it keeps calling me right back Sunday, May 3 2009 

“Blues is the closest you can get to legally having sex in public.”

Just… with clothes on.

Blues was excellent. By the time 10PM rolled around, I wasn’t really feeling like going. Rain was pouring, and it had been overcast all day, which– after a week of sunshine– completely killed my mood. I rallied and trudged down to the Karate Church (yes, really) where the dance was being held. Unlike last time, it wasn’t hard at all to get dances. I want to say there were at least 25-30 people at any given time, with various others coming and going. There were plenty of people for dancing, but in comparison to a club, the numbers were relatively small. Which was nice, because everyone was able to dance with everyone or chat when sitting down. Several Canadians recognized me from last time. Did I mention how cool it is that so many awesome dancers are willing to cross the border to come to little ol’ Bellingham?

More of my salsa friends came this time, as well. It was good to see them in a different context. One of my favorite local Argentine tango dancers came and I was able to witness some epic blues-tango fusion live. She made it seem so effortless.

I stayed for a couple hours, but by about 2AM the balls of my feet were completely raw. I’d doubled up on socks like I had the last time, but unfortunately it got to the point where I was unconsciously trying to spin on my heels. Not a great idea. Hopefully next month I will stop being an idiot and just wear my ballet slippers. I’ve resisted thus far because I didn’t want to be the odd one out, but if it means I can dance longer…

I came home and ate two whole packets of Ritz crackers. I was so freaking hungry.

we’re so far away Saturday, May 2 2009 

Our salsa performance last night was at a local community college. Usually it’s mostly adults and college students, but the audience this year was made up of quite a few little kids. Some of us were wearing, ah, shall we say… risque?… outfits. No one had warned us. We joked beforehand about even the most minor wardrobe malfunction possibly traumatizing the kids. Thankfully, no such trauma occurred. I think.

They didn’t let us rehearse on-stage prior to the performance, so I didn’t realize the majority of the stage was actually made of rubber. Yes. Rubber. Wonderful for not slipping and falling, not so great for quad spins. Or shines. Or really anything.

The video isn’t bad. It’s difficult to tell where we slipped up, and we were in sync the majority of the time, especially at certain points where it’s difficult to remain on count. My spins were slow, but more concise than I had expected.

Blues tonight. Woohoo!

his eyes said it all Tuesday, Apr 28 2009 

Center Stage 2 is a pale shadow of the origional, but I adore the final dance to 24 hours by Jem.

so many possibilities to not be alone Sunday, Apr 26 2009 

At last month’s local blues dance (we have monthly blues dances now!) I met several wonderful dancers from Canada. A few of them offerred their couches to crash on if I ever wanted to go dancing with them. Unfortunately I was unable to make it up to Blues in the City last night, and so I remain a Canadian-blues-virgin. Another time. I hear the blues scene in Vancouver is remarkable.

Instead I consoled myself with tango at Bluemoon Ballroom. I went to the lesson, but there was only me and two beginner/intermediate students. Apparently there had been a milonga the night previous at a different venue, and so people were tango’d out. I expected them to cancel the lesson and even the milonga, but instead the instructor and the two other students began teaching me some of the tango basics. It was, as the instructor noted with humor, practically a private lesson for cheap. He and the others were very kind and patient. Some told me their stories of how long they’d been dancing, why they dance, as well as some of the revelations they’d encountered over the years. They way they spoke about tango is very different from the way I’ve ever heard anyone speak about salsa. Perhaps because the majority of the dancers were elderly and had been dancing for several years, whereas the salsa dancers I speak to on a more personal basis are usually much younger and haven’t been dancing for very long. I only know a few individuals my age who have been dancing longer than I have (not that that says much).

My salsa partner is even better at tango than he is at salsa. He was going to help me practice tango today, but we ended up playing pool instead. Oops. (I lost the game, too, and now I owe him chocolate. Our score is currently 1:1.)

I’m excited for the summer. I’ve already leased a luxuruous apartment dating back (with some remodeling) to the 1930s. I’ll be taking psych classes throughout the morning, work or volunteer or sunbathe by the bay in the afternoons, and go dancing in the evenings. I feel as though a transition in my life will be occurring. I’m not sure if I’m ready to meet it, but I’m up for the challenge nonetheless.

you and me have seen everything to see Saturday, Apr 25 2009 

“Because women’s work is never done and is underpaid or unpaid or boring or repetitious and we’re the first to get the sack and what we look like is more important than what we do and if we get raped it’s our fault and if we get bashed we must have provoked it and if we raise dour voices we’re nagging bitches and if we enjoy sex we’re nymphos and if we don’t we’re frigid and if we love women it’s because we can’t get a ‘real’ man and if we ask our doctors too many question we’re neurotic or pushy and if we expect community care for our children we’re aggressive and ‘unfeminine’ and if we don’t we’re typical weak females and if we want to get married we’re out to trap a man and if we don’t we’re unnatural and because we still can’t get a safe, adequate contraceptive but men can walk on the moon and if we can’t cope or we don’t want a pregnancy we’re made to feel guilty about abortion and… for lots and lots of other reasons we are part of the women’s liberation movement.” -The Body Shop

Found this in my binder of violence prevention information pages. It’s been a while since I’ve gone back to the basics.

That said, Death Cab was fucking amazing last night.

gender roles & the lead/follow dichotomy Thursday, Apr 23 2009 

Over the past few months of salsa practices and hanging out with the other performers, I’ve become increasingly aware of the gender roles automatically assigned to dancing. I’ve been lucky enough to have found a group of salseros whose female instructors can both lead AND follow. When we work on shines, we say, “Leads, over here! Follows, over here!” There’s no reference to gender. I also live in a very liberal community, where men showing affection for other men isn’t nearly as shunned as it is elsewhere. At a blues gathering earlier this month, I witnessed some epic male-male dances between presumably heterosexual men.

Latin dances have a particular way of polarizing the genders, pushing them to either extremely masculine or extremely feminine. To lurk in a gray area somewhere in between is doom yourself. In tango a few days ago, the lead instructor half-jokingly suggested that any feminists should leave the room temporarily, because what he was about to say ran antithetical to feminist beliefs: that the leads need to be hyper-masculine, to take control, to be agressive. That the follow has no control over the dance.

There’s a difference between not being in control over the dance and not being in control, period. By choosing to dance with someone, man or woman, the follow is giving up the control of the dance by agreeing to follow to lead, but she is not handing over her autonomy. The dance too much? The lead a bad lead? She can walk away at any time.

The dominant/submissive dichotomy certainly stems from masculinity/femininity, but it is effectively lead/follow, not male/female. The genders of the dancers irrelevant. Nor does choosing to give up control during the dance translate to not being in control outside the ballroom or club. It is a precious thing, trusting someone enough to let go and surrender your control to them. Attributing this surrender to only half the population makes it less than human.

Having different roles for leads and follows? That’s not un-feminist. Connecting those roles with particular genders, and only those genders, is what’s not feminist. Having only two boxes people can fit into is limiting and a clear proclamation that anyone outside those two boxes doesn’t belong in that world.

Having to play up my femininity has been something of an inner struggle. Walking half-naked onto a stage next to my fully-clothed lead is at once empowering and disempowering. On one hand, it says, “Aha! I have cast aside your social norms that says I can’t flaunt my body or look sexy without consequences! I am gorgeous, and you cannot touch me.” However, it panders to current trends where a woman must strip in order to look sexy, and often for the man’s benefit. It also indicates raw power– that a man has all the control, because he remains clothed, where a woman has none, because she is lacking in clothes and therefore vulnerable. This circles back to the lead/follow dichotomy, and if I thought that was all it was, I’d be content with it. But it’s not. It’s about gender roles, because we let it be about gender roles, rather than who is leading and who is following.

playing with fire Thursday, Apr 23 2009 

In my one of my frequent attempts to find yet more tango-blues fusion videos on YouTube, I stumbled across a two-parter tango performance.

I really don’t know much of anything about technique yet, but I loved their clean style and the delicate simplicity of the music. Her outfit is enviable. It’s conservative, really; she doesn’t show much skin at all. But the black bellydancing pants and flimsy blue, single left-shoulder dress is a gorgeous combination. It’s elegant, and perfect for the dance.

This one is actually tango-blues.

Some commentors have questioned his leading ability, but I love her fluidity and interpretation of the music, particularly from 1:40 to 2:00.

echoes Wednesday, Apr 22 2009 

My poor dance shoes. They’ve lasted me for over a year, but now the suede has been completely cleared off. They’re light-brown and satin and even as worn-in and scratched up and suede-less as they are now, I still think they’re gorgeous. They’re my first and only pair of professional ballroom shoes (remember, college student budget) and it’s going to be a sad day when I have to relegate them to practice-only status. I haven’t yet because our salsa performances started this month. Performing in new, barely broken-in shoes seems like a bad idea. I think I’m going to wait until summer quarter, when I’ll hopefully be dancing on better floors, and I can break them in leisurely.

The first performance was on Saturday. I’ve performed before, but my last one was two years ago, when I was still a beginning salsera. I remember being somewhat nervous we would forget the moves (and we did, but just once). This time I entered an eerily calm phase during our last run-through before we went on stage. It was as if timed slowed. It’s salsa; the music’s flashy and fast, the moves are quick, and–if you do them right–the spins are rapid. Yet it felt as if the world had narrowed down to just this dance, and I could see each combination before we went into it.

I flirted with the crowd during the shimmies, and smiled and smiled and smiled. No controlled processing required. At one point, I was spun outwards and stopped inches from a lead’s face. The stage would be small; we had practiced with that in mind. But the sexy body roll we went into before I was spun away again was pure improv.

My calm lasted throughout the length of the performance. Afterwards, my legs were absolute jello.

The next morning (after leaving immediately after the performance to go clubbing in Vancouver), I went through my intro shine a few times. Apparently, the calm had a lasting effect. My spiral spins were noticeably more concise, and my ability to move with the music more fluid because I didn’t rush to meet each cue. My partner and I aren’t performing this Thursday because he has work and I have a long-anticipted Death Cab for Cutie concert, but we have practice tonight. For a long while last year I felt like I was stuck in a rut with salsa because I had gone as far as anyone was capable of teaching me at that point. Committing to other dances (open ballet and tango) and combining a street salsa choreography with ballroom elements has changed a lot of that.

stars and butterflies Tuesday, Apr 21 2009 

I want to dance my way across Europe with sneakers on my feet and three different pairs of dance shoes slung across my back. I want to glide across the finest ballrooms Russia has to offer, be in Rio for Mardi Gras and learn the Brazillian samba, attend the finest milongas in Buenos Aires, breathe in the ballet of New York. I want to see the rolling, green hills of Ireland and have a drunk guitarist sing to me in a pub. I want to educate men and women in Rwanda, in the Congo, in South Africa, in Egypt about gender-based violence prevention. I want to study psychology and apply it to the real world, among more than just the people who can afford to need it. I want to sink my roots into the rich earth and write a book that gives back for all that I have taken before I pick up and bittersweetly take my leave again.

I want a life of postcards, of tasting tea and coffee and wine, of cross-cultural studies, of breaking gender-boundaries. I want to alternate between the rush of leaning over a balcony in a sea of streetlight and breathing in the forest below a bed of starlight. I want to leave behind footsteps on the beach and resist the 6:30 a.m. sunrise lure of the sea.

There’s so much possibility.

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