Archive for the ‘interviews’ Category
So these discussions keep popping up all over the lindy blogosphere: girls are complaining that guys won’t dance with them unless they look like models. What the hell?
I decided to do some field research. I tracked down one of the youngest, hippest, cutest, awesomest rock-star leads in our scene, who chose to remain nameless, and subjected him to a battery of questions.
“Okay,” I said. “If you have the choice between dancing with a cute girl and one who’s just ordinary, which one would you rather dance with?”
He took a long moment, trying to figure out a nice way to say it. But there was no way. “The cute one,” he said sadly. We looked at each other for awhile as the enormity of that statement sank in.
Then I thought of something. “Well,” I said, “Say the cute girl is a total beginner and the ordinary girl is a really good dancer? What then?”
And then he said something that blew me away. “Sometimes,” he said, “it’s more fun to dance with a beginner follow than a good one.”
Whoa. Hold the phone. What’s THAT all about?
He explained. According to my source, sometimes, for a lead, it’s fun to try and lead things in such a way that a girl who has no idea what she’s doing can follow them. It makes a nice challenge, and it’s fun to try and make her feel successful. But it can actually be boring to dance with someone who just perfectly, predictably, robotically follows everything he leads, perfectly perfectly.
“I don’t go dancing just so I can do my same old moves over and over and show off,” he says. “It’s nice to be surprised once in a while. But perfect follows just do the same thing all the time. They just follow.”
Okay, well that actually made sense to me. “So what if,” I said, “the girl doesn’t just follow, but screws around and throws in her own stuff? Is that okay?”
“That’s way better,” he said.
“All right,” I said, bracing myself to hear the wrong answer as I formulated my last question. “Given a choice between a gorgeous beginner follow who looks like a model, and a so-so-looking but experienced follow who plays around and throws in her own surprises, which one do you pick?”
This time, he didn’t hesitate. “”That one,” he said. “The second one. Definitely.”
There you have it, ladies. According to my expert witness, gorgeous leads with mad skills prefer to dance with accomplished follows, no matter what they look like, rather than cute beginners, but only as long as the accomplished follow is creative and surprising with her dancing.
Does that make you feel better? Or does it just create a new problem?
Mindy Hazeltine, owner of Stumptown Dance, has what some people might consider the perfect job. She’d be the first to agree.
Mindy is the owner of Stumptown Dance, Portland’s largest weekly swing dance. She spends her life organizing dances, DJing, and teaching people to dance. “What do you call yourself?” I asked her. “That’s a good question!” she said. “There’s no title for this. They never know what to call me on my taxes. My insurance guy calls me a ‘dance school.”’ She laughed. “That’s the best he could come up with!”
The other night when I was talking with her, I just had to ask: so is there anything bad about your job? “The problem with it is that my hobby is my job,” she said. “I can’t just go dancing for fun, without feeling like I have to be there for some business reason. Going out dancing socially can sometimes feel like work. I always feel like I have to act a certain way or be a certain way.”
Yet anyone who knows Mindy can see that she is perfect for the job. She has a glow about her that comes from the sheer enjoyment of dancing, and she’s one of these people who instantly remembers the name of everyone she dances with. It is safe to say that she’s good friends with almost every dancer in the swing community. Of course she loves what she does.
So what’s the best thing about your job? “Every aspect of it is enjoyable in some way,” she immediately answered. “It’s flexible. I get to dance and do something fun for a living.” She paused for a second, thinking. “I guess the best part of it,” she said finally, “is just that I get to do it!”
Sounds good to me!
Mindy Hazeltine is like a drug pusher of swing dancing. She seems to be in the business of turning ordinary people into swing dance addicts.
As the owner of Stumptown Dance, Mindy runs the biggest weekly swing dance in Portland, Oregon. On an average to slow night she gets 140-150 people. Recently I asked her why she thinks so many people show up at her events.
“I get a lot of school groups and church groups,” she said modestly. “They’re looking for something to do, and the time and location are good. They can leave in time to get up for their Monday morning schedule.”
That’s just so Mindy. Come on, now. They’re not all coming out of the woodwork just because they’re bored on a Sunday night. What gives?
“There are a lot of different reasons why individual people might show up,” she explained. “Maybe their friends invited them, or they always wanted to learn to dance, or something like that. But usually it’s social. They want to meet new people, either people in general or people to date. Although the ones who are just looking for a dating scene don’t usually stick around very long!”
Oh, no! Is that bad?
“No, it’s good!” she said. “People like it that way. In general, partner dancing is a pretty intimidating thing to get started at. It makes people feel safer if they know it isn’t some kind of meat market.”
So what stops it from being a “meat market”? She had to think about that one. “A lot of it has to do with the people who are in leadership,” she said finally. “I don’t mean just me, but in the whole swing community. We’ve set that kind of example, and it has been contagious. People who come out dancing and enjoy it tend to bring their friends. Promotion is by word of mouth, and the people who are interested keep coming back.”
Okay, so people decide to try dancing for a variety of reasons. But what turns them into addicts? ”They fall in love with some deeper aspect of it,” she said. “They make new friends at the dances. Then they’re not just showing up with the friends they started out with; they’re developing deeper relationships in the dance community. They get involved, take some classes, start seeking out live music, start dressing the part. It isn’t just social for them anymore.”
Yes, it’s that familiar out-of-control spiral. How well I remember that slippery slope!
Mindy had a lot more interesting stuff to say, but I don’t want to challenge any blog-reader’s short attention span, so I’ll save it for a couple of upcoming posts. See you tomorrow!