Tidbits, Vol. III — The Grenoble Swing Issue

(a.k.a. In Which a Weekend Occurs in Grenoble Where Allison Dances More Than She Sleeps)

Swing dancing is exactly the same all over the world.  The social scene, the friends you can superimpose onto the people you meet in another country, the dancers who never tire, the dances that never end, the laughter after funny mistakes, the music that makes your soul swing.

Swing dancing is completely different depending on what city you’re in.  In Grenoble, there’s very little blues, no one dips at the end of a dance, they start learning an 8-count basic I’ve never seen before, and they speak French.  (Huh.  Fancy that.)  But it doesn’t matter in the end, once you actually start dancing.

It is possible to get high on baby powder, presuming that about a cup of it is shaken all over a dance studio floor to practice slides.  This state is also aided by dehydration and fatigue.

At home, I can usually tell who smokes and who does not, just by looking at them or spending a little time with them.  In France, you pretty much have to assume that everyone smokes, or just quit very recently, until proven otherwise.  I cannot figure out how dancers smoke.  (Or singers, for that matter.)

Riding a bike through a quiet city at 3am is quite relaxing.  Especially if you’re following someone else home, as opposed to trying to find your own way through the winding streets that change names every two blocks.  It’s not the grid of NYC.  It’s easier just to follow the tram.

Non-mint-flavored toothpaste does exist, but you have to go to the pharmacie and get a special brand that’s homeopathic or some such nonsense.  But hey — lemon.  Yay.

White boys who swing dance can rap, but badly: “Dance, dance, dance, dance, lead…and follow…and dance, dance, keep on dancing, just keep on dancing, and don’t stop dancing, you just gotta dance…”

When the Algerian football (that’s soccer for you American types) team plays, and especially if they win, the riot police have to be called out in Grenoble to make sure the people driving around on motorcycles with lit firecrackers and sparklers don’t cause too much trouble.  But such a scene is possible to bike through.  Just barely.

If, in dance class, you volunteer to translate one sentence from the English teachers to the few students who only speak French, be prepared to continue to interpret for every other class in the series.  Except for the one where the follow is French.  And also be prepared to realize that you have absolutely no dancing vocabulary in French, but it works.  The students understand, and the instructors are grateful.  On a very related note, I have a much bigger appreciation of interpreters than I did before.  And that’s saying a lot.

Lightbulb moments are great, but they have to come two, three, four, fifteen times before the lessons stick.  (a.k.a. How long have I been rock-stepping so poorly??)

Hearing a familiar song is enough to make everything okay.  Especially if that familiar song is one of the best from one of your favorite bands that you’ve danced to twice in the city where you learned how to dance.  I’m so happy that the Boilermakers are now internationally loved.  (And for those who don’t know the Boilermaker Jazz Band: if you like jazz or swing or clarinets even a little bit, check them out.)

The human body is pretty cool.  You can be more exhausted than you’ve ever felt in your life, you can be almost as sore as you believe possible, and you can still give just a little more.  Well, sometimes you have to give more.  That would be like the time that I went to an evening dance during an exchange weekend, danced until I dropped (very close to literally), and then had to bike home.  Hills suck.  But when there’s a soft bed waiting at the destination…it’s a little easier.  ‘Course, you can always just dance one more song, too.


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