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This was a swing dance experience of firsts! It was my first time going to Swing Out New Hampshire and it was the first time that I participated in a dance workshop as a lead.

Admittedly, I was a bit nervous, as I had no idea what to expect. I had heard about how wonderful the camp was from a variety of dancers who had gone to SONH in the past. However, before even getting to camp, I needed to tackle the first obstacle: packing. How much stuff could I possibly need? Do I even own enough t-shirts to get me through the camp?

With a very full bag and packing apprehensions behind me, I trotted off early in the morning to Billy Bishop Airport hoping to consume copious amounts of complementary tea and run into other dancers. While carefully monitoring other dancer’s travels via Facebook, I was pleasantly surprised to run into a handful of dancers that I recognized from other dance events in Toronto. So together we started the trip to Boston to catch the chartered bus to SONH.

While waiting to be picked up by the bus in the Boston airport we had a fabulous time trying to figure out who was a dancer waiting to go to camp and who was not The bus ride was vibrant with chatter as people were busy making new friends and catching up with old ones. Once at the camp there was a whirlwind of registering, and then the friendly Gorillas delivered our bags to our cabins (something that I was very grateful for as my bag was definitely on the heavier side!).

My cabin was a mix of lovely ladies from Toronto, Montreal and a few from the States. We all made fast work of unpacking and then straight off to the dining hall for introductory meetings, dinner and dancing!

After a late night of dancing we were all up early for breakfast and then straight on to auditioning for our tracked level…. I was very anxious! This was the first time that I was truly dancing as a lead outside the safety of my dance classes. So when it was time to dance, I swallowed my fear, led my follow onto the dance floor, cracked a joke so we were both smiling and started the first in a long succession of swing outs that would decide the tracked level in which I would be placed. With the auditions behind us we all headed off to the first general dance class of our choosing, followed by a well-deserved lunch.

With full bellies from lunch we all headed out to find out in which tracked level we were placed as well as receiving our new schedules. Having no idea what to expect, I was flattered, thrilled and a little nervous upon finding out that I was ‘Grasshopper’ – which was a level 4 on the SONH system.

Now this is when the dancing really started! From this point on it was eat, dance, sleep, Repeat!, with a few swims and a crazy thunderstorm thrown into the mix.

The teachers? Fantastic! The classes? Phenomenal! I stumbled away from each class feeling successful, although I came nowhere close to mastering all the moves I learned in each class. What was truly important to me during the classes? The connection with my partner in both dance and in communication. I wanted to make sure that when it was time for my follow to rotate away from me they felt good about the feeling of the move we were learning and that if we had any issues we were able to resolve them together. Also, I tried my best to encourage my follow to really play and explore the move as we danced. I believe that I gained a much better understanding and perspective of following by learning to lead. I offer many thanks to those great and lovely follows in my Grasshopper group and the brave followers who were willing to put up with me on the dance floor during the night dances.

Although I spent my days as a lead, I mostly followed at the night dances. The night dances could not be beat! After the first night, we had a live band every night. Every night, I felt so alive on the dance floor. At the end of many dances I walked in almost complete disbelief that I just danced that amazing dance. Mind you, none of my moves as a follow were perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but the overall feeling of the dances was perfect. In the end I felt that I had reached a new level of dancing.

So, overall, I think you could say that I had a really good time! It was a challenging experience and a great opportunity to grow as a dancer. I was able to dance with and meet so many amazing people. A camp like this may not be for everyone. Trust me, there were a few times when the different diet, long days with little sleep on top of the constant humidity almost got the best of me. In the end, it was the overall positive and happy energy of the camp that kept me going when I was feeling a little worn out. By the end of the camp, I was completely worn out! For the first time in my life I actually slept 14 hours in a row!

Until we meet again SONH!

Swinging out for now!

-Miranda-

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