Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Hows and Whys of Traveling to Dance

This is Elise, and this is my first post!  I'm very excited to be contributing to this blog!

In case you didn't know, I spent the last week out of town in Rochester, NY, where an amazing dance event called Stompology was being held.  There really aren't words enough to express everything that I gained from this weekend - friends-wise, dance-wise, and memory-wise - so instead I'll put my lingering euphoria to use writing a guide for the beginning dance-traveller.

First, the whys:

On The Benefits Of Visiting A New Scene

If you have just been dancing with one set of people, month in and month out, you have probably gotten used to everything they do on the floor.  You know each other's strengths and weaknesses, and you know how strong a dancer you are relative to everyone else.  You know what to expect, and you know what is expected of you. 

Visiting a new scene gives you the opportunity to start fresh with an entirely new set of people, all expectations removed.  None of them know what kind of skills or moves you have to offer, so you have a chance to impress both them and yourself.  You might end up trying something new or dancing far better than you thought you could! 

Also, every city's dance scene has its own dialect.  Although most scenes teach lindy hop to the same national standard, every city's style and basic moves are a bit different.  The more dialects you get exposed to, the more ways you have of understanding the dance, and the better a dancer you will be!

On The Benefits Of Attending A Dance Event

Large dance events, such as weekends and dance camps, are even better for your dancing.  They attract good bands and DJs, excellent world-class teachers, and loads of friendly people from a wide range of skill levels and dance dialects.  The atmosphere is usually fun and experimental; you can make new friends, take mind-blowing classes, and dress up for huge social dances to live music.  They are also great places to get inspired: the contests, performances, and even just the social dancing will leave you light-headed and buzzing with enthusiasm.  

There is no such thing as being too much of a beginner to go to a dance event.  Every single event since I started dancing has helped me, and none of them have left me disappointed - especially the ones I went to when I barely knew what I was doing.

Second, the hows:

There are two ways to combine travel and dancing.  Either you can dance when you travel (for example, by dropping by a new scene during a business trip), or you can travel to dance (for example, by attending an out-of-town event).

Steps for Visiting New Scenes While Traveling

1. Google "lindy hop" or "swing dancing" and the name of the city you'll be in.  Explore the most relevant sites that come up, and look specifically for a "dance calendar". 

2.  Determine if there will be any social dances in the city while you are there.  If uncertain, look for a contact person on the most active website and email them your questions.

3.  Find the days, times, and locations of dances you can attend, and work them into your travel plans.

4.  When at the dance, don't be shy - ask lots of people to dance!  Also ask the friendliest locals which people they would recommend you dance with.  Don't hesitate to make friends - you never know, maybe they'll come visit your home scene!

Steps for Going To A Dance Event

1. Find an event that you'd like to go to, on a weekend that's convenient.  (Resources: the Brew City Hops facebook group, the flyers on the registration table at the Down & Over, and sites like the Lindy Calendar).

2. Reach out and see if anyone else in the area wants to go to the event, so that you can arrange carpools, hotel room splits, and/or moral supoort.

3. Register for the event ASAP - prices usually start around $110 and go up as the event gets closer.  Remember to request housing if you don't plan on getting a hotel room!  Housing means being hosted, couch-surfer style, by a local dancer.  

4. For the economically-minded, ask the event coordinators about volunteering.  Most events need lots of help, for which you can get reduced registration fees or even cash.

5. Decide if you'd like to enter any contests - sign-up is usually packaged in with registration.  A good contest for someone just looking to get their feet wet would be an Open Jack & Jill - "open" means that anyone can do it, and "jack & jill" means that you sign up by yourself and get assigned random partners during the contest.

6. Look at the event schedule and plan your trips to and from: whether you'll be driving, carpooling, or taking a train or plane, and whether you'll need a half-day off work on Friday for travel time.

7. Pick 2-3 outfits to get fancy in, and 2 outfits to get sweaty in - there are usually 2-3 evening dances and 2 days of classes per weekend.  Bring extra shirts for hot venues! Also be sure to pack dance shoes, a gift for your housing host (if applicable), and snacks or groceries to make breakfasts and break times easier.

8. Bring a dance notebook or video camera so as not to forget the things you learn, and so that you can scribble down new friends' contact information.

9. Decide early whether you want to stay up till 5am dancing each night (the parties are worth it!), or whether you want to be awake and functional for the morning classes.  Few people can do everything that there is to do at an event and survive.  Prioritize!

10.  Prepare to have your mind blown, your social circle expanded, your dance level skyrocketed, and your ride home filled with crazy stories!

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