Sara Joy

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Performing with Swing Dance Bristol (image credit Christopher Allen)
Performing with Swing Dance Bristol (image credit Christopher Allen)

Why I Dance, Nov 2012

Preface, 2022

This was posted a good decade ago. Since then a lot has happened, my writing style has probably changed, I have had times with more dancing and less dancing.

Of course in these pandemic times there has been no almost no going out and social dancing at all (I went once in October 2021 before another big COVID-19 wave kicked off), and that’s been so very hard.

Original Blog Post

There’s a few facets to this. I’ll try to keep it coherent!

I began dancing in January 2007 (first, leroc, then I discovered swing/lindy about 5 months later) - really, I was looking for a hobby. I was becoming increasingly fat (turns out I had a mild problem but it was also through inactivity) and boring, watching a lot of TV, and immersing myself in the internet. It seemed one way to “get a life”.

I won’t go into deep detail, but I guess I’d always had latent rhythm, and learning structured steps actually conversely gave my dancing more freedom. I’m not sure how that works - but I guess (and I do love making up pet theories on the spot) that rather than having to think of every move you make, your muscle memory goes through the footwork and combined with the lead it takes you somewhere into the realms of free expression.

It’s like - well - instead of having to be in a dark pumping club full of alcohol and people hell-bent on getting a snog/copping a feel or more - I suddenly had permission (permission, do I mean that? Maybe I do) to move, kick, whoop, yell, show off, smile, touch and be touched by people, and react to brilliant music without worrying about having ‘had enough to drink’ or fending off unwanted advances (not that this was a huge issue, but I never danced all-out or made contact with men in clubs for fear of this).

It is good, clean, amazing fun - and it had been missing. But I didn’t know I was missing it until I tried it. Since learning to dance I have honestly and truthfully been a more fulfilled person: I don’t drink nearly as much as I did; I’m no longer fat-fat albeit arguably still cuddly; I don’t really have time for television - and I am fairly sure I now have a life!

Soooooo that’s the story. But WHY does it feel so good?

Hrrmmmmm good question.

I think we have a combination of several effects (this list is not exhaustive, and I don’t have the brain-energy to drill down into the different styles of dance):

Physical:

  • Self-expression in body movement
  • The feeling of changes in momentum
  • Getting ‘in’ the music and reacting to it
  • Connecting to/being in contact with another person/other people

Cerebral:

  • Working on my own skills, learning
  • Passing on said skills teaching lessons
  • Understanding the music & structures

Social:

  • The joy of a shared experience/movement
  • The remarkably friendly social scene (maybe people who touch each other are by default friendlier?) from which I have made close friends
  • International travel & socialising sharing a common language of dance

Occasionally, I have been a bit down about it all. I think because of the freedom of expression, dancing is ‘you’ and not a façade of any kind. If I for any reason feel my dancing is lacking, I personally find it is very difficult to separate it from myself as a person. In me, this manifests itself as shyness, jealousy of other dancers and feelings of “I’m not good enough” - this can become self-perpetuating as the shyness makes me less likely to score dances, so I begin to think no one wants to dance with me. Last time taking a break pulled me through it. Next time I hope I’m smart enough just to realise it’s a dance slump and not to take it so personally!

I think because dancing has become such an intrinsic part of my life now, it really hurts when a dance slump hits. Not only for a period do I think that maybe I should just quit - but entertaining the thought of not being a swing dancer puts that void back into my life. I don’t like that dark swing-less place.

I keep dancing because to stop dancing would tear a hole in my heart.

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