Saturday, July 24, 2010

trip the light fantastic

it's been over ten years since i went to a contradance, and brain damage has taken a lot from me, so i wasn't sure how much i would or would not remember but somewhere in the last couple of weeks as i've been slowly sliding off into the deep end toward heavy antipsychotics, i got it into my head that i HAD to go to a contradance, and SOON.

if you know me or if you've been following along, you know that i am sometimes bothered by irresistible compulsions or sticky, insistent thoughts and some of them are harmless and some not. for instance, i am not capable of putting my left sock on first. i also sometimes really need to put my pants on both legs at once (you know the old expression?) and i do not think i am capable of starting the dryer without patting it twice.

in terms of compulsions, those are fairly benign and there's no use wasting valuable energy resisting them. why bother with the anxiety?

more serious is my compulsion to show up at EVERY tuesday night run and EVERY wednesday night mountain bike race, and while those compulsions are fairly severe, they fit into my overall fitness plan and also add to my stability and get me out with my friends on a regular basis.

there's no point resisting those compulsions, either.

and last week i got it into my sick little head that i HAD to go to a contradance but missed last saturday's dance at the montpelier grange because i was home crying for most of the night. and thursday i was so depressed i lay in bed for nine hours, too depressed even to cry and i didn't eat or drink and at some point thursday night i figured it was time to get out of bed and force myself to do things whether i felt like them or not.

so i went for a mountain bike ride with crashco in the afternoon and in the evening we went to the mad robin callers collective contradance at the shelburne town hall, which was about seven different kinds of awesome. the crashcos had never been contradancing and it had been a long time since i'd been and it turned out that with the brain damage it might as well have been my first time but everyone was very sweet and they took care of us graciously and shepherded us through the dances.

now, we are accustomed to racing mountain bikes and fancy ourselves to be in pretty good shape or at least up to an evening of dancing, but i will tell you that the racecourse has nothing on these people and i was worn right out and today i'm sore in muscles i didn't even know i had.

but the really great thing about a contradance (and this i remember from before the brain damage) is that it's not about you finding a partner or you and your partner, but you and everyone in the room, because you move in and out of the figures with everyone around you as you progress up and down the sets and in some of the dances you dance more with your neighbors than with your partner and it is a polite social mixing at its best.

it's an old, old tradition and it's so beautiful and balanced that when you stand to the side and watch it, you could almost cry, it's so perfect.

every dance has in it a moment of such stunning geometry or physics of orbit so that it just takes my breath away; the repetition of simple patterns progressing and varying at small intervals and oh, my goodness!

the last dance before we left i was partnered with a young man who was very good at the dance, very handsome, charming, and flirty.  not flirty with any significance or intent, but flirty in that very genteel old-fashioned not-going-anywhere way.

he could have had a girlfriend or wife right at the dance even, but while he was dancing with me, i felt like the only girl in the room, which is a lovely measure of social artistry.

he swung me fast through moves i could not quite comprehend and the room just spun around me and i thought my face would break from smiling too broadly and he asked me if it was too fast and i laughed and said no, it was all kinds of AWESOME and so he swung me harder and gave me an extra spin to boot.


RW said...

well, you weren't kidding. I never heard of anything like this. Is there a mosh pit?

Mad Jack said...

I've done a lot of ballroom, latin and some square dancing. I've never done contradance but it looks like a good time.


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