Thursday, May 10, 2012

My two left feet

The journey begins. (from l to r, Dana, Me and Danielle)
I'm in the midst of planning a big trip to London for Fall Quarter 2012. Studying abroad will afford me the opportunity to learn new things and integrate into British culture on a social and academic level. But not all of studying overseas is the fun and games of lecture-listening, studying and test-taking. Once in a while, it's important to get serious and do something productive - like swing dancing, perhaps.

My friends, Danielle and Dana, and I have been actively planning our time abroad. After an exciting pre-departure course, we've mapped out the top tourist destinations that pique our interest and decided that going to British universities is no longer our primary concern. We are now going to be European travelers. Danielle and I will be in London and while Dana may be a four hour train ride away in Edinburgh, we haven't kept form planning our own escapades in the capital city of England.

That's where the problem comes in. My problem would be the more accurate way to put it.

The Rivoli Ballroom
After we had already made ourselves irreparably high off searching for cheap flights from London to Milan, Copenhagen, Barcelona, etc. - Danielle and I scoured the web for things to do in London - actually we just watched this video - and we discovered a dance hall in the city. Outfitted like a 1940's big band concert venue, the place is called the Rivoli Ballroom and every month on the third Saturday, they host a Jive Party. According to their website, dress is "smart" and everyone is encouraged to dance no matter their skill level. But what if that skill level is zero? Does the encouragement still apply?

I come from a long line of failures...failures on the dance floor, anyway. With the exception of my grandfather whose favorite anecdote involves him, a 20-something year old soldier from the United States in World War II, dancing with the daughter of the President of the Philippines while he was stationed in Manila, none of the rest of us have any penchant, nor any talent, for the art of dance.

In fact, it wouldn't be so incorrect to say that we have a pretty collectively uniform set of two left feet.

Yup, that's the inspiration for our dance.
For years I didn't recognize this fact. I went to a few middle school dances (I was on Dance committee in ASB with my friend Kristin) and a few Mormon dances (wholesome fun left-foodness with Kristin and Tori - though, for the record, they are better dancers than I am). But the extent of my dancing at these events was through the DDR stations set up outside the auditorium and the group performances of "Cotton-Eyed Joe" and "Jump on It." Outside that structure, Tori and I did invent a dance. But it was inspired by Peter Parker's "just discovering he's" Spiderman hand gesture. Need I say more?

By the time I got to high school, I thought perhaps my Spiderman routine would give way to some more sophisticated abilities. In sophomore year, I took a Beginning Dance class and suffice it to say, I was proved very very wrong. In Ms. G's class, I learned that I literally can't distinguish between my right and left limbs (further cementing the two left feet notion) and that when it comes to spinning, I am lost. Or at least once I start spinning I become lost because I can't spot to save my life.

Still, I tried. And at the end of the year I tried out for the higher level dance course which would have me performing in a show at the end of the year (what a terrible idea). After the audition, Ms. G approached me saying she knew I could be a good dancer and offered me a place in the class if I invested time and money in summer classes. I refused. I still feel bad thinking of her face when I rejected her offer. It wasn't pride, but the realization that even three months of practice couldn't fix something so broken.

Yet over the years I've still tried to be the ballerina I trained to be at four years old (did I mention I took ballet for a year and dropped out? No? Good, because it doesn't matter). In freshman year of college, I went with Dana to a ballroom dance class where we were instructed in beginner's Latin - I think it was a Samba. Holding hands with strange Asian boys - strange as in strangers and before you ask, yes, they were all Asian - I felt out of place and awkward. Though I was able to pick up the steps relatively quickly, the act of dancing felt foreign and having my hands clasped by some sweaty, overly-tense teenaged boy made me uncomfortable.

I tried again later, going with my friend Tori to a swing dance class back in California which was followed by a social dance hour. In the lesson, I couldn't move without getting myself twisted in my partner's arms. Even on the dance floor, my leads would attempt to give me instructions on how to spin, how to dip, etc. I was a mess.

So let's return back to the subject of London. Danielle and I are planning our amazing excursion to the city this September and we discover this dance hall with large social dances once a month. I shudder for a second, then I become inexplicably enthusiastic about the prospect.

"Let's do it!" I exclaim. And in retrospect, despite all of what I've said in this blog, it makes sense to me why I said that. Even though I spend much of my time worrying over looking stupid, feeling lame and bogged down by my two left feet, something has always drawn me back to dancing. What is it, exactly? Fun. Even if one's partner (or oneself) is barely tolerable.

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