I miss solo dancing in Atlanta – so when I went to San Francisco for a swing dance, I ambled to a corner and jammed a little, because that’s what I’m used to (and because it’s not my hobby if I don’t practice!). There I was, stumbling through a series of moves and trying not to feel self-conscious as two people stared awkwardly at me from the sidelines. I was practicing in my heels, working through some of the moves I know, and the song was coming to an end. I skipped, I slid, I – slowly sank to the ground, as my heel wasn’t connected to the rest of me, and my foot decided to go the other way.
The landing didn’t hurt – much. I tweaked something in my foot (which was just beginning to feel better after months of various issues!), but the most I bruised was my ego. One of the girls watching me looked up from tying her shoes and exclaims, “What happened?! I looked up and you were on the floor!”
Well, it’s good to know no one actually saw my wipe out (that I know of).
So after a couple more songs, at the urging of another good song, I got back out there to try again (this time, in flats). But every time I was solo jamming, I was just that – solo. Alone. I kept waiting for someone (anyone!) to come join me, whether they were more skilled than I or just a beginner, but no such luck! I just got a few odd stares, and the requisite requests to dance. I was pretty bummed. I’m pretty used to Atlanta, where I’m solo jamming with one or two other people every other time – and it’s good for me, since I really don’t know much about solo dancing, and I get to learn from watching others.
Solo dancing is not popular in San Francisco, as far as I can tell. At first, I thought it was a fear of wiping out. Now, I’m thinking it’s because the dancers here are focusing on something else.
You know what’s common amongst the ladies when there are no guys to dance with? Dancing with other follows. In Atlanta, follows who “play for the other team” (or however you want to put it) were just getting popular again. When I was a beginner, we were going through a phase of leading ladies, but the trend died out as soon as those ladies moved away. Over the past year or so, at least two other follows and I began working on our tuck turns and swing outs from the other end of the spectrum. Still, the trend wasn’t particularly popular.
But here in San Francisco? In the jam circle, there were at least half a dozen girls going in the jam circle to act as leads. In the corners, there were girls dancing together – sometimes switching off, sometimes sticking to one role. Girls in the corners are half talking about follower variations, and half talking about leading sequences. And it’s not just limited to the advanced follows! There were just as many girls who have been dancing less than a year who are working on both roles.
I’ve been thinking about it, and I think that the trend in Atlanta is rocking some solo moves a few times a night, whereas the trend in San Francisco is dancing as both a lead and a follow (there were plenty of guys who were rocking their swivels, too!). Of course, I’ve only really been out dancing twice, and I’d have to see more venues and more dancing and more people to really understand the trends and motivations of the scene – but so far, this is what I see.
Maybe it’s just what we’re exposed to, which helps precipitate what newer dancers are interested in when they beginning expanding their repertoire? I mean, this seems like an obvious conclusion, I know – but to me, it’s just interesting how different cities can have such diverse development as scenes. The popular trends can always change – but from city to state to region to nation, they’re always different. Even among events, right now, there’s a trend towards workshops rather than exchanges, and classic jazz rather than groove swing.
And it has me thinking – what have I missed as popular in other scenes? Is it learning to DJ, or even to learn a musical instrument? Or is it learning choreography, like the Tranky Doo or the Al and Leon Shim Sham? Maybe it’s learning aerials, or performing, or competing? Or solo dancing? Learning to play another role? Dancing to classic jazz or New Orleans jazz, old-school bands or new ones? Dancing to Zoot Suit Riot (please no)? In the social scene, is it the trend to party like animals (maybe that’s Baltimore’s trend)? Is it more about dinner afterwards, or ice cream before? Do people dress vintage, or in their jeans and t-shirts, or in modern sequined shirts? The more I think about it, the more options we have…and that’s pretty awesome.
So. What’s trending?