Another week, another dance event—you know the story. But this time, rather than heading to DC or Boston, we were headed upstate. Before we hit the winding roads towards Canada, however, there was a whole week of work, dance, and other shenanigans to enjoy. Unsurprisingly, it was a bit busy.
On Tuesday, I was on the Square for an IRB training. It was supposed to run from 1-3pm, but only ended up taking an hour which meant that I spent the rest of the afternoon working in a coffee shop, because I just couldn’t justify the travel time to get myself back to Brooklyn for 2 hours of the work day. Once I’d closed my laptop for the day, I headed up towards Grand Central for an assisted stretching session. I’ve been trying desperately to increase my flexibility and I’d heard about assisted stretching, so when I saw an opportunity for a free trial session, I decided to give it a go. On one hand it was very soothing to be gently stretched by another human being, but on the other, they stretched me cold. Like with zero warm up. Zero. So I don’t know if it actually improved my flexibility at all and based on the price list they showed me at the end, I might just be better getting an occasional massage.
Once I’d been stretched and pulled into shape, I headed back out into the chaos of the city with 20 minutes to get all the way across town to a dance studio. New York has wonderful subsurface connectivity if you’re headed north-south, but if you happen to want to go east-west, well you best be ready to schlep and schlep I did. I slid into the studio with several minutes to spare before diving into an hour of JT Swing practice with Peter. We only had an hour to work, and then I was off again, running through the night to rehearse with the salsa crew. We’re gearing up to debut a brand new routine, so we’re working our butts off, or maybe on? I feel like I only get thicker the more I train, but to be honest, I’m not about to complain about an extra curve or two.
Wednesday was another busy night. I snatched a brief bit of respite at home between work and dance, but then it was time to go. I spent two hours training for JT swing with the whole team, and then hopped on up to Westie Cafe to dance the night away. I will admit that my exhausted body did not make it to the last song of the night, but sometimes, 12:30pm really is too late to be out on a Wednesday.
And then it was Thursday. If you thought I’d need a rest, you’re right. If you thought I’d take one… Well, maybe next time. Instead, I left the office, hustled to Target to pick up some snacks for the weekend, and then caught a train up to Midtown. Dinner was a falafel wrap from my favourite Turkish place—-I might go there too often? Maybe? I never know how to feel when restaurant owners know my name and chat to my like a friend. I guess so long as it’s a small local operation, I’ll call it “supporting local business” rather than “spending too much money on food”. Once fed, it was time to spin. It was the last of Isa’s spinning classes for 2018 and we were packing in an extra rehearsal afterwards, so I decided that sleepy or not, I was going to be there. I feel like I will never spin as well as I want to, but only because that bar will forever be moving. As soon as you get singles, you want doubles, then triples, then… well you get the picture. My current project is getting comfortable with turns that require my feet and legs to be arranged into pretty turned out shapes rather than just sandwiched tightly together, clinging to my centre like my life depends upon it.
After spinning, it was runs for an hour before hurrying home to pack my bag for the weekend. Once upon a time, I used to try to be well rested before dance weekends…
Come Friday, I was in for a heck of a day. Work was busy to say the least. I had to be out of the office by 2pm to catch a train. It was absolutely non-negotiable because the next train was 30 minutes later and all my fellow car-poolers were competing in the strictlies Friday night, so when 2:00pm rolled around and I was still fighting with an intractable budget template, I just threw my laptop into my bag and headed for Grand Central. Between the ride on the subway and the Metro North, I managed to crack through the last of my work obligations for the day, and only ten minutes after we got into the car at Katonah, I’d sent the last email and settled in for a weekend of westie at the Upstate Dance Challenge.
Driving upstate is so beautiful. The layers of blue mountains stacked against a brilliant pink and orange sunset reminded me of nothing so much as a Ted Harrison painting. It was nearly enough to start me reciting Robert Service. But soon the darkness fell and we were driving through the brisk winter night towards Saratoga Springs Spa. The hotel was picturesque to say the least—-exactly the sort of place you might expect to see in upstate New York, just cabin-y enough to make the bougie-ness seem unaffected, as if you thought that every cabin should start with three-story tall pillars and endless mullions.
Once we’d settled into our rather chilly little hotel room, we headed down for the strictlies, to be followed (for me) by a delightful return to my early days of swing travel, drinking with The Infamous Canadians (TM). Apparently as a people, we’ve an impressive reputation for drinking and partying at dance events. I was not about to complain, especially not when we were staying in such a friendly hotel. Usually when the knock at the door is followed by by “security!” it means the party is about to get shut down. In this hotel, it meant that the extra cups had arrived in the hands of good natured hotel staff who weren’t sure we were having quite enough fun yet. I still don’t quite believe it actually happened.
When Saturday rolled around, I was ready for another disappointment, but I wasn’t about to give up entirely. I was so lucky. I started my rotation with the wonderful Alex Carney and our dance just gave me the exact right kind of calm and balance. He’s also a friend, so it was fun as well. And that fabulous first dance just carried me right on through all the rotations, and by god it was enough! After a day of socializing with all my lovely dancer people, watching my friends kick ass in Allstar JnJ and Rising Star (I’m looking at you Jes Ann and Edem!), and practicing in an ever expanding group of dancers lead by the fearless Dr. Rosenberg, I finally braved the score sheets. I made it! For the first time since the summer, I’d gotten myself out of prelims and right on into finals. I’ll be honest, I was struggling, hard, so it was a huge relief to find that my dancing wasn’t quite as trash as I was afraid it might be. The rest of the evening was spent eating, drinking coquito, socializing with all manner of folks, and even doing a bit of dancing. I perhaps should have done more of the latter since it was a dance weekend, but y’know, sometimes it’s just nice to hang out.
Sunday saw me roll out of bed and into the ballroom for finals. I had a sneaking feeling that there might be a semi-spotlight involved, but everyone seemed to think that it would be at least three couples at a time, so I settled in for a standard heated final—-maybe semi-spotlight, if I was lucky. We started with an all skate which was an absolute joy. I’d drawn Ryan, a friend from Vermont, and I guess we’ve both been working hard, because it was such a fun, connected dance. And then they said “spotlit jam”. I was delighted; most of the rest of the heat was horrified. It was one heck of a division. Every single couple brought something new and wonderful; I was happy just to be standing there watching each pair bring it. When it got to us (we were second last to dance), the nerves finally found me, so I took a deep breath, connected with my partner and let the inner exhibitionist take the reins. I will someday need to tame her, or at least equip her with flawless technique, but for now I’ll settle for the sheer infectious energy that she brings, bad feet, tight shoulders, and all. I probably could have danced better, but I couldn’t have asked for more enjoyable dances, and it was so good to share them with one of the original crew of New Englanders that I met at my first event on the East Coast. I also have to thank the inimitable Kristen Shaw for sage Saturday night words that I carried with me through every song of finals.
The drive home was a sleepy affair studded with Chipotle and coffee, but I must have managed to sneak in just enough of a nap because by the time I got home, my body was no longer at all interested in sleep. I have ceased to try to understand this cantankerous corporeal form.
Now it’s Monday and I’m about to be late for dance, so I’ll leave you there and see you next week!
The Salsa Girl