Tonia Davis’ Free Dance Trip Experience :.

Tonia Davis, from Atlanta, Georgia was the winner of last year’s raffle for the free dance trip. Andrew bought her a roundtrip flight to the Canary Islands from Atlanta, and the organizer of La Santa Swing took care of her housing (in a beautiful hotel) and gave her free entrance to La Santa Swing, a sports and swing holiday in Lanzarote off the coast of Spain.

You can read about Tonia’s experience below, see pictures here and video here.

La Santa Swing by Tonia Davis

I think I’ll take more from this trip in a few months than I will right now, sitting in an airport in Dusseldorf at 4am (why did I not decide to get a hotel?). Right now, I’m still caught up in the little things, and I’ve always been a person to get more out of an event a year later than at the initial time. So here are a few thoughts.

Things that were awesome:

Getting to DJ. A lot. My particular favorite of those was playing at an impromptu party in our apartment, where I had just happened to (initially) leave my computer playing while I was in the shower, and someone plugged it into the speakers—and there was music. J

Being asked to teach a beginner balboa lesson. I didn’t end up teaching it, as I had scheduled a private with Kevin (St. Laurent) at the same time, but it was exciting to be asked.

Dancing in the sand on the beach. Need I say more?

Tea and danish in bed in the mornings. I was sleeping in the living room of the majority of the European instructors. After we all got to know each other (i.e. I got to know them—they’re a tight-knit bunch!), I woke up every morning to tea and some treat sitting beside my bed (thanks to Malte and David, particularly). That’s a great way to start the morning.

Leading. I don’t do a lot of leading, except of people I know, really, but the master’s class was particularly follow-heavy, so I ended up leading some warm-up dancing? which lead to leading in the actual class. It definitely pushed my comfort levels, but I learned some shiny, nifty little tricks (I actually got to teach one of Juan’s moves to Bobby White a couple months later!), and everyone was really fantastic—when I tried to drop out because I wasn’t quite getting something that the (male) leads were getting, the follows flat-out refused to let me, and let me try it over and over until I got it right. There’s an amazing sense of community out there.

A sort of critique that isn’t really a critique:

I have to admit to being a (vintage) music snob—but that meant that I wasn’t always particularly happy with the music. I loved the fact that DJing was open—anyone who wanted to could DJ a short set (thanks, Jens)—but that can be both a good thing and a bad thing. It was definitely a learning experience, though, as to what people will dance to that I wouldn’t have considered.

Also, once I got back to Atlanta, I started getting really confused after one song, when people would smile and say thank you and then go away (in Europe many people dance 2 songs in a row as a standard). I kind of like dancing twice or thrice in a row—and it forces people to dance outside their temp/genre bubble (which is a mixed blessing; see above). I think the whole experience could probably be summed up in a metaphor like that somehow.

To conclude:

More than just dancing, what I liked about La Santa was the sense of community. I came in a stranger—more than that, a stranger who had come in under special circumstances (that everyone seemed to know about?), from a country that isn’t really involved with this event—and I left with some fantastic new friends from dance communities all around the world.

Maybe it’s because I’m a sometimes-organizer, and I pay attention to these things, but I left with new ideas about how to teach, how to run an event, what aspects cannot be compromised, and what aspects will—like so many things—work themselves out in the end. I got to discuss community-building strategies from folks in the UK, Germany, and elsewhere. I got to have both an outsider’s perspective and, at the same time, a complete insider’s perspective.

As a dance camp—it was a dance camp. While I came out with tons material to work on thanks to a couple privates with Kevin and Juan, the dancing wasn’t necessarily the focus of this particular camp. Instead, the people were. From what I think Andrew’s point was, in creating the free dance trip, it was an experience in cross-cultural community, an experience where I could come into an event with little in common (nationality, religion, age, etc) with anyone except for this one particular hobby of ours, and come out with friendships with people I would never have expected to meet.

Thanks, Andrew.

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