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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Dance, Freedom and Learning: My Experience

I had never really danced before coming here. I had been a part of one or two choregraphies for a wedding here or there, but never had I considered dance to be something that I should take seriously. It was just people moving around in fancy ways; what was there to do, really? Why spend my time doing that? I had seen some clips of contemporary dance, and I did not understand it in the least. And so I wrote it off.

My New Student Week leader was the captain of the Social Dance Club and asked me to attend one of the sessions early into Fall Term. (If you’re reading this, hi, Marta!) This was when I was in my “why not give everything a shot” phase that I am still working through. And so I went, and I had no idea what was going on. We were in the big Weitz Dance Studio, and I was given a quick lesson on how to do the basic steps to a waltz. And so, off I went. I rotated between partners who were far more experienced than I was and whose shoes I kept stepping on. Rinse and repeat for all the different ballroom dances, clunkily moving through the basics for cha-cha and foxtrot and tango and who knows what else. This was too much physical activity for me, so I sat down and watched for a bit. I couldn’t tell why, but I just intuitively knew who the advanced dancers were. They made it look so easy, so effortless, doing consecutive steps and turns and patterns where I struggled to keep my feet in a straight line. They moved (as far as I could tell) perfectly in sync with the music as their bodies carried the rhythms so gracefully. In essence, they were way cooler than I was, and I wanted to be as cool as them.

So, come winter, I took Social Dance 1 as a PE Class to try and understand more about dance. It was awkward, as expected, and carried entirely by our wonderful teachers’ force of personality. It was also at this time that I got on the Ballroom mailing list and actually came to an “Open Practice,” where all the cool dancers worked on their cool and advanced and complicated moves. I had even less of an idea of what I was doing or supposed to do there, but I kept showing up hoping that I would absorb something by proximity, if nothing else. Here, the endless patience and willingness to help was what got me through those hours of trying and failing and trying again to get the footwork, positioning and timing right. Did I? Definitely not, but slowly and surely, I got a little better.

It was after one of these Open Practices that I was asked if I wanted to officially join the team, especially since there was an actual dance competition coming up. Why not, I said once again. Why not? That meant more practice, more sore feet and more late-night dance sessions in Cowling. As the competition came near, talk shifted to assigning partners to everyone for the different styles of dance, most of which I couldn’t even do the basic steps to. We talked about the intricacies of how people dress and style their hair for ballroom and even about what facial expressions you should make for each dance. I read somewhere that perfection is many little things done right. Doing ballroom well really felt like that, everything from your movement to your expression to the way you carried yourself as you left the dance floor all contributing to the sense of grandeur and grace that comes with ballroom dancing. It was something that I had brief glimpses of, when I would accidentally be on time or remember to relax my shoulders while still tensing the rest of my body in several different ways to make it look right.

The competition was in the Cities, and we all hopped in the campus vans to get there. The people there were so aggressively stereotypical ballroom dancers. Some teams had dedicated people to help change hair and makeup between dances or help to put on the elaborate dresses that some of the higher-level dancers would wear. I would sit on the sidelines and watch the more advanced categories. Aside from everything they did that I could barely comprehend, seeing them do moves that I did know but that they had perfected was unreal. There were people there who had been dancing longer than I and literal children who were still way better than everyone else (not to mention their really terrifying moms). I learned, I danced, I fell deeper in love with dancing. I went back only wanting to do even more dance.

The point of all this is that dance is an activity with a lot of depth to it. But while it is about learning more and improving your own technique, it takes two to tango (and a lot of other dances, as it turns out). It’s about community, communication and connection with your partner and the other people you dance with. There’s always something you could do better, something more you can learn and people you can dance with. It also looks really cool and seems really impressive to people who don’t know how to dance (even when you don’t know what you’re doing either), and it is a nice form of less-intensive exercise. It’s an activity that has given me a place at Carleton where I can be a little silly while also learning something that is pretty cool. I’m captain of the Social Dance Club for next year, and I look forward to helping keep alive this awesome part of the extracurricular scene at this college. So maybe swing by and, who knows, maybe you’ll end up liking it enough to stick around.

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About the Contributor
Rahim Hamid
Rahim Hamid, Viewpoint Editor
I write, I debate, I bike, I lie, I true, I draw and program and dance and all the rest. Say hi and don’t be a stranger! Rahim is a sophomore and previously wrote for the Viewpoint Section.

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