Sunday, September 26, 2010

Bohemian, September 2010

There's a dance in Cleveland on the last Saturday of every month at the Bohemian National Hall.  It's really very well attended; it's held in a large ballroom, and the floor is almost always full.  (A lot of regular venues in our otherwise very fine state are not quite so well attended, which is such a shame.)  Last night was no exception: the room was full to the brim with all ages and skill levels and everyone seemed to be having a fabulous time. 

I try to attend the Bohemian dance anytime I am in state, and I've been attending more or less regularly since after my first exchange.  Often I have stayed the night in Oberlin with Renata's parents during those weekends. Other times I have crashed on the couches of friends who live in Cleveland. Since David and I started dating in July, I've been able to stay at his place, which is in Lakewood (Lakewood apparently still counts as Cleveland - Cleveland seems to have somehow incorporated a large number of towns that maintain both their individual names and the collective "Cleveland.")  What makes this weekend new and different is that David is still in Portland, Oregon, for a dance workshop, so I'm here at his place on my own.  Staying here has been fun and a little odd, as was the exchange I had with several friends: "... and where's David?"  "In Portland." "Oh, do you need a place to stay?" "Nope!" 

I had a fabulous time at the dance last night.  The energy in the room seemed unusually high thanks to the band: The Demetrius Steinmetz Band, featuring Eileen Burns as vocalist. The music was as enjoyable to listen to as to dance to, and they played a variety of tempos and a mix of familiar and unfamiliar music.  In addition to excellent music, I had a particularly enjoyable range of dances: slow and quick, with friends and with strangers, and with a full range of skill levels from very skilled to just starting out.

One of the dances that particularly stood out was with a brand new dancer from Erie, PA.  He's a freshman, and  just trying swing out, but he thinks he likes it and wants to pursue it further.  What I found particularly notable was that even though he was new to dance, he A) tried wholeheartedly and B) was friendly and cheerful about the entire experience, even when he made a mistake.

I am constantly amazed by how friendly dancers are.  Perhaps it comes out of switching partners every dance?  You have to be open to meeting new people and willing to want to like them without knowing more about them than that they dance.  Naturally not everyone in the dance scene is so friendly, and plenty of scenes are notable for the cliques that have formed within them. I don't want to make dancing out to sound like a fairytale, but I have nonetheless found in my dancing experience that the majority of people who take up dancing do it because they like people and want to have fun and meet other people who like to have fun.  It's generally a very friendly crowd.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Beginning

My first voluntary exposure to partner dancing came almost two years ago, in December of 2008, but I didn't consider myself a dancer until the following March, when I attended my first dance exchange, Steel City Blues Festival.  That weekend was when I realised completely that I was going to be dancing for as long as I am physically able and "dancer" became part of my identity.

At the time of Steel City 2009, I was a "baby dancer;" completely green, having had three nights of dancing prior to being diagnosed with appendicitis and having my appendix removed February 16, a mere five weeks before the exchange I was already committed to.  Still in pain from the incisions made in my core to remove my diseased organ, I carpooled with two friends to Pittsburgh, PA and participated in two days of workshops and three nights of dancing.  We closed out the late night dances every night, leaving between 4:30 and 5:30 in the morning. 

Appendectomy aside, it was the most physically intense weekend of my life (to that point).  My calves felt like they were made of wood, and each morning when I woke up, I had to remember how to move my body in a walking motion.  It was glorious.  I could not have been happier. 

In the year and half since that exchange, I have done a lot of things.  I've attended several dozen exchange weekends, I've attended countless beginner workshops, and worked one-on-one with a number of instructors and in small groups that offer honest critique.  My dancing has improved enormously, and my physical ability has transformed me to a different person.  Dancing is part of my every day, and I love it. 

(It's important to me that I remember that dancing is not the ONLY thing that is a part of me.  The time I spend with my family, with my friends, attending local events, and reading on my own is just as valuable to me as the time I spend dancing.  I know a lot of dancers who are surprised when they realise that I have non-dancer friends.  Often, when the subject comes up, they get a lost sort of look on their face and say, a little dazedly, "I had non-dancer friends, once, too...."  This is usually followed by a moment as they try to resurrect the part of them that remembers life before dancing.  While I love that dancing is so much at the forefront of my life, I have no intention of giving up nights making dinner with friends, afternoons curled up in my favorite reading chair, or trips downtown for ice cream with my little brother or sister.)

The point of this blog, aside from indulging my narcissistic side, is to allow my friends and family, particularly those who do not dance, to follow where I go, figuratively and physically, as I continue to dance.