That’s right. I got injured on the first night of Lindy Focus, THE biggest swing dance event on the east coast and probably the whole of the North America. I slipped on a patch of wax and landed on my foot the wrong way. I tried to persevere but after a minute or two of not having it, my foot forced me to seek medical attention. Luckily, Lindy Focus has the foresight to have nurses on staff. Unluckily (for me), one of the said nurses said that I should not dance if I didn’t want to do permanent damage to my foot. (Not that I could any way, it was painful enough that a swing out just wasn’t going to happen.)
So I resigned myself to staying off the dance floor, if only so that my foot would heal enough for at least a handful of dances on New Years. It’s given me a new perspective on the event and myself, so I thought I would share what I learned, if only for posterity.
1. There’s no crying in Lindy Hop.
I’m not going to lie, I was pretty bummed when I got benched only two dances into Lindy Focus. THE dance event of the year, and I can barely put weight on my foot. And I’m sure that my chagrin could be seen through my “I’m fine”s and “I’m just glad to be here”s. Still, as the event wore on, I found ways to entertain myself and just enjoy just being around people who I don’t get to see that often.
Believe it or not, people do things other than dance at Lindy Focus. Many bring board games and cards and are more than willing to play with you between and even during dances! I stayed up to four in the morning one night just giggling over new games and making awesome new friends.
One night, I was at the bar to get dinner before the kitchen closed while everyone was at the main dance with my friend Tom (who was gracious enough to spend a lot of time off the dance floor with me during the week). While we were talking to each other and people around the bar (and fist bumping with Max Pitruzzella, not to brag or anything), we noticed that this guy on the piano playing not swing but Disney songs. And very recognizable ones. We started singing under our breath, moving to closer seats and just enjoying a break. Soon we were close enough that he had to take notice and just invited us over to sing a long and make requests!
Before long there was a small group of us caterwauling along to the Disney greats and just generally having fun with all the little extras we put in. (A few highlights were Gaston, with Tom rocking the Gaston parts in his baritone, me singing all the voices in Belle (not as easy as it sounds), and then a small group doing the extra voices in Prince Ali.)
PRO-TIP: Practice your observation skills. Listen, watch, ask questions. When you’re in a unique place where you do not have to be doing anything or be any where, use it to your advantage. Look and listen and absorb.
2. Embrace the sympathy.
This maybe the hardest part for some people. It certainly is challenging for me. However, all of it is coming from people who mean well and some of whom have been in your place and have really good suggestions for a quick(er) recovery.
PRO-TIP: If you’re finding yourself getting tired of sympathetic comments, head them off at the pass. Offer up a conversation first. And if they have to make a comment about your injury, brush it off as fast as possible and talk about something else.
3. Learn to love the perks. Even if you’d rather be dancing.
So, you can’t dance. Luckily, Lindy Focus is not just about dancing and has collected possibly the greatest collection of jazz musicians this side of the Earth. And just watching them is a rare treat. So what happens is that you get a seat right by the band. In full view of the entire dance floor. Not too shabby.
Not to mention this year was some of the best music I have ever heard at Lindy Focus or any other event. Each night was dedicated to a master: Count Basie, Artie Shaw, Duke Ellington, and Benny Goodman, and then New Years Eve was dubbed “The Kitchen Sink” (a little bit of everything). I was sad I couldn’t dance, but damn, watching these amazing musicians apply their craft in ways that someone with even a little musical knowledge (like myself) can appreciate to just be in this room with this much talent, passion, a
PRO-TIP: Make sure this is okay with stage manager/director/someone in charge and don’t just assume it’s okay to bring a chair over to the bandstand.
4. Learning an instrument is a good fall back when you can’t dance.
For the first time since high school, I have regretted throwing my clarinet to the wayside. I still say that had I known about jazz clarinet, I would have been more likely to keep going despite my terrible high school band experience. Now I’m wondering if my clarinet is buried somewhere.
PRO-TIP: The music track is one of the few classes you can actually sit in and observe during the day. Use this opportunity to make some friends and start figuring out which instrument(s) interest you.
5. There will be A Christmas Carol references. Roll with it.
There is no avoiding this. My PRO-TIP is just embrace it. Wear a pageboy cap and a vest (borrow these, there are plenty to go around) and just go around saying “God bless us” and “Merry Christmas” in the worst English accent you can muster. Not only will you be in on the joke, but it will prompt many laughs from your fellow dancers. (Also expect Newsies references and just general synonyms for gimp.)
All in all, I’m glad I went to Lindy Focus, if only to see so many of my friends that are spread across the country. And that I got to ring in the new year with my new Baltimore family.
Here’s to a quick healing and healthy 2015!