Swing dancing changed my life.
I first fell in love with it in 1998, when I decided to try something new. I loved dancing and had studied ballet, flamenco, jazz, salsa, tango. My dad taught my siblings and I how to dance the Irish jig on the braided living room rug when we were kids.
I was looking for a style of dancing that I could practice, for fun, with others. A girlfriend took me out swing dancing one night. What a kick!
Literally, twirling and kicking my way around the floor, I was hooked. High energy dancing to big band music, spinning from one man’s arms right into another’s —- I loved it!
I met my ex-husband while out dancing. He was from out of town and was showing off his flashy moves. Soon we were dating, then teaching together.
More time went by and we somehow became the “dancing king and queen” of Albany, NY — teaching hundreds of students a year, performing to crowds large and small at all kinds of gigs, even dancing on local TV.
Miraculously, we were getting paid to do this fun thing we loved to do!
We had become “lindy hoppers.” Lindy hop for those who don’t know yet is the granddaddy of all swing dances. It is an improvisational partnered dance that originated in the African-American community in the ballrooms of Harlem in the 1920s.
Lindy hop is beautiful, sexy, jazzy. And not the easiest dance to learn! I was so used to picking up every dance style I’d ever tried instantaneously.
Lindy hop had a learning curve. I’d watched the nation’s top dancers perform back in 1998 and thought I should be able to dance like them right away. Ha!
It was a struggle in the beginning. My body wouldn’t always do what I willed it to do. I was learning new “steps” and more importantly learning to really connect with a partner, feel his lead on the dance floor. This meant letting go of my own need to control.
Dancing was a great cure for a lifelong perfectionist like me. I was used to having creative control. As a writer, I get to revise my work.
There is no chance to “revise” what you do on the dance floor. Each dance is created spontaneously in the moment. You have to just get out there, give it the best you’ve got, have some fun, and move on to the next dance.
Like my Buddhist studies, dancing taught me to:
- Be present in the moment.
- Let go of the need to control.
- Be surprised by life.
- Be grateful.
Dancing brings me extraordinary joy. As I work on my first book, I’m reminded how important it is to do what brings us joy. I’m committed to go out dancing at least one night this week.
What could you do this week to bring more joy back into your life?
What has learning a new skill in your life taught you?