I said no to a Goddess

I am so angry at myself.

There are a million and one reasons why I went to a blues dancing practica tonight and only danced one song… but none of them are compelling or rational reasons.

Worse yet was my assedness (is that a word?) towards the later part of the night.

I was sitting in the corner, one dance shoe on and one off in a lame attempt to stave off being asked to dance, and all of a sudden I got quite the unexpected visitor. Salina — one of the most amazingly talented and beloved blues dancers I have ever met in my life — plopped down cheerfully right next to me.

She looked me in the eye and asked “Want to dance?” with her trademark warm grin.

I forget exactly what I stammered out, but the gist of it was “no.”

She stayed and small-talked for a few moments, then got up to dance with someone who was less of a loser. To my right, Chris looked at me, mouth literally agape like you read about or see in the movies but rarely see in real life.

“Wha…?” he started to say. He paused, and you could almost see the gears turning in his head while he tried to express his utter confusion.

“You… um… you said no to Salina?” he continued, half as question and half as an expression of something seeming not quite right.

I muttered a lame explanation, and then there was silence. We both sat and watched Salina dance.

* * *

I wonder if there’s a cure for partial shyness.

I’m not the sort of fellow one would typically think of as shy. Typically cheerful, talkative, occasionally even witty, I wouldn’t say I’m the life of a party, but I’m sometimes the center of a small amount of attention.

But in certain contexts, I become intensely uncomfortable and I simply withdraw. I claim — to others and myself — that I want to watch and learn, to absorb… but as a fellow retorted in a friendly way “You don’t learn by watching. You learn by doing. Get off your ass and ask someone to dance. Sheesh. Practice!”

And besides, I know that I really don’t learn anything or get any better by watching. I become mesmerized, entranced, absorbed… but the intellectual part of my brain refuses to take notes. It’s too busy making excuses for why I shouldn’t be dancing. There are way too many guys, and most are better than I am — let the women dance with them. None of my good female friends are here, and I don’t want to dance so close with mere acquaintances. I shouldn’t subject any women to my dancing especially tonight when I’m so tired and cranky…

* * *

Admittedly, too, there are the painful memories of recent Dentist Dances — that is to say, the dances where the follow looks like she’d rather be under the drill at a dentist’s office than in my arms. For some reason, the memory of those — at least in circumstances like this — are more vivid than the warm memories of blissfully connected dances. Or the fact that one charming follow recently asked me to lead her in blues dancing… seven songs in a row. Or that a professional dancer commented with awe two weeks ago that I had improved fabulously, and sought me out for delicious dances three times in the same night.

No, in my irrational world, my feelings of desperate incompetence — at least in this arena — outweigh my accomplishments. And it all makes me so angry at myself.

I know I will never get better if I don’t practice. And I know the longer I put it off, the longer I make excuses, the longer it will be — if ever — that I become Good. And I know that — despite the sharp and sour warnings of women who rant to groups of us men that there’s little worse than being stuck in a blues dance with a lousy lead for 10 minutes — a Dentist Dance shall pass and is not the end of the world or even the end of my career or a sign that I’ll never be married or an indication that I’m somehow a bad person or anything like that…

And stupidly, it’s not like this is completely new territory for me. I went through this same self-doubting and self-loathing and withdrawal in Lindy Hop — and, indeed, still suffer through some bad nights of this sort. And now… heck, I’m at least above average in my scene, often asked to dance, even complimented pretty regularly.

* * *

I wish I could be more like my friend Niles. You know the part of the brain that says, “Dude, you shouldn’t do that! You can’t ask her! You’re looking like a total fool! Shouldn’t you be more cautious?”… yeah, that limiting part of the brain? Well, his was apparently lobotomized at or near birth. From his first days in San Francisco, he asked the instructors to dance, he asked the hotties, the ice queens, the Lindy snobs, the most talented and the least accessible… he asked all of them to dance. Repeatedly.

I asked him how he did it, and he looked at me like *I* was crazy. “Huh?” was his response, “If they say no they say no. What’s the big deal?”

Well, as you might guess, Niles got really good, really fast. And now all the hotties, the ice queens, the Lindy snobs… they ask him.

I wonder if Niles has this sort of fearlessness in everyday life. “Hi!” I envision him slapping his boss on the back, “I’d like a raise, please. $20-$25K more a year. Can I sign the new contract tomorrow?”

Then again, maybe not. Niles confided in me last week that he was extremely shy. No, really.

But that’s fodder for another post. I think I’m going to go get some much-needed sleep and see if I’m able to replenish my store of Courage. Wish me luck.

Added on April 8, 2005:
I’m hauling my ass to this. I’ll either become totally discouraged or I’ll learn to love blues and actually get some more confidence and mad skillz. I’m hoping for — and optimistically expecting — the latter :-). After all, when I was similarly bummed about my lack of lindy libido, I went here for two weeks and that delicious kick in pants made all the difference in my dancing… and my dancing outlook.







One response to “I said no to a Goddess”

  1. Simon Lacoste-Julien Avatar

    “Or the fact that one charming follow recently asked me to lead her in blues dancing… seven songs in a row. Or that a professional dancer commented with awe two weeks ago that I had improved fabulously, and sought me out for delicious dances three times in the same night.”

    Well, you should focus on those thoughts, of course. Not the dentist dances. But well, I can admit that this can be hard sometimes… ;o)

    “None of my good female friends are here, and I don’t want to dance so close with mere acquaintances.”

    Blues can be danced at different levels of closeness, and I can say that even if I am a somewhat experienced blues dancer, I try to never dance very close with a follow unless I could believe that she (or he – though I’ll stick to she for succinctness) is comfortable with it. For this, I either watch
    1) If she usually dances very close with other people (and not only her very close friends – no pun intended ;o);
    2) Or I try to feel/guess during some preliminary blues dancing how much she seems comfortable with it and if we can get in closer position (after which you have to watch for body signs, etc to see if she seems uncomfortable with it). This is an art, I admit. Sometimes it’s hard to know and you can just bluntly ask with words (e.g., it could be that your follow is having a Densist visit face because of something else than your dancing. It has happened several times to me where the follow was preoccupied by something else than my dancing (or said so at least). If you don’t ask, you’ll never know. And you’ll put it in the category “Dentist Dance” while it was merely “follow preoccupied by something else”. I admit that this direct communication is not necessarily standard, but I find it pretty efficient at resolving ambiguities and ackwardness.) 

    Being in a late night blues event (or Blues Lindy Exchange) helps to resolve this ambiguity in that I’d say that it is totally normal (and expected) to dance in close position so that people have their tolerance level quite higher than for a normal Lindy Hop event; that is, the Dentist dance effect will be less of an issue. It is 3-4 minutes after all.

    Anyway, your point was that *you* didn’t want to dance in such close position. My answer is that you don’t have to, and that it is a significant part of blues dancing to dance in *closed* connection [by oposition to open like during a swing out – and so closed is not *that* close]. If you can have a great lead in this position, then you are in way better shape to have a great lead in a closer connection (though the technique is slightly different, there are a lot of similarities like being able to lead moves *very slowly*).

    So all that to dedramatize a bit the act of blues dancing, and to reiterate that you should take advantages of those practice events to improve your blues dancing.

    Good luck! ;o)

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