Motion

Jun. 13th, 2014 11:31 pm
ladysprite: (steampunk)
If I haven't said it here before, Boston Swing Central is quite possibly the best thing in the world. Well, second-best; [livejournal.com profile] umbran will always be the best thing in *my* world. But he comes with me to Friday Night Swing Dance, so... BSC has dance AND husband, which is pretty freaking amazing.

It's open swing dance, every Friday night, with a class at the start for any beginners. Live music, a different band every week, and all the dance you want. And, most of all, it's friendly like almost no other group I've ever encountered.

I've gone a few times now - maybe 3 or 4 - and I can't get over how much fun, and how welcoming, and how positive it is. Everyone gets to dance; everyone dances with everyone; beginners are encouraged and experienced dancers make a point of rotating and dancing with newbies, and nobody is frowned at or criticized or excluded. It's like the Shangri-la of dance, with big band music.

I've missed dancing so much, and I've missed learning new dance stuff, and being in a room with so many talented dancers is amazing. The fact that they're happy to pull me out onto the dance floor, spin me around (apparently I have an invisible sign that says 'Please dip me and spin me energetically!' on my forehead), and when I don't pick up a step the first time, run through it a couple of times until I can incorporate it into my repertoire.... I don't have words for how much fun and how uplifting it is.

I know I'm still not particularly good at Lindy Hop. But I'm a decent follower, and most of all? I'm having a blast. I can't wait to go back....
ladysprite: (Default)
Okay. Inspired by this season of SYTYCD's tepid over-contemporary routines with lackluster choreography and mediocre partnering, I have spent the past hour going back and re-watching actually awesome routines. And so, for my own reference, and for those of you who haven't watched the show before this season, I am about to stash here a handful of the absolute best that this show had to offer, back when it was awesome. If you're new this season, or if you've never watched it before and want to see kickass tango and hip hop and even some contemporary, or if you're a fan and want to see if my favorites match yours, here goes....

Cut-tags mean love, when they hide half a dozen YouTube videos.... )
ladysprite: (Default)
I realized recently that, while I talk a lot here about what's on my mind, as always, I don't talk so much about what's going on in my life. And that, when I do, I tend to focus more on the stresses, disasters, and catastrophes more than the bright spots and the highlights. So today, in an effort to remedy both of those shortcomings, I am going to talk about my tango class.

I love dance, in all forms, but some are more natural to me than others. There are dances that just come naturally to me, like contact improv, and flailing-around-a-club - while I can learn, and adopt other patterns, they just seem to suit my body and my personal style of movement. There are others that are just intrinsically hard for me, like Middle Eastern dance - they violate rules that I learned in other forms, or they ask my body to move in ways I'm not used to, but I find them fascinating enough that I push and persevere anyway. And there are the styles of dance that, when I start out, they seem impossible, but after a little while of frustrated pushing, they turn into my deep and adored favorites. This was the case with 16th Century Italian dance, and it's turning out to be the case with tango.

Tango is, in its movement style, very different from other forms of ballroom dance, which surprised me at first. I spent most of the first time through the class just learning how to balance my weight in towards my partner, instead of leaning back into the hold, and figuring out how to follow a lead that came from the torso and shoulders instead of arms and body. But it was enough fun that my friend and I decided to take the beginner class again, and the second time through is turning out to be purely amazing.

There's just a level of joy and delight that comes from finally starting to feel comfortable with the steps and the style, from being able to start the transition from thinking-about-steps to thinking-about-the-dance as a whole. There are the grins and excitement that you share when you realize that you maneuvered a new step properly, and the fun of trying to puzzle something new out on your own, even if it winds up with tangled feet and almost-toppling, and there's the sheer pleasure of movement, and feeling your body fit into the music and the rhythm.

Of course, it also helps that our teacher is apparently a slightly crazed Super Dance Hobbit, and that she sneaks us extra new steps on the side since we are now her Advanced Students, at least in comparison to the rest of the beginners. (Advanced enough that I seem to have become her demo model, even when she's teaching steps I haven't done before, but that's an entirely different source of amusement.) And it's always fun to have something to share with a friend, and to enjoy their excitement and happiness as much as my own.

Next week is our last class, and I'm not sure where to go from here. I don't want to just give up on tango entirely, but taking the beginner's class a third time would probably no longer be helpful. Our teacher runs an intermediate class, but it's on Mondays, and soon I'm going to be working until 7pm most Mondays. I'm looking forward to dipping my toes back into Middle Eastern dance once my Thursday nights are free again, but before too long I'm going to start having to look for a new alternate tango venue.....
ladysprite: (momongo)
Hi. My name is [livejournal.com profile] ladysprite, and I'm a dance junkie.

In particular, I've dabbled and played around with enough different styles of dance, and am a puckish enough spirit, that I have an extreme and unreasonable fondness for playing mix-and-match with music and dance styles - partly for fun and creativity, and partly for the looks on people's faces when they realize that you're dancing the Macarena to Nine Inch Nails.

There are some levels of this that are easy - almost all rock songs are in 4/4 time, so you can dance the macarena or polka to almost anything you hear on the radio. Others are a little more fun and obscure, like finding the songs with the proper tempo for waltzing (my favorite is 'Are You Lonesome Tonight,' right now), or dancing a gagliarde.

So today, as I was driving home from work and playing my favorite windows-down, volume-up, drive-fast-and-blast-it-loud songs, I realized.... I'm pretty sure that the beat is syncopated enough that you should be able to dance one heck of a tango to 'The Bad Touch,' by the Bloodhound Gang.

Taking tango lessons has now gone from 'yet another item on the to-do-eventually list' to 'Moral Imperative....'
ladysprite: (MoonSun)
So in spite of expectations otherwise, I managed to make it out to Heroes - the local New Wave/80's Night that I had hitherto been unaware of - last night. I wasn't quite sure what to expect; my personal 80's preference tends much more towards rock and metal, and less towards New Wave; I didn't know who would be there; I was going with a friend I haven't gone out dancing with before.... a huge handful of unknowns. But I was desperate for motion, so I tried it.

Oh dear gods above, it was the most right thing to do that I could imagine. My brain is a strange place. Sometimes when I'm down and uncertain and scared, the last thing I need is to be in a loud space surrounded by strangers. But other times, the noise and the dark and the press of other bodies and the lights and the heat and the pulse just floods me like a tide, carrying me out of my own mind and my swamp of misery and making everything transcendentally better. This was one of those times.

The place was crowded, but somehow the other bodies bumping into me on the dance floor just added to the energy high. Every time I turned around to look back at the door, another face I recognized was coming in. The music was loud and fun. I spent the evening wallowing in human contact, both physical and.... energetical? I don't know the word for it, but there has to be a way to describe the aura of shared sweat and laughter and joy-in-motion and self-awareness and group-awareness and unity that permeates a truly awesome dance floor. I can't remember the last time I've let my shields down that far, and by the end of the night I was half-giddy from contact highs and wincing when I walked from the utterly ridiculous heels I was wearing, and I cannot remember the last time I felt that good.

It felt like a fever breaking. Like lying down on sunny grass for the first time in May and feeling the cold in your bones finally melt. Like falling into my husband's arms after having been away for months. When things get worst, I sometimes forget what it feels like to be happy. I need to find a way to bottle this, and store it for then.....
ladysprite: (Default)
So I have woefully neglected to mention here that, in addition to working and making food look like acorns and severing my arteries and stuff like that, I have also been working with the Boston Babydolls, helping out with their new show, 'V for Vixen.'

Sadly, Oberon and I are benched as a team until he learns not to sink his fangs into my delicious creamy flesh in the middle of a performance, but the troop has a bunch of fabulous new performers, and I have been invited to use my superpower (Learn Choreography Instantly - 3 point Advantage, or Incredible rank Power Stunt, depending on your system) to help them revive some really awesome numbers that haven't been seen in some time. I've also been tapped for backup dancing on a couple of numbers.

Anyway, it's going to be a pretty darn awesome show, and y'all should come see it. Bonus "I <3 Ladysprite" points will be awarded to anyone who can figure out exactly which choreography bits in which numbers are my fault/responsibility.
ladysprite: (Default)
One of my life goals is to learn every form of dance known to mankind. Every single one. I know it's not possible, but I don't intend to let that stop me from trying. However, given the impossibility of the task, it has led to me prioritizing slightly. There are some forms, like swing and waltz, that are higher on my list - they're fun, they're dance forms I have a chance of actually using on a semi-regular basis, they're ones that other friends at least vaguely know, and they're straightforward enough for someone raised with standard western-style music that I can wrap my brain around them pretty easily. Also, they involve being led by a partner, which makes everything much, much easier.

And then there are the styles of dance that, while I find them fascinating, have been shuffled to way down the list for various reasons. Chief among these was middle eastern dance. I love it - it's gorgeous and entrancing and utterly different from anything I've ever done, but for precisely those reasons I find it intimidating as heck. I tend to be rather intimidated by free-form, non-choreographed, non-partner dance (with the exception of club dancing, which I shove in a category by itself). I have serious problems moving the upper and lower parts of my body in different directions at the same time. The motion style is much more fluid and less step-oriented than I'm used to. And... to be honest, I kind of figured I didn't have the proper body shape for it. My jiggly bits aren't very jiggly, and that always seemed kind of key.

But the local SCA group started offering low-key, informal classes for next to no cost, and I decided that I'd kick myself if I didn't take the chance to at least try to learn. And a dear friend gave me the kick in the pants I needed to go back for a second class after I catastrophically failed to absolutely master every last detail in the first two-hour session, and now... it's maybe six classes later, and I think I'm hooked.

I'm not particularly good at it, by any stretch of the imagination. I still wind up with a pretty serious Centipede's Dilemma when I try to get any sort of organization between my hips and my arms. And I'm a bit hampered by needing to look in the mirror to know whether something looks good - for ballroom or renaissance or club dance, I can *feel* the right alignment or step or posture in my body, but for this, I have to see my body to know whether the motion is appropriate and esthetically pleasing. And, unfortunately, the act of watching distracts me enough to make it hard to just relax into the movement.

All that aside, though, I'm having fun. I'm making progress - I'm pretty comfortable with hip circles, and while my shoulder shimmies are less than perfect, a month ago I would have told you I could never learn to do them at all. I'm light-years away from ever doing this in public, but at least I can imagine a time when that won't be true. (Especially if I have choreography to follow. I think my biggest weakness as a dancer is the fact that I'm less than creative when it comes to choreographing. I'm a much better learner and follower....) And most of all, I'm learning a new style of dance, training my body in new directions, and that feels really good.

I missed this feeling.....
ladysprite: (Default)
Arisia good. Friends good. Dance good. Johny Zed DJ good. Johny Zed not dancing bad. Experimental swing dance good. Landing on heels bad. Need sleep.

Arisia was a lot of fun, and I wish I could have spent the entire weekend there. We got there around noon yesterday, and I had a marvelous time rediscovering old friends. Apparently I make much more of an impression than I ever would have imagined, since the day was filled with people I didn't really remember too well hurrying up to me to remind me of the one time we met six or seven years ago. It's a bit startling, a bit scary, and a lot flattering, and I've got a lot more email-pen-pals now than I did 48 hours ago.

I didn't actually make it to a lot of the official functions; I was too busy catching up on socializing. The masquerade was actually a bit of a let-down; there were only 11 entries, and none of them novices. So of course I decided that I need to enter next year. I don't know what or how, but I'll figure something out.

The dance was amazing, once it finally started. The lighting crew wanted everything perfect, and delayed the start by almost an hour futzing with gels and spotlights. It wasn't worth the wait, but that's just because not waiting would have meant an extra hour of dancing. The DJ was an acquaintance of mine, and an amazing dancer, which was unfortunate - while he played some excellent music, I was left stranded in an ocean of White Boy Bop dancers with no rhythm. I still managed to have fun, though. The music was a near-perfect mix of gothic-industrial, techno, and 80's pop that kept me on the dance floor until I nearly collapsed from exhaustion.

At one point, I was dancing with a friend of mine who does Contact Improvisation, and an incredibly bouncy jitterbug tune came on. After we burned up the floor twisting and spinning, I decided to try a step I'd wanted to practice for a while. We spun back-to-back, locked arms, and he dipped and flipped me over his back. It was beautiful; it worked perfectly.... until I landed. Flat on my heels, no shock absorbers. I hyperflexed both ankles and probably avoided compression fractures by entirely too narrow a margin. No more dance for Becky that night.

It's about 18 hours later, and I'm still hobbling a bit, but the pain is fading and the fun remains as strong in my memory. New friends, old friends, no sleep, sore feet. All in all, a good con.
ladysprite: (Default)
It had been way too long since I last went out dancing - almost a year, if I recall correctly. So when my friend M, who is assistant director for the play I'm in, invited me out after rehearsal tonight, I decided to go. I almost didn't, since I'm fighting a cold and have to work tomorrow, but the offer was tempting enough that I grabbed the first appropriate clothes I could find (black velvet hip-hugger jeans that, after coming out of the wash, are almost too tight to wear and a velvet-and-brocade top that's more empty space than fabric, but swirls beautifully when I spin) and tagged along. Gods, I'm so glad I did...

I've been spending most of my time lately in other people's areas of expertise. During the day, at work, I'm surrounded by half a dozen other vets with many years more experience, and heaps more confidence and skill. My circle of friends is largely made up of musicians, all of whom are more talented than I, and at rehearsal I'm in the middle of a group of actors who are far more experienced, trained, and comfortable than I can imagine being. I know I'm a good doctor and a decent actor, and I've been told I'm a passable singer, but that doesn't change the fact that in all those areas I'm at the bottom of the ladder. I don't stand out. Usually it doesn't matter, but every once in a while it's nice to shine.

Tonight, within two beats of wading into the ocean of velvet and vinyl, I knew I was home. This is *my* place, my time. The music speaks to me, my heart pounding with the beat, my blood flowing in time, my body moving in ways that my conscious mind can't control - hips swinging, arms twining, shoulder swaying... I'm peripherally aware of the other dancers, enough to keep from bumping into them and to appreciate the patterns we make, sometimes working with them, weaving in and out of each other's dances. Sometimes I have half an eye on them, watching their moves and the way they dance, realizing that I could dance rings around them if I wanted to.... I can feel the eyes on me, too, and it's intoxicating in a way. I'm dancing for myself, no worries, no thought, no competition, but it feels good to know that, if it mattered, I'm being noticed.

Of course, it ended far too soon. I left after just a couple of hours, knowing that if I allowed myself to stay until the floor was full and the DJ was in his prime, I'd never escape before last call. And now I reek of cigarrette smoke, my eyes and throat are burning, and my calves will protest tomorrow, and it was utterly worth it. I can't wait to go again in two weeks... completely aside from the ego-boost, it feels good to move, to let my mind go and my body take over.....
ladysprite: (Default)
*feet together, knees over your toes, thighs tight, backside tucked, stomach in, chest out, shoulders back, chin up, neck straight. Down, two three four, and up, two three four....*

It's amazing how there are some postures that your body will just slide back into, no matter how hard they were at first, no matter how long it's been since you've tried to hold yourself like that. Even if your muscles protest a little, you know the shape, the feel, and it seems... appropriate somehow to move in that way.

*hands all with your partner, lead up a double and back, then cast off and come back to place...*

My mind doesn't remember all the dances, all the steps and names and patterns, but my feet do. If I try to think my way through the steps, I trip on the words and stumble over the slowness of my thoughts. But if I send my thoughts away and let my body take over, it's the simplest thing to move through the steps and the patterns. It's a kind of freedom I don't get anywhere else - no thinking, no worrying, and a kind of awareness of motion and being and self that I can't get from any intellectual activity or simple exertion.

I couldn't talk out the steps to War Bransle, but I can dance them with my eyes closed. As soon as the music starts, there's a direct connection to my feet, and they move in the pattern that the notes sing to them. And by the end of the night, even my mind is catching up to the rest of me. Burgundian doubles have gone from a meaningless phrase to oh-yeah-that to a part of a pattern that my mind recognizes, and even though they're reconstructing demarches differently than they were four years ago, it's so good to be dancing again....

And when the dancemistress looks at her watch and realizes that it's past time to end for the night, I don't want to make myself stop. I don't want to put my mind back in charge of my body, I don't want to just walk back to the T. I want to jump, I want to dance, I want to practice the new step we've just started working on. And it's two weeks until the next practice. I can still hear the music in my head, and even while I'm sitting still writing this, part of me inside is dancing still....

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