Posts Tagged ‘manners’
So I’m in DC for the Lindy Exchange, and perversely, this post isn’t going to be about the exchange at all. Isn’t that just like me?
See, my sister is a local resident, and since I’m staying with her, I figured it was only right I let her talk me into checking out her preferred form of dancing while I was in town. My sister is addicted to salsa dancing, so on Thursday night we dropped in on salsa night at Dance King Studio in Leesburg.
Now, I’ve done a little bit of salsa, just like I’ve done a little bit of practically every other dance that’s going these days. I’ve even had a little zydeco led on me. Never tried contra, but whatever. I figure if you can follow at all, you can pretty much follow anything.
And that’s generally true. Following is following. You may not follow pretty or look like you know what you’re doing, but at least you won’t get your arm broke off or do anything really embarrassing.
Which pretty much sums up what was happening for me Thursday night. I was managing to get through most of the turns and make it from point A to point B in one piece.
But you know what completely eluded me? The aesthetics of the thing.
First of all, as a lindy hopper, dressing up to go out dancing means something different to me than it does to a salsa dancer. I wore the only heels I had with me, a pair of black Aris Allens that are vintagy-funky-cool at a swing dance, but at a salsa dance they could not have appeared dorkier. Girls dressed up for salsa wear tall, tall spindly spiky things on their feet. Salsa dancers cover the stylistic range between elegant and slutty, but they all appear to be aiming for sexy. This is in no way the aesthetic for swing dancing. And even though I wore the closest equivalent outfit I could throw together, I’m sure people were wondering why I was dressed like someone’s grandma. I felt like a total doofus.
Secondly, there’s the music. Oh, the music. I think that in order to be able to dance convincingly, you need to be moved by the music. And salsa music does not move me, unless it’s out the door. It sounds like circus music to me, and it was way too loud. But my sister, and here’s the important point, my sister listens to that stuff IN HER CAR. Enough said?
Finally, though, salsa dancers just seem to have a different idea of what dancing is actually FOR. As an outsider, it appears to me that they’re really hung up on the whole gender-role difference thing. The men are really manly, and the girls are over-the-top girly. And when a lead approaches me with that Magnificent Beast look on his face, well, it just makes me want to laugh.
Which I actually did, periodically throughout the night. I laughed. Swing dancing makes me laugh a lot, which is why I do it. But salsa dancers don’t seem to like that so much. As a matter of fact, the highlight of my evening was when one of these magnificent beasts led a turn on me, and accidentally smacked me right in the forehead. I about died laughing. I had to stop and have a short fit of hysterics. And the man just stood there, wearing that Mask of Zorro look, not even cracking a grin. Just stood there waiting until I had recovered and could proceed with the serious business at hand. If you don’t think that made me feel like the Special Child, think again.
So basically, salsa dancing, blech.
But I will say that salsa dancers do seem to be enjoying themselves every bit as much as I do when I’m at a swing dance. So I’m not disrespecting the dance itself. It may very well be that I am just way too awkward and unwieldy for this much more adult-seeming form of dancing.
In fact, I’m just perverse enough that I might for the hell of it buy myself a pair of those spiky things and give it a try again next year.
(P.S. Had the honor of meeting fellow dance-blogger Jason from “Dancing Past the Godzilla Threshold” at the lindy exchange last night, and if he’s reading this, he better get ready because I intend to ask him for a lotta more dances tonight!)
Last night I didn’t feel like going dancing, but I made myself go anyway.
I’d been depressed all day, you see. It was one of those days where I just couldn’t get started at doing anything. Nothing sounded fun or important enough to bother with; consequently, I wasted most of the day lying around fiddling with a Rubik’s cube and eating leftover Halloween candy.
So I felt like a slug. Way too much of a slug to go dancing. Plus my back hurt and I had a weird pain in my foot. All I wanted to do was stay home and watch old Sanford and Son episodes. But I figured staying home would just make me feel worse.
Besides, I was supposed to meet someone there, and I just didn’t feel like yet again, like always, failing to follow through on my commitments. You understand the kind of day I was having?
So I dragged myself to the dance. And I had a terrible night.
Not like the music wasn’t perfect, it totally was. And bunches of my friends were there. It should have been great. And I did have a couple of very pleasant dances with folks.
But I just wasn’t feeling it. Physically, I felt exhausted and huge, like I was this big awkward object lurching around. Mentally, I felt like I was back in middle school, watching the popular kids have fun while I ate my lunch at the dork table.
There was this girl there that I’d been wanting to dance with, a really good follow who I don’t really know, but have been dying to try and lead. The perfect song came on, so I ran to find her. She was talking to a guy, but I had already tapped her on the shoulder before I processed that she was busy. Not like I could just go “oh, never mind.” I’d already interrupted their conversation, I had to follow through, so I asked her to dance, and she agreed.
I was pretty sure she’d said yes just to be polite, so I really wanted to dance well to make up for my having asked her to dance in the first place. You know, make it worth her while. So naturally, I danced terrible.
Then, to make it worse, I apologized for my bad dancing.
Then, to make it even more worse, I tried to explain, and then suddenly I found I couldn’t stop explaining. I kept talking on and on, and she was staring at me like I was a crazy person. Which I basically was.
For the rest of the night I found I had this apologizing complex. I couldn’t stop apologizing, and then apologizing FOR apologizing. Leading, following, didn’t matter. I couldn’t stop telling people how bad a dancer I was. It was like my body had been taken over by some weird apologizing demon, and all I could do was helplessly listen to myself, unable to stop.
I don’t even know if there’s a moral to this story. Sometimes, when you’re having a bad day and don’t feel like going out, the healthiest thing is to make yourself go out anyway, because it will usually make you feel better. But last night I really should have stayed home and watched Sanford and Son. So I guess the moral is that sometimes, if you don’t feel like going out, it’s better to stay home.
Does it seem to you that most people who love swing dancing, and swing music, just love old stuff in general?
Let me offer my ownself to you as a case study, just for arguments’ sake. I think my tastes are fairly typical for a typical swing dancer. Let’s see now…
Of course, I love old music. So do you, so do we all. Isn’t old music what brings a lot of us to swing dancing in the first place? And certainly keeps us here. Otherwise we’d probably be salsa dancers or westies or something.
What about old movies? I know a lot of us get renewed inspiration from watching, not just the old dance clips on YouTube, but any of the old black-and-white movies that feature random song-and-dance numbers as wildly improbable adjuncts to their already far-fetched storylines. But I love ALL old movies, and ONLY old movies, from the sublime (Twelve Angry Men) to the ridiculous (Disorder in the Court). IMHO, very few movies made since 1970 are worth watching a second time.
Old clothes? Of course. Not that I own many, or could fit many if I did. But I treasure those items I do have, and I live in perpetual regret that as a culture, we just do not look as well-put-together as we used to. Look at almost any old black-and-white photograph of a crowd scene, and you will see nothing but neat and well-dressed people. Even the bums standing in breadlines look relatively stylish. A cross-section of mall shoppers on any given weekend will reveal lots of personal self-expression and very little actual good taste. Sigh.
Old manners, there’s a good one. Honestly? I think I married my husband mostly because he has never once let me open a car door unassisted. But I cannot tell you the number of times that I have been run off the sidewalk by a pack of highschoolers walking two abreast, talking on their phones. What’s wrong with people anymore? I swear, the next time the girl at the bank looks at my check and then calls me by my first name like I’m her BFF, I’m going to, well, scowl in disapproval anyway.
Old houses, definitely. I’ve always loved to poke around restored historic mansions, projecting myself into domestic scenes of long ago and wondering how the hell those ladies fit into those tiny shoes. My own house was built in 1904, and it’s full of old furniture, doilies, table lamps,books and knickknacks. The only television screen I own is hidden away back in the sunroom, where no visitors ever go; I deplore the current custom of placing a giant screen front and center in every room of the house.
Old books? Of course. Not necessarily 20th century old, either. I’m talking Victorian.
Old news. By that I mean I’m a history buff. Actually, one of my other blogs is on American history. Since I don’t watch television I really have no idea what’s going on in the world today, and I really don’t even care. I prefer to leave current events to those who actually have the power or inclination to do something about them.
What about old food? I don’t mean leftovers, silly. I just mean I don’t eat anything that would not have been recognized as food a century ago. I buy actual ingredients, and cook them. Crazy idea, I know.
Of course, not everything old is great. Massive, widespread, legally-sanctioned racial prejudice, for one. Outdoor plumbing. Devilled ham in a can. Wool swimsuits.
And of course, there are a few not-old things we swing dancers cannot live without. Mainly YouTube. And of course, where would we lindy bloggers be without our laptops and the Internet?
Still, I love old stuff, and swing dancing is a huge part of that. And I think a lot of us swing dancers are that way. What do you think? Do you love old stuff as much as I do?
So I’m out the other day at a place where a lot of people are dancing who normally don’t. I mean that the event wasn’t specifically a dance event, just one where there was music, and people were drinking, and some of them got a little carried away and started dancing.
Now, I don’t drink, or I’d have an excuse for what happened. Maybe it was just my natural exuberance.
Anyway, this older gentleman came up to me and asked me if I wanted to dance with him.
I mean, he gave me fair warning. He said, “I used to swing dance, but I haven’t done it in years.” I’ve heard this before, and what it always means is that the person went out dancing a few times in the nineties and learned the Pretzel. I know people like this are the absolute worst arm-breakers there are. But I guess I was just being overly-exuberant, and I agreed to dance with him.
Then he proceeded to clamp both my hands in a vice-like grip with his big old thumbs, and started jerking my arms up and down like he was shaking the dust out of an area rug.
Of course, the first thing I did was say “Ow.”
So he goes, “What?”
“Ouch,” I said. “You’re squeezing my hands.”
He smiled broadly. “They’re one of my favorite bands too!”
What could I do? I smiled back. Well, maybe it was more of a grimace. I don’t know.
Then I sorta flexed my hands, to get him to readjust his grip. He did, and then clamped down harder than ever, giving my arms an extra shake in the process.
Okay, well, maybe this was one of those situations where what the follow needs to do is match the lead’s arm strength. I mean, there are still some instructors who tell you to do this. Maybe it would help. I squeezed back with my hands and tightened up my arms.
A sudden jolt of pain through the base of my skull told me this was the wrong tactic.
So then I let my arms go all floppy, and tried to concentrate on breathing through the pain in my fingers.
Feeling the sudden lack of “connection,” the gentleman augmented the area-rug shake with a forward-and-back pumping motion of his arms.
I survived the remainder of the song by mentally repeating “breathe, breathe, breathe” to myself, over and over.
So I’m asking you. What would you have done?