Thursday, November 27, 2008

a little bit of rant, a little bit of an update

Hallo alle!
I hope y'alls' Thanksgivings are going fantastically. We have a short break from the program. Most people headed out to do their last bits of traveling about Europe. I'm staying in Berlin with the intent of working on my finals, relaxing, and basically being a baller.

The word for Thanksgiving (the holiday, not just any old giving thanks) in German is Erntedankfest, which means the festival of thanks of the harvest. neato!

My final project sounds like a pain, but it's really really cool. I hope, anyway. We were told that we need to write a 6-page final, in German. It must include 3 interviews in the research and it is therefore technically an oral history project.
That was all that is assigned. Preferably it has something specific to do with Berlin. Pretty open-ended, right? I freaked out. What do I like? I'm SICK of learning about all this war and then wall crap, where do I go from here?

Have no fear, pals, because I finally thought of something - dance. Researching dance is hella hard. But it's so easy to get interviews regarding the subject. At first I wanted to do ALL areas of dance, including the club scene, female primary education in the 20s and the importance of ballet, whatever Germany's equivalent to Cotillion is, social dance, folk dance... really everything.

My research is a little complicated. I don't carry around pen and paper and I don't let my subjects know I'm giving an interview.

While dancing in a cage at a place called Matrix, shouting to someone dancing with me: "So, how'd you hear about this place?"
"Sorry, I don't speak German!"
much laughter.
(Note: that sounds a lot worse than it is. Of course I've never been to a club at home, but they're fairly tame here, I guess. The cage is 3 feet off the ground and you just hop in whenever there's room.)

I haven't had any decent interviews that way, but I did go to a swing party. Since I went with a guy, I didn't get a chance to dance with anyone else. He told me I could, but nobody would have dared approach since he was sitting right next to me. It was so cool; the "bouncer" talked to us for about 20 minutes, asking where we were from and how our state had voted. We asked what kind of styles people were dancing. It was obvious we were the youngest ones there. The swing party was kind of a letdown. There were Lindy lessons, which was nice. I love dancing Lindy, but I am a woman and therefore a follower in the dance world, and I cannot explain to a leader/man what he is supposed to do. I tried, and the instructor tried, but it really didn't work out well. The DJ was fantastic, people's outfits were amazing. I'd like to call them costumes, but I know they're their regular swing dance dresses. They really were beautiful and quite classy.

Then... drumroll...
I had had enough BS that night of mediocre dancing. So I decided the next day to go alone.
and I went... you ready? CONTRA DANCING. Yup, in Germany.
I was a bit nervous. I had no idea how you'd say allemande left or ladies' chain or, God forbid, hay for four with an explanation in German.

It was terribly difficult to find. I was sure, when I got there, that I was only in the lobby. I asked where the dance was. This is it, a woman said. Oh, was my response. I thought it would be bigger. And not to diss the space, but enormous columns in tiny rooms are terribly inconducive to dancing of any sort, but especially to a dance which involves long lines.

There were so few people that the columns weren't really the problem. Of 20 people, there were 3 men. And one was the caller.
I had to dance as a man most of the time, except for when my monstrously tall female partner had to take a break. Then I danced with the caller.
There weren't exciting moves. One was a reel, which was about as daring as it got. The most exciting thing was a left hand star. No roll away with a half sashay, no young showoffs doing that fast, twirly business on our turn to be out.

The age mix with the women struck me as odd. There were 3 other youngish gals. A woman and her daughter, about my age and my mom's age. Definitely not 50 yet, definitely not boring yet. I approved of them. Another woman was probably 50 but looked younger. Surprise! She's from New Mexico. We chatted for quite a while and I had fun with her. I might use her as an interviewee. The rest of the women, however, were too damn old to be dancing. They ranged in age between 60 and 80. Now I know there are some youthful old folks at the dances I usually go to, but I so much appreciate them now. I don't know how these guys got into contra, but they didn't even seem to enjoy it.

Basically, I learned two good lessons from this.
Never again will I complain about contra crowd makeup in Davidson.
If you want to dance in Germany and have a good time, you either go big or go home. No folk dance nonsense. And bring a buddy who is better than you.

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