4 or 5 moves I actually do, maybe a few more if you count as double the ones that can be done in left or right turn waltz. With waltzing, a lot of the pleasure is just in flowing and turning smoothly and really enjoying the motion and the partner connection. You can spend a lot more time doing the basic in waltz than you can in swing or salsa, which are more move-oriented. Of course, once you’ve got a good basic, there are more subtle things you can do with it, to vary the feel of the dance to fit the music. But it’s a lot different from collecting a pile of moves to use (which is what I currently feel like I need to do with swing).

  • Adam Jun 5, 2005

    Hey, thanks, Graham!

    And I can totally see your point about the waltz-basic.  I’m certainly happy to swirl around for a dance doing just the basic… it’s a great feeling.  And now I’ll worry less about boring my partner 🙂

  • J. Jun 5, 2005

    Yep, one of the best things that could’ve happened to me was starting off my dance career mostly in Waltz rather than swing.  It got me focused on simply providing for my partners—seeking not to impress, but simply to glide alongside them and guard them from all the crazy lunatics out there on the dance floor.  😉

    Incidentally, Stanford Waltz Weekend is coming up.  There are open slots for leads.  I did it last year while only knowing a basic rotary and a cross-step, and you’re way beyond that already.  Sign up for it and pick up plenty more insights into dance as a whole!

  • Bee Jun 5, 2005

    I’ve been on the plateau a couple of times, I know how it felt like being in the lindy plateau…sometimes it’s just drawing all the energy out and I just wanna call it quit! But what’s keeping me to go dancing everytime is the fun dances, the music and my friends.

    I guess we are the source of our own happiness, there’s always a whole lot of reasons and/or past experiences why we should or shouldn’t do things. In the end, it’s still our choice and we shouldn’t let the reasons limit or stop us in our path. That’s how i think 😉

    It’s sad to see friends sizzle out of the swing scene [eventhough we’re in different part of the world]. I hope you’d pull through the slump but if you do fall into the “no-turning-back” pit, at least we’re still online friends.

    Choose wisely, Adam! 😀

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