Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Dancing is an amazing amazing thing.

When I was maybe ten, I remember being invited to go to a wedding with my cousin and her family. I specifically made sure that I would not have to dance before I agreed to go. And then I got to the wedding, and my cousin and I were doing just fine, resisting all invitations to go dance. At some point, she decided to join, but I stayed sitting on the side, quite content.

But then..

These people just decided that I must be having a terrible time sitting on the side, and they pulled my chair right into the middle of the dance floor.

That was a pretty uncomfortable and unfortunately memorable thing for me. I have lived most of my life with a great aversion to dancing, in any form.

Something major happened, which changed every thought or feeling I ever had about dancing.

It was contra dancing.

A lot of people (I guess) think I'm pretty crazy with my enthusiasm for contra dancing. I will try to explain how dancing makes me so enthusiastic. Because there is really just something about contra dancing. This thing, it is something you can't fully know without actually experiencing a contra dance, but I do think it is possible to at least begin to explain with just words.

The reason I ever agreed to go to a contra dance was because I was told I would "absolutely love it" or something, but mainly because in a contra dance you are told what to do, and you don't have to invent any of your own moves. I still have an aversion to free-form dancing, like what you find at most weddings, like what my 10-year-old self found at that wedding. This was my first great discovery about contra dancing: It is possible to do a type of dance that has specific moves, without actually knowing anything, and without actually needing to take time to learn set moves.

If you have ever thought to yourself: Wow that flash mob looks so awesome, and I wish I could be a part of one some day, except that it is probably too hard, and it would take me forever to learn that dance choreography, but still, it is just SOO cool!!
If you have ever thought that to yourself, you should probably just start going contra dancing regularly.

Another major thing about contra dancing is that the community is absolutely amazing. I know of no other situation in life where people of literally all ages are interacting in healthy and happy ways. There are people who say you need some number of hugs a day. I don't know how many the number is. And I don't know who started saying this. And I don't know if there is legitimate research on this topic. But I am in total agreement that there is something about the human touch, that physical touch. I absolutely do not mean anything inappropriate. I mean holding hands with people and dancing with people, in healthy and appropriate ways. I think I first realized the connection of a need for touch to contra dancing when I read a line in a book that was something like "we all need the human touch, that physical touch." I think this is also one of the reasons why I meet so many science-types at contra dances. These types of people are often just socially awkward and don't know of any other way that is appropriate to get that human touch. So they go contra dancing. And the caller tells them "join hands in a ring and circle to the left." And then there they are, connected to these people.

Another reason I, along with other science-types, enjoy contra is due to the structure. The structured choreography of the dance sequence, the repetition of the dance, that corresponds to the repetition of the tunes. It is all quite pleasing.

And generally speaking, contra dance bands are just awesome. It is an awesome privilege to hear so many amazingly talented musicians who play for contra dances. And it is even more awesome to be given the outlet of dance to be able to fully enjoy the music.

I feel like the grinch, like I can literally feel the size of my heart swelling.

These and many more dancing thoughts have been steeping in my brain, so it was time to put them into words. I'm sure I have more to write on the topic. I'm actually curious to look back and see what I have written before.