Since 2009, I have been attending a weekly partner dance event at a dance studio in Sacramento. When I first started, it was a combination of blues dancing and West Coast swing; it has now changed to blues-based fusion dancing. Since around 2011, I have volunteered to work the front desk, taking people’s money for part of the night.
Every year, on the weekend of Thanksgiving, this group has an event where, essentially, we write notes to each other to tell others why we are thankful for them. Everyone has a bag with their name on it for people to just drop notes in as the night goes on. This is one of my favorite nights of the year, at least as far as dance activities go. I’m not trying to be an attention whore, but it is a great uplifting encouragement to see that someone took time out of their evening to tell me that they enjoy dancing with me, seeing me welcome them every week, or that I make great chocolate chip cookies.
In addition to this, I also look forward to the opportunity to tell others that I enjoy dancing with them, or just talking to them between dances. I’m not always good at saying this kind of thing to someone face to face, because of my introverted nature, and this gives me a chance to express something I might not be able to do otherwise, as well as to make others feel the same way I do about this night.
What always strikes me about this is that it is provides a contrast to the way I often feel about the blues fusion community in general. Specifically, I often feel that I don’t fit in, to the point that I question whether my continued involvement in blues fusion dance is helpful or harmful. I enjoy the dancing itself, but I am not a dancer by nature. I had no experience with dancing, other than a few awkward moments at middle and high school dances, until that brief time in the late 90s when swing dancing was a huge fad. I got back into swing from 2007 until about a year ago when I got really busy with life, and I still go occasionally. I got into blues a couple years later through some regulars there who I already knew from swing. To this day, I still feel like I’m doing this more just for fun, as opposed to trying to be the best dancer ever and win competitions. I don’t have time to devote to training for dance competitions, taking lots of classes and workshops, or traveling to multi-day dance festivals in other states, as many of my dance friends do on a regular basis. The blues fusion community also tends to attract people with lifestyles and values very different from my own; I want to be accepting of others, but given my much more conservative and sheltered upbringing, I often find their lifestyles strange and a little frightening. I often feel isolated because of this, and sometimes others will say things, or share links on social media, that I find hurtful toward people with values like mine.
But despite all that, the blues fusion community continues to surprise me with the kind of notes they write to me for this event. Sometimes I get complimented by people I don’t know well about things that wouldn’t even have crossed my mind as something I did that others would appreciate or remember. I even had someone tell me in person that she started to write me a note, but didn’t put it in my bag because she had a lot more to say than would fit on the card, and she didn’t want to write me a “half-assed” note, so she would give it to me next week after she finished. Of course, that made me feel like the three-sentence note I had written to her was pretty half-assed, but that’s not the point. The point is that, despite the fact that I feel so different from these people on the surface, there are many nice people in this group, and so often human beings have so much more in common than the differences that we choose to obsess about. So maybe I need to be looking for the positives instead of dwelling on the negatives.