Project 5: Stomping the Blues –an appreciation of social partner dancing

Introduction

Dance like there’s nobody watching,
Love like you’ll never be hurt.
Sing like there’s nobody listening,
And live like it’s heaven on earth.

William W. Purkey wrote those words and for many of us this will be a common, if clichéd, quote to be found on fridge magnets and Facebook postings. It is an inspiring liberating philosophy for life. Inspiring is exactly what I needed a little over a year ago when the confines of domesticity and pressures of parenthood had left me super obese and prematurely aged by almost 10 years. Things are changing and last year I lost 42kg or 6 stone. Tonight, fellow toastmasters and most welcome guests, I want to give you an appreciation of dance in my ongoing recovery.

An ideal lifestyle activity has really got have three things. It has to be easy to do, good for you to do, and fun to do. This is especially true if you are unfit with low morale. This matters. One only has to go to car boot markets to see the leftovers of people jaded with their hobbies.

Easy to do!

If you can walk you can dance. I can walk and do 10-50 miles a week as part of my commuting. Dancing is movement to music. The simplest idea in music is the regular beat. For example, the military march.  If you can clap to it you can dance to it, but more importantly if the music makes you clap to it you should be dancing to it.

You like best what you know best. Musical tastes imprint early and reflect what you have grown up with. For me that was pop and rock music from the likes of Radios 1 and Caroline and DJs like Dave Lee Travis and Tony Blackburn. The partnered dancing for that is Modern Jive and it has grown and taken shape since the mid 1980s, but like the music traces roots to the afro-American fusion of cultures emerging in the 20th century.

This is one of the easiest partner dances and within an hour of class you could dance out your first music track. The rest is just fine tuning.  Modern jive is one of the most accessible partner dancers with no emphasis on footwork patterns. Unlike disco dancing Modern Jive does have a minimal taught structural framework that enables you to dance. In turn that becomes a platform from which you can expressively grow, develop and improvise. My wife and I had a tuition based dance at our wedding and started the dancing to the Wurzle’s “Combine Harvester” song.

There is no real requirement for gear beyond shoes and clothes that move well. I can and do dance like this. I do have special shoes, but they are optional. I’ve adapted cheap trainer with suede souls and my wife has split soled dancer trainers to help get her weight forward onto her balls for spins. Sometimes dressing up adds a sense of occasion to going out and at other times it is a hassle factor.

There are numerous opportunities to dance. There are regular club class nights: Monday (Buckingham), Tuesday (Northampton), Wednesday (Milton Keynes), and Thursday (Bedford/Northampton). There is an opportunity to dance socially at every club night and more experienced dancers will often only come for that part of the night. You can join in classes when you can make them and lose nothing whereas other dance styles have very rigid sequential classes. There are monthly party nights for example this week Friday is Bedford and St Neots, Saturday (Hatfield) and a Sunday afternoon Tea dance in Chelmsford. Then come weekend workshops, dance camps and then the week long holiday camps.

Good to do!

One hour of dancing in 650 kCal compared to Walking 525 and 900 Cycling. You would burn off a pound of fat (3500 kCal) by going out twice. Provided you don’t drink it back on!!! Drunkenness and social dancing don’t mix as the dancing is often fast and coordinated. You don’t want to be chasing the proverbial loose canon on the decks.

Many of the lifts and drops require fine timing between the two dancers, which comes with time and practice. In class to often the results in dead lifts involving partners from size 10 to 20+. A half to one day set of workshops as is common at weekend events amounts to a major physical undertaking. Deodorant, towel and several changes of top are requisite.

Social networks are a very important part of well being. Of my 185 Facebook friends…the dance community is by far the largest and most highly inter-networked. 1/3 of my friends have dance as a mutual interest. 1/3 are isolated singleton and then family, hobby and other work based groups make up the rest. What is interesting is the extended family show up as a series of pods in contrast to dancers as one networked mass.

Before children my wife and I were dancing five nights a week and organising our own dances. We conceived our first born Lina at the 2004 Beach Boogie dance camp on the Isle of Wight.

Fun to do!

Dancing is liberation. In the 1960 five principles of animal welfare were established and include the freedom to express normal behaviour which requires space, facilities and the company of your own kind. We all live in a highly structured world riven with social and legal norms and taboos. We all have minds over analysing the past and over planning the future. In any given situation, even sex, only 25% of people are in the present moment,

You could be dancing with anyone from 18 to 81 plus to music from the 1920s right up to date. Partnership is not fixed so even your worst dances last no more than 3-4 minutes and makes the night open to singles and couples and everyone gets chance to meet new people with every dance each week. Dancing is a courtship ritual. It is clean play between the sexes. Within a moment of speaking you are in close hold and within a bar of music you know if they flow like poetry in motion or are as stiff as a board.

Dancing can be meaningful, expressive and creative. Music is the food of love or is love the food of music. Recent research found he 92% of music has messages on sex and relationships. It is said that the true Blues is between man and woman who can both be simultaneously feeling like loving and murdering each other and all shades in between. Credit card Blues is not in the same league. Understanding the technique and musicality of dance is intellectually engaging.

Conclusion

I’d like to conclude that dancing can be an addictively good fun way of being fit and socially active. Passion ignites when you are extremely interested in something and can feel very good at it. I think Lord Byron understood it well when he said

On with the dance! let joy be unconfined;
No sleep till morn, when Youth and Pleasure meet
To chase the glowing hours with flying feet.

Notes

The was for project 5 on body language. The strike through are text a dropped on the hoof to keep it in time, but it lost some balance. Good effort. 11/07/2012

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