October 15th, 2011


let's disco down in a rollerskating rink

Last weekend, I danced in the Novice Jack&Jill (J&J) division of my first international Swing competition (comp), Boogie by the Bay (Boogie). This is one of the biggest Swing comps. I didn't expect to get to the semifinals (semis), let alone place in the finals (and did not), but I wanted to get the experience of competing, something that I have not done very much in any type of dancing. Some people were surprised that I would pick one of the toughest comps to start with. I think I went into the comp with the right attitude – do the best I can, try to make it a good experience for my partner(s), perhaps make some new friends, and use the experience to improve my dancing. Arguably, the preparation I'd done for the comp improved my West Coast Swing (WCS) dancing quite a bit, and got me thinking about my dancing in ways that I had not been previously.

I had an unexpected surprise when it was my turn to go out on the dance floor. My first partner, Claire, was from France. As some of you know, I went to Paris during the summer of 2010 and met several WCS dancers, some of whom compete in the same circuit that Boogie is part of. So it was fun, and helped loosen me up a bit, to speak with Claire in French. I hope it was fun for her also. (Actually, she speaks quite a bit of English, having gone to grad school at the University of Arizona.)

I think we danced to the song Moves Like Jagger, which I like for many reasons, among them that it has a groove that I enjoy. I was really enjoying myself while dancing, but then I became a little nervous, because I realized I wasn't paying attention to what my feet were doing. I hoped that they were doing the proper WCS footwork. But I felt really locked into the groove with Claire, and as far as I could tell, she looked like she was enjoying herself.

Neither of us made the semis, but a little later, the DJ played A Lover's Holiday. I wanted to dance Hustle to it, so I asked Claire if she knew it. She did not, so we danced WCS instead. I had the same feeling of being locked into the groove, and it also brought back some memories of roller skating to that song towards the end of my freshman year at a couple of rinks near the 'tute.

Overall, the comp (and the entire convention) was a good experience. I haven't decided how much competing I'm going to do in the future. I get the feeling from what people have told me about it that it takes considerable time, money, and energy to do well at the comps. I don't know how I would be able to put in that level of effort, especially after I start working again (knock on wood). Speaking of work, while driving on the way to the comp, one thing I used to settle me down was the thought that no matter what happened during the comp, it would not be as difficult or stressful as any tech job interview I was likely to have in the foreseeable future. As it turned out, I was right – a recent phone screen I had with f5 was far more stressful than the comp. More on that later ...

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One more comment about these Swing cons/comps. The degree of engagement that the people have who participate in these things reminds of other things that I've really immersed myself into in the past, such as roller skating and karaoke singing. I find this stuff really compelling, and have a feeling that I might really like to spend a lot of time on Swing dancing, including going to the cons/comps. However, I don't know if this will be feasible (or even possible), because of other commitments (primarily, needing to find a keep a tech job in a highly competitive job market and a weak economy).

Should I decide to involve myself more in Swing dancing, I envision a lot of road trips down to SoCal. I used to drive back and forth from there on weekends and holidays sometimes, from about the late fall of 1988 (when I first started applying to grad schools down there), throughout the time I went to UCLA and worked there after graduation, until about the fall of 1996 (when I went to a tech conference in Anaheim). A lot of club/dance music used to accompany me on those drives to and from SoCal. Some people I know complained that there was nothing good to listen to during those drives down I-5, but I found the club/dance type music very suitable for driving. Among other things, the groove fit the high speed driving.
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    D'Mob featuring Cathy Dennis - That's The Way Of The World
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