Find Joy in journey

Why is Stretching So Important?
July 12, 2018

Find Joy in journey

KNOW YOUR ONIONS! This Wednesday… consider these tips when moving to a new city and finding yourself in a new dance scene. #KYO
How to integrate into a new scene?


1. Talk to as many people as you can – Dancers are generally very friendly, so you have no reason to be afraid

2. Take ownership – Get involved with local scene and volunteer where you can, when you can.

3. Show up – Participation counts when you want to build relationships and become part of a community.

Hey Hoppers!

It’s been a while since my last entry for “Know Your Onions” and I’m glad to be back! However, a lot has changed since I last wrote you. First and foremost, I’ve moved away from Bangkok and to Ho Chi Minh City (or as the locals prefer, “Saigon”). The Swing Cats welcomed me to their scene with one hell of a jam and, as I caught my breath on the edge of the dance floor, Bangkok Swing was on my mind.

I remembered walking up the stairs to the Hop for the first time. I remembered my first stumbling steps, all the times I stuck my foot in my mouth, each time I nailed a movement, and above all, the friends I made. I remembered the tears and goodbyes: Auralie, Elin, Isabelle, and many more. While these memories flash through my mind, I’ll contrast my experience joining the Swing Cats with my first steps into Bangkok Swing and suggest 3 tips on how to integrate into a new scene.

Talk to people.
Seems like a no-brainer, right? Well, I wish I had thought of it. When I first climbed the steps at The Hop, it was all so new and terrifying. The dancers were so cool and I felt so awkward wearing all black because that’s what the internet told me dancers liked to wear. I didn’t talk to anyone. I came to the social night, I danced some, and then shuffled to the edge of the dance floor and hid. It took a long time to change that habit.

Here’s the tip: don’t do that. Talk to everyone. One of the great things about swing dancing is that you share something in common with everybody at social: you like dancing! At a bar, you don’t have that – it’s hard to start a conversation with a complete stranger. At social night, you can practice socializing! Ask someone how long they’ve been dancing, ask them about their favorite move, or simply ask them to dance! Dancers are the friendliest folk on God’s green earth; you’ll definitely find someone who wants to chat.

I learned my lesson from The Hop. So with the Swing Cats, I walked right in and started talking to everyone I could. Several friend requests later, Saigon started feeling a lot more like home.

Take ownership.
I wasn’t active in volunteering for Bangkok scene because I worried too much, even though there are so many things that actively invite people to volunteer. It took me months before I even asked to DJ on Tuesday night. I felt that, as a new member of the scene, it was difficult to even approach senior members and instructors to ask them if I could help in classes. I didn’t ask because I felt like an outsider – why would these amazing dancers want my help? By thinking that, I made it real.

Here’s the tip: no one thinks negatively of you. People are attracted to enthusiasm and passion – even a flicker of passion brings happiness to a scene. Other dancers will help you, nurture you, and soon you’ll spend all your free time helping your scene prosper. Take ownership in whatever scene you’re in and people will want you to show up. There are many examples in Bangkok Swing: from Zil with her potluck graduations, Woran and friends with the Stumbling Swingout, Kate with the Balboa classes, Sompop and his DJ Jams, etc. These are some of the people who took ownership in Bangkok Swing. If they can do it, you can too in your own way.

This was another important lesson that I learned in Bangkok which helped me integrate into the new scene. One week after I landed in Saigon, I was DJing. Now, I’m helping teach the Swing Cats’ version of L1 Lindy. Soon, I’ll be teaching my own Balboa workshop.

Show that you care and the rest will fall into place.

Show up.
This is what I did right in Bangkok. I showed up. I came to social every Tuesday and Saturday, I took classes, I went to Big Bang, I did it all. Over time, people knew my name. Over time, I made friends. Over time, I became a staple. After a while, if I didn’t show up at social, someone surely asked, “Where the hell is Phil?”

If you want to become part of a scene more quickly, this is the most important thing you can do. Dancers love visitors, but relationships don’t form over one social night. Lasting friendships and a sense of family are created when you put in the time, when you show up to dance. That’s why I love dancing: this thing we all love and enjoy brought me close to people I never would have met. I found a family in Bangkok.

In Saigon, I’m not quite there yet. I’m like a well-loved, eccentric uncle who has just moved into town; part of the family, but not quite. These things take time: you can speed up the process but you can’t eliminate it.

I’ll leave you with an unrelated tip: be patient. If you follow my other 3 tips, integrating into a new scene will definitely be easier. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes either. That’s the beauty of a scene. Not only is it a place to learn skills, it’s a place to grow and to mature. Talk to people, get involved with their lives, and, most of all, show up. Time will do the rest.

That’s all from me, Hoppers. I look forward to writing you again soon.

With love,
Phil (สมหมาย)

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