This is a guest post from Coyle Parker.
March was a three year anniversary for two significant events in my life.
First, I found Lindy Hop and was hooked before I even started.
Second, less than a month into dancing I quit smoking. I’m proud that I stopped smoking, but more importantly I found dancing.
After three years of obsessing about lindy hop, I feel burned out.
I still love the dance, but my enthusiasm for social dancing has faded. It’s a combination of graduating from school, being unemployed, and living in a dance scene that struggles with growth.
For inspiration I sought advice from artists, dancers and others who have reached the next level in their game. Recently I did an interview with lindy hoppers Dan Newsome and Gaby Cook from Seattle, WA. Their answers thoughtfully touched on issues a lot of dancers struggle with.
Dan gave me a new perspective on my feelings of burn out.
“I think that it’s common to feel burnt out, and I feel there are three reasons. One reason is when people don’t have the information required to progress. Another is when they don’t feel like they have a role in the scene that they are happy with. And the third is not connecting to the music.”
When I began dancing I didn’t have appreciation for jazz music. Like so many others I went through the motions following the footwork and choreographed sequences from classes. I could keep a beat but it took a while to feel the music.
When I was offered a DJ slot I began collecting music. The more I listened to the music the more I appreciated it. At this point my dancing quickly grew.
It didn’t take long to hit a brutal plateau.
This is where I lost interest in dancing. There weren’t many dancers locally to look up to. Most had stopped coming out and still only occasionally show up to dances. Even watching video clips had lost the excitement.
With a couple trips out of town I realized something important:
Traveling to dance events can rejuvenate the dance soul.
I truly believe that this can pull anyone through those moments in dancing.
I also have found to listen to my body and trust my instincts. When I feel done for the night, I’m probably done. In the interview Dan said:
“I used to force myself to stay at a dance when I wasn’t feeling it. I finally had to realize that sometimes it’s better to just go home.”
Now I’ve mostly pushed through my frustrations. I can connect to the music. I practice choreography with a partner who helps me grow. I even learned to just go home when I’m not feeling it.
What’s missing is finding my place within the scene.
Yes, I appreciate what Portland dancers gave me. It is a supportive and extremely kind hearted scene. But I found that I need more. Speaking to this, Gaby Cook said during the interview:
“I think one of the keys to improving with Lindy Hop is to allow yourself do some other things. You have to let yourself stray and find another hobby or miss your exchange one year with the knowledge that you can always come back. The key here is not that you find another hobby, but you let yourself do it, if you feel like your heart isn’t being fulfilled by Lindy Hop.”
I have hit many lows and highs on this journey. Going out social dancing eventually didn’t fulfill my desires as a creative individual. So I’m trying to feel OK about doing other things.
I have gone back to passions that already existed like making art. I’ve also started new projects like blogging, choreography and soon tap classes. My social dancing has been cut down to once a week. But I feel rejuvenated with this brief step back.
The point is that if you feel any of this, you’re not alone.
Even the “bad ass” Lindy Hoppers out there sometimes just can’t do another song. I ignored the voice telling me to go home. But really, it’s OK to go home.
Keep dancing, keep working hard, keep the passion burning in your soul—but be easy on yourself.
No matter if you’re a beginner, middle man, or bad ass we are all learning and progressing as dancers. If you allow yourself to grow internally, spiritually and intellectually you will see results in every aspect of life. Trust yourself and be true.
And most importantly if I’m in your city or you’re in mine, let’s dance.