Saturday, August 28, 2010

A Year of Contra-dancing: Ten Things I've Learned

It’s been a year since I started contra dancing. Back in November I wrote a blog about it: “Why Can’t Churches Be More Like Contra-dances?” and most of what I said at that time I would still say. But, after a year of lining up for “hands four”, I’m reflecting on how my life has changed because I contra-dance.

1. I’ve discovered all kinds of dancing metaphors for deep, profound truths in life. Like, if your shoes fit, dance. If they don’t fit, find some that do or stop dancing. (Translation: If what you’re doing is making you miserable, continuing to do it will only make you more miserable.)

2. Timing is pert near everything. Experience has taught me that the direction my life journey takes is ultimately dependent on timing. This past year, contra taught me the importance of timing over technique. Knowing what to do is pointless if you don’t know when to do it.

3. I’ve changed my perspective on some absolute truths that I have held hard and fast for 50+ years about highly critical issues, like… men in skirts. They have gone from silly to sexy in my book. (And, yes, I’m talking about straight people whose gender identity is male.)

4. I am not a multi-tasker. Okay, I already knew that, but contra-dancing has convinced me of it, once and for all. There are definitely different rooms in my brain for different tasks and I can only be in one room at a time. For example, it is impossible for me to dance while I’m carrying on a conversation with any meaningful content, or even unmeaningful content, for that matter. (Yeah, I know. So, shut up and dance, Nancy. How many times have I heard that in the past year?)

5. I’ve developed some new routines. Spinning around in the dressing room to see how my clothes swish and swirl has become a regular part of my shopping experience. (Last week I caught myself doing it when I tried on a pair of jeans. I learned they don’t twirl.)

6. I have had a growing awareness that people who don’t identify exclusively with one particular gender have a lot more fun in life. Really. In contra this means that if you can partner with either a man or a woman, you have twice as many opportunities to dance.

7. The folly of first impressions has been reinforced for me. Sometimes the people I find myself avoiding, for one reason or another, in the beginning, end up becoming the ones I most enjoy dancing time with.

8. I’ve realized that there’s more to life than avoiding mistakes. Everybody screws up. Get over it and move on.

9. My understanding of community has deepened. From contra I’ve learned that being part of a community means that other people can count on you to be where you need to be when you need to be there. (I can’t think of a better definition of community than that.)

10. I smile a whole lot more.


Peter said...

If your shoes don't fit, take them off and dance in sock feet :D translation: where there's a will there's a way ;)

Pamela Czarnota said...

well spoken, Nancy! I'm not a contra dancer...but have done almost all ball room or classical forms... One thing I know is that if you are dancing with a partner who is to be the leader, you need to be activated/engaged (so the leader knows that you have shown up and are responsive...) and you need to be ever so slightly "off balance"... centered but moveable...on the balls of your feet without heels digging into the floor... in that way the leader can actually lead... sounds like our dance with God, no?

Pat said...

Thank you again Nancy. I've been contra dancing in the metro Detroit area for two plus years, and I've passed on your first post on contra dancing to many friends.
There's something so joyous and transcendent about contra dancing for all the reasons you list.
For Pam: Nice analogy, but there's something extra in contra as you have numerous partners and you have no control over the candidates. We're all brothers and sisters and there's something about contra dancing that brings that point
acutely to light.