Monday, March 31, 2014

"Please be *extra careful* around the electrical wires!!" - A weekend of dancing in small spaces and a Lenten knitting surprise...

Just what a girl wants to hear when she's balancing a tray on top of her head...

Morning all! A Dancing Monday post is always a fun way to start the week, no? I had a lovely, lovely weekend. Settle in with a cup of tea, and let's recount. This is going to be a long one! I probably won't blog for a day or two just so that you won't get sick of me, but this will be a fun post, I promise. ;-)

Your morning cup of tea, courtesy of the Catholic Librarian. :)
Friday evening my dance troupe had the final rehearsal prior to a performance we had scheduled for Saturday night. The event was a fundraiser for the local council for the arts, to be held at an Irish restaurant. In a bit of an eclectic lineup, we were dancing in the midst of a swing dancing night, complete with live band and members of a local swing dancing group. Our plan was to start off with our tray balancing/wings number, modified to use veils rather than wings due to light fixture concerns :0, Claire would dance a solo, and then the troupe would dance our new choreography set to fun Arabic pop music. So, that's what we practiced. The veils were tricky, because we had to drape them around our necks while we balanced the trays, and then slip them off quickly and into the right spot on our fingers for the rest of the number. Our wings hang attached to our costumes behind our backs, easy to grab at a moment's notice. The veils - not so much. You have to find an edge, flip it down in front, slide your fingers to the correct position and then swirl the veil to the back. A bit more time intensive, with a heck of a lot more room for error. But we made it work, and felt as ready as we could for Saturday night.

I arrived at the restaurant Saturday evening to find a gaggle of panicky belly dancers bunched into a corner of the banquet room in which we would be performing. The swing band was playing happily, oblivious to our distress. A slew of new tables had appeared overnight in the room, making the dance space...extremely small. And the band was taking up half of even THAT. Claire told us to just do the best we could with the space at hand. When we had to drop off our trays and then start a veil formation, she said to plunk them wherever there was free space, even if that was on someone's table, and not to worry about making the formation the way we usually do it, with us crisscrossing in front of each other. Just swirl around with veil and get to our places.

We dispersed to change and took over the ladies restroom as our dressing room, twittering nervously about the new plan. It seemed like an awful lot could go wrong with this, but it's not like we had a choice. As we waited to perform, me nervously sweating onto my veil as I used it for a coverup, I peeked into the banquet room nervously. The space seemed to have gotten *smaller*.

All too soon, the band took a break, and they wanted us to start. I fiddled with my veil one last time and we walked out with our trays. The beginning went fine, which is always an ominous way to start a story, isn't it? We balanced our trays. Then it was time to drop them off and begin the veil section. That went fairly predictably with trays being plunked somewhat haphazardly onto an empty table and then each of us trying to look graceful as we got our veils in place and squeezed into formation in the tiny space. Swirly, swirly, the veils looked good from what I could tell at first, but then we had to move into a circle. We did our best not to smother any audience members. As we circled and then spread out, the inevitable happened: there was no room to have your arms up very high unless you wanted to chance accidentally punching someone in the face, and so we kept our arms slightly lower than shoulder level. What happens when you keep your arms below shoulder level while holding a veil?

Someone steps on it.

I feel a tug on my veil and know exactly what happened. I probably should have thought my reaction out more fully, but in the heat of the moment I didn't exactly have that option. I pulled back as quickly as I could, figuring it was like ripping off a band aid (faster is better, right?!), and praying that no one fell. Thankfully, no one did, but as I hip bumped around I could see at least two of my troupemates executing the same veil pull I had just implemented.

It got dicey there, but we all survived. As we completed our final turns I looked at the audience. They were looking back at us curiously, not sure if that's good or bad. :0 Mercifully, that number came to a close, and Claire came in to dance. She was spectacular, as always. Our second group number went much better, since it is prop-less. But all the same, I don't know when I've been happier to finish a performance. :)

After changing back into my street clothes, I hung out for a bit with Claire and a few of my fellow dancers. The band came back and the swing dancers came out. We admired them.

I love, love ballet, it was my first love in dance, and it is the foundation for all other dancing that I do, but ballet dancers have a limited age window for professional performing (which I never did, I just took very informal classes as a child). And there is definitely a specific body type that ballet favors, which eliminates, let's face it, most of the population. Even at a healthy weight for your height, professional ballet dancers are *even thinner* than that! Not a good thing, truly. What I LOVE about other dance forms that I have discovered as an adult is the acceptance and celebration that you see of people of all ages and body types. The best swing dancer of the night? Without a doubt, by a landslide, a man who had to be approaching 60 years of age. He was FANTASTIC!!

I was enjoying my drink, watching the dancers and chatting with my friends when the swing dancers announced that they were doing a short lesson for any interested parties. As I'm sure you would be unsurprised to learn, I normally do not perform things in public that I do not know how to do well. I have never swing danced a day in my life. Karaoke is pretty much my worst nightmare.

Well, one of my dance friends, Amy, is going through a bit of a tough time, and she was interested in the swing dance lesson. I could tell that she just needed a little push and encouragement to do it, and I really wanted her to have a fun night, so I offered to go up with her.

Next thing you knew, we're dancing with men we've never met before who were ecstatic to have new pupils to teach. We were taught the basic 6 step sequence in swing dancing, and then moved on to a twirly turn. We switched partners as we learned a new movement, so that everyone could learn from each other. My favorite partner was a guy named Pedro who clearly knew what he was doing and lead our dancing beautifully. The instant we started moving, he said:

"You are a dancer, no?"

"Yes, a belly dancer."

That earned me the confused expression that I so often see when I tell people I'm a belly dancer. :0

"But something else too, right? Like ballet?"

Apparently there is no escaping that one.

"Yes, a long time ago."

"I can tell. You are very light on your feet."

Pedro has earned a gold star and made me feel not weird, and I found that I actually enjoyed swing dancing. Soon enough, our lesson was over and Amy and I moved back to our table. It was fun.

Then the band comes back out. My favorite 60 year old was dancing again, and so I watched him and his partner dance. It was delightful. I feel a tap on my shoulder. It's Pedro. He asks me to dance.

"Oh, I don't..."

"Oh, it'll be great. You'll see!"

See, this is one of those situation in which shy people so often find themselves. I really don't want to get up there and risk publicly humiliating myself, but you look like an unfriendly bad sport if you refuse. I smile politely and get up. I can see Amy and Claire staring at me, wide eyed and beaming, and I am really, really praying that this goes well.

So, we start dancing. It quickly becomes apparent that Pedro has high hopes for me, and is expecting that I can move from Swing Dancing 101 to Intermediate/Advanced Swing Dancing in the 10 minutes that have elapsed since our lesson. Horrifyingly, I step on his feet several times since we were moving so quickly and I still didn't really know what I was doing. :0 He didn't seem concerned and twirled me around all the more.

Let me tell you, swing dancing is excellent cardiovascular exercise, my friends. By the time the song ended, I needed a serious cool down. I thanked Pedro and meekly headed back to my seat.

Amy is waiting for me excitedly.

"That was AMAZING!! How did you learn how to do that so fast!!"

"Pedro did all the work, trust me." :)

She had captured our dance on her iPhone, prompting me to assure Mike upon my return home that if he sees me swing dancing on Facebook with another man that he shouldn't be alarmed. :0

As I related the story to Mike, he got all excited and said that he has always wanted to learn a partnered dance with me, like swing or ballroom dancing. I showed him the little that I learned and we talked about going for one of the drop-in lessons that this particular organization holds weekly. I have to say that I had a fantastic time and would love to try swing dancing again, especially with my cute husband as my partner. :)

And so that was my dancing weekend. I had an absolute blast. Our next performance is in just over 3 weeks, at a fundraiser for a charitable legal organization. That's the event last year at which I saw at attorney that I used to work with. Yep, as I belly danced up on a stage at a black tie event. Never a dull moment, folks.

And so finally, I promised a sneak peak at a Lenten gift I made, and I finished it this weekend. Yes, before you say it, it is only Nerd Catholics who knit special Lenten gifts, but pshaw! It is fun, and I make no apologies. :)

Without further ado, I introduce, da da DAHHHHHH! Lenten Socks:

Because we all need special socks, just for Lent...
They are indigo purple tweed and soft pink (for Laetare Sunday) and are so smashing I wish I could keep them for myself. :0 See how cute they look on me up in photo #1?

They are going in tomorrow's mail to head to their new home, and I know that they will be loved and cherished there. :)

All right everyone, I've taken up enough of your time. Have a great day! Are any of you dancers, either now or in the past? Or maybe you've never taken lessons but are jonesing to try a new class? If so, leave me a comment, I'd love to know which style you are interested in!


  1. I had no dancing experience at all until my husband and I took dance lessons prior to our wedding. It was ballroom and we learned a little bit of everything: foxtrot, waltz, swing, and a few others I can't think of right now. Our teacher choreographed our first dance for us and it went really well on the day of our wedding until about half-way through when I realized our DJ had a slightly different version of the song than what we had practiced to. I prayed we would still end at the same point. I'm a musician and recognized almost immediately that the middle section was different and slightly longer. My husband knows nothing about music and was clueless until I told him after the fact. Which is probably god. He might have freaked out had I said something during our little dance number. Haha!! I'd love to take lessons again sometime!!

  2. Oh, I should also saw, I love watching Irish dancing. I'd love to get into that if I had the time. Looks like lots of fun. And I forgot, but we once attended a contra dance night. A group here in town does it once a month and you learn a bit at the beginning and then dance the rest of the night. That was QUITE the workout!! But fun. It's sort of like square dancing.


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