I’ve moved to a small town. In fact, the estimated population of my current zip code is 101 people. Well, make that 102, now that I’ve gotten a driver’s license and PO Box. Regardless, when I talk to dancers about how small this town is, they all give me this appalled, “I’d never be able to survive that” look.
There’s something about having lived in a big city with ample swing dance opportunities which has instilled a sense of apprehension at the thought of moving to a rural area, for a job, family, or other reasons I can’t really think of which would make anyone move to a small town. We’ve all seen it happen – that one person who moves to a small town, and no one hears or sees from them in the dance community again. Are they sad? Lonely? Broken without the dance we love? Probably not. But that’s how I had always pictured myself if I’d ever got trapped in a similar situation. Which is, of course, where I am now. Surprise!
In reality, most people who find themselves in a rural community find other groups in which to participate. It’s the Tuesday Ping Pong group, or the Book Club, or those people who drink wine every Thursday. At least, those are the options I’ve found so far in my own community. And don’t get me wrong – I really love my job, and I absolutely think I’ve made the right decision. But the communities available here do not compare to the one which I’ve left in the big, bright city.
That’s the crux of it all, I think. I’ve talked about it before here, but the long and short of it is that I love swing dancing for the community it has given me, and that’s why I keep coming back. I didn’t fear leaving Atlanta for the loss of dance in my life; I feared leaving it for the loss of the social scene in which I find myself comfortable. I’d like to think I’d be a swing dancer regardless of whether or not the people were there, but that’s false.
Swing dancing is inherently a social hobby. While I could certainly do some solo Charleston without friends, it’s also less fun. But Lindy Hop? Forget about it. The definition of this dance requires a partner. I could teach someone, but how would that satisfy the need I feel to swing out to nearly anything by Artie Shaw? In my mind, swing outs are at their best when the momentum and connection and happiness is shared with another who loves swing outs just as much as I do. And without that shared joy, Lindy Hop is…well, it’s awkwardly dancing in a circle in an eight-count combination of triple steps and step-steps.
The reality is that my social life is a product of my hobby, but my hobby has become dependent on my social life.
Translation: it’s a lot harder to motivate myself to dance when I’m alone. I am especially bad at practicing solo dance, which I love and truly believe would help my swing dancing overall, and which is completely within my means to practice regardless of someone else’s presence. But I don’t. Without a scene to support me, it is easy to fall off the wagon, find another crowd to hang with, and slip out of the dance scene for a while.
But I’m not okay with that. I can feel my swing dancing become stale, even in the month or so in which I haven’t been regularly dancing, and I crave it in my body. I could choose to find another group of people to ease the pain of absence from my social scene, but I do not wish to find another hobby to replace dancing.
So I’m working on it. First step: find a place to practice. My house has carpet, so I’m considering renting some time in the local gym/dance studio. Of course, it’s the only gym for the surrounding five and a half cities, so it’s probably outrageously expensive. Regardless, it’s a place to start looking.
In this move, I have learned a lot about myself – namely, that while in the past I have claimed swing dancing as a hobby, it was more of a medium through which I could hang out with my friends. As such, I am readjusting my attitude:
Lindy Hop (and swing dancing in general) will always be where I find my community, but to keep calling it my hobby, it is something I must work on and practice, regardless of social support. Dancing is not something I do for my friends; it is something I do for myself.
Though, for the record, I miss you guys.