(Migrated from Myspace.)
I came away from Camp Jitterbug last weekend with a truckload of tree-hugging hippy crap. And it’s awesome. Allow me to share:
From more than one person, but particularly from Ramona and Andy & Nina, I got the message loud and clear that when you get to the top of the heap, the next place you go is back to the beginning. Forget every fancy footwork variation you ever learned. Forget what you’re supposed to do with your left arm. Forget looking pretty all the time and concentrating so hard on how you’re moving your body. Instead: Relax, relax, relax. Only use what you really need. The dance is supposed to be about joy, and you can’t let the joy in if you’re too busy thinking about exactly how your swivel looks or if you’ve got your arm in a nice line or how you’re going to get back on the proper foot after this crazy footwork pattern you’re about to whip out.
Our bodies are instruments, and there is a deep difference between playing a chord progression you learned from a teacher or copied from someone else and finding your own voice, your own melody. The hardest thing is to take down the barriers we’ve learned and built up over the years and instead to have truly engaged, honest dancing. Ask yourself: how often do I really look into my partner’s eyes? Chances are most of us are busy looking down at our own feet or (if you’re me) staring at the clavicle of your partner’s chest to pay attention to their face, their expression, their emotion. There can be so many emotions to dancing, and this is something I never truly appreicated before. Dancing can be like acting. You can be the jilted lover in a Bessie Smith song, or you can be the wild woman who don’t get the blues. Apparently you can even dance angry, although that tends to draw me in rather than open me out.
The biggest struggle, at least for me, is to turn away from the drama of the caste-system that so much of our scene has become, and instead to look inward to what I really feel, how I really want to move. To access the glowing bundle of Lindy energy and joy inside me and to send it on its happy way through my every limb and muscle. To look up, into my partner’s face, to look up at the world and not to be afraid to find somone looking back. To allow people to be drawn in, rather than asking them so desperately to please look, look at me. Find my own joy, and allow that joy to draw others in. Find the extra levels, the extra personalities, the infinite possibilities that I had unconsciously and unknowingly foreclosed. This is a new path, a new me. It’s all very Zen.
I don’t know what it means to dance like Gina right now, but the more that I can strip away the layers and patterns and imitations I’ve built up over the past 5 years, the more I’ll find out how. Because I have a feeling that dancing like myself feels amazing.