I started out innocently enough. I had reached a point in my life in my early twenties where I needed to get out of the house and Google told me that there was a local weekly contra dance about 20 minutes from my apartment on Friday nights. I had decided that since I didn’t know anybody there, if I made a complete jerk of myself I’d just have a self-effacing story to tell and I wouldn’t go back. Worst case scenario: no harm, no foul, new story to tell.
So I went. And people actually wanted to dance with me (to my pleasant surprise). Probably made a jerk out of myself a few (dozen) times in that first evening of contra, but the endorphin rush was enough to overpower the sense of having muscles that hurt that I didn’t know I had and, armed with ibuprofen and a bandanna to keep the sweat out of my eyes, I headed back the following week.
And the week after that….
And the week after that….
After a couple of months of regular attendance, I started getting invited out to the diner after the dance. And I went, regularly, for a couple of years. And there were like 20 of us who went out regularly, ages 16 to 60+ but mostly in the 20s-and-30s range. And as time went on, I found myself dancing with my friends, and more and more often that landed me in the far-left line in the hall...the one that had the most vigorous dancing, the one that skewed the youngest demographically, the one that contained several of the folks that I had been going out to the diner with for the past several months. It wasn’t that I was intentionally seeking it out, more that that’s where I ended up, more often than not.
And since I was over there, it became a self-perpetuating cycle: I went into the far-left line, I danced, I got asked to dance by one of my neighbors, we stayed in that line for the next dance, I got asked to dance by one of my neighbors, we stayed in that line…until the entire night had passed that way.
That was how I spent several months, and I had no particular issue with it. I danced with newbies if they ventured over, but by and large I was dancing with experienced dancers and got pretty good at following their leads (and learning to back-lead some of my own). I nourished the connections with my partners (and some of my neighbors) through flourishes, and life was hunky dory as far as I was concerned. I had friends who were in my general age cohort (and a few who weren’t) who seemed to like me and seek me out, I had a community, and I had dance partners for any dance I opted . I felt like I’d come home, and it was really fun feeling like one of the “cool” kids for the first time in my life.