God, I haven’t posted anything here since March. A lot has happened since then and I’ve had a lot of thoughts and written a lot of stuff, most of it is stream-of-consciousness processing in paper journals, some of it draft documents that may or may not ever be ready to see the light of day. I’ve been making space in my life, giving things up and not knowing what I’m making space for. Now I know some of the things. I’ve given up one of the weekly dance classes I was teaching and am being a dance student again.
I could quite easily write a blog post that reads as an advertisement for Full Swing (standard disclaimer, no formal association, I make no money, just go to their classes, &c.). Firstly, their setup and languaging defy the heteronormative/binary-embedded stuff that has, in the past, led me to walk out of partner dance classes. They never use “man” and “woman”, but always “lead” and “follow”. Follows can initiate. Beginners are encouraged to learn as leads or follows to start with, but all the teachers can and do dance either part. Even the toilets at the studio defy the gender binary: they just have pictograms of the facilities on the doors so you can choose whether you want the one with the urinal.
I know that once I get past the gender squickiness, I really enjoy partner dancing. I really enjoy ATS® duets. This is different. In my experience so far, it’s definitely more geared at participation than performance, and I like that. Where ATS® has the joy of lifted arms, these dances have the delight of physical contact. The social dance focus and the culture espoused by the studio mean that I feel like I make new friends every time (also aided by the fact that Wellington is small and don’t I know your parent’s boyfriend’s flatmate? &c.).
This is why I started taking swing classes: in ATS® I’m a teacher and a lead hog. In swing I’m learning to follow. Admittedly I have that Byrds song on repeat in my head a lot. But it’s fun. It’s liberating. My teachers told me about this mind-blowing concept called “goldfish ninja brain”: as a follow, you only need to think within two counts. Not four. Not eight. In a recent class we did six count combos and my eight count control freak side really struggled, and sometimes I don’t trust my lead to be on the phrase, but I’ve got to give that up because otherwise I don’t get to dance, and dancing is way more fun than not dancing.