I’ve not long since seen my first big dancing milestone – my one year lindy-versary and in that time I’ve found myself being a regular in four different cities. I dread questions like “where did you learn to dance” or “oh, where did you dance before?” because my answer has to be: “well, I learnt in Birmingham, lived in Cambridge for a bit, now I live in Manchester but I’m from Leeds and my family live there so I dance there a lot too.” I do feel a bit like I’ve not got a Lindy ‘home’. Many people have their scene, it’s where they learnt and where they relate to, but I am very aware that my time in every city has been so fleeting and I just don’t have one city that feels like my own yet. (The theme ‘represent your scene’ is my dress-code worst nightmare.)
On the one hand, I feel so lucky. With it being Lindy the characteristic friendliness means I’ve made so many great friends in every city I’ve lived in. There aren’t many hobbies that allow you to city hop and always find a beautiful group of people waiting for you there. Every city is full of incredible people, all waiting to make your life better, it’s great to have had the chance to get to know so many people from all over the country and have had the opportunity to spend more significant time with them and get to know them better than I usually would at a weekender or other national event.
Having said that, walking into your first class or social in a brand new city is the most intimidating experience ever – and it’s one that I’ve had to do a few times now. Despite knowing all the logical things like how friendly people are and having the confidence to be able to ask people I don’t know to dance, it’s still kinda terrifying. Making that first friendly move and putting in such a big effort to get to know people is exhausting and it never gets any easier. Again, even though you know in another month these will be the people you feel completely at ease with, those first few weeks are a huge effort socially. It’s not so bad if it’s one night somewhere but you really do feel the pressure when you’re trying to get a feel for what this new place is like.
I can always tell the other dancers who have moved around a lot, they understand how hard it is to be making that huge effort to meet everyone in the first few weeks. It is the most amazing thing when people greet you with a huge smile and a hug and completely welcome you to your new home. I hope that my experiences hopping from one place to another have made me a more approachable dancer, and someone that you can rely on to make new people feel welcome.
Obviously, it’s not just about meeting people but it’s leaving them too. Leaving a job/city/life is one thing, leaving a dance scene is another all together. It’s leaving the thing you look forward to every night, the people you trust completely, the thing that you love and a huge part of your social life. When I started dancing, I never thought I’d leave University without a real bat of an eyelid but have to sit in a lay-by and cry after my last Birmingham-based dance, or when it came to leaving Cambridge I couldn’t even tell people myself that I was going, I let it get round via rumour.
Even though it might sound dramatic to non-dancers, when you leave a dance community it’s like leaving a part of you behind. And it is, in a way, your time in a place will have made its mark on your dancing and you’ll always carry it with you, even if you don’t call that city home anymore.
I love being able to spot dancers from places I’ve lived. Every follow knows that each city has its signature moves and you can spot them, if you know that scene well enough. I always know a Birmingham dancer for their love of double spins or Leeds from their big, stompy moves or Cambridge with the thumb on nose with fingers waggling when coming out of tandem Charleston. Spending time in each place makes you really understand the way people dance and the great influence teachers can have.
I feel like I could ramble for pages and pages and pages about moving round and the people I’ve met, but the last thing I’ll say is this:
I feel so lucky to have so many cities to go back to that make me feel like I’m coming home. I’m lucky to have the jittery excitement at the thought of an exchange somewhere I used to live, and the utter joy of getting to spend precious time with people I no longer get to see regularly. I love being able to spread the word about great experiences I’ve had in other cities, and promote classes, teachers and events that have made my time somewhere so great. But most of all, I try to never lose sight of how amazing it is to have so many people who make Lindy hop goodbyes the hardest of them all.
(Side note: Turns out Manchester’s pretty great for dancing. I think I’ll stay – at least for a little while. I’ve got to make sure Collegiate Shag is here to stay before I go anywhere.)