I had found a treasure. Standing there under the stars staring at the mountains’ silhouettes, feeling the warmth of bodies swaying in unison to electronic music, I was thankful to be part of what was happening here. I was in Paonia, Colorado, where I and a few dozen other dancers had pitched up our tents to submerge ourselves in blues-fusion dancing. My newly-found treasure lasted four days and was called Aspen Blues Recess.
Blues dancing is a close, often slow and sensual partner dance performed to blues music. When fused with other dance styles, a more free and experimental dance form emerges: blues fusion. I know how to swing dance but never learned the basics of blues: not a problem, since this event was about exploration. Exploring the fringes of blues dancing, each other’s movements and the types of music you can dance it to. I did not have to know stylistics or a set of moves: tuning in to the music and my partner’s body made each dance flow like water to the sea.
If anything, this “Alt-Blues Recess” was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. The event’s website explains: a Recess event is a break from constraints: […] a recess from the uninspiring, a recess from boundaries (in music, movement, conventional norms, and expression), a recess from the creative voids of the every day. We call it Alt. (short for Alternative) because that’s what we are […] —something outside of the ordinary. I concur: guys wore green sparkly nail polish and leopard tights and girls walked around bare-breasted. “Let it grow” seemed to be the creed for hair on legs and armpits, as for mushrooms and love, and ‘polyamory’* was as common a word for these people as, say, ‘dance’. They cuddled and stroked and made announcements like “if you want to volunteer that’s awesome and if you don’t that’s awesome too.” I looked on in amazement at this self-proclaimed free state of love. This was so not me! ..Or was it?
It was undeniable that I thrived in the mood they created. Whereas I had shied away from blues dances in the past because of its closeness, I now danced each night in close embrace, with male or female regardless. I shut my eyes and told my dance partners afterwards how special it had been. I even used the word “awesome”. So, had I given up my defense of personal space and started to speak their language? There was more, I even put aside my aversion to human smells. Mind you, we were doing basic camping: we washed in a river a few miles down the mountain, our toilet was the wild outdoors (no running water to wash our hands in)..we were not the cleanest of people. And yet, the accumulated sweat smelled sweet to me for it was the smell of a vision, often a wild and unordinary one, and of, I soon learned, people who found a way to make it happen.
Dance locations were built from scratch by the dance’s participants, following “a vision”. One night we built a dance floor on a heap of dirt, made some steps from old tires, built decorative arches from pvc pipes, put out rugs and mattresses and illuminated everything with candles and strings of lights.. For hours we had shovelled, sweated and grunted, but oh, how sweet it was to dance that night with the soft breeze and the valley at our feet. To know our joint effort had made it possible.. Another night we danced in a small clearing in the woods, the white barks of the tall trees lit up by our fairy tale lights. It had been an unexpected challenge to get there. The yellow school bus carrying our equipment as well as most dancers got stuck in a ditch trying to enter the woods. People tried pushing it out, but the back wheels of this two-wheel drive bus didn’t even touch the ground. Sure, at first I helped along, but after what seemed like forty minutes of no progress I gave up, and strongly felt they should do too. They didn’t, and after two hours of relentless trying these happy hippies who believe in the power of people got the bus out the ditch and into the woods: everybody danced. Danced all night, in the woods at some summit in the Rocky Mountains. And so these hippies showed me how to dance, and taught me that men, with a vision, can move mountains. Or if not, at least dance on top of them.
*Polyamory: A love relationship consisting of more than two persons.