July 26th, 2008

swing set


"Swing Set" by Jurassic 5

As I mentioned in my previous post, I was convinced (or "suckered" as she says) by my friend Dawn to try out swing dancing lessons, and I signed up for a five-week beginner course that started last night. The classes are put on by HepCat Productions and are currently held at the Russian Community Center on Capitol Hill (in the area of that little neighborhood center around 19th Ave and Aloha Street). The class is an hour long, and then from 9 to midnight they host an open dance ($5 at the door, or free for current students). Both the class and the open dancing seemed to have a decent range of people from college-age to maybe low 40s, with a few people even older at the open dancing.

Swing dancing is a workout, it turns out. Just the basic footwork that we learned in the first lesson is enough to work up a sweat. This is good as I don't do enough exercise. The dancing is tricky in that I have to think about what I'm doing in order to learn the steps, but then I promptly have to forget about what I'm doing - internalize it - or else I'll trip all over myself. Despite having years of practice in martial arts training, I still kept catching myself watching my feet, which was certain to throw me off. This class happens to have more people taking the lead position than the follower position, and I almost crossed over to the follower side, but as a guy I'll normally be expected to be a lead and I figured I'd better learn that position first. At the moment I'm so uncertain of what I'm doing that I'm very hesitant and no good as a lead, but I'm hoping that hesitancy will go away as I become familiar with the moves.

The post-lesson open dancing had its own problems for me. First, it seemed like everyone, including people who claimed to be complete beginners like myself, knew a lot more than I did or at least were more confident about it. Second, what we're learning in class is the Lindy Hop, which the instructor describes as the fundaments of swing dancing. However, several people I danced with wanted to do East Coast Swing, which is actually a simpler basic step but it's a three-beat (or six-count) step rather than the four-beat/eight-count Lindy Hop, adding to my confusion. (This also came up a couple weeks ago when I first tried the swing dancing, and for some reason I couldn't get Dawn to understand that some people were trying to dance in three beats and some in four, and I couldn't tell which I was supposed to be doing.) Third, I mostly wanted to focus on staying on time and in step with my partner and get the basic steps internalized, but that doesn't make for fun dancing and I sometimes felt like I was being a drag. Finally, I simply don't relax easily. I tend to hold myself stiffly when trying to learn some physical activity, a problem that's come up as far back as violin lessons, as well as in my martial arts training. I've also always been hesitant to get close to strangers (particularly women), feeling I should keep a polite/safe distance, which also makes me stiff and hesitant and leads to awkwardness when dancing.

Despite all that, I did have fun in the open dancing. Some of the women were merely tolerant of my awkward self, but others (besides Dawn) were kind and direct about telling me to loosen up and helping me try new steps. I had a good time in particular with one woman who was also in the beginner class and, although she too seemed a little more comfortable and familiar with the moves than I am, seemed to be at about my level of competency, which was much less intimidating. Still, I feel like I somehow have to let go and loosen up quickly or the dancing will become unbearably awkward and not fun.

So, overall it's definitely fun and a good thing to learn and do, and I'm hopeful that I'll enjoy the class and the dancing enough to continue on once this one's over. I'm already a little disappointed that I may miss the final class, because there's supposed to be a KEXP Volunteer Appreciation Party the same night and I don't want to miss that either. I suppose I might be able to go to the lesson and then late to the party after, as it involves bands playing at a club somewhere and the lesson's only from 8 to 9.



On another matter, I also mentioned in the previous post that Nimiel was showing signs of the distress she's had before. Cleaning out the litterbox did seem to immediately reduce the frequency of her trips, but she persisted in the behavior for a few days, leaving me guessing whether I needed to call the vet or not. Since Wednesday though she seems back to normal, so I think she's okay. I wish I knew for sure whether it was some kind of quick-passing (no pun intended) illness, or some reaction to her litter. I had used a different brand of the silicon crystals litter, with bigger crystals, the last time I changed it because the store was out of the brand I usually use, but I don't think that kind stayed effective as long as the usual brand, so that might've had something to do with it. Next time the store's out of the usual brand, I'll pick up another brand that has similar-sized crystals and see how that works.