It’s 8:30pm and I’m only just starting this blog. If I was clever, I would have started earlier so that I could have slept earlier, but instead I faffed about all evening pretending I was resting off the effects of the weekend without sleeping at all. Fortunately, I’m too tired to entertain regrets. Of course if any of you have any doubt about how I managed to get so tired, I refer you to the myriad of Tea Party posts that are currently mushrooming up everywhere on Facebook. Yes, it was the almighty, inimitable Boston Tea Party Swing, and it was fantastic. But before we get to the Tea Party itself, we’ve got a whole week of suffering in anticipation to cover.
Yes, it began on Tuesday when all I could think of was how badly I wanted to be dancing, but instead I had to work, visit the doctor for part two of my annual (or perhaps decennial would be more accurate) check up. I really should go to the doctor more often but I seem to be proving healthy enough for the minute. After the doctor’s I headed up to the Silver School of Art (one of the many fiefdoms within NYU) for a talk on neuroscience, art, and vision. Perhaps I’m just a terrible nerd, but I thought it was fantastic! There were optical illusions, pieces of art, and endless demonstrations of how vision is not transmission of an image, but the processing of information, heavily driven by the idiosyncrasies, talents, and limitations of the few pounds of grey matter that live in our skulls. 10/10 would recommend catching a talk by Margaret Livingstone.
Wednesday was classic spring day in New York, which is to say we had a Nor’easter and NYU was closed for the day. Yup. Mid-march snow day. It’s almost like being back in Northern Canada, except that in Northern Canada we never actually got snow days no matter the bluster of the blizzard. Despite my prolific whining about the cold and my impressive lack of Canadian cold-resilience, apparently a March blizzard has brought it back. ‘Round about mid afternoon, I was schlumping out into the wind and snow to pick up a few groceries. I didn’t desperately need groceries, I could have picked them up on Thursday, I’d even planned to pick them up on Thursday, but I was struck by a fit of whimsy, and out I went. Despite all indications to the contrary, my revived inner-Canadian found it “really not that bad after all” and I even took a few frivolous detours–only one of which involved pie.
Somewhat later that evening, I headed into Midtown to grab some Shake Shack with Patrick. It was exactly as tasty as it ought to have been despite being in the basement of the abyssal zone known as the Penn Station LIRR level. Once we’d downed our burgers, we grabbed some matcha and marched back out into the snow to dance. It was a quiet night, as snow days often are, but it was enjoyable nonetheless, and sometime around 12:30 I caught the almost entirely empty subway home.
Thursday saw the beginning of the mad dash through packing and chores before the weekend’s adventures. I raced home from work, pitched a load of laundry into a laundromat machine, turned the brandy and rum I’d bought at lunch into a lovely tea based punch, ran some errands, bought some groceries, and then set down to pack. Exhausted by the week and hoping to put a bit of sleep in the bank before the weekend, I climbed into bed at 11pm and promptly enjoyed an anxiety attack which carried me through until what I estimate was about 12:30am before I’d worn my nerves out so thoroughly that I was able to pass out. Complete and utter exhaustion really is a plausible solution to both anxiety and insomnia.
After a very busy day in the office on Friday, I ran home, grabbed my bags, and headed to the 6 train. I met Patrick on the platform at Bleecker and schlepped up to Grand Central Terminal. We were waiting at the track gate for the third of our party and had about given up on catching the intended train, when our third, Jenny, texted us to say she’d just made it aboard. Fortunately, there was another train a mere two minutes later, so Patrick and I hopped on that one and met Jenny and our fourth, Jessie, at Katonah. From Katonah, we drove north to Boston, or rather Newton which is near enough by as to be about the same, but far enough away that I’ve still never actually been to Boston.
We grabbed some Panera on the way north and hit the hotel just in time to catch the invitational Jack n Jills. Yes, that’s a plural. This particular dance weekend is a crossover event so there’s not just west coast swing, but also lindy hop and balboa and the centrepiece of the weekend is a crossover competition wherein each couple is composed of a randomly drawn west coast swing dancer and a randomly drawn lindy hop dancer. They then dance to one random lindy hop song and one random west coast song. This competition is danced on the Saturday night, but on Friday night, we had arrived just in time to catch the prelims for it. In the prelims, the westies dance with westies, and the lindy hoppers dance with lindy hoppers. I can never really make any informed judgements about the lindy dancers, but the westie was fabulous! Markus and Tren drew each other and just blew us all away. It was so musical and creative and clever! I may have a bit of a dance crush on both of them.
Following the competitions, we took a quick nap and then headed out to social dance the night away. I so love dancing in Boston. The people are so friendly and lovely and they’re excellent dancers as well. I took a brief break in the middle of the night to catch up with some friends and enjoy some margaritas before returning to the ballroom until 5:30am. It was a wonderful night.
Saturday morning I managed to drag myself out of bed and into the 10am workshop. Yes, I sacrificed sleep for learning, a thing which has not happened at an event in a good long while. I’ll sacrifice sleep for social dancing anytime, but for morning workshops? Far less likely. Regardless, I managed two amazing workshops courtesy of Markus and Tren and John Festa and Blake Hobby before the sleepies took me and I headed back to the room for a quick nap before it was time for me to hit the competitive floor myself. Despite some interesting draws and what felt, to me, like a rather pathetic preliminary round, I somehow managed to make finals. Yes, I actually managed to crawl into an intermediate final. When I got there, I found myself with a spectacular partner and a lot of fun. Our placement was ultimately very middling, but I was amused to note that I’ve apparently turned into a very divisive dancer. When I saw the score sheets, I found that we had been given first place by two of the judges but then, in contrast, had been given two ninth placements and a tenth which left us seventh out of twelve. I’ve never been given two first placements, not even when I actually ended up getting first place in novice, so I’m fairly chuffed, even if the majority thought that we were decidedly not first place material. I’ll convince them all eventually, or at least inspire them to respect my stubbornness in the face of a total lack of natural grace.
Between comps, we ordered in some thai and ate sitting on the floor of our hotel room–it was tasty and exactly as relaxed as we needed–before Patrick set off to kick ass in advanced. We watched our friends compete in advanced and all star and absorbed their awesomeness by cheering and osmosis. Vicarious coolness is definitely a thing in danceland, especially when you’ve got friends in higher places. And then it was time for the invitational crossover. It was pretty darn impressive–the westies had done their homework and they threw down some pretty solid lindy, especially Markus who walked out in a windowpane check suit and laid it all out on the floor. We were proud, screaming westies as we watched our pros hopping along with what appeared to us to be a good deal of skill.
By the time the comps wrapped, we were ready for another quick encounter with our pillows before heading back to the ballroom to dance the night away. My social dance night started out a bit roughly and I was well and truly into grumpiness and self-loathing, but decided that such behaviour was not going to be allowed this time, so I threw myself upon the generosity of one of my favourite all stars. Firstly, Stan is wonderful to watch: his movement is so clean it almost hurts and he’s got a fabulous sense of humour, but more than that, he is incredibly thoughtful and kind. I always walk away from a dance with Stan bouncing on happy little clouds of genuine enjoyment and refreshed self-esteem; there’s something about a leader that tells you you’re awesome with genuine feeling that just makes it all so much better. I can only hope that one day I have the skill in dance and the grace in character to be equally generous and encouraging to the folks that dance with me. #dancergoals And from then on out my night was a whirl of wonderful times and excellent people all tangled up in music and connection, right up until 5:30am when we flopped back into our beds for a few hours of sleep.
I had all the best intentions of waking up early again to catch another workshop, but this time the lazies and the sleepies won and I grabbed another hour of sleep before it was time to get up, pack up the room, check out, and head to the ballroom for the last few competitions. The remaining comps were the amateur crossover event and a relatively novel competition which I am very much a fan of: the switch it up. In the amateur cross over, Edem absolutely rocked it. He brought all of the energy and personality and fortunately drew a follower who was ready to join him on his adventure. It was a surprise to no one that he walked away with first place.
Tucked in between the rounds of the crossover, was the switch it up which featured three of my favourite tri-state dancers: Kristen, Glen, and of course, the always awesome Patrick. Spoiler alert: none of them drew each other and they all placed.
It was a great big ball of awesome, with clever switches, insane musicality, and so much good dancing. I screamed every remaining ounce of vocal strength out in that competition, and I could not imagine it any other way. It was probably the best comp of the weekend from my perspective. [For the non-dancers in the crowd: a switch up dance means that both partners take turns leading and following and they take turns not by any particular structure but by finding places where momentum, position, or music allows them to either give or take the lead and switch into the other role. It takes a lot of skill and ingenuity. I’m pretty terrible at it but it’s fun!]
Once the winners had picked up their awards, we piled our broken, exhausted bodies into the car and headed south. there was a brief stop for food and a beautiful sunset in shades of violet, crimson, and gold, and then we were at the train in White Plains, bidding Jessie farewell and heading back to the city. I got back to the LES in time to irresponsibly scarf down a few slices of Williamsburg pizza before kerplopping into bed to try to recover enough to face the office on Monday.
Which brings us to today. I made it through busy day at work, but then I crashed. I had all the best intentions of putting away my luggage and catching a yoga class, but instead I ate a kottu, watched a BBC show about historical costuming, and lazed around for a few hours before getting going on writing to you.
And now? you ask. What will I do now? I mean I can’t be entirely certain but my pillow is looking terribly inviting, and it’s nearly 11pm so I’d guess sleep might be in the cards somewhere… either that or staring at my dance videos all night long trying to figure out how to turn seventh place into first, y’know, dancer things.
Exhausted but happy,
The Salsa Girl