I went to my first swing dance a little over a year ago as part of a free program with Art Week Boston. I had never swing danced before, but it was a free dance in South Station so I figured I’d try it! For months after, I couldn’t stop thinking about how fun it was, so I signed up for a beginner swing dance “boot camp”. Then I went to a Friday night dance at one of the swing studios in the Cambridge area. And then, I started going consistently to free social dances this summer with a friend who is now super into it. My only regret? That I didn’t start going consistently sooner!
I’m still a beginner, mostly, but I’ve learned some valuable lessons so far (that are OF COURSE a metaphor for life:
1. It’s worth it to take the plunge
As I mentioned, I wish I had started going to social dances earlier because it just gives me so much joy. I was scared of going by myself, but lots of people are there by themselves and they have a great time – and so can I. When I move this fall to a new city, I’m going work to get as involved as possible with the swing community (to the extent that my program will allow me), even if I have to go by myself.
2. I can be both a leader and a follower
It’s not uncommon in the dance scene for people to switch “roles” and for women to lead dances (and it also makes it a safer and more comfortable space for the LGBTQ and non-binary communities). I didn’t want to do this for a while, because I wanted to learn and also because I just like to relax when I dance, but I recently was a lead and it was actually…okay. I kinda liked it, even though I had to do everything the opposite from how I learned it. I can do both. I can be both.
3. I can let go
Partner dancing is a constant exercise in letting go of control, something I am notoriously bad at. Like, so bad. But! Swing dance is helping me work on it because it is teaching me to trust my partner and also to focus on myself. All I need to do is get from point A to point B, and not worry about what my partner is doing – they will let me know. Also, sometimes all I need is a gentle push in the right direction and I’ll get where I need to go – eventually, and maybe a little bit off the beat. 😉
4. I can trust myself
Although swing dance is absolutely an exercise in letting go of control, there are sometimes where I’ve realized that I am right, maybe in terms of steps or musicality or following the beat. I can stand up for myself and say, “no, this is how you do this step”, and I’m realizing that sometimes it’s not me that’s a bad dancer, it may be my partner who isn’t being the best leader they could be. I often shift blame onto myself, so this has been a fantastic way to learn that sometimes I really truly am doing the right thing.
5. I can say no
I don’t often turn down dances (because I looooooveeee it), but there may be a time when I just don’t want to dance, and that’s ok. I can say no, and I should say no if I’m not feeling it or if I’m tired or if the person is creepy. It is important to me and my space to say no.
6. I can be rejected and the world won’t end
Friends, I remember how it felt when I asked someone to dance and they said no. I thought “what did I do wrong??” but honestly, it probably wasn’t about me. Maybe they were tired. Maybe they sit out every other dance like I often do to get some water and catch their breath. Since then, I’ve definitely been turned down and I’m still here. It’s absolutely ok to be rejected.
Going swing dancing is one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself – and I can’t wait to find a community of my own to be a part of in the future!