Amongst people I see a lot it’s probably pretty clear that I have personal space issues. I’m not a natural go-in-for-the-handshake type of chap, and the “sweetie!” hug-and-cheek is something very few people get from me. It’s not that I don’t like people in general, but over the years I’ve gone from someone who used to be quite huggy with anybody to someone who really isn’t. I don’t know why, but the outcome is that I don’t like touching people I don’t know and really don’t like people getting within a foot of me without good reason.
It’s also a trusim that I’m terrible at dancing. I do the worst kind of shuffle dancing when I’m forced into it, and this isn’t anything new. My sense of rhythmn is pretty good; I do have some musical skills and I’m no stranger to percussion on a shoebox, but hand/feet syncopated movement isn’t something that comes naturally. The reasons for this are unknown, although speculatively it could be something to do with overthinking stuff all the time, or else all the available muscle memory is tied up with being able to walk and breathe at the same time.
So, of course, the best thing I can possibly do is go to dance classes.
I’d been advised on just how much fun Lindy Hop was by many people (but especially Tessa), so I had a quick look online to see if it was what I thought it was: originally a variant on swing these days it uses everything from Big Band and Jazz to modern Electro-Swing from France and is sort-of approaching levels of Twee that I usually don’t like very much. However, after listening to quite a lot of music – Caro Emerald and Caravan Palace are my musical discoveries for 2014, people – and watching some dance competitions on Y’tubes I figured I could give this a go. I knew about Lindy Fridays but didn’t feel brave enough to go to that; being a clumsy incompetent oaf in a room filled with people isn’t my idea of a fun Friday evening.
The lovely Sam from T&C told me about the Dance Studio Leeds one day, as she was doing a class there and happened to notice that they did Lindy classes as well; this brought me to Swing Dance Leeds, who are the same guys who do many Lindy Fridays only in much smaller classes, and do a four-week “Lindy fundamentals” class which appealed.
In week one, nervous, timid and scared of getting too close to people I didn’t know (and I didn’t know anybody there; I had no dance partner and I was seriously intimidated by all these people who brought along dancing shoes as well as bottles of water, different clothing, and skills from doing other types of dancing, wheras the last time I’d done a dance class was when I was in primary school and I showed up in my usual work clothes and DMs) I was lucky enough to be in a group of lovely people who weren’t upset when I got things wrong. We did a lot of stuff based on triple step and by the end of the session I felt like I’d probably enjoyed it, but wasn’t sure.
Week two was better. I felt at the end like I was getting to grips with stuff and my personal space issues didn’t arise. I was more trembly than usual, though (probably a tiredness thing) and was aware that my footwork when not moving was terrible, so I ended up skipping. The best piece of advice I got was to dance like I was a gorilla; when I panic I tend to end up on the balls of my feet, which isn’t a good place for Lindy.
Tina and Rob are lovely, by the way. Exceedingly patient (especially with me) and clearly love doing this. I would recommend them to anybody who wants to learn dance skills. They have a natural flow, too – their skills are very well established, and they’re a joy to watch.
Week three was fun, mostly; instead of triples all the time we started doing different (eight-beat?) steps which meant I could follow the music easier. Until we came to the Lindy Circle, a classic move that leads into the swingout (which is probably the defining move of Lindy), and my head just couldn’t get it. I mean, I was stepping backwards, couldn’t work out where my feet were supposed to end up, was crossing over, getting it completely wrong. And although I got it right once or twice it wasn’t consistent and unfortunately I kept losing track. This was a point in the class where I felt it would be really useful if we kept the same partners for a while, but we swapped partners pretty regularly (and I understand the reasoning for this) and was unable to get a rhythmn going.
The final week, and I suprised myself at feeling quite sad about it ending. We starting putting things together, groups of sequences and in an interesting session the leaders were shown a sequence which they had to dance, with the followers just going with it. This was a lot of fun, and there was a moment where I literally jumped for joy when my partner correctly identified what I was trying to get them to do – the fact that it wasn’t the right sequence (I did a passby instead of a bringback) was pretty irrelevant, as the sequence worked. I was so, so happy about that.
Overall, then? I loved it. It was huge fun, good exercise, mentally stimulating and it might have made me start to break down my personal space issues, as well as getting some dance moves rolling under my feet. Lindy is a good dance to have a go at and picking up basics isn’t tricky; also Rob & Tina are great teachers, especially with the slowest member of the class. We seemed to go at a bit of a pace but that was good; it meant that if I’d not picked up a particular move a new one would be coming soon which I might be better at.
I just wish I could get my head around the Lindy Circle.