Before I get on with today’s post, just a quick reminder that tap dancer and recent guest to All the Cats Join In, Andrew Nemr, will be presenting his show, Echoes in Time, tonight at Symphony Space in NYC. Check out the interview with Andrew from last week, and if you’re in NYC, go see the show tonight!
I was shocked the first time a woman told me she was intimidated to dance with me. I thought, Really? Me? But I’m not even that great, and I’m a mellow cat. I’ve since come to realize that anyone who can do a swingout with relative ease can be intimidating to a new dancer. After having the same conversations many times, I’ve developed a couple of standard lines in response to some of the things I hear from follows. Most dancers I know develop some sort of lexicon of catch phrases for all those common conversations. Here are some of mine:
Me: Would you like to dance?
Follow: Umm, I’m not very good.
Me: (In a totally upbeat, non-sarcastic tone of voice) Then I’m glad I asked you to dance, and not if you were very good.
New Follow: (after mucking up) I’m so sorry.
Me: Don’t be, you’re doing great. I have three rules for a good dance. One, we’re both smiling and having a fun. Two, neither of us gets hurt. And three, no one’s ass hits the floor unless its intentional.
I also try to be encouraging to new dancers at the end of a dance without going overboard. I will also let them know they are welcome to find me for a dance anytime, and that if they have any questions or need any help to feel free to ask. There’s a lead in DC, an older gentlemen who’s been dancing since before I was born, who told Susanne after she’d been dancing for a month or so, “Stick with it kiddo. You’re gonna be good.” I don’t know if I have the guts for that level of honesty. Its probably easier hearing that from a kooky older guy, but it impressed me that he was able to pull it off.
I’m wondering what are some of the other regular conversations you have, and what are your stock responses?
As a follow, I’ve gone through many learning phases, and not always in a linear fashion. There was holy-moley-this-is-all-great-but-I-am-terrified, followed by whoa-I’m-not-as-good-as-I-fancied-myself-to-be, and one I hope I’ve permanently squelched, I’m-in-a-cruddy-mood-so-if-we-have-fun-it’s-up-to-you. Learning to follow often felt like chasing a vapor to me. It’s there then it’s not and there appear to be so many factors and variables: the music, me, my partner, the floor, the timing, my height, his height, varying styles, etc. There’s the idea of perfect technique, but I’m not a perfect dancer and there’s a good chance my partner isn’t either.
Learning to be gloriously wrong is a skill I’m trying to cultivate. Personality-wise, I am massively risk-adverse, a trait that doesn’t always serve me well. I’m prone to freezing or taking the safe route rather than trying something new. Craig introduced me to the idea that mistakes should be celebrated as fantastic attempts. And he’s right; failure is a part of growth.
I’m striving to explore something different with my dancing. It might be bit of footwork or it might be waiting and leaving space. Well-edited dancing is like a well-edited instrumental solo. Variation is critical. Too much of all the same or just too much means nothing stands out.
I remember reading a magazine article with gold medal winner Shawn Johnson’s coach following her Olympic victory. He related to the reporter that he told Shawn to execute every skill they’d practiced. All the jumps, all the extensions. Every finish. By the same token, If I execute the basics: coming in when lead, frame, connection/stretch, counterbalance, matching, moving from my core, and pulsing, to name a few, then I’m much more likely to have a fun or “successful” dance. Continue reading
My t-shirt theory: If you have an extra shirt with you, then it is less likely that you’ll need it. If you do need one, it is less likely that you’ll have an alternate available. To try and make the Murphy’s Law nature of things fall on my side, I keep an extra shirt–along with other staples–in my dance bag.
Other essential dance bag occupants are:
- gum or mints
- baby powder
- fan (in the slim box)
- business cards
- and of course, shoes.
The tissues and a handkerchief probably seems like overkill, but I like having options. In the summer, I often add sunscreen. Not shown is a water bottle. More frugal than constantly buying water and better for the planet too. Also not included is a washcloth, which both Craig and I usually grab on the way out the door for mopping our brows.
The bag itself has served me well since I started dancing in 2003. The main compartment is perfect for larger items while the front zipper pocket keeps smaller items easily accessible.
In the mid 2000s there was a lindy hop mini-trend of carrying a vintage train case with all of the necessary dance accoutrements. The trend has mostly died off, as trends do, but it is still a cute idea. Much of the trouble was that few train cases are also large enough to accommodate shoes.
Sometimes when I go out, I’ll dump my wallet, keys, and phone in my dance bag, but often I’m less coordinated and just bring my purse in too. I hate carrying two bags, but I’d rather start dancing then play item shuffle from one bag to another in the car while Craig waits.
So, do tell, what’s in your dance bag?