The day I started on a path

Toward becoming what I dislike.

I’ve always felt a bit of anger toward people who become pedantic about the definitions of what music is and is not blues for the defining of what is and what is not blues dancing. Yet on other parts of the internet I pushed someone toward stricter definitions of blues music because they stated they like blues dancing.


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Original quote from Ira Glass.

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May 23, 2013 · 11:39 PM

Saying yes

I have been thinking rather deeply this last week about what the dance community is. What we owe to that community and what that community owes to us. For the most part it has been a convoluted twisting and turning of ideas and has forced me to define and redefine some things multiple times.

One thread of my pondering has lead me to think about how we build up certain expectations. Most concrete of these is to say yes to someone asking you to dance. The lindy affair wrote about how yes contributes to our over all culture:

the low penalty in our community is one of the biggest contributors to the open and welcoming attitude which is so common in the Swing Dance community. When I ask someone to dance and they answer with “yes,” it makes me feel accepted. The special part of the Lindy Hop World is that any person – no matter their clothes or personality or age or gender or whatever – will be accepted.

For some reason reading this post reminded me of one of my favorite crossover concepts. In comedic improvisational acting the rule is that you never say “no”; it will shut down a scene, but instead say “yes and”. This allows for acceptance of whatever the other actor put forward with an expansion of your own making. There are several dance teachers who encourage this attitude in dancing. They are some of my favorites.

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My dancing tends to be an exploration of my inner state. So often I go through life barely acknowledging the things brewing within myself. I am working toward the next goal, getting stuff done. I think that this state of being was who I am long before I moved to NYC, but it is an attitude that is well matched to this city. When I put on my jazz shoes and there is music and a floor, everything changes. I, the massive klutz, become graceful. I slow down and my mind stops planning every little detail of the upcoming week. Suddenly I am aware of my own inner life.

At different points this has been a curse. I deal every day with unusually high levels of anxiety. For the most part I ignore it until I need to take medication for the tension headaches, and then I push on and ignore it more. Dancing breaks that down and I feel it viscerally. There is no ignoring and no getting away from myself. When I first began blues dancing this inability to ignore my own state, and my desire to be good at this thing while being just a beginner combined into a terrible spiral. I was doing something to provoke anxiety. I was feeling all of the anxiety all at once for the first time. I didn’t know how to handle it. I learned that I would become more and more stressed as the night went on. Stress would make my muscles clench and my body rigid, which ruined my frame and my following. Knowing that my following was worse than normal would cause me stress and this would become a repetitive loop. It took a few panic attacks where I shut myself in the bathroom to hyperventilate to learn that there would be nights that I would have to pull myself out of the dance. I could go home even if it meant that I had only danced half an hour.

As I’ve improved, both at dancing and at managing my anxiety, things have shifted. Sometimes I would have a moment where everything was shut out but the sound of the music and the feeling of my body. I could focus so clearly on where I was and what my partner was asking that there was nothing else. These moments were addictive. Beautiful shining moments that kept me coming back. Eventually they would get longer; from a moment to a phrase, from a phrase to a song, from a song to a series of songs. I’ve recently begun mindfulness meditation, and when I’m doing well with that, it is not unlike those moments.

This weekend past was a triumph for me. I’ve usually taken a long time to resolve my anxiety once it is the state I am in. For me it is not as simple as something anxiety producing being done, I usually spend some time still being wound up and worried for a while. I had a week of finals and a last looming final on Monday. Yet I was able to go to the Saturday late night and have perfect amazing moments of dancing. Moments that I was perfectly in tune with myself and my partner. Moments that make me happy and soothe. I had a night filled with these moments, entire songs with new partners and familiar partners. If all dancing felt like this, I would never need a break for it is so refreshing on its own.

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breaking a move

Since I have been focusing on my skills as a lead lately I have been thinking about taking solo movements and how to partner them. Lots of things that I do are pretty explicitly leadable. I could probably get someone who is following well, but who had never seen the move to do it with me, just by managing our centers well. However, I like to think about what would happen if I didn’t lead it correctly. What happens if we do it “wrong”? Yesterday, waiting for the train I think I found my favorite new move to try out by exaggerating a wrong way of doing something.

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The time I struck myself as profound

I have a collection of quotes that I keep. They can be a sentence or a few paragraphs that strike me. They are usually better articulations of ideas that have been kicking around in my mind for a while.

The other day I wrote the simplest of sentences that set off all sorts of resonance within me.

We are a community and each of us contributes to that.

We talk so often about the dance scene and dance community. We talk about the things we appreciate. We talk about the things we want from it. We talk about the things that we wish we could change. Yet each of us individually contributes to our dance scene. In every house party you don’t break things at, in every newbie you are friendly to, in every time you open your houses to weary travelers from out of town either for events or when they are just passing through you (and I) contribute to the tone of our scene. It goes the other way too. Every time you criticize someone for not doing just as you do, in every time you take a surly tone declining a dance, in every time you allow a boundary to be crossed you are also contributing to the tone of our scene.

I’ve also been thinking about what dancers who have been around longer owe to those who are new. I know that I look to those around me and model my behavior off of theirs. Now I hope that when people look at me, I am demonstrating behaviors to truly be aspired to.

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When Regina Spektor hits the nail on the head

When I get stressed, a lot of it goes into my body. Stress tightens my muscles and I can’t move right and I’m in pain. Right now, I can clearly feel a knot by my left scapula, the muscles in my mid back are making my low back curve far too much which pulls my pelvis out of alignment and giving me pain in my very low back, my neck is so tight it is giving me a headache and making me clench my jaw.

Days like this I sometimes decide to forget my stresses and instead hate my body. My itunes is on shuffle and I was reminded by Regina Spektor

I’ve got a perfect body

But sometimes I forget

I’ve got a perfect body

because my eyelashes catch my sweat

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