Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Contra

Dawn Dancing (Sarah Davis)
I did something unusual this weekend: I went dancing.

My roommate dances a lot, and she rallied together several of us from the hall to go contra dancing with her. The contra dance is based on Irish folk dancing, I think, and mostly involves lines of dancers weaving in and out in geometric patterns.

I am not particularly coordinated, but after four years of marching band I'm fairly competent at moving in rhythm to form a larger pattern. There was a half-hour beginner lesson before the dance proper, and the band Maivish played live. I got lucky in having competent dance partners for the first few rounds, though I often made missteps. All in all, it was tremendously fun.

The people at the dance were an interesting, varied bunch. Lots of people dressed in special dancing clothes; at one point, I was dancing with a girl who had a really spinny layered skirt and when she twirled the layers made a cool visual effect. I might wear my (one) non-formal dress the next time we go; I think that would be fun.

Of course, because I am me, I cannot simply relate a fun experience and leave it at that. There must be psychoanalysis!

The biggest idea that was raised for me was that of control. Since I'm a girl I usually danced the following part, which involves getting spun around and letting someone else help you with redirecting your momentum in a lot of situations. Multiple times, I'd be dancing and my partner would try to twirl me and it just would not work because when a motion starts that I did not expect, then of course I resist. Even though being twirled is kind of fun, the way that ziplining is fun or roller coasters are fun for people who like roller coasters.

It is hard to let go, to relax, to let someone else direct which way you move. One of my dance partners said, "It might be easier if you let me carry more of your weight," because in the move called the swing the lead's hand is on the follow's back. I said, "Yeah, okay" and then continued not to lean back. Perhaps (definitely) I am more uptight than most people, but there's just something weird about not having full control over how you are moving.

Something else that was disconcerting was looking directly into people's eyes at close distance. The urge is to flinch, to look away. It's uncomfortable; it seems like something that you do only with those who are closest to you. So the other urge is to laugh and be happy and flippant and not let any of the discomfort matter.

Dancing contra involved a lot of being uncomfortably close to people, a lot of depending on people, a lot of maintained eye contact. I am bad at all three things. Most people are bad at those three things, though my perspective of myself is that I am worse than average at relating to people anyway. The dance took a lot of energy, and required about half of the recharge time as a football game. But I had a lot of fun at the dance anyway, and I intend to go back with my roommate and friends at some point this quarter, just because it was fun.

People say "do things that make you scared" or "do things that make you uncomfortable" and usually, I don't buy that. But maybe an amendment is: try things that 1) are not dangerous 2) sound awkward or uncomfortable and see if you actually enjoy them. Against all odds.

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