Wow. What a fucking spectacular weekend. Incoming: longer than usual rant with a higher personal-to-dance ramble ratio than I generally put here, but I feel the need to adequately commemorate my first exchange experience. Man, can you believe that in the 7 years I've been dancing (and/or not dancing) that I've never been to a real exchange? Terror!
So, without further ado, the weekend from the top.
Thanks to being stuck at work for 12 hours on Thursday, I got to head out of the office early on Friday, putting me on the road early enough to avoid The Traffics. Amaze! This may be the first time I've ever driven out of ATL without hitting some sort of slowdown. A good portent of Weekend To Come. The drive went smoothly until I got off the interstate in Lenoir City... and my phone rings. It's my PM. They've been working on a deployment all day and shit is broken. Talk about putting a damper on my drama-free departure. Luckily I managed to talk them through the issue even though I didn't have the code in front of me - I won't get into how displeased I was that I had walked the dev in question through the EXACT SAME issue last week. Seriously, dude.
Anyway, I made it to my dad's place around 6. Sam & Cal were ridiculously hyped up to see me, and much shrieking and running around ensued. I filled myself with some dinner, hopped online to make sure that work wasn't still having issues... and promptly lost all enthusiasm for going out dancing, from some combination of tired and full. Luckily, Coworker of Awesomeness was online chatting with me, and convinced me to get off my lazy ass. I dragged myself out the door with middling enthusiasm around 8:15.
I made it to the Friday Evening dance to find a pretty decent crowd, a pretty good band... and basically no one that I knew. There were a couple of familiar faces that I recognized from Atlanta Varsity Showdown, but nobody that I was really on more than nodding/exchanging brief pleasantries with terms. It became pretty quickly apparent that I wasn't going to get much dancing done if I stood around and waited to be asked, so I started grabbing people. I have no problem asking guys to dance, but it does start to get a little discouraging after a while, especially when you know next to no one.
By 10:30 or 11 the tiredness was starting to catch up to me again, and my enthusiasm was fading fast - though I'm loathe to admit it, I started eying the door pretty hard. I decided to migrate to the other side of the floor, see if I could get one or two more good dances, then maybe call it a night. Enter two of my Notable Leads from the weekend, David and Josh. I snagged these two gentlemen in turn and danced with them back to back, and all of the sudden my enthusiasm was restored.
Josh's most notable feature is his amazing pulse - smooth and springy without being overdone. I felt so connected to the music when I danced with him, and his lead was light and encouraging, leaving me lots of room to play. Our first dance consisted almost entirely of swingouts in which we'd each do a variation and play off the other person's styling. Massively entertaining - I love a dance where the sum total of your communication is in movement and shared giggles.
David... just damn. I would be such a great dancer if I could dance with him on a regular basis. He has a fantastic feel for the music, and his style is just so smooth and expressive. His lead and connection are both light and gentle, but he's still very clear. He's also massively tuned into his follow's position, weight, and balance - I didn't once get pulled off my center while dancing with him. As a result, I really felt like I could focus on keeping my own connection light and supple, something I've been working on since the Followers Footsteps series last month.
Wooo, tangent! Anyway, I had two great dances and that convinced me to keep at it. I left the evening dance a little early so that I would have time to procure ice for my knees and transfer over to the late night venue. I made it to the Square Dance Center with time to spare and sat with a 5lb bag of ice spread over my knees like a good little physical therapy patient. I was pretty impressed at how well they were holding up - the drive up made them pretty achy, but dancing actually seemed to help rather than hurt.
People finally started trickling in around 12:30 for the midnight breakfast. I sat down with a guy named John and his wife Tiffany, who were in town from Hawaii, where John is deployed in the Navy. My last dance at the evening venue was with John, and he was a lot of fun - very playful and well connected, if not a little flashy. He pulled the flashy off without being a bad lead, so I suppose I can't complain... any guy that inspires enough confidence in me that I'll let him really dip me within the first few dances is pretty impressive.
Eventually David joined us at the table, and then the really geekery got going. Here's an absolute first for me, ever - David worked with the consulting division of Microsoft up in Canada for a few years... and he worked with Avanade. I was completely floored - absolutely NO one has heard of my company, even people who work for Microsoft and Accenture. Cue "it's a small world" theme here. Anyway, from that point on we really hit it off, and suddenly rather than feeling a little lonely at the exchange I had several great people to chat with.
The Friday late-night is a little bit of a blur... I had a couple more good dances with various people, including David and John. Sadly the blues room upstairs was a little dead - they had half the lights off, but left 1 set of florescents on so you could see, and it kind of killed the atmosphere. David and I ruminated on the possibility of bringing some christmas lights to make it better for Saturday. Oh, and I also had a really fun dance with Megan - dancing with her is just so different from dancing with boys. I'm not quite sure how to put words on it... there was one point when we were dancing where we did something and she got all smiley and was expounding on how boys don't appreciate "the stretch" in music like girls do. That's definitely true for some leads, but there's more to it than that. I feel the same difference when I dance with Mike the Girl - one of these days I'll have to see if I can't find the words to express it.
Right, like I said, the late night was a bit of a blur. I finally got home around 3:30 and passed the hells out... only to be woken up around 7:30 when Sam & Cal woke up and started calling upstairs for me to get up. My dad & Pam are currently just living in the new extension of the house while the original half gets renovated, and the result is that there is no door between the upstairs and the downstairs. I managed to grab a few more broken chunks of rest, but by 9:30 I gave up. Spent the day socializing with the family, then hit up the KLX dinner. Ate delicious pesto, had a longer conversation than I've ever had before with Robert, then headed to the evening dance.
Did I mention that the Saturday Evening Dance was a live performance by Christabel & the Jons? Oh. Hells. Yes. I danced myself silly for the first set - I think I maybe sat out two songs at most. I also gave David fair warning that there was One Song that I was required to dance with him to, assuming Christa remembered that when she was ATL she promised me that they'd play it for the exchange.
I started to wear out a bit during the second set, but I was still having a blast dancing. Other notable dancers... Yossef (who I met at AVS), Seth (liked him a lot though he didn't give me the time I wanted to milk the music), Bennet (cute, skinny, goofy guy who's a teacher and knows Bela)... I know there are more, but I'm already forgetting. It doesn't help that I probably danced with 5 guys named John. Ah well.
A little before 11, I got pretty bummeed... Christa announced that they were going to play their last song, and then struck up a tune from the new CD, rather than the song she promised me in ATL. Luckily it was just a ruse; the song ended and then she said "So in the last few weeks I've had a few people saying we should play a blues tune..." and they struck up "You go to my Head." As promised I grabbed David and we had a really great dance - have I mentioned how goddamn much I love that song? I don't think I've ever danced it with anyone except Bert, so it was a fun experience to see how someone else interpreted it. Sooo happy.
Sadly, Christa's set ending by 11 meant that the energy level of the dance kind of plummetted. It's hard to go from Excellent Live Music to a DJ set and keep things up. I had promised David a ride to the Late Night venue, and we ended up leaving a little early on the logic that we could show up and spend some time setting up the Blues Room to be more intimate using the lights he bought the afternoon before. We drove over to the Square Dance Center.... and there was no one there. Oops. We ended up sitting in the car for a while while he played me samples of good blues off his MP3 player - he has pretty similar taste in stuff to DJ as Mike the Girl, so it was a fun experience. After a while we got bored of waiting and decided to run back to his hotel so he could pick up his laptop just in case they'd let him DJ for a while. We pulled out of the parking lot right as another carload of people pulled in - I can only imagine how it looked, what with my windows all steamed up. Scandalous!
Anyway, we found the hotel, procured laptop, then headed back to the venue and had more luck this time setting up lights and such. David pulling chairs in to make the dance space a little smaller when a couple of people showed up from downstairs and wanted to know what was up... apparently at the last minute they'd decided to make the blues room a "whatever the DJ wants" room instead. And the DJ lined up first wanted fucking Fast Charleston. Let me tell you how pleased I (and David, and Terri, and a whole slew of other people) were about that. The end result was that from 1 until 3 the upstairs and downstairs were playing functionally equivalent music - too fast and totally not appropriate for a late-night. We all groused around a lot, but I managed to get a few more good dances in on the slower songs.
Finally around 3 the DJs switched over and Jim Wheatley took over upstairs. Now that man can run a blues room. By this time I was practically ill I was so tired and sleep-depped, but I found some more reserves when Jim started spinning - he was playing a really great variety... some soul, some solid blues, some slightly more modern stuff. I think the hour and a half I danced in that blues room did more for my blues-following than all of the dancing I've done at Northside in the last 4 months. I could just feel myself listening and responding better and better as the night went on. It was pretty amazing. My biggest observation is that I need to work harder on keeping my back in my lead's hand - I could feel myself coming disconnected there from time to time.
Much as I would have liked to keep dancing, I was asleep on my feet by 4:30, so we headed out. David obliged me with crash space at his hotel so I didn't have to drive the 40 minutes back to my dads (and so I could hopefully get unmolested sleep, rather than having my sisters wake me up early again). Unfortunately I was so exhausted that I had a hard time relaxing enough to pass out, and I ended up waking up every hour or so. I finally gave up on sleeping around 10 and dragged myself out of bed to head back to my dad's for an early Thanksgiving dinner.
Sadly that's it as far as dancing, though I will ramble a little about sleep-dep... this weekend was the first time I've been sleep deprived for fun. Sure, there was that one Infamous Project at Tech where we were in the lab for 50 hours, but that was misery for the sake of grades. This weekend I danced for about 16 hours, and slept a total of about 10. And I had so much fucking fun. Granted I was almost in trouble on the drive back to ATL... my MP3 player died about an hour from home, and I was obliged to keep myself awake by singing Girl Scout Camp songs. Any time I stopped I could feel my head start to get woozy, so I'd have to dredge up another one to sing. I had no idea I remembered so many of those things....
But anyway, the bottom line is that I had an amazing time. In addition to the dancing I really connected with a couple of new friends - I hope we can keep up with each other and meet up again sometime. On top of everything, my knees even behaved themselves, which is a small miracle in itself.
Final thoughts: I need to remember to look up info on the Portland fusion-workshop that David told me about, as well as seeing what's up with Knoxville's Rhythm workshop (I think in April?). I also need to remember that next time I do an exchange, I should get a damn hotel room rather than trying to stay with family - dancing is so much more fun when I'm not dead on my feet.
Whew! I think that's it. I'm all rambled out.