rivka: (talk about me)
Here's the "If I could..." edition. You guys ask good questions.

[livejournal.com profile] kazoogrrl: If you worked at Colonial Williamsburg, you would be what kind of historical reenactor, and why?

If we are fantasizing that I would have any skills I might need to obtain such a position, I'd like to be in the dressmakers'/milliners' shop, preferably focusing on fine embroidery. When we were there in November, there was a woman sitting in a sunny window embroidering the most stunning piece of white-on-white lace. I really enjoy fine needlework, but I don't have much time (okay, any time) to work on it. It would be pleasant to have a lot of time to develop those skills and share them with others, in a mellow and conversational setting.

If we're thinking about positions I might legitimately be qualified for, I'd probably wind up doing historical dance performance. Which is funny, because I'm about the least athletic or graceful person ever, under ordinary circumstances. But I've done quite a bit of English Country Dancing, and I love it, and I'm good at it.

[livejournal.com profile] pameladean: What are three things you'd do to your house if you could?

0. Buy it. I would love to own this house instead of renting it. But I know that's not what you meant, so I'm making it #0.

1. Put decking on the porch outside our bedroom, so that it can be walked on without damaging the roof surface. I understand why our landlord never did that - that short short railing would create a massive liability risk, and you couldn't put a real, safe-height railing in because the historical preservation people would throw a fit.

2. Insulate the kitchen and the pantry. They're just kind of hanging off the back of the house, with nothing underneath them and nothing around them, and they get so cold in the winter that for a while the olive oil congealed.

3. Rip out the 70's-era paneling and dropped ceiling in the third floor guest room. Then, eventually, we could convert it to our bedroom and turn our gorgeous current bedroom, with its floor-to-ceiling built-in bookshelves, into a study for the whole family. Right now our desks are crammed into the dining room instead.

[livejournal.com profile] moobabe: If you could do anything (job/hobby/etc) that you can't or don't do right now, what would it be?

Homeschool. This is in the works for a year and a half from now, when Alex is scheduled to start kindergarten. Michael and I hope to both work part-time and both share in the homeschooling. I'd kind of like to get started sooner, although I recognize that the older Colin is when we start the easier things will be. (Oops, here I am bringing in kids/parenting again, and violating the purpose of the meme.)

[livejournal.com profile] duanekc: If you had unlimited time and budget, would you travel? Where, and why? With or without family? Are there places you would like to see just by yourself, or is traveling without family unthinkable?

Oh, gosh. I haven't traveled that much, and I have a long list of places I'd like to go. I would love to go on safari in Africa. I'd like to see Egypt and Petra. I would like to do a rain forest/beach/snorkeling trip in central America. I would like to go on a cruise. I would like to cross the US and Canada by transcontinental rail. I would like to visit Vietnam. I would like to take the kids to Disneyworld.

I don't like to leave my kids for longer than a few days - at least, I can't imagine doing that until they're much older. So although I see definite advantages to familyless travel that'd be pretty far in my future. I think it will start being feasible for us to do significant travel when Colin is about the age that Alex is now. I have this family adventure travel site bookmarked, and it is a frequent stop for fantasizing.

[livejournal.com profile] castiron: What craft skill (where craft could be anything from sewing to blacksmithing to origami to small engine repair) would you most like to learn?

Quilting.

[livejournal.com profile] johnpalmer: Is there any one thing that you wish you had blogged about, but even if you were blogging, it's been *way* too long, so you can't blog about it now... but oh, it was *important*, and you really wanted to say something about it!

What was it? What did you want to say?


I wish I had finished my series on physician-assisted suicide, because it's a topic that I think many, many smart and ethical and well-meaning people are misguided about. I may be getting back to doing some writing on that in the near future.
rivka: (her majesty)
Recommended: Going to the Family Dance sponsored by the Baltimore Folk Music Society and having a great time dancing to live music with your three-year-old.

Not Recommended: Leaving the dance, getting in the car, and backing out of your parking place, only to discover that you have an extremely flat tire.

Not Recommended: Your three-year-old developing a multiple-bathroom-trip case of diarrhea while you're trying to get the car situation straightened out.

Not Recommended: All of this happening at dinner time, so that the kid's stomach is a ticking time bomb in more ways than one.

Recommended: Toyota roadside assistance, which comes free to 100,000 miles when you buy a Toyota Certified Used Vehicle. I called their 800 number, and about 10 minutes later a lovely young man was in the church parking lot changing my tire. All told, it took just about half an hour from discovering the flat to being on the road again - including bathroom trips. No money changed hands. And Toyota called later to double-check that everything was okay.

Recommended: The three-year-old belting out from the back seat, "I like black and white, dreaming black and white, you like black and white, run runaway."


Now I am extremely tired.

The Family Dance was wonderful, though. Alex is to the point where she can follow some basic dance directions, and she's much less reluctant to hold fellow dancers' hands than she used to be. For some of the dances she was able to be my partner instead of just my shadow - including one square dance in which she was required to run around the square in the opposite direction from me. I only had to carry her for a grand total of about three minutes. And no one patted me on the head.
rivka: (smite)
OMFG this is the kind of day I'm having:

Alex and I went to the Baltimore Folk Music Society's family dance, as we have done a few times before. The caller was not as great as usual, but we still had a good time. Alex mostly shadowed me - we held hands and acted as one dancer together - but when she got tired I scooped her up and carried her on my hip.

After an hour or so, her interest flagged and we were both more seriously tired. (We had our second OWL overnight last night, which pretty much used up my week's supply of energy.) I sat down on a bench and began to gather our things.

When she saw us getting ready to leave, a middle-aged woman I don't know came over to us.

"You were amazing with her-"

I gave a parental smile-and-shrug. It is tricky to steer a three-year-old through a contra-style dance.

"-the way you were holding her-"

Alex is thin and light for her size, but I can see how someone might think it's impressive to dance while carrying a 28-pound weight. I'm used to carrying her, though, so it's no big deal.

"-even though you have something wrong yourself."

I froze. Looked fixedly at her and raised my eyebrows in reproof. She didn't seem to notice. She gestured at my right arm, as if I might not have taken her meaning.[1]

"I mean, for you to be able to dance like that-"

I arched my back slightly, keeping the rest of my body stiff with outrage, looked up at her through the tops of my glasses, and gave her Raised Eyebrows of Doom.

My Eyebrows of Doom apparently need recalibrating. Because I watched, spellbound, as her hand came out. Pat. Pat.

She patted me on the head.

No, really. She literally did. I'm not exaggerating for humorous effect or being metaphorical. She patted me on the fucking head.

"I didn't even know there was anything wrong with you!" she said benevolently, as if conferring praise.

"There isn't anything wrong with me," I said coldly. "I'm a very experienced English Country dancer. I've been dancing for years." I took Alex by the hand and we swept out of the room while she uttered little exclamations of protest and surprise.

I just... wow. Wow. She... wow.

I know that I should use this kind of situation as an opportunity to educate, but I was quite literally struck speechless. I mean... I mean... okay, where do you even start with someone who, head patting?



[1] For those of you who don't know, my right arm is about half as long as my left, the elbow doesn't bend, the shoulder has limited mobility, and the hand is four-fingered and slightly smaller.
rivka: (ice cream)
I went English Country Dancing[1] last night, for probably the second or third time since Alex was born.

I was surprised to see how much I remembered. All of it, really. Not necessarily the steps of the individual dances, of course, although many of them felt deeply familiar. But I found that I effortlessly remembered how to form the figures, and was free to focus on satsifying extras like making sure that my movements were precisely the right size to carry me through the alloted beats of music.

I love to lose myself in the patterns of ECD. I was particularly aware of that last night, coming back after a long absence. Nearly all of the dancers present last night were highly skilled, which meant dressed sets, symmetrical movements, and attention to rhythm and flow. Every figure fell beautifully into place, bodies weaving in and out with confident precision. My attention might, at a given moment, be locked on my partner - perhaps turning in a circle with her, our only connection steady eye contact - but at the same time I was aware that our actions were being mirrored all up and down the set.

The first dance after I arrived, Sun Assembly,[2] has a moment when you take right hands across with the couple below you so that your joined arms form an X, wheel around in a circle, and then join left hands across with the couple above you in the set and circle in the opposite direction. This is all one long fluid motion. You circle around. Just as you reach the crest of the circle, the music cues you to reach your left hand out, and someone is there. You grasp their hand, keep stepping forward, and another hand reaches out at precisely the moment when your partner reaches the crest of the circle. Everyone is in whirling motion. Everyone is part of the pattern, and the pattern unfolds with mathematical beauty. You are at once an individual, one of a pair, and part of a whole. The pattern repeats, musically and physically, as you move up and down the set with your partner. It almost feels like ritual to me, like spiritual practice.

There's a sense of rightness about it, to me - falling into position, reaching out my hand, having the other's hand in place to take it - a sense of intense, almost painful satisfaction. There. There. There. I'm reminded that humans are pattern-seeking animals. This is partly what my brain is wired for.





(Hey, [livejournal.com profile] madrobin: more than three years later, Laura and Neil still dance only with each other. Do you think, in all this time, that anyone has ever explained dance etiquette to them?)


[1] ECD is the kind of dancing you see in movie adaptations of Jane Austen. Most dances were written in the 17th or 18th century (althouugh ECD is also a living art; people are still writing dances today) and are performed by long sets of couples. Here's a lovely demonstration set by skilled dancers in period costume. Here is a fine example of a casual event where dances are taught and called.

[2] Whoa, I just made a crazy discovery: this webpage which attempts to map out the dance using tables. No, seriously. To get the full effect, hit the "sync" button and watch the steps progress to music, but you can also advance through the dance manually, step by step, and see precisely where the dancers ought to be standing during bar 7, beat 13 of the A section. This will not help you to understand the dance unless you are an ECD expert, but geekiness is a deeply beautiful thing in and of itself.
rivka: (christmas penguins)
This afternoon, as we've done a couple of times before, we went to a family dance sponsored by the Baltimore Folk Music Society.

The way they've set these up, there's a family dance from 5-6:30pm, then a potluck, and then American folk dancing (contra and square) for adults. Both groups share a caller and dance band. Um, supposedly. This time, the band was very very late - they still hadn't arrived by the time that we left, when the family dance was nearly over - and so the caller had to accompany himself on guitar or fiddle. It's a testament to his considerable skill that this worked at all; in fact, it worked very well.

The family dances seem to follow a particular rhythm: they start out with simple folk dances and dancing games for the first half, and then in the second half there's more of a skill-building focus. The second half of tonight's dance was an introduction to square dancing, leading up to a fairly complicated square dance. ("Duck for the Oyster," if you follow these things.)

Alex was the youngest walker there. ([livejournal.com profile] telerib and [livejournal.com profile] moeticae had Baby Spud in a sling.) For the first two dances, she was my shadow - we held hands and participated as if we were one dancer. (That's what the youngest children usually do, so that they don't have to change partners away from a parent.) After that, she rode on a hip. She did amazingly well when she danced - she did a rough approximation of the steps, kept her focus on the dance, and showed great stamina. And she danced with such joy. She just grinned from ear to ear. Her clear favorite was the Kinderpolka - she even asked me to "sing it" on the way home, which seemed to mean talking out the steps. My favorite was Sasha, a wildly popular (in folk dancing circles), raucous pseudo-Russian dance that the caller couldn't resist putting in when he realized he had not one, but two different Alexandras at the dance.

The other Alexandra is someone I've seen at English Country Dances since she was about four years old and riding on her father's shoulders. She's now nine or ten and has become an accomplished dancer - when we did a cakewalk at the end to win a free pass to next month's dance, she spontaneously did an impressive set of clogging steps. It was cool to see.

I'd like to get more closely involved in the Folk Music Society again myself, and I'd like us to do the family dances more regularly. I had been thinking that we were in an awkward time for that, with Alex too big to be carried and too little to dance herself. But she did great. And it seems like such a wonderful first structured physical activity: it's fun, it builds strength and coordination, it has the potential to be a lifelong hobby, it brings you into a supportive intergenerational community, and there's absolutely none of the competitive or figure-conscious baggage that comes with more traditional activities like team sports and classical dance. And oh, did she ever love it.
rivka: (Default)
My father is totally fine. Thank you, all of you, for the good thoughts and the handholding.




Yesterday we went dancing with the Baltimore Folk Music Society. This is the same organization that I used to do English Country Dancing with, and hope to again. On the second Saturday of every month, they have an family dance from 5-6:30, followed by a potluck, which in turn is followed by a contra dance for adults.

About 35 people attended the family dance - mostly families with children, but also some adults on their own. Alex was the youngest baby there. There were a few toddlers and preschoolers, a whole gang of kids aged about 5-10, and even a couple of teenagers. The band for the contra dance played the family dance as well - a professional-quality string band with guitar, fiddle, mandolin, and bass. Instead of "children's music," they played country jigs and reels. The dancing started out very, very simple - a long line of people holding hands and snaking around the room in time to the music - and then progressed to circle dances and a contra. The dances were well-chosen for children's participation, but they were definitely fun for adults as well.

Alex had a blast. She kept shrieking with excitement, especially when we did a circle dance with lots of stamping and turning. She'd get so happy that she'd have to bury her face in my shoulder for a moment before looking around again. I just carried her in arms for the first couple of dances, and then put her in the sling in a kangaroo carry - cross-legged and facing out, with her back against my chest. She loves people, so dancing in a large group was a constant feast of entertainment for her. Everyone seemed happy to see her. Even though she was the youngest, we didn't get the slightest feeling that the caller or the other dancers thought she was too young.

I think we're going to make this a monthly event. It'll probably be a while before we can even stay until the potluck - Alex wore down by around six, from a combination of overexcitement and closeness to bedtime. But even an hour of dancing felt great. It also convinced me that I need to get back to English dancing. Michael can certainly take Alex on Monday evenings.
rivka: (Default)
I went English Country Dancing last night for the first time in, oh, more than a year. It was wonderful.

When I stopped going, the group had been dwindling in attendance - and there was a particular shortage of women, which meant that I felt a lot of pressure not to sit out any dances. (Yes, same-sex pairs can dance together, but women in our group are much more inclined to do so than men.) Last night there were about two dozen people, a nice-sized group for dancing and a damned good crowd for a holiday weekend. Some of my old friends were there, others not - and of course there were plenty of people who were new since I left. I was mostly caught up with renewing acquaintances, but I did spend some time reassuring a woman who, after a full six weeks of dancing, felt like she wasn't any good at it.

Boy, am I out of shape. (Annoyingly, two different dancers responded to that statement last night by commenting that I didn't look like I was still carrying much pregnancy weight. No, I'm not, but it's not like losing weight automatically supplies you with muscles.) I was up for about two dances before I had to sit out a dance and rest. But I had a great time when I did dance. I've forgotten less than I expected. Weirdly, although I had no trouble with complicated dance figures, I made a few completely boneheaded mistakes - such as forgetting whether I was supposed to be dancing with the couple above or the couple below. I'm sure that if I make it back there for another couple of dances, it'll be just as if I never left.

I wonder if I can corset myself into my ball gown.

Alex did beautifully. I wore her in the sling, sort of sitting up against my chest with her head well-supported. She watched the first dance very closely, and then put her head on my chest and fell asleep. She didn't get in the way at all. I kept a hand on her for some of the jerkier dance motions, like setting left and right, but mostly I felt secure about her position and safety. And everyone was glad to see her. I had asked a dance friend who also goes to our church whether there would be dancing on Memorial Day, and (unbeknownst to me) he printed out a little thing welcoming her to her first dance, and had everyone sign it. It was very sweet.

As I strapped her into her carseat afterward, she gave me a huge grin. "Yeah," I said, grinning back, "you and Mama just had a special time together, didn't you?" She didn't know what my words meant, of course, but I think we understood each other.
rivka: (Default)
A couple of people asked how my first venture in dance calling went.

I think I did well. We had a small group of dancers, probably because (a) it was the first night of Passover, and (b) schools were out on spring break. So for Ashford Anniversary (the first dance I called) there were only two sets of three couples each, and for Well Hall there were eight couples. The small number of dancers made it much, much easier to keep track of whether people were going astray.

I called the first two dances after we broke for refreshments, so I had plenty of time to get nervous. I went up on stage and told the musicians, "I've never called before, so I have absolutely no idea how to talk to musicians." They cackled, but then kindly told me that all I really needed to do was give them advance warning of the last two repetitions. Two of the three of them - the fiddle player and the pianist - were among our very best musicians, so I was able to leave things like the tempo to them. I think with less experienced players, the caller does need to do more than just warn them when to stop, so this was great for my first time.

We had a mix of skill levels among the dancers: one absolute and ungifted beginner, two people who have been coming for a while but have been kind of slow to progress, and then a bunch of old hands. I mostly kept my eyes on the three people I was worried about, and spoke directly to them during the teaching.

The first thing I learned is that, although you ought to have notes, you can't look at them and call at the same time. It was a good thing I had the dances memorized, because I never had the chance to look down at my paper. It was also good that I'd planned out how I wanted to describe various dance moves, because I was nervous enough to be standing on stage that I doubt I would've had much skill at improvising explanations.

Both dances went smoothly. I had to call all the way through Ashford Anniversary, because we just do two repetitions of the dance and because the absolute beginner froze every single time we came to the chorus figure. (On the second time through the dance, when we got to the chorus I just called her part - "first woman, skip around" - because everyone else had it.) When they danced Well Hall, after the first few repetitions I was able to just relax and watch them dance, throwing in occasional words of advice ("take your time, don't rush this"). It's a lovely dance, one of my favorites as a dancer, but of course I'd never seen it from the stage before. I loved being able to see the whole set at once, moving forward and back in the graceful, sweeping patterns of the dance. Watching them, I felt a surge of warm tender emotions, and almost lost my place. (I was supposed to be keeping track of when a good time to stop would be.)

As I was coming down off the stage afterward, the president said, "That was the calling debut of Rivka Wald," and everyone applauded. I was so grateful he hadn't said it in advance! Many people had kind things to say, but I was glad to melt back into ordinary dancerhood. At the end of the evening, I was surprisingly exhausted. Who knows how people manage to call for an entire dance.
rivka: (Default)
This evening, for the first time, I'm going to call some dances for my English Country Dance group.

I've been interested in calling for a while. It initially arose out of frustration with callers who irritate me, which perhaps isn't the best of motivations. But I also think it's something that I'll do well, once I've had some practice. So I've been talking to different callers, collecting advice, and thinking about how I would explain various dance moves and dances.

Tonight's a "community callers" night, meaning that lots of different people will call a few dances each. I've been promised skilled musicians who require little direction. (I haven't the faintest idea of how to direct ECD musicians, so this is a very good thing.) I've chosen two simple dances I know well. The only potential hitch is that it's the first Monday of the month, and the first Monday is when we have a new dancers' workshop before the regular dance. So there will probably be some complete beginners.

As we always do, I'll teach the steps of each dance first, phrase by phrase. Then, as they dance it through with the music, I'll call out upcoming steps just before or just as they happen. If anyone gets confused or loses track of what they're supposed to be doing, it will be my job to call out enough useful instructions to fix it. That's the part that worries me most.

The dances I've chosen are:
Ashford Anniversary )

Well Hall )


I'll probably make something of a mess of it - I'm sure everyone does, when they're up there for the first time trying to call and pay attention to the musicians and watch the dancers and pick up on mistakes as they're happening. But it's not as if it would be any easier if I waited longer. I know these dances by heart. They're easy. There will be a lot of experienced dancers there to help out the beginners. So here we go - wish me luck!
rivka: (Default)
Monday night I went to English Country Dancing. It really helped a lot to spend two and a half hours unable to think about anything but movement and music. I think it helped me to sleep well and have a much better day on Tuesday.

Today I have an emergency dental appointment at 3:30, argh. I hope I can get away with just an X-ray and some antibiotics today - the dentist's nurse thought I probably could - but any way you look at it, this is probably a sign that I have to stop avoiding regular dental visits. I haven't been in three years.

When I called the dentist assigned to me by my insurance plan, I discovered that although I live in a very large city with lots of dentists, I had been given a dentist in Westminster, a small town quite far from Baltimore. (Take a look at the map here.) It took about an hour on the phone to get things straightened out so that I now have an assigned dentist less than two blocks away from my house, an appointment with said dentist for this afternoon, and a prescription for prophylactic amoxicillin from my primary care doctor. (Because of my artificial hip, I'm required to take a large dose of antibiotics right before I have dental work done.)

Even with the dental stuff, I'm still feeling better today. Good.
rivka: (wedding)
Last night was the Baltimore Folk Music Society's annual Playford Ball - my third since I've been doing English Country Dancing. It was a lovely, lovely evening. I think there were around 100 people there, which meant plenty of room to dance - last year the sets were so squashed together that movement was unpleasantly constricted. This year we still had three longways sets across the hall, but the individual dancers were able to spread widely enough apart that, for example, if the dance called for backing up you could back up through the line behind you, instead of coming up short against a wall of backs.

I love watching an entire hall full of people who know how to dance well, all moving in precisely the same patterns at precisely the same time. Each individual dancer has their own flourishes and puts their own stamp of personality on the patterns, but at the same time you have a hundred people dodging and weaving in such perfect synchrony that everyone is in exactly the right place and no one even bumps elbows. It's gorgeous.

I got to dance with [livejournal.com profile] curiousangel and [livejournal.com profile] wcg (who rose from his sickbed, brave man, although you couldn't tell it from watching him dance), and - yay! - with [livejournal.com profile] helygen, who came down for the weekend to attend the ball. She made quite an impression on the men present, in a simple and elegant dress [livejournal.com profile] wcg made for her.

The band - a group from Philadelphia and New Jersey called "Hold the Mustard" - was excellent at building and sustaining the energy of the crowd. Their bluesy interpretation of Smithy Hill (link is to an mp3, but not of "Hold the Mustard") sounded like it came right out of an after-hours lounge, and led to some pretty ridiculous, and yet fun, strutting and sauntering in the set I was in.

The food was excellent - little morsels of potato and herb-filled puff pastry, mini quiches, savory little meatballs, seven or eight kinds of gourmet cheeses, cold asparagus spears, zucchini, and bell pepper strips with two different dips, fancy breads cut into ornate shapes, mini cheesecakes topped with glazed fruit, rich little chocolate desserts. It was almost enough to make me forgive the woman in charge of the kitchen for being snippy about letting anyone in during afternoon ball practice. (This was a vast, uncramped kitchen, capable of handling eight or ten kitchen workers without anyone being tripped over, and there were only two people preparing food in it. But she was still mortally offended when I entered to get some water, because I was allergic to the only drink being served, and then again when [livejournal.com profile] curiousangel entered to get an ice pack for my injured ankle.)

The only thing that marred the evening for me was that someone criticized my dress. She was wearing a gorgeous concoction of embroidered white silk, and as I was asking about it she turned up her nose at mine because I wasn't wearing a bum roll or paniers beneath it. I explained that my dress was a copy of a specific 18th century gown that hadn't been worn with figure enhancers, and she treated me to a condescending little lecture about how wrong I was to think that 18th century dresses were ever worn without them, and how I had probably relied on an ignorant, inaccurate source for my pattern.

Probably everyone who's ever been in the SCA is laughing and rolling their eyes right now, but my feelings were genuinely hurt. In the first place, she was just wrong about the style of my gown - but even if she hadn't been, it's not like the Playford Ball is supposed to be about historical accuracy in dress. People were wearing anything from modern formalwear to sweeping gypsy/hippie dresses to African robes to, yes, reproductions of 18th and early 19th century clothing. People wear whatever they think is festive. It's supposed to be about dancing and fellowship. I have no idea why she thought it was appropriate to go out of her way to put me down.

[livejournal.com profile] curiousangel suggested that I accidentally spill my glass of cranberry punch over her white silk gown, but I restrained myself. Later on, when we were in the same set, she kept trying to make eye contact and smiling broadly at me. I don't know whether she thought our conversation had been friendly, or what.
rivka: (Default)
My local English Country Dance group sponsors a Playford Ball every year. This year's ball has sort of snuck up on me - it's coming up in less than a month. I need to start getting to dance practice more regularly.

I have a lovely ball dress that [livejournal.com profile] wcg made for me, an approximate copy of a 1770 English dress which is very comfortable to dance in. The problem is that my hair is resoundingly un-period. I'm not going to buy a period-style wig, so the alternative is some sort of hat or cap. It's hard to find something that will go with my ball dress, but will cover all of my hair - the classic mob cap was, I think, more lower-class than would ordinarily be worn at a ball.

I'm thinking of buying something like this pleated cap. Honestly, this is the only time all year that I wish I had long hair.
rivka: (Rivka and Misha)
New Year's Eve and New Year's Day went beautifully.
New Year's Eve )
New Year's Day )
two New Year's Eve pictures )
rivka: (full face view)
Saturday night, as I've said, was the Washington Spring Ball, and consequently the inaugural appearance of my new ball gown. There were difficulties at the beginning of the evening (it took [livejournal.com profile] curiousangel longer than we'd anticipated to lace and hook me into the dress, he not being as practiced as [livejournal.com profile] wcg, and then one of the ribbons that held up the overskirt came loose from its mooring in the car on the way over and had to be frantically pinned in place), but once we sailed through the arch of greenery at the ballroom door the evening was radiantly perfect from beginning to end.

Perhaps it's because everyone at a ball is dressed up and given to extra courtesies and flourishes, or perhaps it's simply that a much greater proportion of ball dancers are reasonably skilled and have practiced the scheduled dances, but I've found that certain dances click for me at a ball in a way that they haven't done at practices. I've always loved the Bishop, with its swooping curves and multiple opportunities for flirtation, and Well Hall, which is more in the way of a prolonged romantic interlude with one's own partner. Those dances are delightful at practice, and they were delightful Saturday night.

But Saturday's ball transformed the dance St. Margaret's Hill. It's a dance for six people, arrayed in three couples. Each couple in turn takes the lead for a series of elaborate loops and turns. In practice, it's always struck me as fussy, mannered, and awkward. At the ball, in a set with five other skilled dancers, I suddenly experienced as it can be: not a long flowing chain, like most of my favorite dances, but a cameo ornate and perfect in its minuteness. I moved in mirror balance with my partner, an impossibly elegant young man in a long pale blue waistcoat and breeches matching his pale blue eyes, and knew that we were graceful and beautiful together. And found myself regretting the moment that the "fussy, mannered" dance ended.

And Round About Our Coal Fire, a relatively new dance to me and one that's in a cursedly unusual and difficult 9/8 meter. It's a fast dance, with complicated weaving patterns, and if you lag behind a step it's hard to recover. For half way up the set, I was desperately counting under my breath, barely meeting my partner's eyes in passing. And then suddenly it clicked, and I was moving rapidly in and out of the heys and changes in perfect 9/8 time, and most assuredly dancing with my partner even when the patterns separated us.

From the beginning of the evening to the end, I felt beautiful. Everyone praised Bill for my dress, and rightly so, but the best compliment that I can give him myself is that for once I saw what other people saw without having to struggle. I felt beautiful, and graceful, and elegant, right down to the skin. I felt like a princess.
rivka: (Default)
[livejournal.com profile] wcg and I did English Country Dance together first, and then a few months later [livejournal.com profile] curiousangel started joining us. There were a few surprised looks when I showed up with a new man and introduced him as my husband, and a couple of quiet side questions. We haven't made any announcements or lectured people about polyamory - I've just been clearly there with both of them, and that's been it.

There's a formal ball coming up in Binghamton, New York, not far from where my parents live. The oldest ECD couple (they're in their seventies) always go to it because they used to live in Binghamton, and when they heard my parents were nearby they started encouraging us to attend. We just recently decided for sure that we would, and tonight I had this exchange:

Rivka: "Hey, we've decided for sure that we're going to be at the Binghamton Ball."
ECDer in his seventies: "Great! How many of you?"

And I was just... wow. I stammered out "Just me and Misha," and he said something cheerful about hoping we'd have a good time.

And, you know, that's how it should be.
rivka: (Default)
It's all too easy for my LJ to slide into an eternal litany of complaints and outrage and depressive maunderings. I don't know why bad moods and surliness seem so much more appropriate to share, but in recompense I offer (in no particular order) ten things that are currently brightening my life.

1. Baseball season fast approacheth. Full squads report to spring training this week. Opening Day is in forty days. Baseball is one of the things that makes me feel especially close to [livejournal.com profile] curiousangel, in addition to its myriad of intrinsic virtues.

2. The days are noticeably longer. More daylight usually means more energy and a more positive mood, for me. It's also meant that we've gotten to see some spectacular sunsets on the drive home.

3. I have more projects and social plans right now than I have time to do them in. This has its frustrating aspects, but it also makes me feel good: energized, liked, busy, full of good ideas.

4. Tonight is English Country Dance night. I love being able to un-self-consciously lose myself in the music and the patterns, and I love having found a form of dancing that puts so little stress on my hip.

5. I started data collection today for our study of spirituality and health in HIV patients. I've been working on this study for more than a year, beginning with helping to develop the original idea and write the grant proposal, and on through endless efforts to get the project approved. Now it's really happening. That's so exciting.

6. Seventeen days to our Key Largo vacation. [livejournal.com profile] curiousangel and I and my oldest sister, Debbie, have rented a waterfront cottage, and we're going to spend an entire week swimming, lounging on the beach, kayaking on the Florida Bay, learning to snorkel, eating seafood, reading, and sleeping late.

7. I have achieved great results with a notoriously difficult patient. At last year's clinic, no one would have noticed. At my new clinic, people have gone out of their way to praise both me and the patient.

8. I'm developing highly enjoyable new friendships with Sam and with [livejournal.com profile] therealjae.

9. I don't have to borrow [livejournal.com profile] curiousangel's computer to play The Sims anymore. And it runs so fast on my new 1.1GHz processor. It's a whole new experience - and much more enjoyable. Whole vistas of pleasant obsession lie before me.

10. I feel more and more as though I'm managing to get my life set up in a way that I have chosen. Most of the things that are part of my life right now are there because I consciously chose them. I don't feel nearly as buffeted by uncontrollable forces as I used to feel. I think I'm getting closer to living a conscious life.
rivka: (Default)
So, a good night of dancing on Monday - right up until the middle of a fairly rowdy walk-through of Picking Up Sticks, when Paul accidentally tripped me. Or tripped over me. I'm not clear of the sequence. I was doing the steps, and paying attention to my partner, and laughing, and then suddenly I was completely off-balance and trying hard not to fall.

That was probably my mistake. I should have fallen. But instead, I came down extremely hard on my right foot to balance myself, and the shock of it went all the way up to the hip.

In the moment, it didn't hurt enough to leave the dance. I staggered a bit and clutched Carl's arm, and I felt kind of light-headed. But I finished the walk-through and danced the dance and went to sit down, and then my hip started to ache persistently. And Paul came over to apologize, and I told him it was nothing to worry about - I was just going to sit out a dance to rest, and then I changed my mind and left altogether.

That was Monday, and today it still hurts. Nothing dramatic, just a quiet throbbing pain and some difficulty walking. I'm doing the things I know how t do, rest and heat and anti-inflammatories. I'm trying not to make a big deal out of it. It's still much less pain than I used to have every day. I can still walk. But it's a little scary to think about everyday pain coming back.

The ironic part of all this is that I've recently gotten into a rasseff discussion with [livejournal.com profile] aiglet about chronic pain and the things I've learned from it. I'm having superstitious thoughts that I should have left the topic severely alone.
rivka: (Default)
English Country Dances are just about always done in couples. Many are danced longways (a double line of however many couples want to dance), while others are written for (for example) three-couple sets.

[livejournal.com profile] wcg pointed me to a dance in the original 17th century collection of English Country Dances. It was written for sets of six people, but not for three couples - instead it distinctly calls for two men, who have two female partners each. Isn't that interesting.

Here are some excerpts from the dancing instructions:

Each man goes to his L, leads 2 women out, all turn round and lead back; men turn each other 1#/4 while each man's 2 partners turn each other. Each man leads his 2 partners out and back; men turn each other as do opposite women.
[...]
1st man faces half L towards 2nd man's 1st woman, they balance back, meet, and form arch; the others hands-4 round the 1st man, under the arch. 2nd man and 1st man's 2nd woman do the same; hands-4 round him.
[...]
Each man leads his top partner down and then up making an arch, while the other woman casts up outside, then goes down under arch; the 2 single women turn, while the men turn the women they have. Repeat with the other women.

Quaint English custom, or stage directions for a bisexual polyamorous orgy?
rivka: (Default)
...well, no, I couldn't have. But I wanted to. What a lovely evening.

The dance was held at Adelphi Mill, a genuine grist mill built in the 1790s and still equipped with millstones. It's a two-story building - they served dinner (and broke for dessert) downstairs and had the second floor clear for dancing. There were about 60-70 people there, many of them folks we knew from our weekly Monday night dances. Of course my earlier fears about being partnerless were just nerves. Misha seemed to constantly have partners, and I only had to sit out two dances involuntarily.

I was surprised that I knew most of the dances. Lili Burlero, the Duke of Kent's Waltz, the Bishop, Jack's Maggot, Childgrove... I'm really feeling now that I have an internal understanding of the dances, how they come together, how to remember them and dance them gracefully. This is not to say that I don't mess them up on occasion -particularly when someone tripped me during a vigorous version of Trip to Paris. But I feel as though I've made the translation from translating into a foreign language to thinking in it. And that was a great way to feel tonight.

We had a champagne toast at midnight, sang Auld Lang Syne, wandered around wishing everyone a Happy New Year. And I wish the same to all of you. 2001 has been a hard year for most of us, I think. May 2002 find us all prosperously employed, healthy, and happy.
rivka: (Default)
I am apparently the only person in all of Western Civilization who does not have enough vacation time to take today off.

The hallways are dim. The copier is broken, and no one will be here to repair it until January 2. The guy who's coming in as a co-author on our reworking of the biodisparity paper isn't here. The people in the GYN clinics aren't here. My boss is ill and distracted and unlikely to supply me with much of a driving force. My client made it in, but other than that I could just as well have stayed home and spent today in bed.

This evening we're going to the New Year's English Country Dance given by the Greater Washington Folklore Society. New Year's Eve has never been a great holiday for me - it always seems to hammer in the point that I'm not particularly popular on the local level. I suppose that's why I'm entertaining dark thoughts of spending the evening on the sidelines feeling awkward and out of place because no one but Misha or Bill will want to dance with me.

That's a ridiculous way to think, clearly. I didn't have any trouble finding partners at the Playford Ball, and only sat out the dances I wanted to skip. It's just the whole goddamned New Year's mystique, I guess - being sucked in to the media image of perfect parties filled with beautiful people. Damn it, I hate getting drawn in to expectations that don't even make sense for the person I am.

At least I have a little black velvet dress. I haven't decided yet whether I'm going to pair it with the swingy flowered velvet coat or the little black sequined jacket [livejournal.com profile] saoba gave me. The clasp of the velvet coat always comes undone while I'm dancing, but it does look good.

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