Shortly after I wrapped up last week’s blog, I bundled myself back onto the subway and set off for a salsa class with the inimitable Karel Flores. She is such a ball of energy and her classes reliably leave me sore and exhausted—I love it. I’m not super jazzed about the fact that I somehow managed to tweak my knee to the point of mild hobbling, but the class was deliciously high energy and pleasantly challenging. My dancing is still missing something (it might be a certain sort of conviction) but I’ve certainly got the business of learning choreography down pat.
So despite sore muscles and a slightly tetchy knee, I woke up the next morning fairly pleased with myself and set off to work. Some hours later, I left work and caught a showing of The Sixth Extinction with the student environmentalist club before ambling home to tidy the apartment and wrap up a few loose ends before the revolution. Yes, Tuesday was the last day before I was swept up entirely in the whirlwind of the Boston Tea Party.
To be fair, Wednesday involved no actual tea partying, but it did involve hopping home from work to toss in three loads of laundry, scarfing down a few $3/12 dumplings, and then hustling my freshly cleaned clothes home to pack for the following day. With laundry hanging off every surface in my room, I then slipped out to westie a while before returning home around 1am to sleep.
Thursday morning, I stuffed a few more (finally dry) articles of clothing into my backpack and made my way to work. Around 12:30, I fled the office leaving a trail of emails and queries and headed for Penn. At the station I met the first of three road trip companions and we caught a train together to Secaucus. From there we connected with the two remaining members of our quartet (and the car) and hit the road for Boston. Some four hours of good music and great shenanigans later, we found ourselves at a Marriott somewhere near Boston, ready to dance.
Two of our party had booked an intensive training session so they barely touched the hotel carpet before flinging themselves into a deep and broad ocean of knowledge. Those of us that remained, moseyed our way to a grocery store to gather provisions and then moseyed on back to drink amaretto and eat a whole rotisserie chicken listening to salsa and bachata in the hotel room. I’ll grant you it was a novel way to start a westie weekend, but it was great fun, and the deliciousness of grocery store rotisserie chicken simple cannot be overestimated. Eventually there was some social dancing, friends were met, and only too soon, it was Friday.
Once again on Friday morning, two of the car/roommates were off to intensify their knowledge while I laid abed for a good while wondering if it was possible to fall back asleep with the ruckus renovation hammering away on the floor above, before eventually giving up and heading for the pool. Not being a serious swimmer, my bathymetric concerns live firmly in the category of temperature and comfort. It wasn’t a hot tub to be sure, but it was a warm pool and it had stairs amenable to lounging so I decided that it would do. When I grew tired of the water, I wandered into the hotel cafe where I hung around chatting with other dancers until the workshops started.
The latter bit of the afternoon was spent learning (and learning and learning). I took three workshops (including a hip hop workshop), then a break for food and organization, before doing another workshop followed by a private lesson. It’s been too long since I last had a professional diagnose my westie problems and hoo boy was it needed. After 45 minutes with Susan Kirklin I had a whole raft of drills and an entirely new understanding of just how much work my dancing needs. This is why we must not learn by social dancing alone (at least not if we are hopelessly not natural-dancers). So I have some work to do, and the tools to do it. Here’s hoping the motivation comes along too.
Having been thoroughly educated, I watched some competitions, filmed by friends and then attempted to social dance. It is very hard to social dance when your head is full of all the parts of your dancing that most need work. Suffice to say, I tried.
Saturday would prove a challenging day, leaving both my ego and my face bruised. The terrible temptation of sleep meant that I only managed to attend one workshop before it was time to get ready for competitions. Now, as a novice, competitions are usually a fairly low risk activity, but this was not to be usual. I wasn’t dancing my best to begin with (see above discussion of overthinking all the areas of improvement) but the day was not content to just humble me. No, humility was insufficient, instead, with my third partner of the prelims I would find myself being lead into a neck roll turn which swiftly turned into a degree of downward pressure that left me only to face plant or crouch. So I crouched and I noted a leg flying over my head. Foolishly, I thought that meant we were done and began to unfold back up to standing only to be clocked in the cheekbone by an enthusiastically swung foot. There is something to be said for the noise the crowd made right about then. But I can’t blame my partner, it was a moment of dubious judgement in a moment of over-excitement and besides, I’ve only the smallest of bruises at the point where the offending cheekbone appends itself to the rest of my skull. Perhaps not surprisingly, I did not make the next round which hurt my pride far more than the shoe my face.
Once all the comps were done, we set off with some Boston friends for dinner. It was all so very adult I hardly knew what to do with myself. Someday I will master the art of ordering food without my inner student beginning the calculation of calories to cents.
After dinner, it was showtime! Boston Tea Party is a swing crossover event featuring both West Coast Swing and Lindy Hop so one of their main USPs is the presence of a crossover jack ’n’ jill competition where the pros have to dance with counterparts from the other style, to both styles of music. It’s a good bit of crazy. And after that crazy, we began the real crazy of the Saturday night room parties.
I started the night catching up with some of my beloved Bostonites from the New Year’s Eve event before riding the elevator up to a New York party on the top floor where all the NYC westies and friends were drinking mudslides and caipirinhas and getting the best kind of silly. Right on the knife edge of getting silly myself, I turned my nose towards the ballroom and committed to social dance. I’ve never seen a ballroom stay so full so late at a swing event, it was fantastic! And thus did I dance the night away until somewhere around 6am when my brain suggested sleep and I acquiesced, knowing that in only an hour the chorus of drills and hammers would be bursting into song somewhere above our ceiling.
Sunday is normally my favourite day at events but, perhaps because there were no competitions left, this Sunday had a strange sort of lost vibe. It was odd, I was tired, and my car companions felt similarly so we left shortly after check out to wind back down the highway to the city. Well, I say the city, but I mean Jersey because having left early there was time for me to spend some time in good company lazily resting and napping off a bit of the edge of the sleeplessness that was plaguing me. And then it was back to the train to the city to collapse into my own bed for a few hours of recovery before my return to work.
This morning was an ocean of emails that had made their way into my life via a day and a half out of the office. It was delightful. When I finally found my way to shore, I paddled through the rest of my work day before catching a panel discussion on media, truth, and the political divide. The panel was interesting but even more so were the others at my table.
There were many ideas of note, but the one that I will relay to you now is one that I have encountered fairly frequently here and which has given me a great deal of pause. You see, in Canada we are all quite pleased to be Canadian but I think for the most part have few pretensions about the actual greatness of our country. I mean, it’s nice, right? Like it could be better, but we sure wouldn’t want to be Americans. I feel like even our immigrant population has this sort of relationship with patriotism. The sort of negative patriotism of “like” not “love”, a kind of fondness and perhaps a bit of affectionate pride but no bright, brilliant patriotism marching into battle to save the world.
Here in the US, however, it’s quite a different thing. Here there is real patriotism, gleaming golden patriotism of the most virulent variety. I think I’ve encountered it most in immigrants from India, but there really is still a sense of “America the Promise Land”, America the home of the free and the brave and the good. And honestly, they do believe that America is the best, no matter the current political hiccup. As a Canadian raised with a healthy disdain for American glory, I find this magnificently hard to swallow. It is surely not the belief of the people I have met while travelling in Europe, but I have spoken to people here who honestly believe that everyone loves America, because, well, it is the greatest! I guess perhaps countries that aren’t Canada are actually proud of their imposition upon the world? I am probably not articulating this as well as I would like to, but by god is it ever strange to encounter real, passionate patriotism.
And now I am sitting in my room, feeling very Canadian and wondering if somehow we’ve gone wrong in creating a whole culture of people who pride themselves on a quiet fondness for a country that’s pretty alright but could be a bit more Scandinavian in its social supports and a bit more American in its economic power. We’re nearly as strange as the folks down here.
The Salsa Girl