Do dance weekends make you more passionate about dancing?
I’ve been reading the posts on the vernacular jazz dance tumblr and pondering if dance weekends really make you more passionate about dancing? VJD comments:
“So I went to an event a little while ago. Usually you always read how travelling for dancing will make you more passionate about the dance yadda yadda. Whereas this event pretty much destroyed my dancing mojo.
This is about the icky feeling of having to compete for leads with other follows. More often than not, I was asked for a second dance by wonderful leads, but over the whole weekend I probably got asked to dance no more than five times. Rationally, I know this is not because everyone hates me, but because all free leads get snapped two seconds into a song due to the imbalance (this is also why I didn’t enjoy the social side of Herräng very much). I hate what it does to my state of mind – often the eagerness to please takes precedence over fun or establishing a true partnership.”
I completely understand and agree with these sentiments. I’ve come away from many events feeling exactly the same way but I haven’t seen this discussed much. Who wants to come back from a big event and tell everyone that it was crap?
If you go as part of a group then, yes, events can be amazing but I’ve found travelling as an unknown single follower really tough. There are often huge lead/follow imbalances which means you have to compete for leads. If you know a lot of people in the scene then you will get more dances because people recognize you, say hi and ask you to dance. (Same happens in local dances although leaders often make a point of asking you to dance as the out of towmer which is lovely). I don’t even think dancing ability counts for that much. I’ve been at European events where I have seen minor American rockstar follows (who have a queue at home) have to compete for leads in the same way as everyone else. I’ve seen awesome masters track followers do all right things at post workshop dances and still be relegated to the non dancing sidelines. Simple fact of the matter is that most people dance with people they ‘know’ and if you don’t know anyone it’s hard going.
I totally get the eagerness to please thing too. Dogpossum puts it better than I can:
There is almost always a shortage of men of a higher dancing ability in a scene, and there is often a sense of competition between women dancers for the attentions of male partners. On the social and competitive dance floor. This competition is seldom articulated, is demonstrated more through the oblique social manoeuverings that characterise women’s power dynamics more generally, and to speak about these issues at all is to jeopardise your future possible partnerships. Or to at least believe that commenting upon this status-driven and deriving state of affairs will affect your desirability as a partner.
Again, bluntly put, women lindy hoppers have been convinced that the uppity woman will be punished. The uppity follower will be dismissed as a ‘poor follow’ and ‘miss out’ on dancing with the ‘good leads’. Who usually represent their scene’s dominant notion of ‘preferred’ masculinity/leading rather than actual, solidly capable leading and dancing. The uppity follower, I’d argue, will suffer the consequences of a heteronormative, patriarchal culture.
Of course the answer is to learn how to be an amazing lead but if you really enjoy following then you’re a bit stuck.