10 Things from Alamo Stomp 2018

I’m back with a list because my mind is a jumble of disproportionate and oblong thoughts which cannot seem to collect themselves. So, yes, a list is just fine. These things I know to be true about my experience.

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Taken back in the Carolina mountains in a kaleidoscope, refurbished Nikon.

  1. Attitude is everything. If you’ve followed this blog since the early years, you know I began on two left feet (figuratively in terms of dancing and tone). I wanted so badly to be somebody I wasn’t, to shed the skin I was for someone entirely different. But what a moment…to be alive in 2018, a Chinese-American transplant dancing in Texas hill country to lindy hop. You can’t make this up. Yes, there’s so much work to do in this community. No, we can’t stop here. Which brings me to my next point…
  2. We have to learn how to listen. If you haven’t read this post from ObsidianTea, you’re missing out on a whole conversation that needs to be valued. I knew I felt uncomfortable wearing a qipao but I realize each individual needs to notice and note what clothing brings up in people. Sometimes reliving and preserving the past is the last thing we need. Sometimes we need to remember how to let others move us, and sometimes we need to learn how to stand our ground. It’s wisdom to know the difference.
  3. I have to stop blaming others. It’s time for me to take ownership of my own mastery. I realized this all at once, then in steps thanks to the marvelous instructors, all of them (see below for names). It’s not enough to think others are having a good time, you have to be sure the dance feels right for you. Am I moving down a line? Am I pulsing? Am I bringing something valuable here? Does this feel good for me and my partner? I have to start questioning these things to get to…whatever is next.
  4. Learn to say thank you.  Thank the organizers. Thank the volunteer coordinators, the collaborators, and the volunteers. Thank the instructors and judges. (Check them out here: Jamin & Grace, Anthony & Irina, Shauna & Falty). Thank your fellow lindy hoppers. Thank the bands. Thank the MC and the alternates. Thank the competitors. No experience is exempt from a heavy dose of gratitude. I’m never going to forget the small act of kindness when an instructor stops everything they’re doing just to come by and fix an arm. That’s really solid, student-centered teaching.
  5. This is your moment, don’t wait. I think I waste a ton of time wondering what others think and say about me. 85% if not more. This weekend helped me realize that even if I bomb…at least I did it in a blaze of glory with the goofiness that is me. If no one likes it…well, the points only matter if you’re interested in them. (Believe me, I still am, I’m just trying to convince myself otherwise.) But in all honestly: you never know how much time you have left. “Make the most of your time here.”
  6. It’s okay to suck if you’re going to change. I know this is not my final evolution (that’s right, I’m a Pokemon master). I’m going to admit, it sucks when people see your ideas flub or if you trip…but I personally think there is more value in learning to recover than to quit. I remember seeing a dancer I very much admire slip up on stage, but she immediately nailed her next spotlight as if nothing ever happened. I’m pretty sure she left the competition with a placement despite the hiccup. You cannot literally die from embarrassment (however much you want it to happen).
  7. Learn to (not) apologize. I’m terrible at this. I always want to atone for every single thing I’ve ever said or done. My honest-to-goodness response upon some criticism recently was “I want to curl up and die.” I have to remind myself, and maybe you should remind yourself as well, from the earth and dirt and rubble comes the goodness. The soil, the dirt, the dust holds the richness for us to grow. Dust off your shoulders, relax, trust the process.
  8. Practice perfect. I had this choir director in secondary school always drill us that it wasn’t practice that made perfect, but perfect practice. Don’t stop when you master a move. Stop when you can do the move as easily as you can breathe.
  9. Draw from, don’t fossilize. I heard some interesting thoughts over the course of the weekend, notably about how music should be preserved, shared, or altered. I’m personally partial to the idea that we sit on a fine line of improvisation and preservation. My heart is leaning towards being open to the new while appreciating the history. Recognize the roots, the branches, and the leaves.
  10. Let Go…(Be Humble). The more I spend thinking about these ideas, the more I wonder about where lindy hop has been and where it’s headed. I remember telling a friend that, with all the recent tension, I wasn’t sure lindy or swing as a whole would rise above the subculture level. As responsible as we are for spreading the joy in dance…I do wonder too much sometimes. My voice blares a bit too loud over the online rafters, if you get my drift. So, please, take this as my last apology. Silence is too golden these days, and I will assure you, my future posts will be focused on quality rather than quantity.

 

On my toes…

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Taipei shadows, 2016

Yue

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Why Dance? Lessons From Tragedy.

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copyright Sherry Yuan 2013

First, a moment of silence, to honor the lives of Mengchen Huang and Mimi Liu lost this week.

Maybe it’s the midterms. Maybe it’s the suicidology class.

Maybe it’s the fact that 2 of our campus own have passed away in less than a span of a week.

Suffice to say, it does not seem like the time or the place to dance so cheerfully. On this university campus, our mortality has been made quite apparent to us these days. I’m not here to tell you that grief isn’t appropriate. It is, especially given the nature of these endings. However, I’m saying dancing is a way to heal and, eventually, to let go. It’s a way to celebrate life and to love someone who is gone, to remember them. Dance might not take away the pain, but it can begin the process.

One of my favorite people, MLKJ, once said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Likewise, the ESV Bible says in John 1:5 that “[t]he light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” Dance is a way to let your light shine. Grief has a time in a place, for it shows how deeply we love. However, to stay depressed, to dwell on the negative…that is the darkness winning in our lives. Dance can be the light in someone’s life today, a visual representation of your heart song.

With these recent tragedies, my prayers have taken on an urgency. This life is short, less than a whisper in the wind, a wisp of incense pleasing for but a moment.

So…why dance?
It reminds us that we are alive, that we can still move.
It reminds us songs are sweet but short-lived, and we must embrace the time that we have.
But most of all, it reminds us to draw close to the ones we love, for the time we have is such a blessing, but so fragile.

Dance because you can. Dance because it’s joy. Dance so your heart song can sing out loud.

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass…It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”
― Vivian Greene 

From my heart,

S.

Blues for Two

Blues can carry a mixed bag of feelings for most swing dancers. On one side, blues is awesomely rhythm heavy. The movement heavily correlates with the swaying of your hips or the pulsing of your steps. While this pulsing remains prevalent in swing dancing, blues bases most of its moves on subtle pulsing. It’s also, you know, really sexy. There’s that. Balboa might take on an A-frame chest hold, but blues has something called the “close embrace” which is basically a very, very intimate hug. On the other hand? Well…there’s a lot of swaying and “tone” instead of tension. Lindy hoppers make use of tension, like an elastic band. Thus, swing is usually high intensity and high energy. Whereas blues can be arguably high intensity of passion, the movement is more subdued.Think less large and showy moves and more variations of swaying.

My friends and I attended a fun event last night at a downtown club for an evening of blues dancing. Through my limited experience with blues, I opted for the free hour-long beginner’s course. I did enjoy the dancing, but I don’t think blues is quite the right fit for me. If blues and lindy were desserts, blues would be a heavy, decadent chocolate ganache cake and lindy would be a sunny raspberry lemonade bar. Personally, I opt for peppy more than sexy. Perhaps if I really was crushing on one of the dancers, I would have enjoyed the close embrace more? Regardless, “it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing” for me at the moment.

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Much Love & Swing,

 

Sherry