I go dancing at least once a week. The band starts up and usually I am one of the first onto the floor. And right from the start I am dancing. Sometimes, well even maybe most of the time, my partner acts mystified by my confidence. But I don't really care about that except as it impedes our progress. I am a firm believer in the "Shut up and dance" school of thought. I can only have a discussion about what we are doing if it really is mutual. So I try, and sometimes fail, to dance through my connections with my partner and let that be my conversation. Because it isn't that I don't want to talk, I just don't want to talk about dance when I could be letting the dancing do the talking.
I've been talking dance on both coasts the last couple of weeks thanks to a blogger visit that cued me into www.strictlywestie.com a New York based West Coast Swinger's blog. I have wanted to be able to discuss the social, political, philosophical sides of dance and that's what this and the OC group are all about.
So it has been a summer of dancing for me. The high point being when Terri and I were dancing at Pechanga resort and the crowd gave us the floor and then applauded as the song concluded. And we were just dancing with each other the way we do when its been too long which it had been. But the rest of the summer stuff wasn't so bad either. Every Wednesday we watched Dancing with the Stars and damn if it didn't really grow on me. I generally hate dance competitions but in this case the spirited dancers and the fact that we got to know them and the judges made it a fine experience. And now I read the other day that they are going to stage a dance off because of the calamity of the last vote which clearly showed a favoritism towards Kelly that wasn't warranted by her last dance.
We are just now starting to get into the Fox show, So You Think You Can Dance, however. The whole reality thing is just too boring. It's just like being forced to watch your neighbor's videos of their vacation. The deal of making up reality so it seems like a story is surely some sort of cosmic joke, right? Anyway, another great highlight has been the discovery of the OC Swing club site and especially the Underground where all the discussions take place.
I signed up for this dance discussion group of mainly lindy hoppers and it is so great to be writing about and discussing dancing with dancers who also want to talk about dancing. If you click on the previous entry you'll link to it. The discussion part is in the OC Underground section and man oh man do the discussions range far and wee. Take a look at dance link in this title.
Just joined a new dance chat room group up in OC County and the initial results are promising. For one thing the people I've met so far have really wanted to share ideas about dancing. Now alls I have to do is follow the old bouncing ball and see where it takes me.
I just received the annual invitation to Skippy's dance do up in LA and as usual I'm sorely tempted but then I remember how I really feel about all the judgemental one way thinking that goes on at these events and I realize again why I just can't give it even tacit approval anymore. I love the saying "Shut up and dance" and I really feel it should applied forever to those who set themselves up as judges.
The music swung and the dance partners were sweet. A tall blonde took my lead and turned it into a wavy graceful line, a dark brunette, older, but in love with dance, took my lead and turned it into a chance to express her hope and willingness to try, and then later, another blonde almost captured my love of the dangerous with her smooth and dynamic explosive hips, capricious smiling lips, and courageous dives into my leading dips.
Dance lets me lead many lives. I found myself at the break outside gazing at the bright, clear sky and the sparkling stars. I felt the need to breathe it all in. In my mind, as I, we, move to the music and in and out of each other's embrace I try to trace the maybe of what each move means to her to me? I romanticise by playing with the possibilities. It's good but sometimes frustrating. The dance partners are like ice cream when I can't get enough. The overload is dangerous.
Sometimes I try to . . . remember dancing as a kid. In my memory the radio plays from a car parked in the grocery store parking lot. We dancers are swing dancing to early rock and roll not really aware that things are about to change. My friend, Wendy, who later died from cancer, jumps into my arms for a side to side scissor move and I swing her right then left then up high before bringing her down. We're dancing so fast it's like we're running.
So I guess, my guess, is that neo-swing is that thing with swing that started with the Brian Setzer Orchestra. Big band music with a rockabilly beat. Up tempo stuff that was purely electric in its effect on the dancers as they tried to still dance Jitterbug or East Coast just twice as fast. And I'd say that it was definitely the back door that let the Lindy return to swing currency. That and the fact that dancers in the nineties had learned about crossing over from one style to another through the incredible increase in dance competitions in the Country and West Coast Swing worlds. All those dancers who were learning how to learn and at the same time seeing dancers cross-over from one form to another. Country dancers doing swing. Ballroom dancers dancing country. And all of this supported by a dance community that wanted to include as many young dancers as possible.
So here's an interesting phenomenon. Lindy can resist Hip Hop because its music of choice developed in the 30's and 40's and 50's of the last century. And yes you can remix that music but then you can't really dance the Lindy to it. But sadly enough the Lindy's sister dance, the West Coast Swing, has no such built in protection. It is a dance that it's followers and teachers apparently believe can be danced to any style of music. It's inclusiveness allows it to transmute, they contend, any new music into it's form. So in the 90's West Coast could absorb country swing and now in the 2000's it can digest Hip Hop.
Down the road I go, been dancing to older style live music lately and I find myself wondering about that gap that seems to be growing between the gymnastics of Hip Hop and the social dance my generations have come to love known as swing. It seemed for a while, at least, that the Lindy dancers and the hip hoppers had a lot in common. They appeared to like the side by side patterns, the flips, the slides, the splits, and spins. And because they both require a sort of gymnastic physicality they both seem best suited to the young.
But now I see that this illusion can't hold. The crowds of youth that hang their jeans low and turn the bass high are not the same as the crowds who venerate the tap dancing glide of Frankie Manning. By their nature each of these groups excludes rather than includes.
Sometimes, if you are lucky you get what you want, like that wonderful dancer who suddenly appears at your side and beckons you to the floor or that turn that works just as you had hoped. Or when the person you were meant to be with in life's long dance moves into your arms just as though by chance.
The happy hour starts slowly as the dancers filter in from work, the men usually there first, the women taking the time to go home and prepare themselves, and the couples usually meeting up before coming in together. Most of the time even the band assembles itself slowly. The freeway traffic or the job impeding their progress towards the night's playing time. Sometimes the summer day, daylight saving time in place, makes it hard to come inside. Still, it's the dancing that draws, and the contact that passes for friendship, or relationship, or communitas. The dancing that I know I don't want to take so seriously that I forget that keeping it casual and lightly connected is what has always made this work for me. It's when I forget that that things go bad, get rough, and life like a boat on the sea can capsize on me.
So the next week comes and I'm still hearing that light laugh, seeing her eyes, in my mind my thoughts are scrabbling around like rats in a maze hot on the the scent of cheese. And now it is time for happy hour.
In the parking lot, I checked to see that my car was still unlocked and opened the trunk. But this was just to save time. I had to think. What the hell, so she had lights in her eyes, something else was at work here. The age old need to travel a different road. Shit, I slammed down the trunk lid and instead moved up to the passenger door and opened it. In the glove compartment I found what I needed. My last joint. Ironically, I needed to clear my head.
She comes into my arms and I do mean that to sound like it sounds. Because before I can stop myself I half groan half sigh, and she laughs. We are melting together like hot fudge on vanilla ice cream. Melding together like a fan of playing cards in a gambler's hands. We can't stop the osmosis of heat, can't tell which is sending which the receipt. Damn, I have to go, can't stand this . . . even as we keep responding to the beat.