Swing Dancing: 1, Shelley: 0

I'm quitting swing dancing.

I Just have no heart for it anymore. I was thinking about doing it after Camp Hollywood to tell you the truth. Recent social dancing and not making the team was the real last straw. I can't keep putting myself through it.

I feel like I'm a joke. I've just come to the realization that I will never be able to earn respect as a dancer in the scene. I will always be the paying student, no matter what skills I develop. I can't compete with the cute girls who can flirt their way into dance lessons and in 6 months be respected as a dancer. Why continue to try?

You just are not considered a viable follow unless you can do arials. Period. Now, whether or not you DO them is different, but unless its perceived that you can, why is a lead going to invest in you if that is what takes you far as a dancer, right? But guys, they can be 250-300+ pounds and be an amazing dancer. I choke on the double standard.

This feels like I'm in an abusive relationship, because I love swing dancing so much, but it does not love me. I'm tired of the hours of practice outside of class on my own, the money, the time, the passion I've put into it (only second to my drawing/art to tell you the truth), and I'm still just a customer. I can't get past how people see me, and why should I take that burden? I can't control how people see me but I am constantly seeking approval from people in this scene. Why am I doing this to myself?

I don't have much fun when social dancing. I have no opportunities to hone my skills. I can't find a dance partner, and I'm spent of taking classes that don't improve my skills.

My heart is broken, because I don't think what I want is unreasonable. I want some respect, especially when you see girls who start out where you are, and they have it. I've never gotten it since I've been doing this. I'm just a 'newbie' whether it's classes, or events, or the bar. No one comes to me and says, "Man, I hoped you be here so we can dance together!" I can't tell you how many people I've said that to.

The scene is toxic for me, and it won. I'm letting it go.
I'm looking into yoga. We will see what happens.

28 comments:

  1. Oh no! I can tell by the few posts I've read when you refer to dancing how much you love it. Definitely don't quit!

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  2. I'm sorry you continue to have such a hard time with the swing dancing. It is clear you love it, but it doesn't all seem to love you back. I appreciate your candor sharing your struggles - it helped me decide to do belly dance instead of swing. Been having a great time with the belly dance. Keep your head up - it will get better.

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  3. I'm so very sorry you've had this experience. I wish you lived in my area. I would take you to where I go dancing. I'm six feet tall and "big-boned", but the leads lift and dip me just like your standard dainty-framed follow. That being said, I completely understand your feelings. Your local swing scene is toxic to your emotional health when it should be a release from cares and stress. You don't need it. I would ask that you don't dismiss the swing scene entirely. There are good and kind-hearted people in the community. You just have to find them. I hope you do one day. Chin up! You're a gem :-)

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  4. Why not find a Lindy hop community or a steppers group.

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  5. Oh Shelly. I too am so sorry this happened. I'm afraid you are focusing on your perceived rejection and not looking for a positive solution. Those of us who don't fit the "skinny b" mold experience this type of thing from time to time. Don't let it erode your self-esteem - you are too good.
    I understand your feelings, but perhaps you should persevere, but in a different way. I'm not questioning your decisions, but there may be others in your same situation - have you really looked around you to see, or are you focusing on the rejection? Can you link up with some newbie to whom you are an experienced dancer and form a friendship that enables you to dance? Through the internet, can you seek a "like minded" person to befriend? Or, as the others have said, find an alternative dance. Belly dancing seems to be an individual pursuit, not dependent on others, and you strike me as that sort of person, so perhaps that might be a way to go.

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  6. Taking a break from dancing might be a good idea. Yoga would be a great idea. Or some other physical/exercise activity you might like. Important, remain ACTIVE. You are looking healthy, more toned and nicely slimmer in your recent photos. Don't give up on YOU!

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  7. I'm sorry that people are such shallow dicks. Unfortunately, in a city like LA that's very common. People don't care about talent as long as you look "good".
    Have you thought about maybe starting your own swing group open to everyone but may focused to plus size women and men. This would give you more interaction with people who probably feel the same as you do.

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  8. As JuliN said, bellydance can be good for getting your dancing feet on and improving the self-esteem - I was in much the same place you were wondering if I should bother carrying on with Egyptian style bellydance when I would never be a soloist because the restaurants don't hire fat girls, then I discovered American Tribal Style where some of the most amazing dancers are bigger women.

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  9. This hurts my heart. I'm stunned at the shallowness and unfeeling other dancers. I'm very sorry.

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  10. It sounds like you are really down. And I wish I could say something to make you feel better. I think it is amazing you tried and I think, if your decision is final, you can still find something comparable and enjoyable that you can excel at. I am upset that such a vibrant, go-getter such as yourself can feel belittled by the superficiality of these people. Keep your chin up...you inspire me!

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  11. I would chalk this up as a loss for swing dancing as well! It sucks, and I'm sorry that it has happened to you. I hope you find your 'home' really soon!

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  12. I'm a swing dancer in Sydney and feel almost the opposite of you. We have a loving friendly scene where everyone, no matter what level, is welcome. Only a small number of people go on to do aerials. It's just not the focus. Instead we socialise, drink, dance and generally enjoy ourselves without taking anything too seriously.
    I went through the stage you are at. I'm your size, and never really cared to do lifts etc. I see these small young things go a long way, but I do feel lucky that being in a troupe or competing is just not the primary focus here.

    I don't think I would have lasted long if I got that feeling from the scene. If you ever come over here, we'll show you a good time.

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  13. That's horrible! The whole thing! I'm so, so sorry to hear that your local swing scene is so judgemental that you've been pushed away from doing something you love. I really hope you can redirect your positive attitude towards something more rewarding. Yoga is fun, belly dancing is also fun =) (I dabbled in a lot of of activities before swing dancing stole my heart).

    I can relate to how frustrating it can be to feel like one is not developing as a dancer for lack of a dance partner. Lessons and practice by one self only takes a dancer so far. I've read what you've written before, and I understand the lindy scene in LA is a lot more shallow, elitist and excluding than our little small-town everyone-knows-everyone dance scene. Even so, despite me being a good dancer, a teacher and normal on the side of slim and cute (omg, the Swede in me is writhing right now for bragging like that! *shudders*) I've had a really hard time finding a dance partner. The few one's on my level have all chosen someone else. I did feel like the 5th wheel nobody wanted to dance with when my short-time dance partner quit the small show group and it soon became evident that everybody prefered to dance with someone else. It's hard, it's damn hurtful and made worse 'cause it's inflicted by your friends who wishes you well but who don't count you as their favorite dancer.

    In the end I left the show group, took classes and social danced in other areas of the country to develope my dancing (contined teaching back home, of course). I became better, and although I'm still not the favorite follower for the leads in the show group that's ok: they're not my favorite leads either... Different purposes with the dance, different flavors. Fun for a dance or two, but I'm glad I'm not partneing with any of them. These days I do have a dance partner that I work great with, we have the same vision, same goal and are at the same level. He's now my boyfriend =) I've danced for 6 years, after 2 I was teaching but it took 3 more before I actually got a dance partner.

    I'm not complaining, I love where I am with my dancing, and I understand your place is a whole lot different from what mine has ever been. I just wanted to share my experience that when it comes to finding a dance partner; unless you're dancing with your partner for life, it's hard for anyone to find one. No matter size or skill.

    So all in all, your dance scene sound horrible, and I wish you all the best in finding an activity that gives you energy instead of taking it. However, if you want a chance at continuing the swing-relationship and bettering it, in addition to the local yoga etc, it might be an idea to travel to other cities. I really recommend weekend camps in smaller towns! Never underestimate the positive effects of good social dancing in a loving atmosphere =)

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  14. How absolutely awful for you! Sorry to hear how your scene has treated you. No matter what the group is it's tough when the members act this way.

    I will agree with Erika - it can be hard to find a partner no matter what. Back in the 90s I wanted to swing dance and very quickly realized that if I couldn't enlist my boyfriend (I couldn't) it was just going to be like reliving high school, so I gave up on it. So it's not just you and it's not just LA. Still sucks of course.

    If you have any interest in it, I think your dance experience would make you a super-quick study at either traditional dance (contras/squares) or Western Square Dance - both of which have scenes that are super-friendly and welcoming to singles. Free and open house dances are scheduled all over the place in Sept and Oct - why not give it a shot?

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  15. I have to say I think this could be a location thing. You won't find as good of partners in other parts of the country but they aren't as snobby either.

    That being said even in my own town it took me putting myself out there a bit to find other dancer to dance with.

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  16. I lived in Los Angeles for almost a year (this was about three years ago, now) and had a very similar experience. I mostly gave up on swing dancing after experiencing what felt to me like a catty, cliquey "scene" and I spent the entire time I lived there feeling like an outsider. There were a couple of people who were exceptions, but by and large I was very disillusioned by the whole experience. However, I think a lot of that has to do with the LA mindset more than just swing dancing community by and large.

    That being said, I really love doing yoga and I have also looked into taking belly dance lessons (although with two full time jobs and three dogs, I haven't been able to fit that into my schedule).

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  17. I am so sorry. How horrible. As a stout girl myself it never gets any easier to be bypassed just because of your size and never appreciated for just how awesome you are. :) And you are awesome. I love reading your blog and how honest you are. Love to you my dear.

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  18. I'm sorry that you are quitting a dance form that you love. I hope that you find peace and tranquility in Yoga. I hope that you keep active and that you do no completely give up dancing--I hope that you find something that you will enjoy, whether it's square dancing, bellydancing or hula or anything. Don't let the bastards grind you down--you deserve better treatment.

    Rose in SV

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  19. I felt like that, when my friends and I did swing dancing in L.A. and Orange County when we were teenagers (more than a decade ago, now), and like other commenters, I think it's 90% location. Los Angeles can be so absolutely vicious, especially when it comes to a woman's appearance. Anywhere else I've ever been around swing dancers or any other kind of dancing scene, it's not so bad. People can be cliquish and superficial anywhere, but it's so very much an L.A. thing. I'm so sorry you're being made to feel so bad that you need to give it up - hopefully yoga will be friendlier!

    And like others have said, belly dancing can be great. I'm still too much of a coward to take classes but I have a DVD set and a friend who showed me the basics, and I really enjoy it. From what I hear, bellydancing studios/classes tend to be really lovely and inclusive. Take care of yourself!

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  20. I've been reading your bog for a while but have never commented till now. I have to ask: do you take ballet? My daughters are in a pre-professional dance school, they do all forms of dance and while they will never dance ballet professionally (they don't have the right body types) they have been taking ballet classes for over 10 years. Ballet is the backbone of every form of western-style dance. This summer the son of a friend who has been taking ballroom for 8 years (but had no training in any other form) took the summer intensive class with them and his skills improved so much from his ballet classes that he now realizes he has to take ballet in addition with his ballroom instruction. Even a guy like Kenny Wormald (who started in the Footloose remake) has had 12 years of ballet training and he’s known as a hip hop dancer. A swing dancer with ballet training will *always* be better than a swing dancer with swing training but no ballet, regardless of how the dancer looks. There are plenty of plus size girls in my daughters dance school and they are all amazing dancers. Dance is an art form where training matters as much as natural ability and most dancers are made not born.

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  21. I don't think me not taking ballet is it, at all.

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  22. Dear Shelley,
    Like Phyllis I've been reading and enjoying your blog for a long time, but have never commented until now. The main reason I read your blog is that you always make me feel great about life. You have such a fantastic, positive, creative spirit. I always feel inspired and energized after reading what you have to say.

    You're obviously a terrific person, and one it would be a privilege to know. It's easy to say this, but I really mean it: it's their loss. Truly.

    If you lived in St. Louis you'd encounter a much more accepting and friendly scene. Granted, we're not at the skill level of the LA swing dancers (and I am the sorriest of the bunch) but there's a real sense of friendliness, and not much in the way of clique behavior.

    I wish you all the best. You deserve the best.

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  23. The politics of swing dancing nearly killed off what scene we had in Orlando. It was AWFUL. It's different now, 12 years later. Maybe it had to do with everyone growing up, getting jobs, and finding out what REALLY mattered in life? I dunno. Back in the day, it was the DC dancers that ruled the world. Frankly my dear, when it gets to be too much of a drag, just cut it loose.

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  24. I wish you could pop over to Asheville, NC every Tuesday night and dance with the wonderful group here. I'm a new dancer myself, but I have observed that some of the finest local dancers are larger follows who seem very popular with the leads.

    I do believe that dancing has to serve us in our lives rather than the other way 'round. When I start stressing out about my progress or my prospects for developing as a dancer (I'm 43, mother of a special needs child and thus not likely to ever go beyond social dancing), I remind myself that dancing must enhance my life. If it isn't enhancing yours, it's a crying shame, but you've probably got the right idea in stepping back from it for now.

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  25. What a shame that's the best option for you ... even though taking a break doesn't mean quitting forever. I loved doing egyptian folkloric (not the typical cabaret style) bellydance even though I was pretty incompetent. I was very lucky to be in a group that found a place for everyone, even me!

    You sound a little like me, socialised introvert that's non-conformist enough to make the go-alongs uncomfortable. Often I'm saying what other people think but aren't willing to say. {shrugs} I've learned to be more tactful about it, but I like to think of it as a strength not a weakness,

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  26. Janice has a point. It looks like that you do love dancing, but, maybe for now you would need to do some things for yourself first. Yes, you probably should try looking into yoga first to help you relieve yourself from stress and anxiety. And who knows, after you’ve attended the sessions, you might be back in good shape, with the proper mindset for your love for dancing. :) Sometimes, you just need a little breather from everything.

    Tyson Sieger

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