Why I Dance

22 Mar

There’s an awesome blog written by a Seattle-area lindy hopper that makes me still feel a tiny bit connected to the scene even when I’m in Spokane for months at a time. Her most recent post, 31 Signs You’re Not an Advanced Dancer Yet was really interesting, although I’ve never thought I was an advanced dancer. After all, I’m guilty of at least half of the things on the list.

However, it was a bit of a throwaway quote at the end that really grabbed me: “We take the journey to becoming lindy hoppers because we crave challenge.” 

There are a lot of things in my life that challenge me. I’m a full-time student and work two pretty challenging jobs: challenge isn’t exactly what I’m looking for more of in my life. So, why is it that I dance?

I dance because it’s unique.

When I tell someone I swing dance, I’m telling them something about myself. I’m telling them the kind of person I want to be seen as. I’m not a salsa dancer, all sultry and small movements. I don’t go clubbing: this isn’t about grinding on someone in search of a hookup. I’m not saying “I play soccer, like every single other person who has ever applied to this Honors program.” 

I’m saying I’m a swing dancer. I’m all about the playfulness of the dance, the swirly skirts, having fun with my dance partner, the hops and spins and dips. I’m a little bit quirky, a little bit retro, and all about doing things big. I’m saying I’m a little different than most 90s babies, and that I love that.

I dance because it makes me feel like a girl

In most aspects of my life, my gender doesn’t matter and I like it that way. I can do schoolwork, job work, pretty much anything just as well as any boy. And my male housemates are often better cookers and cleaners than me. I guess this is post-feminism?

I don’t want my gender to define what I can do with my life. But for a few hours on the dance floor, I like being the follower. I like being asked to dance, I like wearing dresses, I like being spun and dipped and doing exactly what my lead asks me to.

I dance for the connection and the community

I don’t spend enough time in Seattle to be a big part of the scene, but over the years I’ve gotten to know enough dancers that I can walk into Century or Eastside Stomp any night and know at the very least five, usually more like ten or fifteen, of the people there. It’s a hobby where I make friends with people I never would have known otherwise, people who might be twenty years my senior or live far away from me (shout out to Rahel, my awesome friend from Bern, Switzerland!)

It’s also a hobby where you’ve got a good reason to talk to people quickly. You don’t have to have mutual friends, you just walk up to a stranger and spend the next three-and-a-half minutes trying to dance the best dance you can. And if you mess up, you laugh it off. Sure, a perfect dance is fun, but a decent dance with a great person is just as much fun, if not way more. And if they’re super awkward/sweaty/smelly/creepy/weird, you walk away after 3.5 minutes with no hard feelings.

I dance because it’s FUN

Sure, dance can be challenging if you’re always working on improving, on paying attention to other leaders and followers and trying to dance with the music and improv little kicks on your swing-out. Sometimes I do that. But I’ve only taken one week of dance classes ever – Herräng was awesome – and I’m okay with that. Sure, it means that my improvement has been slow, but I’m at a point now where I can feel comfortable dancing with just about anyone. I’m okay that I’ve been dancing for over five years and there are people who’ve only been dancing a year who are way better than me. I don’t go out on a Friday or Sunday or Tuesday night to impress people. I go to have a great time. And I always, always do.

Fellow dancers? Why do you dance?

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