I've always advertised myself as a dancer when speaking with non-dancer friends. I like to move, I play music in my room and dance for the hell of it and I also compete in Lindy Hop competitions around the world (if Canada and the US was the world)
One month ago, I was world-treking in the far away land of Vancouver, British Columbia for my favorite Lindy Hop weekend in the whole, wide world (of US and Canada), Lindy Bout.
This was my fourth time going and was excited to see my friends from Seattle and Vancouver, eat amazing food, buy everything at 23% off (USD to CAD) and just have a good time. But I also went into this competition with great trepidation.
July of 2017, I sprained my ankle dancing, healed it (poorly) and re-injured it in October. Come November, I had stopped dancing, running, anything that required me to be physical on my feet. Having been dancing for 5+ years straight, this was a daunting task. Dancing was my drug. My high, my escape from the pressures of reality. And just like that, poof. I didn't dance for 4 months.
I bought my ticket for Lindy Bout December 2017 and told myself I'd heal by April. March rolls around and I try dancing again. Braced, one hour at a time, I danced a total of 6 hours in the month of March.
With April came Lindy Bout. I boarded the plane excited and anxious; excited to see my friends, anxious to see if I would break during the weekend.
Fast forward to the first night of dancing and the first competition was an endurance competition. I did it with a partner I only danced once with. We got third out of 20+ couples. I didn't break. I was out of breath, shaking, sweating, coughing, bent over, nauseous and tired. But I didn't break.
I woke up the next morning sore, but not in sharp pain. I was happy.
The nights progress. 5 competitions on the docket. I make finals in 2 out of the 5. Both of them partner draws, in which your partners for prelims are random and as well as in finals.
The first was the Knockdown (Intermediate) Mix-and-Match. I was nervous, again worrying I was going to break. I remember standing by my partner thinking, "This is where it is going to happen. Right here. Right now. And ev-" We get pushed out to dance and my perpetual smirk kicks into gear and we dance. I don't remember any of it because I kept thinking, "This step it's going to happen. This one. Nope, I guess this one." By the end of it, I'm tired from overthinking and accepting my fate that this was not my best dance.
The second was the Interregional Mix-and Match, where partners are paired from different places in the world and the music is not of the swing dancing variety. Here is where my acting skills came to play. Being non-swing dancing songs, the true nature of this competition is fun and whether you and your partner are connected. If you know the improv adage of "Yes and...", then you would do well in this comp. Like above, I didn't remember any of it. But not because my mind was wrapped up in worry. I couldn't remember any of it because I was focused on my partner and the music. So thoroughly entranced I was; seamless interactions of leading and following, offering and receiving, action and reaction.
The night ends and I've only danced a few social dances and partied like no tomorrow. I focused less on the quantity of the dances and focused on the quality. Like in the interregional, being focused on my partner and the music.
Awards day comes and the call up the finalist for each competition. The Knockdown was first. Standing by my partner, I looked down the line of finalists thinking, "That couple definitely won." The emcee stood by the mic, "And the winners of the Knockdown Mix-and-Match Partner Draw are.... Sean Dunn and James Oh!"... Jaw drop.
Interregionals. I stand with my partner. Everyone did incredibly well and there were so many performances in which you thought, "That one is going to be the winner." "And the winners of the Interregional Mix-and-Match Partner Draw of Lindy Bout XII are... Miranda Longaker and James Oh." ... Jaw Drop.
Safe to say, I made it through the weekend without breaking and coming home with a few mementos. But largely, it came from the patience of saying to myself, "You need to heal just a little longer. Wait til March and you will be happier for it." And I was. Did I perform as well as I did pre-injury? No. But taking time off my feet and focusing on other things (Core, core, core, core, core) made sure I was better during injury.
So I guess the take away is, be patient with yourself. Pushing yourself too hard will result in pain that you may not be able to turn back from. Taking time to rest and breath can do wonders for who you are, mentally and physically.
So, until next time, keep hustling (safely) and stay goofy (always),
James Aaron Oh