I went out of town for a while, to a dance convention.
Unlike most conventions where people handle the business of their obsession before they get together (ie before they hit the convention they have already written the papers, watched the movies, read the books, done the research, etc.) at a dance convention you go to dance.
There are all levels of dancers there; beginners, hobbyists, professionals, wannabes and everything in-between. I'm somewhere in the middle. I have strong ties to the dance community, but have no desire to be A DANCER! I just like getting up there and shaking my body, following the moves and admiring the skill of those far more flexible and willing to practice than I.
When I first entered the dance world, I had stars in my eyes. Those pro dancers were everything I aspired to be--cool, good-looking, ass-kickingly great dancers, world travelers and crazy fit. But unlike most newbies, I slid in kind of sideways and knew the pros on another level before we ever shared a dancefloor. Imagine if you will that you'd never read a romance novel until you met and hung out with Nora Roberts and Suzanne Brockmann on a cruise (Crusie). It sort of skews your perspective.
Instead of wading my way through some excruciatingly bad reads on my way to finding the gems, I started out at the top with nowhere to go but... down.
That's what dance conventions usually are for me now. A downer. I can still appreciate the mystery and mastery of the pro-dancers, but it's colored by a far too intimate knowledge of them. Imagine if you got together with your new cruise buddies and after a while it came to light that Brockmann* is a lousy tipper (and proud of it), Roberts** is addicted to pot (and "can quit any time"), and Crusie*** is just a callous bitch who puts on a good show in public and then gathers her cronies together and laughs at the fans. Would you want to grow up to be these people?
Just the thought of it sours on the tongue. On the other hand, I have had a whole stinkin' lot of fun being a dancer, pros notwithstanding. I've met good people and bad people and learned, again, in a whole new arena, what I appreciate about human beings.
I like loyalty. But not cloying, stupid loyalty eg, the kind that allows a heroine to take shit from her evil stepmother and turn the other cheek when her sister steals her man (who, if he will allow himself to be stolen is not worth the title of "man," nor worth trying to get back.) I like open hearts and kindness that see past a name or body shape into the humanity and love of the activity that we all share. And, I like humility - just because you're a good dancer it doesn't mean you deserve to win or that others aren't just as good or that you weren't bad once.
Like reading, the experience of watching dance is subjective. I can watch something that blows my mind and leaves my husband shrugging. Who is right? Both of us. His lack of enthusiasm can't take away my gasp of pleasure. I might be impressed every single time I see an attitude spin - right up until I can do one myself. He has been seeing them for years and would rather see a hot as hell break based on unexpected musical interpretation that I don't even notice.
However, knowing who the pros are before I decide where to focus means that I'm almost always guaranteed a good watching experience. Sadly, this also means that I'm missing out on stellar dances by couples whose names I don't know. (Bestseller vs midlist anyone?) Opportunity cost breaks my heart.
Like writing, one has to know the mechanics of how things should be before breaking all the rules. It's the combination of adherence to and breaking the rules that makes the performance of dance an art. If I always start a move on my right foot as I'm supposed to, and switch off to my left foot when you least expect it - somehow it's brilliant. But if I don't know where I'm supposed to start and move on the left, somehow it's a mess. And the reader / watcher can always tell if you know what you're doing. Always. ALWAYS.
The interested reader / watcher also gets used to your tricks, learns how to deconstruct them and adapt them for personal use. I once left a convention knowing how to do a one-legged spin. (!) I hadn't done one at the convention, didn't take a class, and had no personal instruction. But I sat and watched a gross of them from the cheap seats. Next time I got on the dance floor, I was able to do one. You could have knocked me over with a feather, and not because I was so badly balanced (though I was), but because I didn't realize the instincts of a two-year-old were still alive and well inside me. Monkey see, monkey do.
This convention I noticed I picked up a weird floaty foot moonwalk type of thing that has always eluded me in the past. Who knows if it'll stick. I don't think I care if it does. After all, I don't want to be A DANCER!, but I do want to be an author. And I learned something else this weekend in my reading--something that initially felt like a downer as soon as I discovered it in the book I was devouring, because I didn't do it in my own writing and then changed to a spark of appreciation.
I saw what the writer was doing, was able to recognize how she did it AND see how I didn't use the same trick (seeing the flaws in your own work is the trickiest part of creation) in my own writing and I know how to incorporate her skills into my projects. I missed the capstone of the convention. I got text messages while I was in my hotel room. "Where are you? This is the best part of the event!" The pros were performing, but I didn't care, I already knew their tricks. You know where I was? Curled up under the covers, finishing off that book and marveling at the new skill I had just acquired.
Just finished: Midnight Awakening
Just finished: Blue-Eyed Devil
Just finished: Simply Love
Currently reading: Do The Math: Secrets, Lies and Algebra
Just about to start: Lover Avenged
* I'm sure Brockmann is a lovely tipper, consistently giving 30%.
** I'm sure Roberts never inhaled and has enviable self-control.
*** I'm sure Crusie is a sweetheart who kisses babies and hugs puppy dogs, even in private.