Last year, for winter break, I up and left for Europe. This year, I will have danced my way through the holidays with no fewer than fourteen (out of a possible seventeen) nights of dancing. Ten of the nights have been consecutive; as if lighting candles per night of observance, and tonight is the seventh straight night. Were that I am the only person that does this, it might be autobiography worthy. However, I am joined by a community of like-minded people who join me in this passion. Dancing is a sport, a social outlet, and a hobby rolled into one.
My stay-cation began with back-to-back (Friday-Saturday) “Contra” (American folk) dancing in Pasadena. When we dance, we often sup together before and/or after the dance. Before I came on the scene, there was an unwritten custom of some dancers going out for a midnight snack. I began to research restaurants near our dance venues, and announce meeting places via social media in an attempt to invite any and everyone who wanted to come along. I call this “fellowship,” a term that is often used after church and/or twelve-step meetings. The fact of the matter is, we do worship our dancing!
After the two contra nights, the Israeli dancing phase began. I showed up at the last forty-five minutes of a session held in West LA on Christmas Day, which kicked off my ten day marathon of dance. An entire weekend of Israeli folk dancing in Malibu was next, which consisted of lessons by day and open dancing into the wee hours. I then attended yet another session of Israeli dance Monday night in the SF Valley. Next, off to a New Year’s Eve contra dance in San Diego, a New Year’s Day (evening) Israeli dance back in the SF Valley, then a special waltz tonight in Pasadena, our usual first Saturday contra dance in Brentwood tomorrow, and my ten night dance tour will be complete with a day trip to Santa Barbara on Sunday for more Contra dancing. Join us this weekend: www.caldancecoop.org.
Now, a word about Israeli folk dancing: it is a hobby enjoyed by thousands of people worldwide, and you don’t have to be Jewish to do it. Many are familiar with “mayim mayim,” or maybe you’ve seen a crossword puzzle clue, “an Israeli dance” – four letters – with the word “hora.” These are both “circle dances,” meaning, dances done holding hands in one or more concentric circles. Israeli dancing is a perfect subset of international folk dancing. These types of dances are designed to create unity in the community by participants learning not only from dance teachers or leaders, but from each other. You identify people who you feel are easy to follow, and you acquire knowledge by doing the dances over and over.
But Israeli dancing is no longer the circle dances that can be seen in sepia photos of the early kibbutz days of Israel. Perhaps to stay alive in a generation to whom “dance” means taking salsa or west coast swing lessons, choreographers in Israel have devised couple-dance routines for many of the “Top 40” Israeli tunes. A person must therefore attend a session with a partner to get one’s money’s worth at a dance evening. It is the only type of dance that basically requires you to arrive with a partner, and stay with the same partner during large swaths of an evening. I am trying to start a movement to change Israeli dancing to become a more inclusive dance option, but I have a long road ahead of me.
In CONTRAst, contra dancing is a completely joyous, all-smiles, dance party every single time. In a fictitious dance romance, you hold, or are held by, multiple partners. You focus with full-on eye contact, and connect, for just a few seconds – 8 counts – with another person. You twirl and spin your way around a room to the tunes of live music. 99% of the time, this so-called “flirting” we do is fun and games; we’re just frolicking and playing around. Occasionally, an electric switch gets flipped, and chemistry between two people develops. Sometimes it ends in nothing more than a warm and fuzzy feeling at the end of an evening, with the knowledge that you’ve been appreciated, even for a moment. Other times, the flower blossoms, which can be terrifically exciting.
If that spark ignites, you’ve met a person who has been vetted by virtue of a shared hobby. You know a lot of the same people, and can easily glean information about them. If they are Facebook-friendly, their name surfaces without even a complete spell out; you’ll already have tons of friends in common. You may be inclined to open your heart more quickly to a known quantity than to someone you’ve met on the internet, or some other unsecured environment.
Within all dance communities, long term term unions have been formed, and brought asunder. My own parents met at a square dance and did international folk dancing throughout their lives together. I started as a disco dance “queen” in college, took some breaks, only to arrive at my current nocturnal dance diet. One thing you can count on is that when you go dancing with a life partner, significant other or even a new date, the experience promises to be the greatest litmus test of a relationship. You may both hate the dance, and bond together on that similar reaction. You may both love it, and, voila, you have a common interest, which everyone agrees can serve to bind a relationship. However, when one loves the dance, and the other does not, I will guarantee that this particular difference of preference is a sign of other, perhaps yet undiscovered, issues.
Wanted: Dancer. Must love arts, culture, dining out. Should be creative, fun-loving, intelligent. Need to accept all ethnicities, gender preferences and personalities.