The short version of why I started dancing is that I reached a time in my life where I really needed to get out of the house and so I weighed a few options in my head and some friends in college had gone contra dancing so I Googled "contra dance washington dc" and found Glen Echo. Unfortunately, it was a Saturday when I did this, so I resolved to go the following Friday night, figuring that if I made a complete and total jerk of myself that I didn't have to go back and I didn't know anybody there so it didn't really matter. Besides, it would make a decent story to tell later, regardless. (Actually, that last bit is the reason I do lots of things.)
Fast forward to the following Friday. Got out of work, pulled my hair into some style that didn't require a million bobby pins but contained the Blonde Radius of Doom, changed into a T-shirt and a foofy skirt and sneakers like the Internet had said was normal for the scene, got my water bottle, and headed out. (The shoes dedicated to dance and the bandanna came later.) I locked my purse in the trunk of my car (except for the $9 admission) and wore my keys the entire night under my skirt so no one could take them and hoped my drink wouldn't be messed with in a large public space.
Somehow on the way in I completely missed the "new dancer" buttons (possibly because I was about five minutes late for the pre-dance lesson and I wanted to absorb all I could ahead of time) and someone actually asked me to be their partner for the lesson and I got through that and then it was time to dance for real.
And people asked me to dance and I made my way through the figures and I got really tired and ached all over by the end of the night -- especially my feet, and muscles in my legs that I was unaware existed -- but the endorphins had kicked in by that point and I was having a grand time. And apparently I either didn't make a complete and utter jerk of myself or I was too hazy from happy endorphins to care whether I had or not.
And about the only comments anyone made as to my relative newness was when a really good dancer I'd spotted on the floor asked me to dance about three-quarters of the way through the night and I said, "OK, but I'm not very good," and his response was, "Everybody starts somewhere -- c'mon!"
Well, OK then.
Over the course of the evening, I know I made some mistakes. I don't remember completely crashing the line. I might have crashed my minor set at some points.
I swear that there is a point to this story. Or rather, a query that stems from it:
During the discussion last week I started thinking about "dance buddies" (or "angels," or whatever they're called locally); the folks who volunteer to dance with new dancers and sometimes wear pins that mark them as such, and the blue buttons that mark the new dancers at my local dance.
Combing back through my memory, I seem to remember the same group of maybe a dozen folks volunteering to be "official" Dance Buddies, and a whole bunch of others who are known to dance with newbies (in a positive, welcoming way) on a regular basis but who do not choose to mark themselves as such. (I will confess I haven't paid attention to who's been wearing the buttons in a while. I don't, although I usually do try to dance with at least a couple of new folks in my evening as well as the more experienced folks. Some weeks have more success than others.)
I also comb back through my memory and think about the folks who identified themselves as new dancers, and those who didn't wear the button but I found out later in the night that it was their first time dancing.
I also unfortunately know several people who won't partner new dancers except under duress, and even then it's dodgy.
And I'm wondering if it's actually a good thing that we're identifying those dancers. I don't know if I learned more from dancing with a bunch of people -- Dance Buddies or otherwise -- than I necessarily would have from wearing a button and having people be extra-conscious of me because I was wearing the analog of a "Student Driver" sign (except without the same level of risk of significant injury should the wearer lose control).
Or if my slightly-obsessive need to Google everything, like reading the end of a mystery novel first, makes a huge difference between my story and the norm.
Would it have affected my learning curve at all if I'd advertised my newbie status visually instead of just by how I danced?
For that matter, are we actually doing a disservice to newbies by identifying them as such instead of just taking them as they come and treating them as dancers? I don't have a good answer to this (the plural of "anecdote" is not "data") but I'd be interested in hearing opinions.
Is there a self-selection issue with newbie buttons?
Also, because I am interested:
1) What do you think of the above?
2) Are you a flourishy dancer? Do you think that affects your answer?
3) Do you behave in any way differently toward a "marked" newbie than merely a dancer you don't know (but who may have gained experience elsewhere)? (I'll answer this one for myself in the comments after others have had a chance to weigh in.)
Let me know what you think....