Skip to main content

Swing Fever

I don't have it anymore--that feverish need to consume the dance floor at every opportunity, regardless of song, of partner, of venue. I haven't had that drive in years, frankly, and while I know that there is merit in becoming a more selective dancer--in developing my own musical tastes and knowing whom I can connect with on the dance floor--I feel a sort of loss for the mindless, ravenous dancer I once was.

I remember with such fondness the many regular nights at Atlantic Dance Hall in Orlando, starting in the summer of 1999. Even though I knew hardly the first thing about swing dancing, the mere idea of it was surrounded by so much energy and enthusiasm. It's as though everyone who went out to the club simply had to dance, or else they might explode. But hardly anybody in that initial group of Atlantic dancers knew how to dance; perhaps that is what drove us all together. Erik was the exception. He was transplanted from California, where lindy hop had already been re-popularized for some time. There were two, maybe three, women who could dance with him at first, and Anna and I would just watch in awe at their movements and his seriousness. People eventually started catching on, learning from videos, from traveling, and from each other, and within months Atlantic Dance Hall was a full blown lindy hop scene that attracted dancers from Gainesville, Jacksonville, Tampa, and St. Pete.

Anna and I were still living at home, having just graduated high school, and there was little that could keep us from going out nearly every night of the week, arriving when the doors opened and leaving when they kicked us out, but carrying the socializing out to the parking lot, or to a diner, for another hour or two. We both injured our ankles at first from the new and constant floor pounding, but we just wrapped up our stress fractures (self-diagnosed) and continued dancing nightly.

During that summer we were working at a bakery, which we often opened at 6am. Since the dance club closed at 2am, and we usually stayed out until 3am, we would often come home for a quick nap and then drag ourselves out of bed to prepare racks of fresh bread and pastries. Often only one of us was scheduled to open the store, but we'd both go to help the other out. After working until 1 or 2 in the afternoon, we'd come home for a deep sleep before waking in time to go back out to the dance hall and do it all over again. I'll always remember that summer as one of the best of my life.

Today my reaction to swing dancing is drastically changed. There's little that can drag me out to the most regular dance night in Tampa, the beloved Sunday night Zendah Grotto dance. So much as I've ever been able to figure out, Grottoes are members of the masonic lodge, M.O.V.P.E.R., or the Mystic Order of Veiled Prophets of the Enchanted Realm. This has absolutely nothing to do with swing dancing, but I find it interesting and somehow telling of the very strange aura at the Zendah Grotto dances. Where there is no segue from the venue to its Sunday night purpose, there is also no segue from the folks running the dance and DJing (with the exception of Abdel) to the dancers. This strange element has never been lost on us dancers, but with nowhere else to go, we always settled for it and hoped for a better night of DJing than the last.

I went out this past Sunday for the first time in months, which saddens me to think about, and while the scene was more foreign and awkward to me than ever, I did get to experience swing dancing from a beginner's perspective. No, I didn't quite forget everything I'd ever learned, but Joe came out with me and did his step, step, rock-steps with me at least half a dozen times on (and off) the dance floor. He held his own and even seemed to enjoy his accomplishments, which made the evening all the more rewarding for me as well. Next lesson: triple-steps.

Comments

Anna said…
Oh, Atlantic Dance. You're right - what a chapter in our lives! Blissfully ignorant, though we may have been in the beginning. It's sad to think that we'll never have that again, but there are absolutely no regrets, and we know we lived that out to the fullest.

People Liked to Read...

Surgery Chronicles: 12 Weeks and Progress

I'm now more than 12 weeks recovered from my second (and final!) foot surgery, and life is starting to feel a little more normal. When I last wrote an update, seven weeks ago (still blaming Irma for all of my delays), I had just gotten off of crutches but would wear my boot for two more weeks. I've been out of the boot and walking in shoes for just over five weeks. The constant discomfort I've felt in my foot from swelling is finally starting to wane. I work in the office now, I do my own groceries, and I even attended a work conference recently, which meant lots of walking at airports and the conference hotel, frequent standing, and few opportunities to elevate and ice. I was very concerned about how my feet, particularly the left one, would endure. And while it wasn't comfortable, I made it through, no worse for the wear in the end.

I joined a new gym/community center recently, with a new and beautiful outdoor pool, and I'm so happy that I'm able to use it n…

Irma: A (Mostly) Photo Essay

For nearly three weeks I've struggled to find the right words to write about Hurricane Irma, which destroyed islands in the Caribbean, then hit South Florida, eventually coming up the center of the state. The Tampa Bay region got really lucky in the end, as it avoided a direct hit and the storm had diminished to a category 2 by the time it arrived. And now Puerto Rico is experiencing a humanitarian crisis after being pummeled by Hurricane Maria. My heart goes out to those people.

My plan when severe weather is forecast to for Tampa is always to go to my sister's house, as the area I live in is highly flood prone and she is on higher ground. This time was no exception; however, her plan was different. She wanted to leave, head north, get out of the state, and she wanted me to go with her and the rest of the family. But I was not in a place to pack up and leave. I had real concerns about my foot recovery; I was about eight weeks post-surgery and very newly out of the boot and in…

Surgery Chronicles: I Exhale

I've really been holding my breath with this recovery, more so than the last one for some reason. After getting past the three-week point (which was two weeks ago, when I started to write this), I felt a little more at ease. Since then I've been changing my own dressing daily and slowly weaning off of crutches so I can now walk around in the boot—hands-free! I'm still a slave to icing and elevating as much as possible throughout the day. But the very best part? There's no other foot left to do. After this, I'm done, done, done. I can start to return to a life not defined by sitting and waiting and feeling confined and limited and trying my hardest to heal but having little actual control over any of it.

I wrote in my last post about the difficult emotions I'd been having throughout this second surgery recovery. I think I underestimated the psychological toll I would take doing one foot right after the other. And while there was a feeling of elation after gettin…