Dance Dates: My own Struggle

It was the morning dedicated to Dance Dates; it was a beautiful and warm Wednesday morning. The lighting in Studio 12 was just stunning. Patches of light made beautiful patterns on the wooden floor. It was inviting and intimidating at the same time, but the coloring was comforting my anxiety. Most people were either in duets already, some warming up on the edges and others hanging out or just meandering back and forth around the edges of the dance floor. Perhaps some of them with no prospective partners in site, did not seem worried. A solo is always a great fallback option; you can ground and learn a lot about yourself before encountering another body in motion.

It was our day dedicated to Dance Dates. Thinking it was totally going to be my own struggle, I decided to take it with a different stride. A few years back we had introduced the dance date idea to our Jam programing. Along with the traditional one-on-ones, we liked the idea of offering another alternative for people to experiment and investigate. The precious moment of not being interrupted while dancing in partners was finally almost here. Setting aside some dedicated time during the Jam to have a Dance Date was an exhilarating and was giving us another high point in our efforts to making the 2015 Jam a memorable one. This was indeed, your chance to dance with your favorite person at this precise Jam. I remembered somewhere reading on one of Martin Keoh’s writing that he was very fond of the dance dates idea. So, knowing he appreciates this concept, I did not need any other justification to know it was a good idea.

After walking a couple of times between the kitchen in studio 12 and the registration table, I stopped in my tracks and saw someone new I had not seen yet at the Jam. I immediately thought that I wanted to dance with this pensive, rather tall and beautiful dancer, and I approached him, like nothing was scaring me anymore. I simply uttered if he was planning on dancing, and much to my surprise I added, before I could even digest my thoughts; I asked do you want to be my date? I asked for a few minutes to warm up. What was I thinking, he could be my son. But, then, I decided that age should not interfere in movement and energy creation, and letting go of judgment I went for it. I embarked on the best dance of my 2015 Jam.

The dance began slowly, soft short strokes of movement and connecting lines with our legs. The floor was our refuge at first, then the circularity started to show up in the most organic way. Awkwardness, which tends to accompany my duets especially with new people when I dance with them for the first time, ceased to exist. I was fascinated to discover that this young dancer was incredibly aware of his own center, he knew how to carry his entire spine, as his limbs were beautifully drawing and extending in space. It was the perfect invitation, to intertwine our axis to make intricate geometrical figures. With strength and solid structure the dance took us to a new dimension. I could clearly see and feel in my own structure and how our lines were connecting from my toes to our fingers. I had a clear connection to his spine, and was in awe. What a treat! Something that I like to inculcate in my students, this dancer had already embodied this basic element. The strength was there, the give and take as we started negotiating each movement was meshing very well. Our bodies just wanted to follow the instinct. Nothing to do, no need to impress anyone. Life was taking its own path, the dance was surprising at times, and momentum did not feel awkward. A few lifts even, which at this point in my dance, I rather not get involved in unless I know my dance partners. Not to sound pretentions, but I must protect my body. I noticed that my arms wanted to follow the movement of his spine, I could feel precisely how he was drawing the energy, his own and mine at the same time. Chemistry started to flow; I love recognizing it when it is present. I unconsciously started to take it all in, it was almost like the air I need to bread to keep alive.

Let’s drink some water, believe it or not, it was not an excuse to depart or end the dance. The dance continued and our friendship and student teacher relationship started. My favorite moment at this year’s Jam. Every year that I have been involved in this event I wonder what magical surprises will I experience.

Ready. Set. Contact!

It’s an early Sunday morning in Silicon Valley, and I jump out of bed at the first sound of the alarm clock. I don’t usually do that. On weekdays, my snooze factor is, like, two or three. But Sunday is special. On Sunday I dance.

T-shirt, sport pants, and flipflops – I love the feel of morning air when I get to run out like that. I also love the feel of the pedals when I drive barefoot. It’s almost sexy. Shh… don’t tell anyone.

Community center. That’s where we dance. At the door, there are always a few people doing something important. On not important. I actually don’t know. But they are there, and they look familiar, so hugs time!

I walk onto the dance floor, relishing the feel of the lacquered wood under the ball of my right foot. Yeah. I shift more of my weight to the right foot. Slowly put my heel down. Good. Now left foot. Nice. I wonder if cats feel like that all the time. Maybe that’s why they walk like cats? A sunny spot. It’s warm. Shadow – much cooler. The sensation is almost sexy. Did I mention that? Shh… Someone waxed the floor this week, it’s stickier than usual. And cleaner. I love that.

Warm up. Stretch. Roll on the floor. Who needs massage? The floor is the best masseuse. More people come. They also stretch, roll on the floor. One bumps into me. Or did I bump into her? Whatever. I’m on her way, so she just rolls over my belly. That felt good! I roll over her. She grunts. In contact, we call it “body surfing”. I personally call it “full body massage”. We push into each other and sit up. Laugh. The class begins.

Weight share. I push my shoulder into my partner’s shoulder. If any of us steps away, the other one falls. So we’ve been told. Don’t leave me, I need you. We walk around like two drunks in a curvy line. I stumble and roll the point of contact to the other shoulder. Now she stumbles, and we end up pushing head to head. Roll over back to back. I slide a bit down, she leans over me. I lift my butt – she’s in the air. We call it “butt scoop”. She rolls softly to the side and on her feet. I continue the rolling motion and roll up her back. She bends down, and I roll in a backward somersault over her head and on my feet. What has just happened? We don’t exactly know, but it was fun. We laugh. Let’s do it again!

I stand still. She comes behind me and I feel her knee. I sit on it. It’s comfy, so I lean back into her body. She hugs me. We stay like that for a minute. Serenity. She leans on me, I shift my weight, her center over mine – a perfect lift. She plays with the momentum, kicks her legs high into the air, pivots and dives under me. I try to catch her, but we lose balance and tumble on the floor, laughing.

Another partner. She’s still new, and I’m not going to throw her around. Not yet anyway. Right now she’s still looking for that point of balance. She’s giving me too little weight – a novice give-away. That’s how she’s trying to stay in control, ’cause this guy’s crazy. And instead of rolling the point of contact, we bounce against each other like the martian rover on its airbags. Yeah, I know. Relax. I’m not gonna let you fall. Next thing, she dumps all her weight on my hand. I have to shift my center closer to support her. Whoops, almost fell! Well, not really – I had my knee under you all this time. Told you. Keep searching, keep experimenting. I think she’s getting it. Yay, a first lift! Nice.

We bump into another couple. We didn’t plan it, but we won’t apologize. In fact, that felt good. A pleasant surprise. Now we have two more bodies to play with. One down, one up in the air rolling over someone’s back, another one is catching the roller on the other side. It’s a perfectly beautiful mess. The bump was not an accident. It was meant to happen all along. We just didn’t know it till that very moment. That’s the “improv” part. We are not dancing – we are being danced. It’s not up to us to decide what’s the next move. It’s only up to us to notice an impulse, or an opportunity, and flow with it. Let go and be danced. No one’s watching.

End of the class. We sit in a circle, all tired and sweaty. The people I just met an hour ago are now my best buddies that I can hug or elbow (in a friendly way) with no regard to the “social norm”, whatever that means. And they just laugh and elbow me back. Heck, we just “surfed” over each other across the entire floor – not something you’d do in a grocery store. Not to a complete stranger, anyway. But we did it, and it was fun. Because, why not?

Good-byes and hugs in the hall. These people out there are alway doing something. After dancing like there’s no tomorrow, apparently there’s always lots to do, important or not. And these bodies feel warm and loving. Hug-perfect. A few minutes later, uplifted (literally), hugged up and loved, I head back towards my busy week. Reset my snooze factor. Until we dance again.

Sergey Berezin
Dancer, filmmaker, software engineer
sergey@ContactImprovBA.org