Thursday, August 4, 2011

Swing Dancers are Universally Awesome

I'm not dead yet! Shanghai definitely left me exhausted, even gave me a little cold, but it takes more than that to keep a good traveler down.

I mentioned a few entries ago how I had this itch to lindy hop. My dancing feet needed a dance floor and so they took me all the way to Shanghai, where the Internet had led me to believe that there was some sort of swing scene. Of course, these can be pretty hard to find.

I took the sleeper train from Wuhu to Shanghai, arrived pretty bleary-eyed to my hostel. The day was spent kind of wandering around, no real plan. And soon enough, it was time for a quest.

The website had pretty good instructions, and being some what proficient in being able to point at an address I copied in Chinese and then follow wherever the finger pointed, I was able to find the general area of where the website said... but then I couldn't find the place immediately. And I was about thirty-forty minutes late (than the time the website said the dance started) and I found this bar that was completely deserted save for the staff.

And at first I didn't even want to ask.

A million questions were going through my head, "Was it an old site?" "Did the scene ever even exist?" "What if it was a ploy for this jazz bar?" "What if I missed them?" "What if this was an off week?"

I mean, I came all the way to Shanghai especially for swing dancing, otherwise I would have gone somewhere else, or even take a weekend off from traveling. (Save for the first weekend, I have been out of Wuhu for every single one.) And for a moment, I wanted to just get back on the metro, go back to the hostel and cry into my pillow.

But that is not what I came to Shanghai to do! So, I got up my courage for what seemed the umpteenth time (by this point I have traveled to Shanghai by myself, slept on a train by myself, navigated Shanghai by myself (and then with my new roommate/friend from the hostel), and sought out this location by myself), I asked the managers of the restaurant that I had found and then they directed me to the CORRECT restaurant. (Lesson Learned: Never give up when you think it's hopeless, you may just be looking in the wrong places.)

I heard the music before I saw the place, but I immediately quickened my steps. When I walked in, it was like seeing a friend I hadn't seen in ages. We were both hesitant, eyeing each other, seeing how much we changed. Do we hug? Do we kiss? Do we immediately pick up where we left off?

At first it was really intimidating, as it is when you walk into a new scene without knowing a soul. But one thing that I absolutely love about the Lindy community is that once you establish that you swing dance, you have friends.

And it was amazing to dance again.

The basic, the shim sham, the swivels! To unintentionally quote Celine Dion, it was all coming back to me. I wasn't as rusty as I feared, in fact after I warmed up, I was close to where I was when I left off. (Or so I like to think.)

Some old bad habits came out in full force, like my inability to wait. (But to be fair, I hadn't danced in over a month. How could anyone expect me to be patient?)

The scene was incredibly small. It was run by Orchid, an energetic woman who was extremely passionate about swing dancing. She had learn from a Western follow who had asked a lead to come to Shanghai for the sole purpose of starting a scene. They had left a while ago, but Orchid kept the scene alive through what she's learned by youtube and what few exchanges she's been able to attend. (One of them being Franky's 95th, which I am eternally jealous for.)

They had just that day learned the shim sham, so I got to dust off the ol' routine, helped lead and even got the honor of making the calls of "freeze", "dance", etc. during the general dance.

Everyone was just so welcoming and reminded me so much of fellow lindy hoppers in the states. We talked about lindy hop, So You Think You Can Dance, different exchanges that they've heard of (though aside from Orchid, none have danced outside of China). One girl even asked how I did my styling (though I was hesitant to teach anything because I didn't want to mess with their basic). But I did get to teach scissor kicks outside of the basic, so that was fun.

Over view: good people + good dancing = amazing night in Shanghai.

1 comment:

  1. Yay! This is so exciting! I'm so proud of you for venturing out on your own and finding a scene! How exciting it must have been, and I love the way you describe it- reconnecting with an old friend, not knowing what to do next. Perfect analogy. :) I really hope I can find a scene out here too once I'm settled in for my teaching. I don't think I could make it a year without dancing!
    P.S.- Sorry it's taken me so long to comment btw- b/w work, visiting with one of my best friends before leaving and then a mini family vacation- I've had hardly any free time. How I managed to pack in the little time that I did I will never know!!!