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Posts Tagged ‘Social Dancing’

It occurs to me that, with my two hobbies, ballroom dancing and knitting, I have the potential to make all 20 digits sore in the same weekend. Perhaps even all on the same day.

I have a shawl I’d like to finish and block this weekend, so that will require some serious time investment with my knitting needles this weekend.  And on Saturday night the BF and I will be attending the local USA Dance Valentine’s Dance. I fully intend to dance until my feet go on strike.

Sore tootsies and sore fingers are in my future. And I couldn’t be more delighted at the prospect.

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Spend a couple of hours taking a dance lesson or practicing–the next day I feel fine.

Spend a few hours social dancing–the next day my muscles ache in all sorts of strange places.

It has always been this way, and I’ve never completely understood it. Why should social dancing impact my body so differently? I have a few  theories, but nothing solid.

  1. Less forgiving dance surfaces: Hard on your joints and feet
  2. More time spent continuously on my feet: More of a workout and higher impact
  3. Greater variety in dances done, and thus, in the muscles exercised
  4. Risk taking behavior: I like to show off a little when social dancing, so perhaps I push myself harder than in class?
  5. Little warm up time: I usually treat my first couple of dances as warm up, and leave it at that.
  6. Neglected cool down: This might be the biggest culprit. I usually dance until my feet get sore and then quit. I need to remember to do a little stretching at the end of the night.
  7. Long ride home in the car: 90 minutes sitting still right after lots of sweaty dancing  is probably not a good idea either. This one can’t be helped.
  8. Crash on arrival: I hit the hay as soon as humanly possible by the time I get home around 1 or 2 am. Also not good for the muscles. This might be a good time to loosen up as well.

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Part of what I struggle with in dancing is finding a balance between the stuff I love and the stuff that’s merely necessary.

I love social dancing. Love it, love it, love it. I enjoy getting dressed up. I enjoy the mild flirtation. I enjoy the social interaction. And most of all I enjoy the opportunity to experiment and be creative. When I’m dancing socially I don’t really worry about my technique and I almost never feel self-conscious (except in a good way).  I’m only there because I want to be.

With lessons and practice it’s different. They feel like a necessary evil. I like feeling like a good dancer, and I know that better technique and better knowledge of the dances will improve my social dancing.  But rarely are these things any fun for me. I’m a clock watcher during lessons. I go into them hoping that this time the lesson will just fly by, but it usually doesn’t happen that way. Lessons aren’t about having fun or being creative and free. They’re about pursuing some standard of perfection.

I don’t compete because I don’t like my dancing to be judged. Lessons often make me feel the same way. At lessons I’m always worried about how I’m not doing the steps right, rather than glorying in the thrill of the movement.

I hate this. I hate that the two things can’t work together as they should. Lessons are stressful and I wish they weren’t. I wish learning to dance was as much fun as the actual dancing.

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I get frustrated with people who think one type of dancing is “better” than another. To me, dancing is dancing, and while each person may have their own personal preference, there is no way to objectively say that one type of dancing is better.

I recently responded to a comment in a blog I follow, Dance Escapade by Sean. The blogger had posted a video of some couples dancing international style tango at a competition.

A commenter on the post, who is clearly into Argentine Tango (and Argentine Tango ONLY), responded back, questioning the value of ballroom-style tango as a dance.

The only word I can use to describe what I saw in that video is abuse. I don’t understand how those women put up with being jerked around by partners who never look at them for one second….It is too bad that so many do not know what they are missing as dancers by not knowing the tango that was born in Buenos Aires. The English and American versions do not come close because they are all about steps.

From reading these comments and subsequent comments, it looks to me as if this commenter considers social Argentine Tango the only truly worthwhile pursuit in partner dancing–and all the rest is inferior. Those of us who are ballroom enthusiasts. Those of us who work hard on our technique, go to ballroom social dances and competitions–we’re wasting our time.  We’ve got the wool pulled over our eyes. If only we were enlightened, we would realize that ballroom dancing is all BS and we would focus on AT–the only dance that gets it right; the only dance that matters.

When I watched the video, I saw something completely different. I remember thinking, as I was watching, ” This is really awesome tango. How can you not appreciate this?”  At the same time I wondered, “Why is it that people feel driven to elevate their favorite form of dance as the best? Why is it necessary to devalue other forms of dance in order to establish the value of your own favorite?” I don’t get it.

How would you support such a statement, after all? And how would you measure quality of a type of dance to prove that it was better than another?

  • How much fun you have?
  • Feelings of satisfaction (which is different than fun)?
  • Technical difficulty?
  • How popular the dance is?
  • How easy it is to learn?
  • How expensive the training is (if you pay more, does that make it “better”)? How accessible (do you have to travel)?

I don’t think any of these things really help determine the quality of a dance. Quality depends entirely on you and your perceptions. Those perceptions are often formed by the dance culture you’re a part of. If you tend to hang out with mostly ballroom folks, chances are you’ll prefer ballroom and value those things about ballroom that make it what it is. If you hang out with AT addicts, chances are you’ll have strong preferences for AT and those elements that make AT unique. That doesn’t make either of you right. It’s completely subjective.

Looking for ways to prove that one type of dance is better than another is an exercise in irrational thinking.What’s more, it creates little imagined communities within the social and competitive dance scene where I really don’t think there need to be any. They’re more hurtful than helpful. If more ballroom people went to a milonga every once in a while, and vice versa, I think we’d all understand and value each other a little more.

We’re all dancers and we’re all here because of an interest we have in common. Let’s accept that the value of different types of dancing is subjective. If we don’t, we’re only hurting ourselves and limiting our vision.

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Recently, while fishing around the Interwebs for interesting dance blogs, I happened upon the following post by Working Artist. In the post, she comments upon the concept of Tango Trance:

“The bliss, that waking up at the end of a song and truly not knowing where you are. This gets to be a part of the tango, it happens or not, and we all seek it. We are all upset by it at some point, but we still seek it.”

She also offers the following cautions:

“DO NOT: Mistake tango trance for love, for a relationship beyond the floor, and do not quit your job, bail on your career, move away, leave your family, sell your house, change your party affiliation, or commit any crimes, in the pursuit of this bliss....Do not act like you are in high school, unless you are. The bliss is there for you, just trust it.

I’ve only been dancing Argentine Tango a little while, so I don’t think I’ve yet experienced “trance” at a lesson or milonga. But I think I know what she means.

It’s one of the things I love about social dancing. Every once in a while you encounter someone you really connect with on the floor. It may be someone you’ve known for years; it may be someone you’ve only just met–but something delicious, thrilling and new happens out on the floor. Dance serendipity. You’re not just dancing, you’re creating together. It’s like dancing on instinct and adrenalin.

At the end of the dance you loosen your partner’s hands and walk away, blinking dumbly into lights you had forgotten were there, conscious of a crowd of strangers suddenly crushing around you. The real word reasserts itself forcefully and you almost feel sunburned by the experience. You can’t wait to do it again.

The thing about dance serendipity, unfortunately, is that it won’t necessarily ever happen again with that partner. That’s the nature of serendipity. If you’re lucky, you might find a special person with whom you can reproduce the experience. Very, very lucky.

I can see why Working Artist cautions against getting too emotionally invested in a dance-trance relationship. It’s a heady chemical experience that touches you on a very basic level. But it just a dance. It doesn’t necessarily have any life or power off of the floor.

I think the reason why a term like Tango Trance exists (as opposed to Dance Trance) is that Argentine Tango tends to lend itself to it. AT seems to eschew a lot of the more cerebral dancing that comes out of ballroom. It’s much more focused on lead and follow and connection between partners– follows frequently dance with their eyes closed! I say I’ve experienced something similar while at a social ballroom dance, but I would say that the nature of ballroom would make such experiences comparatively rare. It’s tough to focus on your partner to the same degree while ballroom dancing. Closing your eyes during a cha or a hustle could be downright dangerous!

Working Artist has a good recommendation that I think I will adopt in my future pursuit of dance bliss:

“DO: Dance a lot, dance with everyone who is not a jackass, make some real friends in tango, travel if you can. Buy some smokin’ hot shoes, change up the wardrobe and get a new hair cut. Tango is going to give you a lot of clues about who you really are, and what your personal style really is. Don’t fight it….Most of all, dance like you mean it.”

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I often find myself craving something really greasy and horrible after a night of dancing. Usually, I abstain because eating something heavy late at night produces strange dreams, which usually means poor sleep. Plus a junk food hangover the next day.

Warm, salty sin.

Last weekend, after the Cafe Bailar dance, I gave in and stopped at McDonald’s on the way home. The fries were warm and salty and delicious. Surprise, surprise. I slept just fine and woke up with no blahs.

Lesson learned: Junk food and 3 hours of dancing  cancel each other out (at least when you tack on a 1 hour drive + hitting the hay after 1 am).

However, this does not work on the front end. I cannot eat the fries first and then dance. That makes me feel weighed-down and icky, which interferes with my fun at the dance. Perhaps, in some cosmic way, I have not earned them yet. The dance gods are punishing me for nutritional hubris.

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