Why, Why Did I Ever Stop?

*reposted from “The Daily Page” on 12/30/2011, one of my other blogs…

A complete lack of ability to stand up for myself combined with a jealous college boyfriend took my four-to-six-times-a-week swing nights to nil within a couple of months of my then-boyfriend expressing his feelings. Instead of sticking up for myself and doing my own thing, I did what I knew he would appreciate…I joined in with his scene. And I learned a lot…about underground music, punk, hardcore, what it’s like to shave your head as a 20-year old woman. My coveted Bleyer Flyers were scuttled to the back of a closet with the dust bunnies, and most of my swing clothes got tossed, donated, turned into something else…and things pretty much stayed that way until a few weeks ago, when I found myself lindy-hopping (sans partner) to a Beats Antique song that happened to have an awesome four-count. It wasn’t until I tried throwing myself into an aerial that I realized I needed to get to a dance, and soon.

Over a decade ago, the question wasn’t whether there was a dance that night, it was where. I was dating a spectacular dancer for awhile, a member of the Jumpin’ Jive Cats,Fort Collins’ swing troupe, had several other regular partners who were always up for some practice or a dance. We were all riding the massive wave of retro-styled swing dancing and big band music that hit in the mid-to-late-nineties. Dance floors sprung up all overColorado, and we’d drive anywhere for a good dance. When it was warm enough out, impromptu dances broke out inOld Town Square all the time and I, the girlfriend of a Jumpin’ Jive Cat, was always invited. I’d quickly throw my hair into reasonable fashion for twirling, toss on a skirt and a pair of super-short shorts that kept my skivvies from being seen by any potential audiences during a flashy aerial move or dip, grab my beloved Bleyers and head out the door. And then there were the evening dances: Mondays wherever, Tuesdays ALWAYS at the Mercury Café in Denver, where all the intermediate/expert/pro dancers showed up from the local swing troupes, 23 Skidoo and the Jive Cats and whoever else, Wednesdays sometimes in Boulder, sometimes in Fort Collins…you get the idea.

There was this one place in Fort Collins we danced more than anywhere else; there’s no swing scene to speak of there anymore but I dropped a lot of sweat pounding the boards of that dance floor. At the time I was among the youngest and lightest dancers there, and was everyone’s favorite partner to practice aerials with. Barely skimming 120 pounds, I flew over the shoulders, backs, under and around the legs, hips, you name it, of most of the guys in the scene. When we weren’t on the floor dancing to one of our favorite tunes, we were in a back area that had been turned into an impromptu aerials practice area. There were a few times I landed badly, and one figure-four where my partner did such an amazing job lifting me into the handstand I had to get to at the peak of the move on his shoulders that I actually crashed down on the other side of him. Fortunately this gentleman was pretty quick on his feet, and he caught me before I hit the floor face-first. Nice of him.

After my very recent, nearly ill-fated attempt at throwing myself, I sat down and started researching. Lucky me: there was a dance that night. I took off to Target to buy stockings and prayed I could find my old Bleyers… and that they’d fit. I’d never really fully moved into the house I shared with my friend and colleague, and I got lucky rather quickly…it only took digging through three or four boxes to dig out my worn, dusty old Bleyers. And they even still fit.

Increasingly self-conscious as I approached Old Town Yoga in my Bleyers, patterned stockings and otherwise simple black skirt and top, I took a deep breath and opened the door. I paid my $5 and was told that swing was upstairs…downstairs, apparently, they ran a blues night.

To say my dancing had rusted over a bit during the past decade would be a gross understatement, but I still knew the basics and I was still a pretty decent follow. I got out on the floor that night with half the guys in the room, and the last time I went to the Mercury, this past Tuesday, I danced with easily ten or fifteen partners I hadn’t danced with before…and had the good fortune of catching up with some old friends from back in the day who snagged me for dances as well. By the end of the night I was exhilarated, exhausted and had drunk about my body weight in water…or so it felt. I was back.


I'm a writer living in Northern Colorado. I also help run the front of the house for the Fort Collins Bike Co-op. I have two cool roommates and a snorey cat. I love my life.

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