Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Dangers of Being a Dance Gypsy

No, I don't mean knee problems or losing one's job due to taking off too much time from work in order to go to dance weekends - the biggest danger in being a Dance Gypsy is in turning into a Dance Snob.  I've seen it happen many times and, indeed, it has happened to me.

We begin dancing in our home communities to local bands and callers.  We love the joyful abandon, getting lost in the music, the friendships.  Then someone says to us those six dangerous words that have been the downfall of so many; "You should try a dance weekend!"

I've been the one spouting those words myself and hearing the reactions from first-timers to a dance weekend:
  • "I never knew contra could be like this!!"  
  • "You were right.  This is way better than our regular dances!"
The trouble I've experienced and seen in so many others is that once we experience the dance weekends, the local dance with its newbie dancers becomes less attractive.  I know people who will literally not go to their local dance, but attend weekends only.  Others may go to the local dance, but complain the whole time about the band, caller, new dancers, and even the experienced dancers if they aren't as hot as the dancers at weekends. We get to where we don't want to dance with people who are not on our skill level. We may even complain at weekends at the slightest perceived inconvenience to our bliss!

Our most important and challenging task is to stay connected to our local dances, which is the heart of the community.  In the introductory workshops at our local dances, don't we tell the dancers that contra dancing is all about having fun?  There are no dance police.  There is no aspect of competition or performance.  "If you're having fun, you're doing it right!"  They hear those words in the introductory workshop, but then when they line up to dance, they hear these words:
  • Make sure you come back next week when we'll have a better band.  This one is so lame but we feel obligated to hire them every so often.
  • Oh damn, the caller is going to walk it through AGAIN!  Enough already, lets dance!
And then there are the actions (which, as we know, speak louder than words!).
  • Talking over the caller.
  • Trying to talk the newcomer through the moves instead of letting the caller teach because we know so much more than the caller.
  • Twirling, dipping, spinning, or otherwise confusing the newcomers to show what cool dancers we are.
  • Groping, leering, or drooling on the newcomers (or anyone else) because we're too sexy for this dance.
Our greatest accomplishment is not to master the latest flourish, but to nurture the community.  Show up! 
Your local community needs you.  And if your local community is "lame," it needs you even more.

Appreciate the band and caller, even if you know there are others out there who could do better.  Trust me, they are not doing it for the money!  Yes, offer constructive feedback, but always from a sense of gratitude and hope for their improvement, not as a complaint or put-down.

Volunteer!  Give your time and give your money.

I do still complain.  I do have trouble having fun sometimes.  Especially now that I am a caller, I tend to be especially hard on callers.  On my best nights I smile and try to listen and follow the caller.  When I'm at my worst, I whine and complain.  When I'm at my best, I have fun.  When I'm at my worst, I have a miserable time.  

It's ironic that our biggest challenge as Dance Gypsies is to have fun, but that is really it in a nutshell.  Go to your local dance and HAVE FUN!  If you're having fun, you're doing it right!  Let go of the judgments and remember what it was like when you thought your local band and caller was the best ever.