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Posts Tagged ‘dancing’

My one-year dancing anniversary took place last month.

Yes, I’m still dancing. And it’s much more enjoyable now that my problem toe has finally stopped hurting as much. I’m beginning to rebuild the muscle I lost from my convalescence, and my hips are finally beginning to loosen again, and all is going well.

It’s also become much easier for me to ask people to dance. I wouldn’t say it’s easy, precisely, but it is easier. I’ll take it.

And I haven’t taken the dive off the deep end that can be so tempting for me, aka dancing has not become my entire life. I read an article last week about all these things I should be doing and attitudes I should be having in order to improve as a dancer, and I didn’t feel the need to do any of them. I’m sure they’re right, mind you; I’m sure if I made video of me dancing, for example, I’d improve much faster. But I’m okay with my current rate of improvement. Which is for the best, since I don’t have a ton of extra time to devote beyond what I’m already doing.

That being said, I am attending a dance convention over the next several days, which I expect to be incredible and exhausting and punishing to my hamstrings.

My face after dancing.

My face after dancing.

I was talking about dancing recently, and I said, in all seriousness, that it has changed my life. I stand by that statement.

There are many ways dancing can change a person’s life, and I’m sure many of those ways have at least touched on my own. But the primary change for me has been one of physicality. Dancing has helped immensely in this last level of healing after the past several years of chronic injuries.

Perhaps most noteworthy has been its effect on my confidence. After spending years dealing with injuries and re-injuries and the limitations that surround them, I was used to thinking not in terms of possibilities but rather in terms of protection. What did I need to do to protect myself? What might hurt me again? What if I chose to do an activity and then spent six months recovering from it? Six months is not a small price to pay, and those kinds of prices begin to inform your decisions, even when you are no longer as fragile as you once were.

Dancing has taught me to trust my body again. I’m not so wary about my ankle anymore; careful, when the situation warrants it, but not so nervous. Aches and pains feel more like a temporary phenomenon again, instead of something that means “Omg, what have you done to yourself now?” Through gentle repeated use, my ankle has become less rigid, which means hills do not daunt me the way they once did. Uh huh, I CAN CLIMB HILLS. The excitement of that statement cannot be overstated.

One last thought on dancing: It makes me happy. I always feel grateful to be attending dance events. I feel grateful to my partners. I feel grateful for the amazing music. And I feel grateful for the community as a whole.  

My heartfelt thanks go to everyone who has contributed to that gratitude over the past year.

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Six Months

I am writing this on Wednesday, and today is the six-month anniversary of the day I started dancing again. Many weeks ago, I put this date into my day planner along with a note to write about it.

Then I sprained my toe, and I haven’t danced for three weeks. But I decided I’d still write this post.

Then last night a colleague of mine who I really liked and admired died. So it’s been a hard day. I thought about not writing anything at all. I thought, how could I write about something as happy as dancing on a day like today?

I thought, why am I so upset? I haven’t seen this colleague of mine for years and years. But I am. I am upset. We do not need to be in regular contact with people in order for them to be important to us. We do not need to be close to people in order for them to have impact on us.

And then I thought, I will write about dancing anyway, because this friend of mine, Jimmy, he was a comedian and an actor and a director and a drama teacher, and he was one of those people who seemed so fully alive and so fully committed to and passionate about what he was doing. So it feels apropos for me to be writing today about something about which I feel passionate.

I haven’t danced for three weeks, and I feel a bit sulky about it. I really, really miss it. I think all the time about when I’ll be able to dance again, and every week, I think, well, not this week, because my toe still really hurts, but maybe next week. I can’t wait till I’m all healed up and ready to go.

But here’s what is incredible to me. Before six months ago, I hardly ever danced. And before a few years ago, I didn’t even have the option of dancing. No dancing. None. Ever.

How my life has changed.

How I have loved the last six months. Even the last three weeks of that, because even though I can’t dance right this minute, I know I will be dancing. It’s only a matter of time.

I feel like dancing has changed me, and during this last period of time of enforced non-dancing, this has been interesting to watch. Because now that I’m not dancing, it could change back, right?

But it doesn’t feel that way. It feels like dancing hasn’t merely changed the way I exercise, or the strength of my muscles, or my priorities in terms of my schedule. It feels like dancing has changed something inside of me. To have a physical means of expression, and one for which I don’t place huge amounts of pressure on myself to be perfect, has grounded me in a way I didn’t expect.

Photo by Richard Seely.

Photo by Richard Seely.

And then there’s the joy. I am so happy when I’m dancing, I feel like my happiness must be shining out of me like a beacon. I am happy thinking about going dancing ahead of time, and I’m happy after going dancing, while I’m driving home to good music and then eating my instant oatmeal (brown sugar and maple flavored, of course). And I am the happiest of all when I’m in the flow of the dance, buoyed by good music, connected to my partner, and experiencing the joy of a moving creation.

When I am dancing, there is nothing else in the world I’d rather be doing. And having that space to be so devoted and focused is extremely precious.

So on this, the six-month anniversary of rediscovering this joy, I hope for much more dancing in my future. I wish I could dance this week. For myself, to celebrate this milestone, and also for Jimmy. Thanks for showing us how to live with gratitude and passion, my friend. You are an inspiration.

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Last week I went to the grocery store, and on a whim, I purchased a cheese ball.

It was a gorgeous cheese ball. Port wine cheese, mottled orange and red, pleasingly symmetrical and encrusted with nuts.

I’ve never purchased a cheese ball before, and I was excited about it. I was looking forward to trying it, especially since I also got these fancy crackers at Trader Joe’s. And as I was dancing with someone that evening, I mentioned my excitement over the cheese ball. Because apparently that’s what I think of as fabulous dance conversation.

“It sounds like you really like cheese,” my partner said.

This is the cheese ball in question.

This is the cheese ball in question.

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The week before, I had not been feeling the dancing. I’d been really sick, and even though I was better and no longer contagious, I was annoyingly weak and easily fatigued, and my center of balance felt off, which for dancing is particularly unfortunate. And then one of my partners told me THREE times while we were dancing how I’d gotten worse at dancing since the last time we’d danced. I tried to laugh it off the first two times, but by the third time I’d lost all patience (big surprise), so then I was not only tired and weak but also irritated. Not the best night. I went home early and watched Star Trek instead.

And then the next week, I took a lesson before the free dancing period, and I was completely lost for pretty much the entire hour. I was supposed to be learning both how to lead and follow all these different turns, and I’d never really led before, period, and trying to learn both sides at the same time meant I was learning nothing at all because having my focus divided meant I didn’t have enough focus for either side, plus there simply wasn’t enough repetition for me to get it down. By the end of the lesson, I felt like my brain was oozing out of my ears in goo-like fashion.

As I walked off the dance floor afterwards, I realized I had a choice. At that moment, I felt stressed and like a terrible dancer. If I encouraged that feeling, I’d be super tense while I danced, which isn’t good. I’d lose a lot of my connection with my partners, which isn’t good either. And I wouldn’t be having fun, which is definitely not good.

Or I could shake it off to the best of my ability, and believe BY FORCE OF WILL that I was going to have an amazing time dancing that night. I could think of all the other amazing times I’d had, and I could think about how much I love dancing, and I could be happy to see my friends and partners, and I could simply do my best and be okay with that.

I chose option two, and I had a fabulous evening. By getting out of my head and cranking down the perfectionism, I danced better and had a lot more fun. But I could have just as easily have chosen option one and struggled through the evening.

In the end, it came down to my own state of mind. Nothing more, nothing less.

#

Back to the cheese ball. “I’m so excited about it,” I told my partner. “I can’t wait to try it.”

“Wow,” he said. “You must really love cheese.”

“No,” I said. “I really love life.”

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In the last month and a half, I have fallen headlong in love….

with a new hobby.

Blues fusion dancing, to be specific.

I will give a practical definition of what that means to this beginner dancer (by which I mean, take my definition with a grain of salt). Blues fusion is a partner dance (mostly), but it is a lot more loose and less defined than any other partner dance I’ve tried. And you can incorporate styles and moves from many other partner dances, like the various types of swing, or tango, or salsa, or even waltz. Someone told me the fusion part means you dance mostly to modern music, but also not always.

I know, it’s all very indefinite and fluid. That’s probably part of the reason why I like it. (There’s also a lot of history behind it that I am not entirely clear on, which I suspect might elucidate it further.)

A good friend of mine started blues dancing sometime last year, and she told me about it, and I put it on my list of things I wanted to try sometime this year, because a.) I love dancing, b.) it was possible my ankle might actually survive the experience since it had been doing better, c.) trying new things (and new dances!) can be lots of fun, and d.) I love my friend. So at the beginning of February, when we were chatting on the phone, I told her I wanted to come. And she said great, come over to my house on Thursday and we can carpool.

Thus, a passion was born.

I knew right away, too. The room was crowded with strangers, and I had no idea what was going on, having never attempted blues fusion before (or even really having a clear idea of what it was). I was wearing jeans, which were too hot, and socks because I didn’t have appropriate dancing shoes, which meant I was in constant fear of my feet being stepped on. I forgot to bring a hair band. I told every person I danced with it was my first time blues dancing, in the hopes they’d be generous and forgive any massive blunders I might make. I tried to follow my partners, and sometimes I failed. By the end of the night, my calves were screaming and my ankle was basically okay.

And it was glorious. Completely rush-to-the-head, fill-the-heart-to-the-brim, this-is-exactly-where-I-want-to-be glory. When I say I fell in love, I’m not being facetious. I fell HARD. Even with the uncomfortable bits, the “I don’t know what’s going on” and the “so many strangers in one place while I’m feeling super vulnerable” and the “I’m making a lot of mistakes” bits.

So I went again, and this time I didn’t tell everyone I danced with that I didn’t know what I was doing, and I tried to relax. That was it, my one goal of the evening: to relax into this new activity and new space. It was hard. I loved it all the more for the challenge.

And then, dear reader, I ordered shoes.

Canvas dance sneakers (shown) and character shoes, to be precise.

Canvas dance sneakers (shown) and character shoes, to be precise.

I knew. I knew I was in love. I knew what I wanted. My wonderful trainer/body worker was on board. My ankle was, surprisingly enough, continuing to cooperate. “You’re very committed,” my friend said to me. And I laughed, because of course I’m committed. Commitment has never been a problem for me when I know what I want. “Is there a boooooy?” another friend wanted to know. I shook my head and laughed again.

Why, Amy? Why are you so passionate about blues fusion?

I love the dance. I love moving my body in time to the music, and I love working on controlling my body. I love getting stronger. I love the endorphins. I love pushing myself. I love losing myself in the motion and the rhythm and the focus.

I love the unspoken physical communication between me and my partner. I love watching, and listening, and feeling, and making art with other people. I love learning. I love getting dizzy.

I love to play. I love to experiment. I love to express myself and my moods through dance, whether grace or flirtation or exhilaration or absolute silliness.

I love (yes, I’m going to admit it) that I finally have someplace to wear all the adorable dresses that up until now have been hanging forlornly in my closet, unworn.

I love the community. I love how friendly people have been. I love sharing my joy in the experience with other people. I love the kindness of the leads who give me feedback and help me improve. I love the passion for dance that is on constant display.

Why have I fallen in love? Because blues fusion makes me feel one hundred percent ALIVE. And that, my friends, is something worth giving my heart.

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