I started out for Raleigh this afternoon, alternating between driving and doing tiny worksprints (thank you, mobile broadband!) of the "send out these 3 overdue emails - ok, stretch and run around and drive some more" variety. This made progress wonderfully relaxed and slow - after a driving period spent listening and scatting along to the Boilermaker Jazz Band (and admiring the piano bits - particularly one song where it's trading fours with the guitarist) I grabbed an early (cheap! yay!) dinner at the IKEA in New Haven and discovered that who should be playing in East Hartford tonight but... the Boilermaker Jazz Band.
15 minutes later I was in the car driving the 45 minutes back north to East Hartford, happy that I'd brought my dance shoes along for exactly such an occasion (I plan on looking for blues/swing dances in Raleigh this week). I'm writing this from the adjoining auditorium - after 3 solid hours of dancing, I'm drenched in sweat and need a break from the floor. It goes 'till 4am, and we shall see how long I last. (Cardiovascular fitness... does not haz. Gotta work on that endurance.)
I don't know a single soul here, but that's okay! I'm bolder now* - brave enough to ask the guys I want to dance with if they'd like to dance, fluent enough to mostly keep up with some of the faster dancers on the floor, quick enough a study to learn as I go. The Mel who learned to dance in high school would call my present self a "good dancer," but I know the truth is closer to "I've begun to be able to learn."
*than I was when I first started to dance in high school. Being bolder than my high school self is not particularly hard, to be quite honest; when you need to steel yourself to order a cheeseburger at the McDonald's counter, you are shy. (In my defense, I hadn't really done that by myself too many times before high school - I have gotten used to it by now. Heck, I can even talk to waiters at non-fast-food restaurants without looking awkwardly like a beet due to not knowing what to do. Yay!)
And I've begun to listen - thanks to studying with Kevin, I can pick out some elements of what the band is doing that I think I can practice replicating when I get to a keyboard again. While the band was taking a break, I got up the courage (after stalling three times by drinking glasses of water) to approach Mark Kotision, the band's pianist. ("Aaah," went Mel's brain. "What are you doing? He is a really freakin' good pianist - look at that fluent economy of motion, listen to the casual shuffle of that tricky series of syncopated chords as he simultaneously sings - and you're about to ask some really stupid questions? RUN AWAY! RUN AWAY!" "Be quiet, brain," said Mel. "There are times where I choose to be Brave yet Stupid. Now... is one of those times.")
Anyway. To my surprise, he not only answered my questions, he went "Oh! There's a piano in the next room," and so we went over and he showed me comping, and how you'd play differently if there's a string player, and the difference between stride (in 2/4, with strong octaves in the left hand keeping time) and what I think was called "dance style" (in 4/4, what Mark mostly played - he switches between the two a lot), and generally was ridiculously awesome about answering my questions until his bandmates called him back up front to play the next round of songs. Wow. If I was a fan before... all I can say is that I aspire to be that gracious about teaching the things I know, now and in the future.
I do not know how long I'm going to last tonight - it's not the sleep that worries me (I'm good for consciousness for a long, long time), it's the "I am around a lot of strange people interacting intensely with them at a fast pace" bit, which tends to fill my introversion buffer pretty fast. I will need a long, long, long time of solo driving to unwind and decompress from The Peopleness - but long, long, long, long solo driving time is what I have to look forward to, so it's all good.
They're playing one of my favorite songs now - "The Nearness Of You."
(I adore the Norah Jones cover of this song.) I'm going back in.