Time to Dance!

Introducing Dance…

Dance is one of my most favourite yarns that I dye, but I haven’t mentioned it much on the blog until now.  It has made a few quiet appearances in my Etsy shop, but the person who holds most of the stock is Affinity Yarns.  And, this month, Affinity Yarns are giving away a skein of Dance to one lucky winner!  Go see how you can win (I’ll wait…)

Dance is a sock weight/4-ply yarn in a decadent mix of 55% Bluefaced Leicester (superwash) and 45% Silk.  It has a wonderful, soft lustre without being completely in-your-face with the shiny, and it takes colour amazingly well.  Scarily well, you could say.

(By the way, if you haven’t met Bluefaced Leicester (or BFL) wool yet, you’re in for a treat.  It’s a wonderful, slightly shiny long-stapled wool that is so, so soft.  Some of my favourite spinning experiences have been BFL).

Because of the high percentage of silk in Dance, fabrics knit up from it have quite a heavy, drapey hand.  It does have some memory and ‘spring’, but not as much as you’d get from a pure wool.  Because of this, it blocks beautifully for fingering weight shawls, and I am absolutely itching to knit a cardigan in it: the swing would be divine!  Perhaps for springtime, eh?

And yes!  This is a sockweight yarn.  But you will get best results if you pick stitch patterns with built in elasticity if you want to knit socks in this yarn; that silk content makes for drape, shine, warmth and beauty- but not bounce.  Plain stockinette socks in Dance will probably slump – but there are plenty of more complex patterns out there to set your needles dancing!

Dancing again

So, dancing.  I mentioned in my last post that I’ve actually made it to a dance class this week.  I think the time between having shingles (July ’05) and now is the longest time I have gone without dance classes since the age of about 8.  Dance and me go back a long, *long* way.

Some of my earliest memories are of begging for dance lessons.  (Mind you, I used to beg for a pony, too.)  I had a tape of the RAD ballet grade 3 (or 4?) syllabus music from the time, and I used to make up barre exercises based on the teacher’s descriptions on tape.  I’m sure there are people who would pay good money to see my imaginative thoughts on what a développé might be.

I did get dance lessons (though not the pony), and learned tap and ballet with several teachers over many years.  I have a knack for tap (innate fine motor control and an ability to perform silly co-ordination tricks will do that for you), but ballet was the one that bit deep.  Which is pretty sad for me, because I’ve never been tiny, and have ended up at 6 ft tall.  For those that think ballerinas are tall folk, Darcey Bussell, Principal Ballerina with the English Royal Ballet is considered exceptionally tall – at 5 ft 7.  Most female dancers would fit in your pocket (and probably weigh less than your jacket, too, bless ’em).

Ballet took me right the way through my undergraduate career – and part of my post graduate one – until I somehow injured my hip and couldn’t even walk properly for most of a year.  That injury’s never healed fully, and despite a few flirtations with ballet since, I can’t get into it unless I can train *properly*, and that’s just risking too much pain with the hip.

Enter raqs sharqi – which is a posh word for bellydance.  I won’t even start to go into the politics of raqs sharqi/bellydance and so on (not in this post, anyway), but learning raqs with a local teacher taught me to relate to my body and movement in a very different way.  All Western dance forms teach an ‘up’ and ‘forwards’ posture; you are always on your toes, or your weight is forwards as if it might be.  It’s not only ballet; it covers our whole Western aesthetic, from jazz to ballet to ballroom.  It gives a feeling of weightlessness, and constant movement, as if the dancer is in an infinitely prolonged fall.  By contrast, Middle Eastern dance has a feeling of the weight being pushed down into the earth through the feet, through the whole sole of the foot, which to me feels more like an emphasis on the heel than anything else.  A dancer who is not firmly connected to the ground will appear to ‘bobble’ around like a pea on a drum, and will probably have difficulty mastering the isolations that enable the hips to move without affecting the rib cage, or vice versa.  There is far less emphasis on the body’s movement through space; there is far more emphasis on the body’s movement within its own personal space.  You could perform a dance that takes up a space not much larger than the dancer themself, and it would not be dull.    It is rare to extend an arm or leg straight.  The dance is often improvised – as is the music – and the expressive power can be amazing.

I studied raqs sharqi and the music of the Middle East for about two years, until I became ill.  By that time, my teacher was effectively unable to teach me more: she always had beginners coming in, and no ‘intermediate’ class.  Now, by luck rather than judgement, I have moved to a village with a bellydance class within walking distance of my house.  And a teacher – a good one – that does ‘intermediate’ lessons.  And is concentrating on technique this term.

I feel incredibly lucky.

What the who??!?

OK, walking is proving an interesting challenge today. This is because I spent almost *all* Saturday doing Scottish dancing (for the first time in nearly 10 years, I'd guess). Scottish dancing is very on-the-toes – your heels don't touch down much when you're moving, which is tough on the calves.

I have never, ever in my life prior to this weekend made my calves so sore with exercise that it takes two attempts to get out of bed because I can't actually stand up. Two mornings in a row. And I didn't even dance yesterday. I'm so glad I don't sleep on the top of a bunk bed any more. 😉

Now, it's fairly humbling to know that I *can* actually do this to myself – I prefer to exist in the state of happy delusionment that says I can take as much of any kind of dancing as you can throw at me, and bounce right back. Admittedly, I was extra-tired to start with this Saturday due to the recent hectic decorating schedule. And I don't have quite the calves of steel that I had when I was doing ballet n times a week, but even so… But the truly gobsmacking moment didn't come till I was trying to explain to my boss (who finds my chorus of "Ow! Ow! Ow!" every time I stand up truly hilarious) what I'd done to myself. His response?? "You have absolutely no respect for your body, you know."

Who, me?!?? I am almost the most body-respecty person I know! It has never occurred to me that making my calves (or other muscles) ridiculously stiff with unaccustomed exercise might be considered 'lack of respect for my body'. They're only stiff! Not torn or sprained or anything!! It's a normal after effect of exercise! I take such good care of my body I simply expect it to keep up with me, goshdarnit! Hmmmph. No respect, huh.

Anyway, clearly I need to dance *more* to keep myself in trim for this kind of thing. And thankyou *very* much, Ruth, for dragging me along. It was a great weekend, and lovely to see you!