Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Shaping Your Swing World

Last time I wrote roughly about how movement works when you're relaxed.  In fact, other than my first one, I've mostly addressed physics.  So I thought I'd take a crack at philosophy for a moment.

Submitted for your approval

I'm gonna be honest with you. I'm a little nervous about this one. You don't say something about how to change or shape the world without presenting something that resembles some form of moralism, but I don't want to preach at you. I think of this as just as practical and operational as learning to swingout, and just as important.
So, please take this as that: a view on something that I think is important and has helped me in my dancing which I think will also help you. This isn't rocket science. I suspect that most of this will be obvious. I just want you to think about it with me.
So what is it that I'm talking about? I'm talking about how you interact with other dancers. Part of that is asking them to dance. Part of it is other things.

I was inspired by this and this, both of which got me thinking about it.

Now I think it's telling that both of these dancers are women, and traditionally, women have been asked more than they have asked. So they have had many more experiences upon which to form opinions that answer the question "what do I do when someone asks me to dance?" So I will not touch on that one. I'm going to try to generalize. I encourage you to read both of these articles and come up with an opinion on the subject. Mine, in general, is that honesty and kindness should be your main staples.

I'd generalize with two questions:

What is My Role?

Are you thinking that you don't have a role? That you're just there to try things? Humans are social animals. If your scene is between 100 and 230 people, you are probably a part of the social group that includes your entire scene. You might be an advanced dancer, a beginner, someone who just likes to listen to the music, or someone who watches, someone who reaches out to beginners, someone who teaches, someone who goes to dance with their friends.

In any case, you are part of the group. Your actions within the group have some affect - however small - on the whole. Some of you, I know, would just like to go out and have a good time and be anonymous like you would at a club. This isn't just a club, though. People don't meet anonymously and then vanish.

So what is your role? I don't know what it is for sure, but I know what it isn't. It isn't your title. You might be president of your local swing club, but that might or might not mean that you're the one leading people to dance. Your role may be other than you think. It's worth considering.

What if everyone did what I did?

Here's where I can't be as specific in all cases. I will simply go over a few of my thought processes:
  1. I have worked to learn how to dance with newer dancers because experienced dancers are constantly leaving, and I want to be able to dance with experienced dancers because it's fantastic.
  2. It is not at all apparent who or when someone is going to strive to become a better dancer, so I can't be sure who to focus on.
    Case in point, actually, are two of my favorite dancers now. Both had to stop for a while due to injury, and weren't as serious as they became when they returned after dealing with the injury.
  3. Therefore, I behave in as encouraging manner as possible toward as many people in the scene as possible
This means that I actively seek out and dance with beginners. It means that I say "no" very, very rarely to any dances - and when I do, I find a way to connect with the person that I didn't dance with to encourage them. It means that I invite lots of people of every level of experience to as many events as possible. It means that I attend as many different kinds of events as I can, travel regularly, and train to make myself an enticing dance partner.

I do these things not because I feel obligation to do them, but because I believe that my actions will shape my scene in the way that I want it to be shaped, and I believe that not doing these things will have a negative impact on that shape - and that not doing them will mean that someone else must carry the burden of doing these things to shape the scene for me.

Perhaps these kinds of thoughts don't apply to your scene. If, for example, you live in a scene steeped in a long tradition of dancing that doesn't regularly see people come and go, your ambition might be to raise the quality of dance much more, and your actions may reflect this. Perhaps you'd feel, for example, that you'd want to turn down more dances to motivate people to get better in order to earn the right to dance with you, or you'd not attend certain venues because of the level of dance.

So Where Are You?

I have a feeling that most people who might read this long string of text are close to where I am; have roles similar to mine - that they attend dances at a scene that has a regular influx of beginners and outflux of older members and are gradually moving towards being one of those older members themselves. How do you want that to go?

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