Statuesque

Dear tall women of the world, I have a message: please start swing dancing!

You see, I’m a tall follower: about 5’11” flat foot, so you can imagine what it’s like when I’m wearing my heels. [Well, let’s just say that one time at Camp Jitterbug, Peter Strom walked by and I realized I was looking over at him and not up at him.]

Me and Aaron at Heartland 2011

My last few years spent lindy hopping and loving it have taught me two things: (1) there’s no reason why your height should disqualify you from dancing (at either end of the spectrum), and (2) it would be really nice if more leaders were used to dancing with tall followers.

If that first part doesn’t make sense to you then you’ve never been a tall women living in this world (or a short man). Growing up taller than most of the guys you know does things to how a girl views herself*, how you view your own femininity, and the things that you “let” yourself do. I know tall girls who won’t wear high heels (that’s pretty common actually). They basically feel like being tall is bad enough already, why would they make it worse? I think that there are tall girls out there who haven’t even considered taking up a partner dance, because they feel like it’s not for their kind of person; that they won’t find guys to dance with, that it would be awkward (for the other people), and that it’ll just be another place where they aren’t the right size**.

But that’s the thing about lindy hop! It’s a dance of the people, and people are all different. This dance form is adaptable and it’s made to work on lots of different types of people.

If you’re a tall girl like me, who is happy in her height and doesn’t really think about it: yay! I’m not talking to you. If you’re a tall girl who feels like your height keeps you from being able to do things that other girls take for granted, I would just like to say: swing dancing is not that thing. If nothing else, let my experience prove to you that it’s possible!

And of course, know that it’s a tradition as long as the art form:

This past weekend, I had a bit of a realization about another aspect of this issue. I was at a small workshop with a bunch of shorter guys, who looked (and felt) like they’d never seen a girl my height let alone danced with her. My realization was this: I really wish there were more tall followers in the lindy hop world, so that more leaders (short leaders AND tall leaders) are used to dancing with me! Because in my opinion, the biggest part of the difficulty with height differences in social dancing is a matter of what you’re used to.

See, the other part of this equation is that I swing-grew-up with a guy who’s a good bit shorter than I am (see above photo). Since we started dancing together at about the same time in the same scene, we’ve always been figuring out connection and height difference without trying to, and we’ve never had a problem with good connection (even in things like balboa). Our great connection seems to prove that it’s not as much about the height difference between two partners (within a certain range, I suppose) but about how you deal with it. Aaron knows how to deal with tall followers; not a lot of shorter leaders do. And tall leaders get thrown off by dancing with me too!

Let’s put it this way: I frequently get smacked in the head when I’m social dancing; mostly by beginning/intermediate leaders. Sometimes, they’re going for a turn where they want to keep the hand connection and then OOPS, my head was there and they lose the connection and things go random. Now, my head was always there, in the same place it was a minute ago; the frequency of this occurring makes me think that it’s their habits which are not allowing for the difference that dancing with me creates. As I said before, I’ve danced with short guys who don’t have any trouble connecting with me (and I’m sure very tall leaders have a lot to say about the challenges of connecting with a really short follower) so it’s not just a “tall followers don’t work with short leaders” thing.

The difference is: a tall leader and a short follower is a common occurrence, so leaders get used to accommodating it. My situation (tall follower + short leader; or tall follower + medium and/or tall leader) is unusual, and leaders have to learn on me what the heck to do with it. And THAT is why I’d like more tall followers in this dance! So that more guys get exposed to what it takes to lead a tall follower***.

I also want this to happen so that other tall girls get to have the awesome things that I’ve gotten to experience, being in the lindy hop community. There’s something about this relationship, this scene, that has made me feel more comfortable in my femininity and my prettiness in a very comfortable and friendly way. I think it might be the way that we celebrate each other; whether it’s cheering for a friend competing in a jack ‘n jill, or when the guy you’re dancing with pulls some sweet footwork and you can’t help but whoop a little at the awesomeness of it all; there are a lot of confidence boosters built into this world.

BUT I DIGRESS. My point is: if you’re a tall girl, get your booty into lindy hop classes, and learn how to swing out! You’ll have fun, and you’ll make the world better for tall girls everywhere.

*The fact that girls are supposed to be short and cute and pocket sized is something that this culture gets across verrrry well, whether it means to or not.

**Before you go saying: “But super models are tall!!” Sure they are, but I’m not a supermodel. Supermodels aren’t hot SOLELY because they’re tall, that is just something that happens to also be true about them. In terms of the overall American view of feminine beauty, it involves things like being short enough to go on your tippy toes to reach for a kiss… AND before you think I’m sour about this; I’m really not. It’s just the facts of life, and I find it all pretty interesting. Being tall is GREAT in so many ways! But we tall girls are a kind of minority, and there are interesting things that come with that.

***Through writing this post I’ve realized that I have more notes on being a tall follower (like about how you can’t let the consciousness of it/habits grown from a regular life of being tall affect your posture); but this is already pretty long, so those thoughts will have to come later.

Day 14: Your swing group of friends

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Day 13: Favorite dancing memory

I think my favorite is just every time those little perfect things happen; those moments that we don’t get in normal, every day, modern life…

When half the guys around you are wearing vintage clothes; clothes that fit them and make them look great like men used to…When you’re dancing with someone, and they laugh out loud because of how wicked sweet that thing you just did was….When you hit that break SO EFFING PERFECTLY and you feel like a boss! Getting to wear pretty dresses, do your hair as beautifully as your Gramma knew how to, and go out dancing…When you’re standing around with other students after class, listening to the lead instructor explain something. You’re the only follower there, and when he wants to demonstrate something; without even thinking he reaches out to you. That little “here, dance with me” motion that leaders unconsciously do with their hand… it’s so endearing! Late night after-dance restaurants stuffed with dancers all happy and doped up on endorphins. How all dancers are huggy people. I love hugs! (And I’ve noticed that the best leaders are great huggers. Coincidence? I think not.) When that tall, handsome, well dressed guy over there comes over and asks you to dance with him. That’s pretty fun.

Day 12: Your swing crushes/favorite pros

I mean, do I even have to say it?

But that’s probably not what the spirit of this question is, so I’ll do a little more. This one is potentially embarrassing, so I’m gonna stick to the “favorite pros” part, and skip over the dance-crushes part (not that I don’t have them! They’re just not really fodder for a blog, imho…)

Favorite pros: Peter and NaomiSkye and Frida (which I ALWAYS type as “Friday”, lately!), Laura and Mike, Todd when he’s dancing with NaomiKelly Arsenault, Thomas and Alice! Mia Goldsmith doing Balboa, pretty much all of the Swedes, and of course Andrew and Karen! (Nobody who’s met them could help but love ’em.)

I have a lot of favorites.

The Last Semester, part 1

I am currently in my third week of my last semester of college, and it’s feeling pretty good*. So much to do! So much I still want to learn… but I think this semester will be one for the record books (in a good way).

On one hand, I feel sort of overwhelmed with everything we have to do to launch ourselves as Real Designers in the world; and there’s a lot going on behind the scenes, in terms of… politics, and feelings, and perceptions of how our class is doing, and what the professors think of us. But on the other hand, so far I’ve been able to get all of my work done without much trouble, and there are so many nice things about my various classes.

Anecdote: today in class we were showing our first (VERY BASIC, JUST STRUCTURE) html assignment, and I was enjoying all the easter eggs I snuck in (hint: click on the “A” image). My teacher was awesome enough, after seeing where the “Tardies” section of the syllabus led, to propose that from now on whenever people are tardy, they have to perform that song. It is a good class.

Lovely things I am enjoying about school:
– awesome new professors
– FRENCH and BRITISH students in my US Colonial history class
– finding out that, at least so far, I actually like web designing!
–  getting work done BEFORE it’s DUE! what?

And with every day that goes by, I’m one step closer to a graduation that’s gonna get here before I know it!! I am so excited about that. I will probably be saying that a few more times, fyi. Last week I opened up my DARS report (it’s the compiled form we can look at to see what classes we still need, etc) and EVERYTHING WAS BLUE. That means that every single one of my requirements will, by the end of this semester, be completed, and I can graduate. After 5.5 years, that feels really, really good.

I’m also in the last stages of planning our Spring Lindy Hop Workshop, and that feels good too. It’s gonna be a blast, I think!

Well, that’s all for now. Just wanted to document the fact that, at least at first, my very last senior semester was enjoyable.

*Part of my happy is probably some left-over happy lindy hop glow, from attending a tiny but awesome workshop over the weekend. Seeing lovely friends, dancing with fun leaders, and improving your dancing & swing-out FTW!!

now & then

“They are buying into the notion of it being a simpler time and, in some odd way, a happier time. And a time of beautiful clothing. Don’t underestimate that.”

This quote is from an article about the huge popularity of Downton Abbey in America right now, but I think the main argument is interestingly applicable to the world of Lindy Hop.

Of course, this isn’t the ONLY reason people are drawn to swing dancing (other reasons: the joy of partner dancing, the music, the movement style, the social aspects… and on and on) but I do think it’s an interesting part of why we love it so much. Your swing life provides things that you just don’t get in the rest of your life; things we imagine people did have in their lives back in that jazzy, gorgeous day that we’ve seen in pretty movies and old photographs again and again…

Day 11: Favorite song(s) to dance to.

I don’t really have any. At different points of my early career, I did, but I’m not going to mention them here, because they’re all embarrassing*. Which really makes me feel that (1) I’ve come a long way, and (2) I just shouldn’t have favorites.

I will say that I really love when people play the old music! The beautiful jazz and swing that started this all; even the old scratchy recordings from DJ’d music have a link to the past that I enjoy.

But… well, ok so, due to my current obsession with Movits!, the fact of the matter is that if they ever get played I sort of freak-out happy dance to them. They only have a few songs that actually swing, but I’m shameless enough to not care: I’d love dancing to any of them!

 

*They may or may not have included this song, Frank Sinatra, and also some less horrible songs, like Big Mama Thornton’s Hound Dog. Yeah, very little actual swing music; wtf was wrong with me??

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