Lindy Hop, We Need to Talk

For quite some time now, dancing hasn’t been as fun as it used to be. I seem to have misplaced the passion that I used to have for it and I’ve been having trouble understanding why it’s been happening.

If you’re a dedicated dancer and you keep at it for long enough, a dance slump will happen to you too. You might feel stuck in your progress, you might feel frustrated with your dancing, you might feel bored with your scene. There are many ways for it to manifest.

candy hearts

Photo credit: @Doug88888 on Flickr – creative commons

I’ve had slumps before, but they always passed fairly easily. This time feels different. I’ve never before gotten to a point where I questioned whether I even wanted to keep dancing, and that idea worries me. Lindy hop has given me so much in these past two and a half years that I can’t believe that that’s all it’s been. It’s taken me on all kinds of new paths and has affected pretty much all areas in my life. I honestly have no idea what my life would look like had I never started dancing.

Dancing has become such a defining part of my life that I started questioning who I am without it. My reaction to this was feeling that maybe I don’t want this thing to define me or to take up such a large portion of my time. If it’s capable of turning on me for no good reason, then I don’t want to trust it with my heart and identity.

So even though it wasn’t an easy decision, I finally decided that the best idea would be for me and Lindy hop to take a break. I needed to step back and see the other things that make me me, and I figured that absence might make the heart grow fonder.

After making that decision, something I heard in a psychology class the other day helped make things click for me. The professor was talking about a defense mechanism that people use, where they might disconnect if a relationship starts displaying an opportunity for true closeness. This can happen as a result of a fear of abandonment. The reasoning says that if you never allow anyone to get too close, there’s no way for them to hurt you.

Get where I’m going with this? In order to not get hurt by dancing, I took myself out of the equation completely. Turns out I’m the commitment phobic wuss in this relationship.

About a year ago, I wrote this Facebook status: “I just realized that dancing is like an infatuated-stage boyfriend for me. It’s always on my mind, I can’t wait till we meet, it takes up most of my free time and my friends are sick of hearing about it.”

Back then I was in the giddy, early stages of the relationship. I was learning a lot of new things, I felt that I was constantly improving in some way or another and got the same kind of feedback from others. It felt good to be advancing in an activity that I enjoyed so much. I loved Lindy hop and it loved me back.

Some time after that, I was offered to join the teachers team at Holy Lindy Land. I can’t tell you how happy that made me! Well, not dancing-around-alone-in-my-room-like-a-kangaroo-on-ecstasy happy, but you know, pretty happy… Shut up, you have no proof!

kangaroo sign

Photo credit: Off beat Mum on Flickr – creative commons

But seriously, it was a goal I had at the back of my mind for a while and this was a stamp of approval that I was getting somewhere in dancing. It felt like my hard work and enthusiasm were being rewarded and that I had accomplished something.

As a result of joining the team, I had the privilege of practicing intensively on a regular basis with Israel’s top Lindy hoppers. This forced me to work even harder, because I wanted to get to a point that it was not just them putting energy into training me. I wanted to be an equal contributor.

One example of working my booty off was participating in the RhythmJuice Games with my fellow team member, Eran Tobi. This was, hands down the hardest thing I’ve ever done dance-wise, on oh so many levels. The blood, sweat and tears (it ain’t a cliché for nothing) paid off – we made it to 4th place out of over 70 couples from around the world. Here was another external confirmation that I might be doing ok with this dancing thing.

Since last year, my relationship with Lindy hop has become more complex. It’s no longer just a fun hobby that I practice whenever I feel like it. I have responsibilities as a teacher, I invest a lot of time and effort into improving, and others have certain expectations of me (or at least I feel like they do). It’s not just a bowl of cherries anymore.

While the initial infatuation has faded, Lindy hop continues to give me opportunities to grow closer to it. It’s been telling me that we may have something real here. It keeps saying that I should invest more into the relationship. It’s been asking me if I see a future for us. It wants to have “the talk”.

Even as I type these words, I can feel my heart pounding with commitment phobic dread. I know we have something good going, but at the same time, it scares me. Never before have I given so much to one single activity in my life. I’ve had plenty of hobbies that I enjoyed and put a lot into before, but they always stayed in the hobby zone. Lindy hop, dare I say, was the first to become a passion. Never before have I loved something the way I love Lindy hop.

Yes, Lindy. I do love you. I don’t want to give you up. We’ve been through a lot together. We’ve traveled the world, met new friends, had all sorts of adventures and we’ve certainly had our share of highs and lows. But I think there still might be more in store for us. It might take me awhile to give you my all again, but I promise to work on it.

Or you know, maybe I need to try other hobbies and I’ll drunk dial you after an unsuccessful night of knitting.

Have you ever gone through a dance slump? Help a girl out by sharing what worked for you, won’t you?

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34 thoughts on “Lindy Hop, We Need to Talk

  1. Maya! I’m having a very similar experience to yours… so many words here echo exactly how I feel!
    I’ve been so passionate about the dance and threw myself so much into it for a long time, but lately, it just hasn’t been the same… It even felt like a chore, sometimes. There are of course the technical reasons: I don’t live in Tel Aviv anymore so it’s harder for me to come to parties; I have many other activities which I’m passionate about that leave me less time for dancing; and so on. But mainly, it has lost its shine for me… there’s still a part of me which wishes to go back, but honestly I don’t miss it as much as I thought I would. Maybe my life got so filled up with other great things that I don’t need that satisfaction from Lindy as badly as I needed it before. So I don’t know if I’ll come back. I’ll surely visit once in while.
    In any case, thank for this honest, touching post. And whatever you decide, I wish you happiness, fulfillment and satisfaction.
    Hugs 🙂

    • Dafna! I miss you! We all miss you!
      I had a feeling that you were going through a similar thing. I understand that you’re busy with defending helpless animals (an extremely worthy cause, no doubt), but I hope we get to see you dancing again soon. It’s not the same without you.
      Thanks for sharing your experience here.
      Hugs and kisses

  2. Maya,
    Is it okay if your mother’s friend leaves a reply? She’s pretty objective. I think this is a brilliant piece and I really enjoyed reading it. The metaphor is fantastic. I think your writing can take you far…I suggest sending this to magazines in the US.
    Love and best wishes,
    Nurit

  3. Maya, I loved your post! I really think that if every anything happens between you and Lindy (God forbid) you can always become a blogger or even a writer : )
    I have lindy slumps all the time. But I must say that it’s not only lindy’s fault, most of the blame should be taken by me. The majority of my time I spend working on my carrier (I am currently finishing my MSc at the Weizmann Institute) which means that all the other loves of my life get the left over time when I’m back in Tel Aviv after a long day of work. Being a lively person I would much rather do something I love during my free time rather than rest (I will rest when I’m dead sort of mentality). In addition, being a perfectionist, I always want to improve in whatever I do. However, this approach has exhausted me completely and I got to a point that after classes on Thursday I went back to bed instead of staying for the parties.
    I decided to take a bit of a brake (to dance “only” three times a week) and give myself two nights off to enjoy with friends. The best thing about our lindy hop community is that the people are just awesome and I love not only dancing with them but also spending time with them for the fun of it. Surrounding myself with such wonderful people has really given me much energy that I needed. Most of all, it helped me switch the way I look at lindy hop, rather than lindy being a place that I need to improve all the time and is also a bit of fun, I now think of it as a place I come to mostly enjoy myself and as a side effect also improve.
    Missing you all very much (Dafna, you too!)
    Mirika

    • Thanks for the compliment Mirika, I’m glad you liked it!
      I wouldn’t exactly call “dancing three times a week” a break 😉
      In either case, it’s important to leave yourself time to relax and breath, it sounds like you’re really busy. I think that that’s a good approach when you’re stretched out too thin – dancing just to enjoy it, without worrying about working on something.

  4. I’ve been dancing for a year and 4 months, and I’ve hit my first slump. I considered switching gears for a few months to take tap dancing lessons (something I’ve always wanted to do, too), but after reading your blog, it may be best to just push through. I will think it through, but perhaps in the fall I will simply add the tap lessons, and slow down the dance lessons for a bit, instead of completely breaking it off with the dance. Wonderful blog post . . . and I especially liked your Facebook post . . . would you mind if I quoted you on that on my own Facebook page?

    • I think it’s pretty common for the first slump to appear after about a year of dancing. I think that people tend to learn and progress at a relatively fast pace during the first year because it starts out as completely new. Then things suddenly start slowing down and it can get frustrating. Does that sound familiar?
      Try and understand what’s bothering you. I’d highly recommend using Dance World Takeover’s post on the subject to start figuring it out: http://rebeccabrightly.com/lindy-hop-fun-anymore/

      And of course you can quote me, I’d be honored!

    • Thanks so much, I’m glad you liked what I wrote! You’re definitely not alone, I know that most (if not all) of my dance friends that have been dancing for a while have gone through the same kind of thing at some point. I think it’s a test we have to go through – only people who truly love Lindy hop will keep pushing past the slumps.

  5. I completely agree with you and well written, I too have a passion and love for dance to the point that there will always be 3 in a relationship. I’ve always found that when lows hit hard, I learn a new style and from there I always seem to love it more as I can mix it up, become a better follow as different styles teach and focus on different techniques but all help improve me as an overall dancer. My first love will always be ballet but Ballroom, Latin an Swing of course Lindy are apart of me and my life would never be complete without them! Continuing loving it as it will love you so much more back! 🙂

    • Thanks for the suggestion, that’s an interesting one. It’s funny, I’ve actually been doing modern dance for the past year as well, but I think that was part of the overload I had. There was barely a day I wasn’t doing some kind of dancing. Maybe a better idea for me would have been to do it a bit instead, not on top of Lindy…

  6. Well, personally, I moved. 😉 (and yes, everything in the end is a scheme to get you back in the states and living on top of me). But when I was in Berkeley I definitely had slumps there. I would take a break for a while, and then I’d walk into cafes and random places that were randomly playing hot jazz, or not-so-hot jazz, and my feet would just not care about anything. So I knew it was always there. There are other forms of dance, as you well know, and you’re never going to stop dancing, buba. Maybe venturing out a little bit can do you good. A break from the same people, the same “Mississipi”, etc. You might meet new people, or it might make you miss the old, but in the meantime you’ll keep moving your body.

    Or, just stop altogether and let that energy accumulate until you get re-inspired. Remember that yes; it’s hard. Moving up a step in dancing is hard. But ultimately no one is pushing you, you’re doing this for fun, to nourish your soul, and if it’s not serving that purpose, it’s okay to venture into new worlds. You’re a multi-faceted, multi-talented lady, don’t forget that 🙂

    • Hmm… moving… Not a real possibility at the moment, as you know. I will be getting a change of scenery since I’m going to the states next week, but there won’t be much of a break seeing as I already payed for 2 dance events :/
      I’m hoping that the different setting and people will do the trick and remind me why I love this thing so damn much.
      *Love*

  7. Maya! I find it so cool that I am reading this post of yours today…I haven’t been dancing in MONTHS and I keep meaning to come..but then something comes up…or I am exhausted…or it is too hot in those studios…my heart hasn’t been in it and I feel kind of guilty and awkward when I’m there, because I don’t love the bop the way I did last year. Tonight I hope to be coming back to HLL, I want to go to beginner’s classes again, this time as a lead. I hope learning things sort of from scratch will re-awaken some of that excitement…because lindy was and is the only physical activity I get, and I am out of shape sister!

    I hope to see you tonight [and not fall asleep or get side tracked]

    Thank you for this awesome post. It was very honest, and well written

  8. I feel validated by your thoughts on this issue.
    I had only been dancing about a year and a half. I loved it, and thought I would never stop investing of myself in it. Nevertheless, I strayed. It was really for a wide variety of reasons: venues changed to less desirable venues, I became more body conscious=self concious, my other hobbies were suffering for my attention, I was not feeling I was in the loop enough, it all adds up.
    Hopefully, I will return to it. I met great people and got a great deal of satisfaction out of it, and I loved the opportunity to dress up!

  9. I’m climbing out of a dance slump right now.

    I had become extremely bored and frustrated with my own dancing. Nothing I did really resulted in substantive improvement anymore. Whereas I had been having success in competitions, that had dried up as I advanced up the ladder. I saw friends continue to compete successfully, while I wasn’t even being placed in the finals anymore. I was working hard and nothing was working.

    Advice I received? Go back to the basics and perfect them on a much more advanced level. The idea was that I was slumping because my foundation literally wasn’t strong enough for me to keep growing. That I’d gone as far as I could given the stage of my dance technique.

    So, I’ve been re-studying the basics like a madwoman, perfecting my form and technique like never before, setting a very high standard and then getting the coaching and feedback I need to reach it.

    Little by little this is bringing the thrill back. I feel like I’ve got something now to sink my teeth into. A way to resume moving forward.

    I warn you, it’s been hard slow work. I had several basics that just needed a complete overhaul in order for me to become truly a more advanced dancer. But I’ve been laboring away, practicing, taking private lessons, doing my drills at home, doing intense yoga to build my core, and things are starting to click. I can follow moves I used to miss. I feel more confident with more advanced leaders. My styling is more original and precise. My posture is dancerly on a whole new level. And the joy is starting to come back.

    Last thing. I’d been through slumps before in other endeavors — I’d quit downhill skiing and drumming because of slumps; two things I really loved.

    I really didn’t want to quit dance because of a slump. It lights up life. It’s too precious to let it go.

    • Wow, sounds like you’re definitely committed! Going back to basics is good advice, thanks.
      I agree on not wanting to quit because of a slump. Best of luck!

  10. Yeah. Been there. Done that. With another dance. Like a relationship, however passionate, taking a break periodically is not a bad thing. Once in a while, I hit a plateau and feel self-conscious about everyone else progressing faster. I might even wonder if anyone enjoys dancing with me or simply says yes out of sympathy. Surely they have noticed the repetitiveness of my lead. So I take a break, sometimes vowing not to return for a while. But out of distance sprouts fondness. Then I dive in again, reaching for a higher plateau, defying those who might look down at my style and finding comfort in those who miss me.

  11. I have been dancing for many years now and in that time I have had 3 moments like this. Feeling flat, not enough moves, doing the same old same old. I have found that going to the other side of the world and dancing with a bunch of strangers and doing some exchanges outside of my own area….for me outside my own country give me an epiphany each time. Something different to work on, a different focus which take my dance to a different level or at least a different area. Peter Loggins and Kevin St. Laurent have been the most fantastic teachers for me. I wish I could have classes with them everyday, but alas. living in Australia makes it hard to see them. My advice is to travel to a far away land and STFO at least once every 2 years and do as many lessons with international teachers as you can. Find one or two you really connect with and suck all the information you can out of them. When I’m really in a “give this up” place, I need to have a dance with Frida Segerdahl ……she always makes me dance like there’s no tomorrow and restores my faith in Lindy Hop.

    • You know, I’m just about to go abroad and will be going to 2 dance events since I paid for them a while ago. I figure it might feel different in a difference setting and a camp atmosphere. I hope it works 🙂

  12. I totally understand that type of questionning!

    But I don’t think the psychological key which can help you is the one of the fear to be really close/intimate with Lindy Hop. This suppose you should not listen to your actual feelings and force you to fusion even more (if it’s possible?) into Lindy Hop…

    I propose you 2 different ways to work on :

    1. In every relationship, commons projects are required. It seems you achieved all your goals in Lindy Hop… So you need new ones. Otherwise you’re right, there is no meaning anymore… Having new projects with Lindy will make you find new meaning. Do you think there is no more thing to achieve??

    2. In every relationship, you need to keep personal projects (not be be in the fusion, but stay an independant person). It is REALLY important not to spend all your time, money, energy, investment in one thing, even if it’s the passion of your life. This passion can be for a person, for a work, for a leisure, for a project… all these things are good things, but any of them deserve your full commitment!! Oriental philosophy would teach you BALANCE, between all these aspects of your life.
    I don’t know how old are you, but imagine you having a look to your past whole-life : wouldn’t you find sad only having lived adventures related to one aspect of the life, and not every aspects which can be lived?

    Moreover, living without a passion is less fun, but hobbies, non-dancer friends… are great to for your balance! You can’t just be always at 100% of energy on a subect with the same people, or at one point, it collapses. Let you have activities your are at 100%, and other at less… It’s another way to cultivate the diversity and richness of your personnality and to rest up even sometimes!

    • Thanks for the insightful comment.
      I’ve certainly not achieved everything there is to in Lindy hop! You’re right in saying that I should have a new goal to work on, I guess that I should think about that. I think having something new and different to work on has helped me get out of past slumps.
      Yes, I also think that balance is important and that putting all of your energy into one thing is not the best approach. That’s one of the reasons that I’ve taken a step back. I don’t think I’ve ever been focused only on dancing, but I suppose I could still afford to dial down the intensity a bit.

  13. I’d say don’t let anything ‘define’ you.

    If, for whatever reason, you would stop dancing tomorrow, you’d still be yourself. The sun will still rise and you can still be happy.

    Blurring the distinction between what you are and what you do might hurt you at some point.

    Staying with the relationship analogy, in a healthy relationship there is closeness, but also the realization that you are still two different people. You might disagree at times. You might fight, talk things through, break up, or make up. But all that only works if you know who you are outside that relationship.

    • Thanks Frank, you’re absolutely right 🙂 I think it’s very easy to let what you do define you and I think most of us do just that. But as you say, it’s not the best idea.
      If I did stop dancing, the same as if I’d break up with someone, I’d feel a loss and would grieve in some way. While writing this, I wasn’t sure if what I was feeling was more like a grieving process or the defense mechanism I wrote about. I went with the latter mainly because I don’t think I’d really stop. Or maybe I just hope I won’t.

  14. Any given person has at least a handful of faces or should I say sides that Define him/her as a Person.
    There’s a Certain Maya in you when you are at work and a different one when you hang out with your non dancing friends and yet another one who dances.

    It’s Interesting since you made me think of my last long gone obsession,
    Before dancing Iv’e been Playing Role playing games for 12 years before I really got sick of it.
    It toke me at least 2 years to realize I’m not really having fun anymore.

    And It’s a weird moment when You realize that a Hobby that has become a part of you is no Longer a side of your personality.
    and is no longer satisfying.

    And Maybe It’s a question Satisfaction,Inspiration and Happiness (?)

    As long as You are still feeling Inspired and Inspiring and as long as you are still Exploring new Techniques and getting your dance in to new Levels that Allow you to Express yourself you are doing something that is right/good/Healthy for you.

    I think that in the bottom line Dancing is another way for us to Express ourselves.

    Don’t lose the passion.

    Osher.

    • Actually I think I’m the same Maya no matter what I happen to be doing, but I agree that different settings tend to bring out different aspects of your personality more than others.
      It’s a good thing that you were able to realize that role playing was no longer for you and to let go. I assume that wasn’t an easy thing to do.
      Thanks for your input 🙂

  15. What makes dancing so exciting for me is the social mixing that comes with partner dancing. It’s an opportunity for me to meet people and enjoy a brief closeness with someone else. Meeting and understanding others often leads to self-realisation about yourself if you spend time ruminating. I love Lindy, and many dances for that matter, but when I am feeling either bad about my own dancing or just not sure if I want to dance, I will still go to the dance socials where I can meet people and chat and more often than not have tea or a pint and a chin wag with people from all walks of life. At the local scene are many friends who all lead completely different lives than me so I can find out about other peoples perceptions of the same small world I live in. At bigger events I can meet internationals and a broader range of people who do exciting things, and open my mind to other lifestyle options I had never even been aware of.

    My love for dance is so great that even if I go to a social with the intention of purely socialising, some lovely partner will come and ask me for a dance and even if I say, I’m not sure I want to dance, they can always convince me just to have fun and relax. I go out and lead a couple of basic moves and get that wonderful smile from my follow and suddenly I feel good about dancing and I want to make someone else smile too.

    It’s a very simple pleasure but Lindy Hop isn’t about dancing, it’s about the people around me that I can meet, influence and remember fondly. It’s not a single entity for me to fall in love with, it’s all the people who smile and chatter at every event in an open and friendly manner, making each dance a special moment with another person. I’ve never had two dances the same, ever.

    In a very Stoic/ Satrean way, by not working to achieve happiness you will undoubtedly find it, because it is not the state that is happy, it is the journey toward the state that will ultimately satisfy you.

    Best of luck with your dancing and enjoy your dance events because you are there not because you have to dance 🙂

    • Wow Jethro, thanks! That’s a lovely way of looking at it. For me, Lindy hop actually is mostly about the dancing itself, but meeting new people is definitely a huge bonus that comes with it. There are so many dear people that I wouldn’t have met had I not started dancing, and I’m very grateful that I have.

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