A few things you should know before we proceed:
I am not a “good” dancer. I know enough to accomplish exactly two things:
- Competently social dance with almost any leader of Lindy Hop, East Coast Swing, and (sort of) Balboa.
- Understand exactly how good I will never be. The really good dancers are people who dedicate more than two nights a week. They’re the people who love it so much they do it as their job. I know I will never be that person.
Relax. I will not be using this post to try to convince anyone to come out dancing.
I love it so much that I’ve accepted I’ll never be amazing – and I’m ok with that. I also don’t care whether you come dance with me. You’re always invited, but you’re not a necessity in my fun.
Why Lindy Hop?
Lots of reasons, but mostly because I can’t help it. I’ve always been enamored by the music and the aesthetics of the dance, but I didn’t get started until my late 20s. As an army brat raised overseas, there was very little opportunity to be that brand of dance nerd. Then, when I finally moved back to the US, I was dating someone who was not down with most physical activities.
When I was finally in a situation where nothing was stopping me from trying, I didn’t even know where to start. I think I can say without doubt that I owe one of my favorite passions to this girl:
My friend, Brittany. I would have posted an awesome photo of the two of us together, but sadly, this is the only one I can find:
…not exactly the best of either of us.
Anywho, Brittany and I met in the middle of the night in Sherman Oaks. We were both out late, by ourselves, walking our dogs who were oddly similar in size and shape. We spotted each other from across the street and we both started laughing. Clearly we needed to be friends.
And our hunch was right! We ended up becoming very good friends and spending a ton of time together while I still lived in LA. Among the many wonderful things that came from our friendship, one of the most awesome things was Lindy Hop. Brittany is an amazing dancer and has been dancing most of her life. She brought me to Lindy Groove in Pasadena, gave me a crash course on how to follow, and then turned me loose. It’s been a true passion ever since. (Brittany, I’ll never be able to thank you enough!)
Six years later and it has been a crazy journey. Countless hours of classes at the Century Ballroom, private lessons from some of the most amazing lindy hoppers on the planet, multi-day dance events that leave me blissfully exhausted… I don’t think I’ll ever give it up.
Only Positive Effects
As a result of some less than awesome experiences, I used to hate physical contact with people – especially men. If people would touch me, brush against me, or get too close I would freeze up and have to fight the urge to shove people away from me. It was a horrible reaction that really prevented me from enjoying life. Imagine going to Disneyland on a busy day (which I love!) and trying to avoid strangers bumping into you! Impossible! Naturally, the idea of dancing made me nervous.
After the first few nights of hitting the social floor, I started to realize that it was the best possible place for me. I was voluntarily having physical contact with people in a very safe environment with a very strict set of rules about what kind of touch is acceptable. The more I pushed myself to face my anxiety on the dance floor, the faster the the anxiety dissipated. It was an incredibly therapeutic experience and now, a scenario that used to make me really nervous, is now the safe place I go when I don’t want to worry about anything or when I need to blow off steam.
Fashion & Body Image
I’ve always felt like a bit of an anachronism when it comes to music and literature, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that I’m out of time with fashion as well. Clothing made for narrow women don’t work for ladies like me. And it’s literally impossible to feel comfortable and confident in clothing that does not fit. Fit and flare dresses reminiscent of the ’30s and ’40s do fit me – in shape and personality.
If you’ve never spent all night on the social floor, you don’t really understand how much exercise this is. I know so many people who change their shirts four or five times a night because they sweat right through them. According to my Fitbit, when I walk, I roughly take about 1,000 steps every ten minutes. When I dance every song, that more than doubles in the same timeframe. I could quite literally dance my ass off. (Oh, if only I’d work harder!)
The swing dance community is amazing. It’s made up of positive, non-judgmental individuals who are genuinely invested in growing the community. Dancing is an intimidating thing for most people, but swing dancers make the experience inviting! Once you’re part of the community, it’s like being a part of a secret society that spans across the planet. No matter where you travel, you may not be able to speak the language but find dancers and you can communicate with lindy hop.
Bonus! I just found this photo of Brittany and me!