Swing (thru?)

A few weeks ago, we had our annual dance weekend with our college squares group. It’s always an amazing weekend – great dancing, great food, great friends (some of whom we haven’t seen since last year), beautiful scenery, board games, baby animals…It’s wonderful. If I could live there, I would.

I did, though, have the interesting experience this year of being the worst kind of inexperienced dancer: the one who’s sure they’re right.

The situation was thus: I’ve been competent at A1 (one of the levels of dance program in modern western squares) for several years, but this year I wanted to try A2. I spent several weeks memorizing calls, quizzing myself, trying to walk through figures in the living room (pro tip: this doesn’t work very well in a small living room with only two people). The weekend arrived, and we came to the first star tip session. The A1 tip went fine. On to A2! For the most part, it went fine as well – I warned my square beforehand that I’d need help, and we only broke down a few times. Some of those were patently my fault, though, and mostly because of swing.

In general, I spent the whole tip in a state of heightened concentration. A few times my concentration lapsed, and it was generally ok, unless there happened to be a swing right at that moment. And then I blithely, confidently, strongly danced a swing thru.

From ocean waves (a line of 4 people, facing alternating directions), ‘swing thru’ means turn half by the right and then half by the left. This almost always translates to outside pairs trade, then centers trade. ‘Swing’, on the other hand, is just outsides trade. So when I danced swing thru when it was only swing, I managed to get myself and the other center swapped relatively often. The rest of the square would valiantly try to correct me, which is where the trouble started. A beginning or inexperienced dancer knows they may not be in the right place. They’re ready for someone to tell them to go somewhere else. They’re responsive to hand signals. They’re prepared to be pushed to the right location, if all else fails. I, being absolutely sure I was right, was none of these things. So the rest of the square would try to correct me, to my great confusion, because I was in the right place! By the time I realized I wasn’t, it was too late. Some people had moved on to the next call, which I had probably missed while trying to figure out what my square wanted me to do. I wasn’t sure what the right place was anymore, I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to be doing, and I was flustered at suddenly discovering I was wrong when I’d been sure I was right. Which lead to broken down squares.

Luckily, this only happened once or twice of the course of the weekend. I usually managed, partially through fanatic repetition of ‘swing, slip, slide, slither’, to remember what I was doing. The general solution to this? I’m not sure there is one, besides paying excruciating attention until I deprogram my brain from expecting every instance of ‘swing’ to be followed immediately by ‘thru’.


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