Posts Tagged ‘people’
Okay, so awhile back I mentioned how I decided that whenever I was dancing with someone who made me feel intimidated, instead of trying my hardest to dance perfectly, I was going to try to dance badly. Remember that? The idea being that at least I wouldn’t be all tense and stressed out and overthinking, and maybe, just maybe, I’d relax enough to actually dance okay.
This has turned out to be the best idea I ever had for my dancing. I swear, since I decided this, I have not had a bad dance. Seriously!
So what’s going on here?
Well, first of all, it should go without saying that my A-number-one rule is that I don’t dance badly in a way that might physically hurt the other person. So no dragging or pulling or throwing myself around.
But see, that wasn’t the stuff that was stressing me out before. No, I was stressed out about things like this: Did I do that turn fast enough? Am I doing my swivels correctly? Isn’t there cuter styling I should be doing? Oh no, he was trying to lead a move, did I follow it right? It was this kind of thing that made me sort of hate dancing with “good” dancers.
What I finally had to realize was this: There are always going to be better dancers than me. And no matter how hard I try, I’m never going to dance better than the best dancers. I’m never going to impress a really great dancer with my amazing dance skills, because I haven’t got any. And besides, to a really accomplished dancer, everybody dances worse than them anyway, so they’re used to it.
I figure my dancing is just another aspect of my personality, like my laugh. Chances are, most people don’t find my laugh too annoying, but I imagine there are some people who do. Do I work really hard to make my laugh like the perfect tolling of bells on a distant hillside when I’m in the presence of someone important? Of course not, I just laugh how I laugh. If someone hates my laugh, they can avoid telling me a joke or simply avoid me altogether, and that’s just how it goes.
Same thing for my dancing. Most people think my dancing is totally fine; I know this because they keep asking me to dance, and they don’t run away when I ask them. And I’m sure there are people who can’t stand the way I dance, and that’s great. Everyone’s entitled to his own opinion.
Obviously this doesn’t mean that I’ve given up on trying to learn to dance better. Of course I want to dance as well as possible, and I work on it obsessively. All it means is that when I’m out on the social floor, dancing with people, I no longer worry about whether I’m dancing “right” or not. I just dance and have a good time, and give myself a break. Workshops and lessons and practice time are where I do my worrying and trying and stressing, but when I’m out dancing I just say to hell with it and dance. As long as I’m not hurting anyone, everything else is just what it is. And that’s the best decision I ever made for my dancing.
Last night I finally got up the nerve to ask one of our hippest and most accomplished young follows, a girl I don’t even know, to dance one with me. We had a acceptably fun dance, and she thanked me graciously not only at the end of the song, but later as she was leaving. That was awesome.
And a lot of other awesome stuff happened last night as well:
I also had a fun dance with a young man where we seamlessly switched roles for each of the verses of the song we were dancing to. It was great, you’da thought we’d choreographed it ahead of time.
I saw one young man who was doing more following than leading. I think he got around to dancing with mostly all of the top-end leads who were out last night. Lots of times I saw him switching off roles with his partner during a song.
I saw a girl leading her male dance partner during several songs.
I saw both men and women freely jumping into the jam circle to dance with same-sex partners, like it wasn’t even any big deal.
I think the funniest thing was when two excellent leads realized they were approaching the same girl to ask her to dance. To be goofy, they started dancing with each other instead. They went on to finish out the song together and it was an amazing dance to watch.
Need I say that all this role-switching warmed my heart? And on just a regular old DJed night at a regular old weekly venue too. I’m proud of Portland for generating all this crazy dance energy. And if the beautiful city of my birth were to end up known as the most ambidancetrous scene in the world, that wouldn’t hurt my feelings one bit!
I’m becoming more and more convinced that there’s something fundamentally wrong with the way we as a dance culture approach the process of learning and teaching Lindy Hop.
Specifically, the issue I’m concerned with is this: why doesn’t everyone start out as a follow and then work towards learning to lead? Why should beginner guys, who generally know less about dancing and body movement than beginner girls do anyway, immediately start out leading?
It’s truly a situation of the blind leading the blind. In no other field of endeavor would a new person be shuffled immediately into the role of guiding someone else when they don’t know the first thing about it themselves. I’m not saying that following is easy, but it seems like any beginner dancer should logically be taught to move and control his own body before concerning himself with choreographing dance routines on the fly, which is what leaders have to do.
But as my friend Ben said, when I mentioned this rant, er, idea to him, “The problem is, if guys had to start out following, they wouldn’t.”
I guess there’s two reasons I can think of why this might be. One is that guys get interested in dancing primarily as a way of getting to touch girls. And if they had to start out following, they might, horror of horrors, occasionally find themselves dancing with guys instead.
It seems a shame to me that Lindy Hop should still be tied into outmoded notions of dance-as-mating-ritual. Why should the swing culture cling so tenaciously to “one man, one woman”? There’s nothing fundamentally romantic or sexy about this dance; only the obsessively homophobic would find anything disturbing about same-sex Lindy. I don’t know anyone who gets particularly inflamed by shaking someone’s hand or putting an arm around someone’s shoulder, which is about as touchy-feely as this dance gets. And if a man is only learning to dance so he can pick up chicks, he can more efficiently do that hanging out in bars anyway.
The other reason why men wouldn’t start out as follows is even worse than the first reason. It’s the idea that men are “natural leaders” and women the opposite.
This is patently absurd. I’m sure we can all think of real-world proof that the capacity for leadership in a general sense is not a function of one’s physical gender. But it’s even more evident in dance class.
It has often struck me that the natural capacity, or desire, for leadership in dancing is less about gender and more a stage-of-life thing. Think about it. In dance class, young beginner girls are so often the ones with the noodly arms who are afraid to move on their own; they panic if they’re not being led every second of the dance, and they love being thrown around. But when women of a certain age start out dancing for the first time, they completely refuse to be led. Their arms are stiff, they’re holding their ground and you can’t move them no matter what you do. They’re the ones looking over their shoulder at the instructors, making sure the leader is leading everything correctly, and they’re so concerned with doing their steps right that they don’t follow at all.
It’s the same thing with guys. Younger men who start out dancing are often too reticent to lead properly. Their arms are floppy, they’re diffident and not clear with their ideas, and often they’ll just be holding hands with their partner and moving themselves around in various exotic ways without really affecting their follow at all. And of course, middle-aged men learning to dance are the notorious arm-breakers and thumb-clampers who seem content to just stand in one place, not really dancing, just steering ladies around by their arms. The way they know they’re doing it right is when they get their follow to move from point A to point B.
So I propose that it would be much more rational if everyone were expected to start out as a follow, with the additional expectation that everyone would eventually learn to lead. So you tell me. What’s wrong with this idea? What am I missing?
I got so disgusted with my leading last night. See, here’s the problem…
Normally, I’m a follow. So when I try to lead things, if the person following me doesn’t follow me just perfectly, I tend to revert right back to my normal role. Then I start following my follow and doing whatever she was inadvertently backleading.
I know I need to just press manfully on with what I was trying to lead and give the follow a chance to pick up on it. But in order to do that I have to overcome a whole bunch of training. See, followers are trained to be responsive, and that’s not such a helpful skill when you’re trying to lead something.
I’m sure it’s exactly the same thing, in reverse, with leads who try to follow. As soon as their leader gives them any sort of opening, I’m sure it’s very easy for them to just jump in and start leading things without waiting to be led. Am I right?
Now, it just doesn’t make sense that as a leader, the only people I can lead are the ultra-accomplished, super-responsive followers. I should be able to lead normal followers or even beginners. I really want to be able to do this. But beginners who try to follow me just end up getting confused.
Yet I don’t want to overcompensate and turn into some kind of roughhousing armbreaker. Just as, I’m sure, leaders learning to follow don’t want to turn into passive noodle-armers.
Anyone else having this problem? Does anyone out there have any good advice?
So I’ve been going through this phase where I sorta hate dancing. Do you ever feel this way?
I’m not sure what it is.
Part of it is just me. I’ve been feeling old, fat and ugly, and not sure I care one way or another. It seems like a pointless task to try and make myself presentable enough to go out.
Another thing is my dancing. I feel like I take lessons after lessons, but I still dance just as bad as ever. It’s been a long time since I had a really spectacular dance with anyone, and I know it isn’t their fault, it’s mine. Dancing with me must be roughly equivalent to trying to move a grand piano with one broken wheel.
Then when I look around the room, all I see is these kids. Cute young guys dancing with cute young girls, all probably looking to get romantic with someone, and here’s me, this random old married lady. What’s wrong with this picture?
Plus, everybody dances bad. The leads either yank me around all over the place like I’m some kind of sports equipment, or they’re diffident and wimpy, and none of them has any imagination. Then when I try to lead the girls, they’re either as immobile as a tombstone, or they’re leaping around everywhere without waiting for me.
Of course, the DJs are awful. Why can’t they, just once, just for a lark, play a song that actually makes me feel like dancing? It’s always just the same old stuff, over and over.
In other words, I’m depressed.
Well, it happens once in a while. I’ve hated dancing before, and I’ll hate it again. But it never lasts long.
Anybody got any great advice for getting out of dance depression?
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?