Status Anxiety – I am just a lindy hopper

This summer has been a tough summer of questions. I have spent a great deal of time thinking about my future and what I want it to look like, and frankly, I’m a little lost. I know I have a great life – and for that I am grateful – and I am content with what I am doing, but I am now facing significantly more questions than I have answer and it makes me … anxious and uncertain.

One of the “issues” I have been contemplating recently – and regularly – is in regards to my status. As many of you know, I currently work in a field where I am arguably in the top 10% and this makes me feel as if I should be immune to the feelings of “status anxiety”. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Am I proud to call myself a lindy hopper? Yes. Am I proud of my accomplishment? Yes, absolutely. Do I get a sense of fulfillment working with the lindy hop community? Yes. Is there any other job I would like to be doing rather than the one I have? At the moment, no not at all. Do I feel like my opinion is valued? You bet. So what’s the problem?

I remember when I started traveling a few years ago, I was on a plane heading back to Pittsburgh and I somehow fell into conversation with the other two passengers in my row. They politely asked if I was headed home, was I from Pittsburgh, what did I do for a living, and so on. After the couple was finished inquiring about my life, I asked them the same questions. Low and behold, Janet* was a psychologist and her husband Mark* was in banking. Janet talked to me about a number of studies she was doing and I drew comparisons to a number of the ones I remembered from my time in uni. After a very fun conversation, Janet looked at me and told me something to the effect: “Wow, you’re really smart. I assumed when you said you were a dancer that you didn’t have an education. I’m pleasantly surprised! But I must ask, if you have a degree, why aren’t you using it?”

I wish I could say I was shocked, but in all honesty I wasn’t. I think at the time, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be a “professional lindy hopper” so I wasn’t offended – I was still trying on the idea. Keep in mind, this was also at the time where, I believe, my parents thought I was going through a phase and was eventually going to move on and get “a real job.” (In fairness to them, I assume the way I spoke about being a full-time lindy hopper left them wondering.) So…..I told Janet something along the lines of: these are the years to chase my dreams, I’ll go back to school later, I’ll eventually get a “real job”, blah blah blah….

Here’s what that moment did for me: the seeds of “status anxiety” had been planted long before and that particular comment had just watered them! The seeds had been planted by the community I grew up in. I came from a community where many of my peers went to ivy league schools; they became doctors, lawyers, pharmacists, and bankers; they drove BMW in high school. It was a community where parents didn’t dream of their kids becoming “dance teachers”, but powerful, high-earning members of society. I remember growing up thinking I’d be an accountant, or at a minimum be on a five-year, six-figure earning path. Clearly, that is not the path I followed.

In a way, one could say my fears had been confirmed that day on the plane – being a dance teacher wasn’t as prestigious as being anything that directly used my degree. I kind of felt like I had failed, like I had made the wrong choice, that I was choosing a lesser life. “Holy shit,” I thought to myself, “even an outside source, one that is in no way connected to me or my life, has just invalidating me being a dance teacher. Now what?” I don’t believe that is what Janet was intending, but that is the message I took away from that encounter. I felt like it would have made sense to her that I would be a dancer because I didn’t have an education, but since I had a BA, she was surprised that I chose to dance.

Fast forward to tonight. Here is a snippet from the article I was reading on Big Think about Status Anxiety:

One of the main social/psychological ills Alain de Botton, author of Religion for Atheists and The Consolations of Philosophy is seeking to remedy is what he calls “status anxiety.” In capitalist cultures, he says, […] the first thing we ask someone is “what do you do [for a living].” It’s like that sniffing ritual when two dogs meet: “Sniff. Sniff. Aha. Gotcha.”

Typically, says de Botton, depending on the response to the job question, our interest in the other person rises or drops sharply off. This, he points out, is terribly sad, misleading, and productive of all kinds of harmful social division and personal suffering. Why should we be tribalized or ostracized on the basis of one (admittedly time-consuming) aspect of our lives, our deeper (and, de Botton argues, more important) human traits invisible until/unless we’ve passed the sniff test?

Ok, so now that you have some context, watch the video.

“Job snobbery – what is on your business card determines your identity.” Well, shit. This finally helps me put words to the feelings/fears I’ve had surrounding this issue.n But how do I fix this?

Why do I care what non-artist think about me? Do I see myself being a “professional lindy hopper” when I’m 38? If so, what will that look like? If not, what do I want to do instead? Will I have a family? If so, what I am doing to work towards having a life that supports having a “traditional family?” Do I want to have a “traditional family?” And so on….

Clearly this is an internal struggle I have to deal with. At some core level, I question the prestige connected to being a dance teacher. I further wonder at what age do I think that degree of prestige – assuming I think there some – levels off or bottoms out? Do I really feel that way, or is what society has told me? If I am happy with my life, who gives a shit what “society” told me? What makes you happy (or is this the wrong question to be asking)?

How about you – have you experienced this? When you tell someone about what you do for a job, do you feel like you’ve been judged? Do you care? If you used to care but now don’t, what changed?

Ahhhh, yes, the game of question. 😀 I’m pretty sure I’ve had these questions for sometime now, but I’m finally brave enough to think about them and try to address them.

*Names have been created for sake of the story.

Want To Be Successful? You Must First Learn To Fail.

Reposted from Big Think. Written by An Phung on June 25, 2012, 12:00 AM

What is the Big Idea?

Walter Mosley is famous for his mystery and crime fiction. But there is very little mystery behind the secret to his success.  First, writing takes practice. Mosley has been writing every day for the last 27 years. Then, he says, he writes without regard for acceptance or success.

“Some of my stories work, some of them don’t work,” said the 60-year-old.  “Some of them are like, you know, fit perfectly into you know, like a structure that somebody would want to publish and deal with.  It doesn’t matter to me because I’m writing, I’m using language and I’m using that language to tell stories and even more so to get ideas across.”

Mosley writes because he loves it, and not because he needs fame or recognition. His passion and willingness to fail may be the source of his award-winning career as a novelist. He is the author of more than 37 books, which have been translated into 23 languages.

“I never really thought I’d be successful,” he said. “I never thought I’d get books published, but this was something completely beyond me.  You know, the fact that it happened is wonderful, but it is not something that I was aiming for.”

What is the Significance?

Failure is a daunting concept in this competitive economy, where job seekers and employees are expected to outshine their peers in order to rise to the top.  But whether you’re attempting to write your first crime novel or start your own company, trying and failing is much more interesting that playing it safe and consistently succeeding.

Growth and learning happens when you fail, says Mosley.

“In art and in science it’s failure that teaches you,” he said. “Doing something right never teaches you.  It’s only failure that you learn from.”

Watch Walter Mosley talk about the role of failure in a successful career:

Image courtesy of djgis/Shutterstock.com

_________________

I personally couldn’t agree more. I think it’s important to fail so that you truly understand why something works.

One place Kevin and I have experienced this with aerials. On countless occasions, Kev and I have seen aerials, tried them, and found immediate success. As time continued, the aerial(s) would stop working for one reason or another. As we fixed one problem, we then were introduced to another problem. After about a 6 month period, anything that could go wrong had, but we were back to the beginning when the aerial worked and this time with a much greater understanding why we were successful. Once we have come full circle, then we start teaching the aerials. 🙂

So students, if you are working on your dancing, don’t be too hard on yourself if you can’t get something right away. Fellow instructors, please don’t be afraid to refrain from giving your students “the answers” immediately. The process of discovery why things work is actually a lot of fun and can be incredibly satisfying.

Hugs from Herrang!!

 

Herrang – Disco Party

Gaaaah!!! It was such a blast!!!! It was better than anything I could have hoped for. Here are some pictures taken by the fabulous ALC Fotographia, Emelie DecaVita, and others. Enjoy!

 

Unfortunately there isn’t more video on youtube just yet, but here is a small piece of the Soul Train that happened!

 

Hopefully to come will be the lady line dance, the men’s line dance, Swedish Disco for beginners, and Kevin and my disco routine!!!

Lindy Focus X Highlights

Here are my personal highlights from Lindy Focus X (and yes, I know these are suuuuuuuuuuper late):

9) The people!!!

First I need to thank the volunteer staff for being so incredibly awesome. They did a fantastic job making sure that everything was running in the background so that everyone could have a great time. THANK YOU to the cooks, transportation liaison, coordinator, music and sound technicians, hotel staff for making sure we had water, the DJs, photographers, videographers, the lighting coordinators, and everyone else who helped out Michael and Jaya in the background.

Secondly, I want to thank all of the people that attended, especially the students. You and your and enthusiasm are what make doing my job such a treat. You guys made the event as fierce as it was. I get to do what I do because of you and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

8) The Nutcrackers.

 

7) Andrew Thigpen as the MC.

6) Nina Gilkenson impersonating Andrew Thigpen:

5) The Balitquerque party.

The Baltimore and Albequerque scene teamed up some time ago and have been throwing legendary parties at various dance events. At the end of these various events, Dorry (one of the head honchos in Baltimore) would rave about the party and ask us why Kevin and I weren’t there. Unfortunately, we never got an invitation. This happened at two events. No bueno (*shakes head). So this year, Dorry made an extra effort to make sure we felt included.

Kevin and I received our invitations during our Swing Out Intensive.

Andrew Munoz dressed up in his tux and cordially informed us that we were invited to (*use your best British accent here) “enjoy an evening of tomfoolery” and that we should swing by room 166 around 7 o’clock. How delightful!

Here are some pictures that barely do the night justice.

  

 

This video is too dark to see the madness, but it’s a good start 😀

4) Winning the Invitational Jack & Jill with Todd Yannacone. That competition was really hard to judge so I’m very surprised that we took 1st. I am positive the scores are all over the board, so I have to give a shout out to the Relative Placement system! 😀

3) Nath Bugh and Dorry Segev Dueling Piano number from the show on New Years Eve. The video speaks for itself.

2) Performing five new numbers this year, most of which I learned in the two weeks prior to the event.

The most challenging act I did was my solo jazz piece called My Discarded Men. I probably spent around 35 hours putting this routine together and trying to teach myself how to make the particular shapes I did. It wasn’t perfect, but I am really proud of myself.

The least physically demanding, and most fun was performing my drunken striptease. Hahhaa, it’s so nice to get to be ridiculous sometimes! Otherwise, it was a real pleasure to get to work with Gabby, Kelly, Melanie, Casey, and Natasha on the girls charleston piece in the New Years Eve show, as well as The Killer Dillers on our most recent group number. Finally, Sharon created a gorgeous choreography that had the ladies of the KD mostly naked on the floor.

1) All of the ridiculously awesome social dances I had on the last night!! Ok, so I was a little buzzed off of all the champagne I had, but man, my following was pretty freaking awesome (*toot toot). I had a number of really-freaking good dances that night, but in particular, I felt that I really connected with Todd and Mikey. Not only that, but Jonathan Stout and His Campus Five were playing. Gaaaaaaaaaah, the music was soooooooooooo freaking gooooood!!!

Dance Shoes: Aris Allen

I recently ordered some new shoes from Aris Allen and I freaking love them. I just got the brown high heels and they are super comfortable. How many pairs do you own? Click on the images to go check the shoes out on the website!

 

 

 

PRESS RELEASE

Baltimore Based Swing Dance Footwear Company Releases New Line of Women’s Dance Shoes for Spring 2012 Season

Baltimore, MD – (March 7, 2012) Due to overwhelming demand, local swing dance company Aris Allen has added more than 14 new styles of women’s shoes to its varied line of internationally recognized footwear.

“Our loyal customers have been champing at the bit as we worked to release an even wider variety of vintage-inspired shoes for today’s swing dance enthusiast” states Gay Santelmann, product developer and CEO.

The new assortment of shoes includes styles such as the 1940s 3-Buckle Dance Shoe, as well as a low heeled late-1950’s Shoe with Ankle Strap. Aris Allen has also developed some of its customer favorites in several new color combinations that fit in well with this season’s upcoming trends.

Response from swing dancers all over North America, as well as international customers in several countries including France, Germany, Australia, Italy, and the UK has been more than favorable.

Alongside the array of new shoes, Aris Allen has made room for gently worn footwear at its retail location in Curtis Bay, MD – many of which have been showcased by celebrities and featured on tv series such as Dancing with the Stars. Many styles from past seasons can be found for up to 70% off, along with an assortment of swing dance apparel.

In its efforts to encourage young Baltimore-area dancers interested in swing, Lindy Hop, Balboa and Charleston, Aris Allen is also offering free pairs of shoes to customers touting a student ID when visiting the store.

About Aris Allen:
Founded in 2004, Aris Allen features the best in shoes, clothes and accessories for dancers who practice Lindy Hop, Jitterbug, Balboa, Charleston, Boogie Woogie, Collegiate and Varsity Shag, Blues, West Coast, 6-count, 4-count (you name it), any and all forms of swing dancing! Visit Aris Allen’s retail site at www.dancestore.com for more information.

 

Black Swamp Village – making of the video

The Speakeasies Swing Band from Greece just came out with a fabulous new music. Not only is there lindy hop, but there are zombies! Take a look!

Oh yeah, and Kevin and I are in it as well. 😀

I wasn’t really sure what filming a music video would be like, which meant I was able to walk in with no expectations of “normal”. I think I romanticized what the process was going to be like – and perhaps like most things, the end product is fabulous – but the creating process is time and energy intensive. Regardless of the time commitment, I had a blast. Here are some picture Kevin and I took during the three day we spent on the Speakeasies “Black Swamp” music video.

The Back Story

MONDAY

Kevin and I were supposed to leave Rome at 9am which meant we caught our shuttle around 6:30am. We arrive exhausted to the airport, only to find out our flight had been rescheduled for 9PM. Fucking excellent. The only thing we could think to do was head to the Hilton down the street and see how much money it was going to cost us to nap. Much to our good fortune, I am apparently a Gold Member of the Hilton Honors which allowed us to stay on the executive floor, have free internet for one computer, and access to food in the lounge. So not all bad. We nap most of the day, check out at 6pm, fly to Greece, and arrive at Alex’s house around 2am (instead of 2pm). Luckily (insert sarcasm here), we’ll get to sleep for 4 hours before the video shoot. Yeah! Long of the short of it is: we are exhausted.

TUESDAY

It’s still dark out when we leave the house around 6am to drive up into the woods. Even though we are fully clothed, we are still cold. Luckily we’re excited to see what the set is going to look like and that makes everything better. Within moments of our arrival, I have a plastic bag placed around my neck and my makeup is being done by a professional. As the sun rises, my inner zombie awakens (see photos). Kevin snaps pictures of the morning sun warming the sky aaaaaand Scary Jo.

Kevin is first up to film. He wanders around at various tempos, takes a knee by the grave, and does more walking. When I’m ready, I sit on a rock in a cape-thing and hold out my hand. You can see in one of the pictures there are lots of people sitting around me making sure my hand “emotes properly” and to check my hair and makeup. 🙂 Finally, we film the ending where I pull back my hood to reveal Scary Jo!

That’s a wrap (at least for Kevin and me)! It’s about 10:30am and we’re done for the day. Alex takes us to eat crepes and we talk about what direction we’d like to go with the dancing and the who/what/where of choreography.

WEDNESDAY

Kevin and I head to the Lindy Hop Greece dance studio to put together choreography for the slow section. After about two hours, we have something we’re happy with. We then move to the group choreography section for the zombies. We thought it would be fun to do a Michael Jackson tribute and to keep it swingin’, so we threw something together, showed it to Alex and Christina, and they liked it! In total, I think we spent about 3.5 hours on choreo.

After rehearsal, I needed to go shopping and find something to wear for the fast section. I didn’t really have anything I thought would read well on video, so I headed to Zara to try my luck. I found a white polkadot shirt with a peter pan collar and a black skirt with a nice amount of flair 😀 Perfect.

Before I went to bed that night, I put my hair in pin curls in hopes that my hair would have some much needed body to it (see photo).

THURSDAY

Filming Day! We arrive at Block 33 around 10am and immediately start on hair and makeup. Even though the place was cold, I was charmed by the exposed brick, abandoned-factory sort of look. Kevin helped with set up as a transformed from “blah” to “yeah” (see pictures) and then we were first up to film. While all the dancers and crew looked on, we did 7 takes on the slow. We never hit it perfectly in any one of the takes, but we were close. Then we filmed closeups of our faces as we walked away from each other. At this point, we were hoping that all of the Zombie Dancers were going to be in full makeup, but mostly people had watched Kevin and me slow dance. Hahah…..that’s amusing to me.

As more zombies are created, I help run through group choreography  with the “humans.” People continued rotating in and out until most knew how to “dance-support” Kevin and me during the flash back sequence. I change and redo my hair, and then did what I could to keep warm. At this point, it’s probably close to 2pm.

One of the fun/difficult things about shooting was the fog machine. Sometimes there was too much and sometimes the fog would dissipate too quickly. Regardless, it was awesome to work with and I think I’d love to have one for the house :p Something else that was difficult was keeping warm and keeping the energy up. The entire experience was exciting, but filming days are long days. What also elongated the day was that Kevin and I don’t speak Greek, so almost everything needed to be translated. We finally wrap up around 10pm that evening.

Coolest part: We talked to the director and crew and explained to them the importance of syncing the dancing to the music and they were totally receptive to it! Now, you might say “Well, yes, of course. Why wouldn’t you do that?” but if you look at other videos with dancing in them, you can find examples where the dancing is in rhythm, but not on beat. Seriously, it happens. So, that being said, it was freaking fantastic that we were able to tell the crew what takes we liked best, had opportunities to look at our lines and make some adjustments, and that they were receptive to our feedback. Woohoo!!

All in all, it was a fabulous experience and I would love to do another one. The days are long, and I can only imagine what it must have been like for the band and crew who had considerably more work than I did. So to all the members of the Speakeasies Swing Band, the crew, and especially to Lindy Hop Greece, thank you from the bottom of our heart for having us.