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I’m meant to be writing about something that makes me happy. Something, in fact, that “makes (me) ache because it's so beautiful / feel so small in its vastness / implode with wonder.”

It’s Monday night and that is the PERFECT night for writing about this because every Monday night I am completely BUZZED and sitting here on my patchwork quilt just humming with energy. Cause Monday nights I go Swing dancing. This is what Swing looks like:

I can even do some of those moves! At, like, half the speed. Swing developed out of the energetic Charleston footwork that was a huge craze back in those decadent, devil-may-care 1920s.  The partnered version kind of developed into Lindy Hop, which is the variety of Swing that I do. It’s names after Charles Lindbergh, who ‘hopped’ across the Atlantic in his plane. Yes that’s a crazy thing to name a dance after. No, I don’t know why.

Anyway, Swing is fantastic. It’s my favourite. It’s a partnered dance (but everyone swaps and shares partners) and the man (the Lead) gives the lead, and the woman (the Follow) follows. It’s a little like Rock’n Roll, a style in which I was once told “The man’s job is to do the thinking and make you look pretty. You are his dolly. Do what he tells you to.” An old-fashioned dance in some ways, but this is complementarian roles at their very best, and it is gosh-darn, helzapoppin’, crazy breathless fun.

So after an evening of getting spun round and round, counterbalanced, swivelling and kicking and scootching and hip-popping, giggling cause it’s just MAD and hilariously awesome, I’m high on endorphins, damp with sweat and half in love with everyone in the room. And then, then I jam down the stairs with waterbottle in hand, burst out into the cold Wellington night and have to put my coat on. Then I spring and hum all the way up the road swigging from my bottle and trying to swivel on the gritty concrete. Up Webb Street and left down Willis and then up, and up and up, past the concrete once-avant-garde council flats and the stately Philosophy centre, the shops, the terraced houses, the sweeping curve of Raroa Road with its triangular park and gnarly trees and war memorial, with big band tunes and smooth swinging jazz filling my head and the Southern Cross turning slowly over Brooklyn Hill.

“Victory to the Working Classes” is spray-painted on the road. It makes me giggle every time I see it, and since I’m more and more bourgeoisie every day, that’s really not what the anonymous sloganeer had in mind and the irony just gets to me and makes me laugh harder, nearly loud enough to hear over Sinatra-in-my-head.

It takes me half an hour and that half an hour is my time, to crackle and pop with endorphins, and sing, and enjoy the peace of the night and stars, sometimes even pray. I climb the set of seven zig-zags that takes me to my door.

And the sky is darkened as I ascend the stair.

There are shadows across the windows, clouds in heaven,

And a god among the stars; and I will go

Thinking of him as I might think of daybreak

And humming a tune I know....

from Conrad Aiken, 1919.

Night makes me happy.  Stars and dancing make me happy. God makes me happy. And I stand on swiftly tilting planet, and don’t ache, implode or feel small. I bubble over with happiness and surprise my flatmates. It’s probably obnoxious. But Monday is the best night in the week.



( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 2nd, 2012 07:16 pm (UTC)

This reminds me of when I used to walk down the road, step-step-tri-ple-step, step-step-tri-ple-stepping my way along. And the overly enthusiastic Italian guy in this video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJ_r48VgTe4).

Dancing with live music is the best! I was dancing last Saturday night at a Kamao Quintet gig in Hackney — they played some cool gypsy swing, it was fun, and a fair bit of it danceable, though not all so much — and danced with a girl from New Orleans, who was saying how there is live music to dance to every night of the week there, and she hardly ever dances to anything DJed. I was rather jealous. Though London is not too bad either.
Jul. 3rd, 2012 01:14 am (UTC)
Re: Awesomeness

That gig sounds fantastic. Swing dance in Hackney! And I'm so jealous of that girl from New Orleans. Live music, how fantastic. we do have the Roseneath Centennial Band, but I actually haven't been - how slack.

I'm going to queue that video up for when I've got half an hour free :)

When it was Val and Nick and I going to Swing, we used to go to Scopa afterward and practice our swingouts going down Cuba street. Occasionally we got looks, but one night we bumped into a middle-aged American couple outside a hotel who wanted directions to a restaurant. They got directions, and we got a demonstration of THEIR swing style - I don't know what it was, but it was fantastic.
Jul. 3rd, 2012 07:21 am (UTC)
Re: Awesomeness
Go, next time they are playing! Seriously. Dancing to live music can be a bit trickier at first but is totally worth it.

The video is rather long, skipping bits of it is entirely legitimate.

Are Val and Nick no longer going? That is a pity. Very cool that you had that American couple give you a demo on the street though! When I was walking through Central Park wearing my LSF t-shirt the other week, on Friday 22nd June I think, some middle-aged woman walking past with her husband and friends stopped me to ask if I was a swing dancer, and said that her daughters were also into it. (-:
Jul. 3rd, 2012 07:51 am (UTC)
Re: Awesomeness
You know I don't think I've ever done swing to live music! And heh, as long as they keep reasonably to the beat, it can't be that much harder for a follow.

Val's got choir on Monday nihts now, and Nick, um, last I heard, didn't like the style of any of the follows!

Cool story bro! Spreading the swinginess :)
Jul. 8th, 2012 03:19 pm (UTC)
Re: Awesomeness
Part of it is the variety I think. You are probably used to dancing to certain songs within a certain range of tempo that are carefully selected to be easy to learn to and good to dance to, whereas a live band will be more likely to play unfamiliar songs, faster or slower than you used to, perhaps some more complicated rhythms, perhaps less obviously danceable, and generally different. At least that was what I found the first few times I danced to live music. That is also part of what makes it so great though! New challenges, things to play around with, and the interaction with the band. There tends to be a lot more energy.
Polly Dacre
Jul. 2nd, 2012 08:03 pm (UTC)
Hi Frith!
Yay!!! swing dancing! Is anyone else still doing it? I know this is THE most corny and cliche thing that anyone could [not have to] think to say but this post makes me happy :)
Jul. 3rd, 2012 01:10 am (UTC)
Re: Hi Frith!
Hey Polly Pocket!

Well we've had a sad drop-off in numbers from our group, I think Dan needs you to come back and motivate him into doing it :) Charmaine and I are still going though, and we're really, REALLY good at tandems now which are the most fun thing you culd possibly do - look them up on Youtube.

This makes me happy as well :)

Do you go dancing in Tonga?
Polly Dacre
Jul. 3rd, 2012 04:04 am (UTC)
Re: Hi Frith!
I wish! I thought it would be possible when I first got here as some of the first people I met here knew the steps! But unfortunately the people who used to teach won't anymore. There is someone willing to teach me some Tongan dancing which I'm looking forward to once we sort out a time so that's cool too :)

I will look up your tandems when my internet decides that it is indeed broadband and not dialup. It's been a bit confused the last few days and won't even load gmail.

Jul. 3rd, 2012 07:48 am (UTC)
Re: Hi Frith!
I guess it'd be a VERY small community of people doing swing over there :) I'm so looking forward to doing it with you when you get back! And please, please teach me Tongan dancing.

Tell your internet to get its act together. <3
Jul. 3rd, 2012 12:31 am (UTC)
What a delightful post. I never really knew what the Lindy Hop was, but all those dancers are AMAZING. Sounds like loads of fun.
Jul. 3rd, 2012 01:18 am (UTC)

I never knew what it was either - I was bored and talking to a sign language interpreter before work, who mentioned that she was also a Swing dance instructor and I should come along (really, some people have the most fantastic day jobs) - and I did with my friends and it turned out addictive :)

Those lifts the dancers are doing look like incredible fun, but waaaay too hard for me - yet. Swing's getting really popular, you should try it!
Jul. 4th, 2012 01:47 am (UTC)
I am so not a dancer--way too uncoordinated and self conscious. My parents, however, took dance lessons for years and danced to swing music all the time. I loved to watch them.

That movie clip was incredible. Even the obviously excellent dancers in the second video weren't nearly as amazing.
Jul. 5th, 2012 06:35 am (UTC)
YES, they are amazing. Every time I start thinking of the past as staid, all I have to do is watch a clip like this.

Your parents sound awesome :)
Jul. 3rd, 2012 06:54 am (UTC)
Love it Frith! It makes me happy just reading. and WOW. Just, WOW. Those dancers are fully amazing! SO energetic and acrobatic and incredible agile and...I could just go on! Thanks for sharing!
Jul. 3rd, 2012 07:47 am (UTC)
Re: Awesomeness
I know, aren't they great? it's a bit juvenile, but it really tickes me how the blond dancer in the second video has colour-coordinated bright pink hair flower, undies and shoes. Their jumps though - SO amazing! :D

(Sorry, didn't get your name - who is it? :P )
Jul. 4th, 2012 12:36 am (UTC)
I love Lindy as well. I go to the Swing Kids club every saturday night. So fun.
Jul. 5th, 2012 06:36 am (UTC)
Actually, Rosie, I think I remember you posting about it - or talking about it - ages ago! It sounded fun then and it sounds even more fun now. Is it popular round where you are?

Edited at 2012-07-05 06:44 am (UTC)
Jul. 5th, 2012 01:09 am (UTC)
Similar feeling
Love your description of the walk home. I have the same feeling after my Monday night of frisbee, especially if I have won and played well doing it. The fact that I do this in new zealand paradise, with the night sky lit up makes me feel awesome as well. When I played football in the uk I would get this same feeling.
While you might repeat steps and spins, I relive throws, points and plays, waving my hand as if I'm throwing or jumping to catch. I walk home with a huge grin on my face. I think of getting home and wish there was someone who would notice, and care about me enough to ask how my game was. Sometimes there is. :)

Jul. 6th, 2012 11:47 pm (UTC)
Re: Similar feeling
The walk is the best bit, after all the other best bits. I love Raroa Road, even though it means impending pain going up the hill.

Sounds like you really love frisbee :) The endorphinous walk home is awesome no matter what the code (can you have codes for dancing and frisbee? You can now). And isn't it just awesome when our flatmates notice us being happy? Domestic bliss ensues :D
(no subject) - melmylvaganam.wordpress.com - Jul. 13th, 2012 09:49 am (UTC) - Expand
( 20 comments — Leave a comment )