While this post certainly belongs into the dancing corner of in shade, it serves as an accurate introduction to myself. Hence, I am posting it also here in the general blog, so that you, dear readers, can get to know your shady author a bit closer 🙂
September 2010… The first Argentinean tango lesson after a year’s break is behind me. Probably one of the technically most challenging dances, tango is full of grace, passion, burns you a great deal of calories (even if it may not look like that, it is a rather strenuous dance when done well) and is an accessible alternative to ballet for those who wish to learn body control and balance. I went in tired and came out ready to base-jump if I had to (well, sometimes in Prague one has to do just that to avoid death-by-unmarked-street-construction-obstacles, but that evening there was no treasure-hunting and digging anywhere I went). Instead, we went for a tea and salad with some of the tango students and the teacher and spent hours talking about the little things you wouldn’t even think about unless you dance.
I started dancing shortly after I mastered walking properly, although never taking any courses – just getting into the groove whenever the music was on. You know those school ‘discotheques’ where overly intimidated teenagers spend hours standing in their respective school-clique circles going ‘left-right, right-left’ all night, giggling to cover-up for the extreme self-consciousness, trying at the same time to stay cool and impress their secret crush? Well, while they were at it, I provided them with due entertainment. Since I couldn’t care less about impressing my way into anyone’s company, I just danced. There were maybe 1-2 other fools busting the actual beyond-the-rectangle-moves to the music except for myself on each given night, but I probably was the most enthusiastic clown in the circus so I got stared at as some wicked rare life-form quite a lot. I’m glad I taught myself not to care.
The next phase of my life began in Liechtenstein. I will not disclose who took me to the first real club at the age of 15 (but you know who you are! And by the way – thanx a lot!), but I had a blast.
For those not acquainted with me personally, allow me a short side-track: just because I am Russian does not automatically imply I drink Vodka since childhood (sorry to shatter your well-established stereotypes…). Oh and well, since we’re at it: just because I live in the Czech Republic – which is NOT located in Africa or Eastern Europe (get a map! No, not a how-to-get-to-nearest-Starbucks map, a world map, duh! Stick it onto your wall and find out where things are 🙂 ) – it does not automatically equal to drinking beer instead of water (even though it is, indeed, cheaper to buy beer). In fact, none of it automatically implies I drink any alcohol. So just f.y.i. and for all of you out there who think that having fun is impossible below 1,6 promille in the bloodstream: when I go out, I hardly ever drink alcohol. I never drink hard liquor or shots – I’m more into the cocktails and sweet stuff like Bailey’s – and (surprise!!!) I’ve never been drunk in my life. Or tipsy. No, I’m not religious. No, my parents never forbade me to drink (they actually always poured me champagne at celebrations and let me try the egg liquor when I still could walk under the table, which is probably why I was never allured by alcohol – it was never ‘special’, ‘prohibited’ or ‘exclusively grown up’ to me), or to smoke (oh, did I mention I don’t smoke, either? No cigarettes, no Mary J., although I do enjoy an occasional water pipe+tea combination :)), or to do whatever else.
Instead, I quite simply don’t see the point. First of all, I always wanted to live my own life, and not a life of someone else around me, to be true to myself, to be in harmony with myself, in tune with my body and inner world. When I’m sad, I’ll go through the experience of being sad. When I’m happy, I’ll enjoy being happy. If I want to, I’d try and change the state I’m currently in by either reasoning myself out of it, or by some activity. The idea of a foreign substance ordering me to feel a certain way didn’t have an appeal to me on those levels. Basically, I wanted to have the real fun, not imaginary fun. Second, life is not an excessively long thing, on the grand scale of things, and the most precious things are memories. Thus, drinking myself to the state of oblivion and calling it ‘a great night’ just didn’t add up – what’s great about not remembering the presumed ‘fun’ that I’ve had? It’s as if it never happened – I could just the same stay at home and sleep: same end result – no recollection of anything – minus the headache. So substances and I aren’t great friends.
One of the life-changing conversations I’ve had happened due to that philosophy shortly after my club-going career had started. I was 16 by then – woohoo! – in the city where no one cared much about anyone’s ID at the club doors as long as you looked over the age of consent (15 back then). Out in one of the most alternative back-in-them-days clubs in Prague, when the crowd was still enthusiastic, happy and, despite being extremely intoxicated, friendly and positive, and when most people actually danced (pretty well, too!) at that joint, instead of standing on the dance floor and spilling beers onto one another, as they mostly do now, I was dancing at the back of the floor, closer to the bar. Normally, I would be up the stage, at the front – more space and greater view – but some bitchin’ beats that I couldn’t miss caught me there on the way back from the chill-out room. Some guy a couple of swaying human rows ahead of me kept turning back throwing the ultimate ‘wtf’ looks my way. After a while he finally came up to me and asked “are you drunk?”… Already quite used to just about everyone assigning my levels of energy on the floor to at least SOMETHING external, I did the usual ‘smile+no’ thing and kept dancing. Yet a few minutes later, he came back up to me again with another version: “are you high?” but got the exact same answer (okay, the grin was bigger this time). I’m guessing he somehow bypassed in his mind the remaining ‘overdosed on caffeine’ (a.k.a. energy drinks) guess and, ultimately intrigued, came back the third time with an inquisitive “okay, so what are you on?” (insert LOL). “Oxygen and water, baby! You should try one day!”, said I.
This is how I ended up having one of the few decisively life-changing conversations in my personal history. Had I indeed been ‘on’ something, it wouldn’t have happened. Maybe I would have realized the things I realized after that short talk (to process which took me several months, but this is a different story of its own) later on in life. Or maybe never at all… But I am a better and happier person thanks to that stranger at the club by such a margin, that I am to this day grateful for that conversation taking place as early in my life as it did and allowing me to up-grade myself for the better ‘beta-version’ of me.
And so, because I had such a hell of great a time in Liechtenstein, ever since then I danced even more. At first, while still 16, at least once a month I’d go to the smoked-up, packed underground, former-theater haven of mine and reliably dance all those teenage worries out, come back after 6am, crash onto the bed and sleep most of the Sunday through. Or, alternatively, occasionally to some other club where a good DJ would play. One time I got caught up in a conversation with some great people and we stayed at the gas station right near my house till about 8am – that was the only time my mom texted me asking if I’m planning to drop back home or what 🙂 (love you eternally, mom!).
Then I went to Nice, France. I went there for a summer language course (it was very intensive, indeed: party most of the night, come back to the host family’s place, shower, catch a nap, get to classes early in the morning, survive till lunch, eat, nap at the beach for the rest of the afternoon, run back home, eat, rinse off the sea salt – for all its healing qualities it’s still sticky – get ready for the night and go again :)), originally, but that trip ended up leading to many more courses of quite different kind.
It all started when, the second time I was supposed to go, the school had lost my application. My flight was on Sunday, their e-mail had been sent on Thursday, but we viewed it only on Friday night (ah, good old days when internet at home was still somewhat a luxury 🙂 ). Just so you know: there was no one at the school from Friday late afternoon till Monday morning. No one checked any mail, either. So despite us having re-sent the application, I arrived to the city with no one picking me up and nowhere to go.
Thankfully, our party times the preceding year left a few phone numbers on my list, so I called a friend of mine to pick me up. “I would love to, but I’m on a yacht with my friend right now and we’ll be back later tonight…” Great… Well, whatever. I left the suitcase at the central station, spent a few hours watching people play beach volley, a few more trying on everything at the only garment store still open late on a Sunday. I spent so much time there that I ended up buying the cheapest (still darn 25 euros!) top just out of pure shame. It chilled for years in my closet but then I grew a bit taller and ended up wearing the life out of it! Finally, I made my way to our last year’s favorite hang-out spot, where my friend promised to get to around midnight. The spot was a salsa bar… All throughout the last year, I managed to successfully fake an ability to dance salsa. However, just because I could hear the rhythm and do something to it with my feet while alone didn’t mean I actually knew the steps… Sitting at that salsa bar, I was watching the table of 7 – 5 girls, 2 guys – dressed up in funky jeans and shirts. It was still early and the place was otherwise empty…
When it did fill up and the regular live band began playing, however, I saw that something that changed my life. I saw one of the guys from that table dance with one of the girls from that table. What they did on about 1 square meter of available space (the bar has no dance floor downstairs, just a walk-space between its two sections, where people somehow manage to dance while the band is playing) was through-the-roof-darn-amazing. As I later learned, I happened to have witnessed that year’s best LA salsa dancing couple in the world. When later on my friend finally showed up and tried getting me to dance together (a task in which I, of course, failed rather miserably right away), I was determined to actually go and take lessons.
This is how I got into my first ever dance class at the age of 18… Ever since, dancing has been shaping my life more and more. I’ve taken classes in belly-dancing, salsa Cubana, salsa LA, salsa on-2, r’n’b, reggaeton, tango, capoeira, pole-fitness, even break-dance (I definitely am forgetting a few :)). I dance all that and then some – electronic music, hip hop, bachata, cha cha cha, lambazouk, Salsa on-2…
But dancing isn’t just fun, or a great exercise, or a personal challenge, or a form of self-expression. It is my ultimate drug, just like traveling, and the best thing about it – I can combine the two! Travels introduced me to different dances, and different dances take me to new places, where I meet new people who introduce me to even newer variations of dancing, newer places, and together with it ideas, experiences, memories… It’s like as if there existed a parallel dance-universe with multiple entrances and uncountable possibilities for enriching one’s life. It’s not all easy, and you might end up with some bruises, but if you could try one new thing in life for yourself, to feel better, to learn to listen to yourself, to open up, meet new friends – maybe you should look around see if there is some little dance course nearby that you can squeeze into your busy schedule (instead of tv-watching, for example). Just don’t say that I haven’t warned you that it has a potential to get you hooked and change your life all around ;).