Portland was an interesting place. Good dancing, good food, good people. By the time we arrived by bus it was dark and it was time for dancing so I didn’t see much of the city. The next day a few of us drove out to where the bus was parked and helped get it situated to hang out until the end of summer. We spent the day cleaning and organizing and figuring out how to store everything, particularly the dance mats that had gotten wet in the rain and snow. It hadn’t initially occurred to me what might go into having your own bus, but it’s a lot of work. If you won’t be using it for 6 months you’ve got to make sure there’s no food left, everything is dry, and animals can’t get in. It was a long, but more or less satisfying, day. We distributed the extra food (giant blocks of cheese and tubes of butter, etc.) and snacked from a giant tub of trail mix.
The next few days were for exploring the city of Portland with it’s many bikeways, food carts, and bridges. Í tried many delicious food places, made new friends, biked through neighborhoods filled with trees, flowers, and edible plants of all sorts, and got lost a few times on my way to or from a dance or other cool thing. In Portland there are bike lanes and dedicated bike paths everywhere. There are also signs to tell you how to get places by bike and how far they are! It’s amazing. Also, random trails through forests that make great reading spots. Another popular Portland quirk is that beer and/or coffee is served everywhere you wouldn’t think; I definitely saw an arcade with a bar. I also went to a bike shop to work on my bike and pick up a few things, and casually had a beer with the owner!
Throughout my time in Portland, I did a lot of dancing. Tuesday Blues, InFusion, Nectar Fusion, and Bridgetown Blues Festival were all awesome events. Something I really liked about the Portland scene was the culture. I took several dance classes while I was there, and I noticed a big theme was fascilitating communication. Consent, boundaries, and awareness are all things that I learned about and/or discussed in dance classes up here, but what I learned can so easily be transferred into everyday life. I’m not saying these issues aren’t discussed at all back in California, but they are definitely not discussed to the extent they are in the Northwest.
It’s amazing how little we are taught about these topics. In fact, people are often taught to say yes so as not to offend someone. A quote restated in one of my classes: ” ‘No’ might make them angry, but it will make you free -if no one has ever told you, your freedom is more important than their anger.” You should not have to put yourself in an undesired/uncomfortable/potentially dangerous position just because it might hurt someone else’s feelings. Feeling confident enough to say no to a dance is just as important as being able to say no to anything you might not want to do in life (like drinking a cup of tea), no matter who is asking (from a stranger to a life partner). No is a complete sentence and does not need a qualifier. It felt really good to practice saying no in a safe space; it made me more confident to think about what I wanted before answering in the future, and not just automatically say yes.
Being aware of and able to state your boundaries is very important in dance and life. If you have an injury or a preference, say something. People aren’t mind readers, and they won’t necessarily know what you need or want. I broke my foot last year and had to wear a boot for months. I went to a dance and surprisingly it wasn’t immediately obvious to people that I was wearing a boot. I asked each partner to be conscious of it and many of them were surprised, but because I said something, they were aware and refrained from movements that might unnecessarily affect my foot.
It was a great few days of rest, and time to get back on the road!
Check out more pics here.