Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Out-of-town dancing report - A swing workshop weekend in Dayton, OH (Feb 26-28, 2016)

(Disclaimer: this is a report that I try to be honest with my feeling. I will still say something that I feel great about this dancing trip, but such description will be balanced by something that I feel sad about the trip.)

Last weekend, I broke my words years ago about "never more workshops" by signing up to Dayton Swing Smackdown. Seeing that there were a good number of fellows from Champaign going (6! We need two cars), and knowing that Cassie was going (the reason will be explained in another blog), I decided to think this trip as a re-evaluation of experience in going to a swing workshop.

My energy was high on Friday night. It was a live band night. I could still recognize a few faces besides Cassie. These faces were known from some workshops long time ago. I was excited to show Cassie the new UIUC folks that came to this workshop event. Several of them, including Leah D., has not met Cassie before (there were several Leahs in the workshop, and Leah D. was not the one that she has met). They may see her as an advanced dancer too intimidated to approach. Thus, I need to introduce them to her.

Similarly, Leah D., the current lesson chair, was excited to introduce her dancing friends to us. She also arranged housing for our whole group. The host was very nice, too!

The quality of workshop is excellent, as usual. I especially like the second session, where Danny and Mandy talked about swingout in Charleston style. I also got to dance with another instructor, Shannon, twice. I did feel the connection difference when dancing with advanced people.

Also, we would not forget the line dancing and the birthday dance with a T-Rex:

Now, here are my emotional struggles about going to workshops. You may stop reading if you only want to feel positive about an event.

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1) The dancing ability plateau

One of the goals of going to the workshop (no matter how small the importance I think) was to know my current dance level. By doing the level test and amateur competition, I knew the reality. It seemed to me that I still had not put hard work on this dance. Egoistic feeling of not wanting to lose resurfaced, causing more frustration with dancing.

Then, I thought about Adrian, who came back to UIUC Swing Society last year and sat for the full dance for the whole semester. I knew him for a long time that he was good at swing and won competition before, but he seemed to lose interest to dance. He said something like it was good for me to be fun to beginner dancers, and he could not provide such fun.

When I returned to swing, I promised myself for improvement. Yet, after months of dancing, it looked like I still stayed at where I stopped. Conversely, I had a fear that serious practicing caused me to become one of those good dancers who are serious about them. My goal in this Swing Society is to keep beginners interested to learn more about swing and feel loved in this society, not to make another clique of advanced dancers, right?

2) Friendliness is within elites

In this workshop, I still saw these that brought me to the past shadows: I saw people who wished to dance with more advanced people, so that they can go to advanced lesson track. I saw people practicing on their own posture in a social dance event. I met advanced dancers who seemed defensive with dancing with lower-level people.

There are nothing wrong, it is okay to choose dancing to be serious. I just choose to not push my dancing that far. After all, my career is not about artistic expression. I still love my maps and reading about environmental issues, and they will be possible career path that I aim for. Dancing is fun, but if I cannot fulfill my basic needs, I should pause my dancing.

Thus, I generally do not feel close to elite dancers. Yet, I cannot identify myself as a genuine beginner. I start to feel the group classes provided by the Swing Society no longer provide new information. Yet, I do think that there are a lot of things that I do not know, so I am not towards the next level of dancing yet.

Thus, I am not in the circle of elite dancers, but I may start to scare true beginners also by what I am doing. I am in the middle of the ravine between the beginner rim and the advanced rim, by myself.

I also noticed that while many people were dancing, some of us just sat most of the time and checked the phones. Perhaps they were tired or scared to ask strangers that are great to dance with...

3) The recurring doubt that whether I like dancing or not

Do I really like dancing? Compared to these people who travel to every major swing dance events and form their own jazz bands, I feel like I am not. Compared to my office mates, however, they would think I am too crazy in dancing. Somebody even asked me to write a dissertation on dancing. I can now safely tell them: there are some people in the world who dance everything, except they are much better than me (this will be described in another blog also). At least, I will not put dancing as my career.

Yeah. I still have a love-hate relationship with swing.

These reasons are insufficient for me to stop swing dancing now. The above points do cause me to maintain my cautious feeling on workshops.

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