Often I feel like my life is a scene out of the movie “Yes man” because I just say yes to things and end up having the greatest adventures. So the latest adventure has returned me home at 4:30am after dancing in the middle of nowhere with lovely people from all over Europe for over 6 hours.
We drove 30 minutes out of town, and I was kind of nervous. I don’t dance in any organised fashion. I don’t know any of the local dance moves. I only knew one person at the thing. And I’ve been going through this weird season of anxiety and terror, but… I trusted my housemate because he has a very good track record of knowing things I will like. The plan was to dance into the early morning.
We arrived, met some new friends. Went through the age old “you’re from Australia??!?… Thats crazy!! Why?” Got our wrist bands. (after figuring out that we needed 15E and only had 9E between the three of us) and got to dancing.
First up was a Ukrainian band. Got grabbed by a cool lady called P and got comfy with not knowing what a “polka” was. And knew not how to do the twirly part (until later when we heard laughter at some of my antics and told we looked cute, but if we wanted to do it properly…. then.). As I was confused by all the steps and the cool music, we didn’t talk for a while. And then when we got a little more comfier we exchanged pleasantries.
I always get surprised and excited about other peoples lives. Especially those studying something fascinating or work a job I’d never thought about. I danced with a consultant in a field I’d never heard of. I danced with a Finnish linguistics student studying in Norway, in Norwegian. The sun hasn’t set there since April. I was picked by and then taught a lot by a music therapist studying in Finland. An older-than 50 year old Norwegian lady who just dances at folk festivals all over. I spoke with an Italian dance teacher who explained to me some of the ins and outs of “balfolk” and his love for the community.
There were some interesting moments of intimacy that I hadn’t really thought about much before they happened. Some dances have you very close to people you have just met. And I found myself holding eye contact with complete strangers for a larger than normal amount of time. And I love eye contact and physical touch. But it was interesting to me that this group of maybe 60 people were comfortable with knowing or not knowing the dances, being gracious with those who had no idea, and having fun when partnered with those who were great. At times you would look around and see people twirling at double speed, or trying moves that were incredible. Whilst between dances I taught many people to click their fingers and make noises by clapping air into their mouths.
I quickly retained my ability to entertain people without looking at them and draw attention to myself with simple antics and joy. Which was another odd intimacy. I only had conversations with a small fraction of those there. But I connected with almost all. Through smiles and accidental kicks or punches or back bumps.
Another thing that I remembered and saw that oddly linked up with my thinking on gender, sex and identity was leadership and communication. In most of the dances I found, that its been decided that the man leads (or the girl masquerading as the man as the gender ratios were quite skewed.) and that the girl just needs to feel out where the man is going and that keeps her on balance as she twirls and does crazy things. As I had no idea what I was doing, I could not lead. Or led terribly. And depending on how good the girl was at picking up my “I’m a giant noob” vibes, she would either help talk me through how I could lead, or she would just do it herself. But then those that didn’t pick up the vibes and went in assuming I knew what I was doing would get a lot of feet stood on, or would be forced to boringly turn uncreatively until the piano accordion stopped its jaunty tunes.
Good communication, lowers the amount of misunderstanding and feet stomping. As many of us still live in the patriarchy it makes brains explode if a woman does something out of that worldview paradigm right? And sometimes its hard for the paradigm to be broken out of because its not even a consideration. And, as one starts speaking to people outside of the patriarchy, there can me much conflict. One of my partners last night even told me to be really clear. “Will you dance with me, I have no idea what I am doing” And as a lot of them who were staying for the three days were going through workshops everyday, they were also new or understood that there were noobs there. And that meant that one of the more clearly communicating partners, talked me through parts of what made up a polka. Or later in the night when I got comfy and started to add different facial expressions and hat tips to get laughs from those sitting down, a girl got up and talked both my partner at the time and I through how to swing each other properly. We communicated how bad we were at it quite well with our “cute” ineptness.
The reason all of this gender role stuff has come up, is because I found myself in a dialogue with someone who was using words I didn’t understand to explain concepts that I vaguely understood, but not the extent I needed to converse well. I’m learning new dance steps, to new music, to be able to respectfully talk with people experiencing things that I never will.
Last night I washed my hands incorrectly in a genius invention that is normal in this part of the world but I had no idea what it was. I explained myself and my life really well to a doctor, and was reminded how, I know nothing of social interaction, if I assume first and ask questions from my assumptions. I love people. I love making new friends. And I love it when people are excited by living. And the festival last night was a huge celebration of that.
We returned at 4:30am in the morning. Some of us were waking up a few hours later to go to multiple weddings. And i hate to wake my house mate up because he had lost his phone and then skype my parents and talk about the tour de france.
We are all uniquely special. We all come to our life conclusions after a journey. A legitimate battle to explain what it is. Sometimes we don’t ask enough questions. And sometimes we don’t appreciate each others back stories. Something I would like to grow in.
As I sat in front of a fire last night I was struck with many long time un asked questions. How does fire work? Why are trees shaped like that? If there is no reason for me here…. they were drowned out by this deep conclusion that I have decided. I am here for a great reason, even if I don’t know what that is. And so are you. Even if its just so that we can dance with strangers and then take a nap. But either way, understanding each other better… its good.