Since that summer, I've gone to dances irregularly, always saying to myself that I should do it more. Dancing feels like an undiscovered country, in some ways, that I know is some form of homeland, but that I don't motivate to explore as much as I should. Sometimes, I know I'll have a great time if I go to a dance, but getting there just seems like a huge hurdle. I'm working out ways to smooth out that hurdle, though, and wolfkitn's ongoing suggestions of dances to make a point to attend are helpful. The car-borrowing arrangement I have with totient has also been helpful, as I can sometimes use his car to get to dances that I might otherwise find too logistically difficult to attend. Other folks from the Davis area who have cars and who want to share rides now and again to Thursday dances in Cambridge, or possibly to Monday dances in Concord, should definitely let me know :)
Anyway, if I started contra dancing just shy of four years ago, it's been about three years that wolfkitn has been trying to get me to a Greenfield dance. Each summer, we say we'll do it, and then we don't plan it, and you know how busy summers can be. But about a month ago, we not only said, "Hey, we should figure out a Greenfield dance to hit!" -- we actually planned which weekend it would be! This is clearly the way to go. We picked this weekend, and then we waffled on which night to attend. Fridays are a nice community dance, but a bit smaller, and Saturday was a pretty awesome band, which was likely to draw a bigger, higher energy crowd. Both sounded like fun to me, and we decided not to choose, but, rather, to do both.
We drove out after work on Friday, arriving perfectly on time for Swedish couple dancing, which I really don't know at all. We did a couple, and since they're not dreadfully hard, at least when I have a competent leader, I enjoyed them and I could see getting into them more (I don't do a ton of couple dancing, really -- mostly my experience with this is swing dancing with dbang, which I LOVE, so I ought to find more partners for this sort of thing and take some lessons or something), and then there were the contras, which were really fun. The energy of the hall was relatively low, but the competence of the dancers was high, and the tone was VERY friendly. That was the community dance.
Saturday night, the hall was more crowded for the very first contra than it had been at its busiest point the night before. The music was louder than I like, but that definitely got the energy pumping, and the dances themselves were very nice. However, in my second or third dance, my partner got whacked in the face early on, and he ended up with a gouge on the side of his nose from his glasses. It wasn't horrible, but he did bleed, and he was a bit dazed the next few rounds after that. That was my first time having a partner get injured in a contra, though I've often wondered that people don't get hurt more often, especially in crowded halls. Little did I know...
... that later, I would end up dancing with the person who shall henceforth be known as the goon. I had danced a mediocre dance with him on Friday. He was weird, and a fine, but not great, dancer, with some weird little quirks that, while somewhat annoying, weren't actually, I thought, more than that, but I don't like to say no to people when they ask me to dance unless I have some particular reason for it. (wolfkitn and I talked about this later and she gave me pointers on a graceful exit in situations where I have no specific reason not to want to dance with someone but still don't want to.) So I agreed, and we lined up. This was a dance with two shadows, and my first shadow was a very new dancer. Unfortunately, so was his partner, so it was clear to begin with that it was going to be tough for them.
As often happens in that situation, the people around the new couple were trying to help them by telling them what to do. As long as the people trying to help in that situation aren't pushy more mean about it, I tend to think that's an ok thing to do. The goon, however, got a little too into the telling them what to do part, and he actually started telling ME what to do. Now, granted, the dance was a bit chaotic, and because of my shadow's confusion, I was missing here and there, but I didn't think I actually needed to be directed, especially by Mr. Goony. But then... THEN it happened. The goon -- the one who was telling everyone what to do, who was apparently so on top of things that he could be directing traffic two couples in either direction -- he failed to let go of my hand at a crucial point. Not only did he fail to let go, but he actually kept a firm grasp on it. This meant that as I tried to turn my second shadow by the right, my left arm stayed where it was, giving me a good jerk and a hell of a wrench to the shoulder. That was really the end of my patience for that dance, and well past the end of my patience for that partner.
This was the first time that /I've/ been hurt in a dance, which isn't a bad track record for four years of dancing (even irregularly), and it was, not surprisingly, the first time I had what I would call an actual bad dance. (This is partly luck and partly that I'm pretty easy -- even a mediocre dance is pretty fun for me, typically!) If it weren't for the fact that dropping out of a contra screws up the whole set (and the poor shadow and his partner were having enough trouble as it was!), I would have walked off at that point. The saving grace of the dance, it turns out, was the struggling couple, because they kept trying AND they were smiling throughout. I thought that was really nifty, and I chatted a bit with them after the dance and they both seemed like they'd had a good time, so that was good.
So I can't tell if I liked Friday's dance more because I didn't get hurt, or because I liked it more. I tend to like the high-energy-ness of the Cambridge dances, and though people talk about how cliquey Cambridge is, I've never felt like I wasn't welcome, or had trouble finding a partner when I wanted one (though that's probably helped by the fact that I'm a pretty good dancer, and I think I present as friendly). Because of that, I thought I'd enjoy the Saturday dance at Greenfield more, but I found that I really enjoyed the friendliness of the Friday dance more than the relatively less friendly but higher energy Saturday.
My big hope, though, is to go back another weekend and try again, perhaps this time without so many injuries. And, of course, to do more dancing in the meantime.
To that end, I'm planning to hit this Thursday's dance in Cambridge, and I'd be happy to get together for dinner beforehand, or to figure out a ride-share arrangement with local(ish) folks, if there's interest.