Thursday, December 07, 2006

What popped into my head at 6:00 pm on a Thursday evening...

Undulations of



Tuesday, December 05, 2006


I'm in love with a new city. Okay, that's not precisely true. I should say I'm in love with a new dance scene...because really, I don't actually know the city of Montreal all that well. Just the few blocks I explored during my brief stay.
[But I'm rambling. And though we all know I'm prone to do that, perhaps I should at least attempt to stay on topic for the first part of the post.]

I went to Montreal this past weekend with two good friends of mine from the New England swing scene for a workshop weekend called Montreal Smackdown. And it was such a cool experience! The Montreal dancers are spectacular. The dancers from other parts of Canada are also spectacular. And we had amazing workshops with Skye and Frida. [Alright, if you're not a dancer, you won't understand the connotation of saying "workshops with Skye and Frida." And because this saddens me greatly that you may not understand, you should definitely Google them (please! if only to humor me! stop reading and go type them into Google right now!) and see how spectacular these two Lindy Hoppers are!!]

Okay, enough of the blubbering about the great dancing and great workshops and all that. Put some meat in this post already - you say, rolling your eyes a little (since statistically speaking, you are probably not a dancer, and so alas, you just don't know why all this "blubbering" is happening).

Well, I'm not done with the "great dancing and great workshops and all that." So there. Deal with me. [Hehehe...]

We got workshops that dealt with technique in Lindy and Charleston. We got workshops that gave us ideas on how to improve connection with each partner we dance with on the social dance floor. And we got theory. Lovely, lovely Lindy theory. Sunday was much less dancing and trying out moves that Skye and Frida showed us, and more about their philosophy of dance.

And I must say that the theory part of the weekend made these workshops even more worth it than they already would have been sans Lindy theory - Skye and Frida style. I'm really into theory, it turns out. My life revolves around theory. I tend to see things from two perspectives: theory and application. This may seem a little odd...and a little hard to wrap your brain around, so let me attempt to explain. I am very much a reflective thinker [haha, if you've read the rest of my blog, I'm sure you picked up on that fact already]. And to me, that reflective thinking leads to my own personal theory on life. If you think of that "theory of life" created through my thoughts and everyday musings as an ongoing draft of some overarching document to describe NINA, then you could say that through my daily reflections and random musings, I add things, I cross things out and rewrite them, I acquire knew knowledge to test against existing sub-theories, I update old and worn-out lines of thinking with new strands that I pick up from other people and other experiences. On the other hand, my everyday experiences and adventures (and what-have-you) are the application of my life in the world. They represent the applied side of things. The things I do. The things I have done. Actions, verbs in my life.

But, through all of this thinking and revising of the document stored in my brain, as well as the everyday elements of the applied side of life, I have come to realize that I don't actually understand something until I can connect the theory with the application. And this, alas, is where the explanation can get a little confusing. Let me give you an example. I used to have quite a hard time keeping track of my money (don't we all at this age?) and for the longest time I couldn't figure out why. I thought a lot about what I'd been taught, and what I liked and didn't like about the system I'd been taught. But when it came down to it, I was still living paycheck to paycheck, and really only thinking about the budget I continued to try and set up for myself. Somehow, the connection between theory and reality wasn't happening. It recently dawned on me what it actually means to budget your money and know where it comes from and where it goes. The connection between my theory and application finally got created...meaning that I have a reason to which I can relate for budgeting and keeping track of my money.

And that's the essence of this whole divide. I have trouble doing things for which I don't have a good reason. If I don't know the theory/reason behind something, then I won't fully get a grasp of why it's important or why I have to do it. Thus, I also probably won't do it all that well. So, I try to live for that connection. I will only truly learn something, only truly do something well, if I have a reason - or theory behind why I'm doing it.

This all, I believe, comes from my math major in undergrad. I was a strict math theorist. I wanted theory, theory, and more theory. I wanted to know why. I hated Calculus because I could never get a full answer to all of the "why" questions I asked my teachers. My experience with Calculus often led me, time after time, into situations where my teachers/professors would tell me that they couldn't tell me why because I didn't know enough higher level mathematics. I really think that that's ultimately what drove me to become a math major in the end. I wanted, craved even, those answers to all of my "why"s. [To give you the quick end of the Calculus story, I did end up liking it once I took Real Analysis, which essentially goes back and proves/explains the math involved in the complicated world of a point that allowed me to satisfy all of those "why" questions of old.]

On the other hand, while I loved my math theory, I never got through Physics. It's a sad thing, really. I always wanted to learn Physics, but it never quite made sense to me. The equations used for different physical systems in my Physics classes always seemed so random to me. I never understood why an equation was used for this particular system, or that particular function. It seems so odd that I was a math major but never finished 100 level Physics in college, I suppose. But it hits right at the heart of my "theory vs. application" divide in my brain. My math major was theory. Reasons why. Almost like a history of this equation and that function and this branch of math and that mathematical result. Physics is a pretty direct application of Calculus. It just never linked back to the theory I learned through my math major. I couldn't attach reasons why to all of the equations I was asked to learn and use for the Physics I was learning in class and in lab.

[Right, so remember how I mentioned earlier that I'm prone to rambling...or in this case, going off on tangents? Yeah. Case in point.]

Anywho. So. I have this "theory vs. application" divide in my brain. And I've found over the years that I've been dancing Lindy that I learn movements and steps much better when I have a reason for doing them. A theory to back them up, if you will. [Why yes, indeed I will.]

So, recently, I've really started to develop my own theory of the dance. What does Lindy mean to me? Why do I step here, or move this way, or turn that way? What makes a swing-out work? What makes it feel good (or bad)? And on that vein: what does Charleston mean to me? What are the mechanics involved with that dance and how do they differ from Lindy Hop? How are they similar? What makes a Charleston dance look good (or bad)? And so on...

Thus (whoo! back on topic!), I loved listening to Skye and Frida talk about their theories of the dance. It solidified in my mind the movements we'd learned in the workshops and really sorted out the things they were saying about each movement into a clear reason-based articulation of each step and weight-shift and body placement. And I find myself becoming a better dancer each time I connect more theory with the application of the dance movements I've learned and styled and danced over the years.

[I just realized that I actually didn't get fully back on the topic I originally started writing about. I was trying to talk about how much I love the Montreal dance scene. And I ended up not quite hitting the mark. I was close: talking about Montreal Smackdown and why I liked it so much. But alas, fell short of giving my reasons for loving this scene so much. Apparently I had other things on the brain than simply raving about the spectacular Montreal swing scene. Oh well. Get to know me well enough, and you'll find I'm a master at making this sort of thing happen. Start on one train of thought, end up somewhere else...could be near my original aim, or could be way off on a different target block entirely!

I will say, however, that I truly enjoyed my brief stint in Montreal because everything is in French there! Signs, conversations, food labels, everything! (Duh, you say, it's in Quebec...) It was just so exciting to be once again among French speakers. I was infatuated with France when I went during my senior year of high school, and a lot of that infatuation had to do with the actual language of French existing all around me. So Quebec/Montreal really reminded me of that. And I ate it up! I completely fell in love with the feeling of being in a French-speaking city again.]

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