The Winter BluesPosted: December 12, 2012
aka: Weekend of fun dance things!
If you don’t want to read a long-ass post about my nerding out over blues dancing (because that’s what I did this past weekend) then you can ignore this. I won’t mind. Promise.
So I’d originally planned to just make the trip to Athens for the last BPG dance of the semester, see some friends, and have a jolly good time. But, I knew that also going on the same weekend would be The Winter Blues, held in Greenville, SC. I wasn’t planning on attending, simply because of a lack of interest, but then as the weeks went by and the event drew closer and I kept getting updates about the exchange, I realized how much I wanted to blues dance again. However, full weekend passes had sold out by this point, and if I went, I wanted to make it worth my while and go to the lessons/workshops as well. It seemed like a lost cause at this point.
But then, I saw a friend made a comment about how he couldn’t make it and would be selling his pass. So of course I messaged him and bought the pass from him, planning a near-impromptu trip to Greenville the week before the event. I was thrilled I’d get to dance blues, learn new things in the workshops, and dance with some favorite follows.
And now, an account of my weekend.
I’d already made plans and promises to friends that I’d attend the last Friday night dance of the semester, so I stopped in Athens Friday evening before making my way to Greenville. The dance was tacky-Christmas theme, and I found an obnoxious Christmas tie my dad left behind, wore that, as well as my Santa hat. Sidenote: what is the deal with tacky-Christmas and why does it seem like such a popular theme for Christmas parties? Anyways, the dance was fun, I got to talk to some friends, danced a whole lot, and spent a total of about 4 hours in Athens. Then I left for Greenville to catch the late night blues dance (because blues dancers are all about dancing blues into the wee hours of the night/morning).
I missed the strictly competition, but that was okay – I wouldn’t have known anyone well enough to ask to be my partner anyways, but I got to flex my blues dancing muscles for a good 2-3 hours before my energy started flagging and I was in dire need of sleep. Now, here’s where it might get interesting: remember how I said this trip to Greenville was rather impromptu-ish? Well, because I essentially registered late, I missed the deadline to register for housing as well, so I was on my own to figure out a place to spend Friday and Saturday night. I really didn’t feel like laying down close to $100 for two nights in an “okay” hotel room, so I decided I’d spend the night in my car Friday night, and get a room for Saturday night only.
Yeah that’s right, I totally bummed it out in Carla. I parked in an upper level of a near-empty parking deck, and slept in the driver seat of my car. I packed a blanket and sleeping bag just in case, and I used the blanket that night. It was still a bit chilly.
Woke up Saturday morning to the sounds of downtown Greenville traffic. Splendid. Adding to the feelings of being a bum, I brushed my teeth while using water from bottles I packed, spit into a trashcan, and shaved using the reflection of Carla’s windows. I stopped at a Quiktrip to change and get breakfast, really lathered on the deodorant while I was in the bathroom, and prayed I didn’t smell too atrocious from not showering after nearly 5 hours of dancing from the night previous. Then I went to the workshops.
The workshops were awesome. Maybe half of the things taught were concepts I was already aware of, but it was nice simply drilling through the technique in order to refine my movements. Plus it gives me the opportunity to meet new people and get a feel for who matches my style of leading.
Broke for lunch, had more workshops, and then by 5PM I went to check into my room.
So, I found a room through this site called airbnb. People from cities all over the world list rooms in their homes they offer to travelers to book, like a hotel/inn, except they’re peoples’ homes. You can see pictures they’ve uploaded of their place, and read reviews from travelers who had stayed with them previously. I can’t say the prices would be any better than if you were to book a 2-3 star hotel at the cheapest, but something about airbnb appeals to me. Maybe it’s about staying in a place with a more personal touch, with character, and getting to know the host and locale.
Anyways. I’d known about airbnb for quite some time, and I figured this would be the opportunity to test it out. It’s really simple to use and is basically feels like looking for a hotel room, except I feel like I’m not being cheated by using airbnb and I’m paying decent people directly (plus a small fee to airbnb). After selecting the city you’re visiting, you’re given a list of places people are offering. You can message the hosts and ask any questions you have, and you’ll usually get a response within 24 hours. Then it’s a matter of booking the dates, confirming check-in and check-out, and going through a quick verification process so you know both parties are genuine people.
Come Saturday afternoon, I arrived at my host’s house. He let me know prior to my arrival that he’d still be out of town but was willing to call me and walk me through the remote entry process (door code, hidden key). His home was great: small, quiet, clean, and rather eclectic – a great book collection and a MASSIVE record collection. I peeked underneath a dust sheet and saw a pair of turntables. It’s a shame my host wasn’t home, because I would’ve asked him to play something. But even though I was by myself, I wasn’t alone. His cat was roaming about and was being fed by his tenants (who live on the second floor, separate entry). I’d always been wary of cats for some reason, and this one was no exception: I swear he (she?) was plotting my demise. Whenever I opened my door, the cat would be a few feet away, facing the door, watching me. When I’d walk through the living rooms and hallway, the cat would lunge at my legs. I think it was being playful, but cats are murderous creatures so I didn’t trust it one bit. Oh, I’m still allergic to cats alright, but I knew about the cat and I came prepared with zyrtec and I popped one as soon as I unpacked. Totally fine for the duration of my stay (which was at this point, less than 24 hours remaining). Didn’t like that the bed was covered in cat hair, so I peeled the comforter off and laid my sleeping bag on top of the sheets and slept in that. Whatever. But that was later that night when I returned from the dance.
Right, once I unpacked and took a MUCH needed shower, I went out, ate dinner, and went back to more dancing. I got to put the new material I learned in the workshops to use, and it was great. I also entered the Jack & Jill competition, where you’re randomly paired up with a partner and you dance, judges judge you, and if they like you, you win.
Well it’s not quite as insincere as that, but that’s the gist of it. This was the second Jack & Jill I’ve ever competed in for blues (the first being at the Holy City Blues Exchange, where I was an alternate to the finalists). I believe there were 16 leads in total including myself (with an equivalent of 16 follows). We were separated into 2 heats, 8 couples in each heat, and danced three times with three different people. I was nervous as I’m still new to competing in partner dancing, but I still had fun and did my best and didn’t expect much from it. The preliminaries ended and we all went back to dancing while the judges determined who would go on to the finals. At some point, I decided I wanted to grab a powerade from my car. So I changed into my regular shoes and left the venue to walk the block to the parking garage where I left Carla, and upon arriving, decided that since it was later in the night and I was on the 6th floor, I might as well move her down a couple of floors so I wouldn’t have to take the elevator/walk up so many flights of stairs later at 3/4AM to get to my car.
I ended up taking too big of a risk by thinking I could go one level lower. “I’m on level 3! Hm, I bet there’s a spot on level 2…” and so on, and before I knew it, I was at the exit and I couldn’t re-enter without paying five bucks, and I couldn’t just drive in reverse because people were monitoring the entrance and would see me. I’m being hella cheap this weekend (if spending one night in my car didn’t make that obvious) so I decided I’d leave the deck and find a spot on the street somewhere. I end up 4-5 blocks away from the venue, so I’ve got a slightly longer walk to make.
Remember how I said I wasn’t expecting much from my performance in the preliminaries? When I made it back to the venue, a friend sees me and urgently says, “Better get out there, they’re looking for you.” I see the posted list of finalists.
MY NAME IS ON THAT LIST. I was one of the six finalist leads! “HOLY SHIT,” I think, and I dash onto the floor where I see the rests of the finalists lined up, and the judges are already CALLING THE FIRST ALTERNATE UP THERE. No way bitch, I’m here now, get the hell off the floor – I’m competing in these finals. Luckily everyone saw me arrive as well, and yelled “He’s here! He’s here!” Thanks for having my back, guys! Kinda felt bad for that alternate though, he nearly had his chance, but eh, sucks to suck.
So I get onto the floor, I’m still in my converses and jacket and holding my bag. I tear off my jacket, throw it to the side, drop my bag and push it to another side, and kick off my shoes because I couldn’t turn very well in my converses on this floor. I was resigned to dancing in my socks for the first All-Skate (where all the couples dance). I was a hot mess. Then the spotlights started, where the couples take turns dancing on the floor by themselves, and I was able to quickly put on my dance shoes.
We changed partners for each dance, and there were 2 all-skates, one at the start and end, and two spotlights. I couldn’t believe I was a finalist. I was really excited. And EXTREMELY nervous as I’ve never danced alone with a partner before with EVERYONE WATCHING ME. Cripes. So nerve wracking. But I still gave it my best shot, I tried not to trip or make my partner fall or anything too catastrophic, and everything turned out better than expected!
I didn’t place. But man, I was so excited to have competed in my first ever spotlight-final Jack & Jill. Who knows, at this rate, I might place in one of the future Jack&Jills I’ll enter!
Continued dancing until 3AM. Proceeded to drag my ass back to Carla and drove to my host’s home, where I was assaulted by the cat (not really, but close). Took another shower, and relished the feeling of sleeping in a bed as opposed to the driver’s seat.
Seeing as I had to work in the evening, I was only able to stay for one of the 3 workshops that afternoon before driving back to Georgia. Greenville’s only a little less than 3 hours away from home, so if I didn’t have to work, I totally would’ve stayed for the Sunday evening dance as well.
But! Mike and Ruth, the guest instructors at The Winter Blues, are currently in Atlanta this week teaching classes at some of the local swing dances, and I had the opportunity to talk to them last night at Hot Jam to get feedback from my performance in the competition, since they both judged. They were super friendly and gave me great constructive criticism. I also learned that from watching me in the preliminaries, they both agreed they wanted to see in the finals. Feelsgoodman. Interesting to note though that they both picked up on the fact that I dance west coast swing because of how I move in blues. Which is funny, because one time, I was dancing west coast with someone and she could tell I did ballroom. What is this?! Guess my styles just bleed into everything, but that’s okay, because that’s who I am, but for competitions, I know it’s important to really be aware of the respective aesthetic.
I plan on attending one more workshop they’re presenting this Saturday. They’re really fun to learn from, and I’m super excited, and if I had more money, I’d totally take a private lesson from them. Le sigh.
And what’s also exciting to me is that I’m learning all this new blues material, and I plan on incorporating some of it into a piece I’m choreographing for a competition for Enter the Blues, here in Atlanta, come February. I am really looking forward to this – I miss choreographing!
More on that later.