This past week I watched a new baby dancer from my university’s swing club get hooked on swing dancing. She came to the lesson and dance on Monday for the second week, then to Balboa Night on Tuesday. On Wednesday she ducked out of class early and totally ignored stacks of homework in order to come to Wednesday Night Swing. It reminded me of when I got my first taste of swing and went dancing three times in four days (there was no Tuesday Night Bal back then).
Dancing is addictive. When you find the dance that is really yours, the one that just gets you, you start fiending for it, spending all your available free time dancing, finding the thinnest of excuses for why you should ditch the rest of your life to go dancing. They say you’re really hooked when you buy the special shoes (something my friend has resisted so far). Some have questioned whether you can really be addicted to more than one kind of dancing. I think that often we have one dance form that’s our dancing drug of choice. However, that doesn’t mean that we can’t easily have multiple addictions! Like addicts who hit several kinds of 12-step meetings, you’ll find swing dancers showing up at salsa night, belly dancers taking a shot at Lindy, and ballerinas who find they have a natural posture for ballroom.
I consider myself to have two dancing addictions, and am adding a third. Lindy Hop and the other vintage swing dances (East Coast, Charleston, Balboa) are my drug of choice. My life-long love of swing music and vintage style, plus the easy availability of vintage swing dancing in my area (I can go dancing at least four nights a week without having to drive more than fifteen minutes) ensures that this will probably stay my drug of choice for a long time. But I’m also addicted to West Coast Swing, which totally captured my heart last December. I’ve been willing to do crazy things to dance Westie, including spending money I don’t have on workshops I’m going to forget, and driving two hours each way to dance for an afternoon. Lack of ready cash is the only thing that has kept me from doing more, and I’m actively looking for ways to overcome even that obstacle.
Then this semester I signed up for Beginning Ballet. When I was little I took lessons for a few years with a professional ballet company. I loved it, but quickly learned that I did not have the body of a ballet dancer and never would. When band lessons started, I decided to play the trombone instead. Now I’m back to the ballet, and just like when I was a child, I love it. I love the calmness of it, the way you do these amazing things with your chin up and your back straight. I love the grace, and how the most commonplace movements become full of beauty. I love the way my body does things I never knew it could. I even love the way I look in my leotard and tights. (It’s amazing – I put those things on and suddenly I look like a dancer.)
Mostly, though, I love the way that ballet is improving my Lindy. The recurring issues that I’m always, always working on are my balance, especially on spins, and keeping my feet underneath me. Ballet is all about that. Twice a week for a month now I’ve been practicing being controlled and balanced, making smooth weight transfers and keeping my body properly aligned. It’s making a difference. Wednesday night I hit a break when I was dancing with Trey. I was balanced on the ball of one foot with the other foot in the air, and I stuck it for the whole break until Trey let me down again. I couldn’t have done that a month ago. It was freaking awesome.
If I was pushed, could I choose between my dancing addictions? I don’t know. I know that I can’t not dance anymore. I am a Dancer. I need to dance. Could I be content only dancing Lindy? Only Westie? Only ballet? I don’t know. Each one satisfies my heart in a different way. Each one contributes, in its own way, to making me a more well-rounded dancer. Without the ways that Westie and ballet are helping me improve, my Lindy would soon get very frustrating. Without the interaction of the social dances, ballet would get very lonely. Without the fun of Lindy and the training of ballet, Westie could soon become just a dance I’m not good at. Each of my dance addictions contributes to making me a more complete dancer.