Dance is one of the most beautiful things in the world to me, and how I got back into dancing – and started in the genre that currently owns my heart is all just a happy accident. I had met a boy who enjoyed swing dancing with his friends, and I wanted to get to know him better and spend time with him (and I may have thought I was in love with him) – and so I learned to dance from them. Then when everyone else went home for the summer but we were still in the same area we spent time together a lot – and happened to find a dance class in my hometown to attend together. It was awesome, it was wonderful, we learned, we had fun, we met new people – we learned a new dance style. Wait. What was that last part? We learned a new style of dance.
Our instructor was originally teaching East Coast Swing, but he decided that he was going to teach an hour of West Coast Swing too and see if we enjoyed it. The class promptly switched from all East Coast to half of East and half of West, and even more quickly to entirely West Coast Swing. My friend and I found out that there was a ballroom studio in Pittsburgh that we could go to and we decided that it should become a field trip. We had random dance parties, even if it was just the two of us dancing in his basement.
And then, I’m not really sure what happened. I think part of it was that my dance partner and I grew distant. He had been my best friend, we were inseparable. But his girlfriend came back to school and wasn’t happy with how much time we spent together and shut that down. I stopped dancing as much, although I still really missed my friends from dance. And then school got in the way – it’s hard to be out until 12:30 and then willing to go to an 8 AM the next day, especially when you’re an insomniac and wouldn’t actually get back to your dorm until after 1.
I went back to dance earlier this year. And it was a great night being able to return to something I love, I promise. It’s just also when I first noticed the tachycardia. My heart was going so fast and so hard that it made me sick that night – and I shook for days. I don’t really know how fast it was going that night because I’ve never puked because of it since, but that was a rough night for sure. And then I was banned from strenuous activity. For a few weeks, I followed doctors’ orders – I promise. I’m a terrible patient, but not always. There was a night that I decided I would rather take a risk and come back, though. It was the dance weekend before my birthday, and the dance just happened to be the same night as a semiformal I was avoiding. I KNEW that I would be sad and lonely all on my own that night if I stayed at school, so I decided to take a risk. A risk with the most beautiful payoff.
Last night I took a risk that was well worth it. Great music, wonderful people, and finding myself on the dance floor again. I sometimes forget about that part of me that seems only to exist there.
That night I decided that if I could avoid it I wasn’t missing dance again. I started to spend my Tuesday nights at the one family’s apartment because they offered to let me crash there so that I didn’t have to drive home to Indiana to drive back to Pittsburgh in the morning. And then I stopped student teaching because everything went haywire. I decided then and there that I was never giving up dance if I had to give up the other things that mattered.
Since then I’ve had to miss a month’s worth of dance lessons at a time for various reasons, skip a dance here and there due to exhaustion/money/whatever. But for the most part, if I was able to be there, I was. I even went to a couple workshops since getting sick, pushing my limits. This weekend I had the most amazing experience at one – it was really transformative for me as a person, and as a dancer. It’s helping me to tap a confidence I don’t ordinarily have.
I think that when I can handle it financially I’ll probably risk my first competition. I don’t think I would necessarily place, but it would be a great way of spending a weekend with amazing people. I’m hoping to be able to afford the Michigan Classic if not go to a competition sooner, honestly. It’s all about money and crossing my fingers that I feel well enough, or at least enough so to push through it if I don’t.
This decision has been the most amazing thing for me – not just on the dance floor but socially. I made new friends that I enjoy spending time with and talking to. They’re no longer just people I recognize at the studio, but people I may spend time with outside the studio (mostly before or after dance, though, I admit it). I tend to reference them as my dance family, and they’re all beautifully sarcastic. It’s perfect.
I sometimes struggle to put everything and how strongly dancing affects me into words. But I’m going to do my best to try.
I’m a really awkward person a lot of the time. I get really shy around people, but if I’m with the right people I’m usually outspoken. Sometimes even around the people that scare me a bit I try to just put on the bravado and tease and pretend that I’m confident and cool as a cucumber.
On the dance floor, though, if I have the right lead at least, that’s not the case at all. If I have a great solid lead who I can follow easily, someone I’m developing the confidence to just have fun with – it’s like I’m an entirely different person. There’s this part of my personality that goes untapped unless I’m on the dance floor. Once I’m out there and I have the right lead and a good song, I go from a shy, awkward girl to not just faking the confidence but honestly having it. I stop thinking too much for a change and just feel the music and the connection, I embrace the musicality and I have FUN with it. I’m confident, fun, and maybe even a little bit sexy. And yes, occasionally I still think too much – not that one of the leads I love to dance with most ever makes me all shy and nervous from time to time. I’m going to confess to something: He makes me feel shy and nervous more often than not, and I blush while I dance with him sometimes. I think because we have this bad habit of dancing to sensual songs without meaning to (no matter who I dance with for these I’m a little antsy) and he’s the only person I know with his particular style of leading (at least when it comes to me). Some days I feel awkward and worry I’ve disappointed him, but some days those dances are great. Yesterday he told me that I was getting awesome and it was EXACTLY the ego boost that I needed.
Overall, though, it’s almost as though I’m a different person on the dance floor. It’s beautiful. I wish I could access that Angela more often, truthfully, but I’m thankful that I’ve even had the chance to find that part of me to begin with.