My Experience Joining BALADS Late - Part 1

With very little else to do with my time, I've decided to put together my thoughts about my time and experiences with BALADS so far, which I think might be interesting to some since I've had a bit of a unique introduction to BALADS, joining in the second semester and getting involved as much as I have though I can't blame anyone for being disinterested.

I also apologise for the likely rather unfocused and poorly written nature of this, but it's not much of a talent of mine. This was more of a stream of consciousness and vague memory than anything actually well thought out. In the end I've chosen to split this article into probably three parts to split it up and make it a bit easier to read than one big long ramble.

I decided to join BALADS on a whim as second term started, I'd gotten a taste of the fun societies can be with the Battle Re-enactment society but I'd been finding that it wasn't quite my crowd and it didn't really take up enough of my time to keep me busy.

As a result I made a long list of a bunch of societies that seemed vaguely interesting and decided to try them out.

Truthfully BALADS was near the bottom of that list, I thought I'd turn up once, not really enjoy it and forget it existed. Evidently that it didn't quite work out that way much to the detriment of all my spare time and energy.

I distinctly remember the first class I attended, it was a Tuesday class with Kevin about the beginner foxtrot, the first one of the term. I'm undecided as to if this was a blessing or a curse as it did mean I was in the same spot as everyone else as far as knowing the steps but also it meant it was a bit of a mess and foxtrot is pretty hard, so I didn't worry about doing anything right I just sort of muddled along.

There's a theme that runs through my time with dance so far and I first noticed it later that same week; I really don't know why I do a lot of what I do in dance. I went to the Friday beginners practice that week and I'm not sure why I did that. It was certainly pretty uncomfortable since I knew absolutely nothing so after a fair amount of standing awkwardly in the corner, not quite confident enough to actually go up to anyone and ask for help committee eventually felt some level of pity for me and were kind enough to send someone to help me out.

Harriet was given the unfortunate task of trying to teach a total beginner how to stand on a dance floor and I still appreciate her patience with me. I walked away from that session with a very rough understanding of cha and waltz and with an eagerness to learn more.

This pattern carried on for a few weeks, attending Tuesday classes and Friday beginners practice and I slowly got more comfortable with the society, however I still didn't really know anyone.

At the start of the second semester people are pretty busy in the society, too busy really to spare a thought for anyone new to the society and unless I specifically went up to them, which I was loathe to do since everyone was busy, nobody was really looking to give me the help I needed to find my feet.

I should make it clear I don't begrudge anyone this, in their place I'm sure I would prioritise Blackpool, myself and my partner over some person I've never even spoken to.

A corollary to this is everyone else knows each other to some extent and I personally find it hard if not impossible to break into circles or conversations with strangers so I ended up pretty quiet for quite a while.

I have to admit that this wasn't really a great time, it was certainly a far cry from what BALADS would become for me as the term went on. I kept on coming despite this, mostly due to a mix of genuine interest in dance and a great amount of stubbornness that I felt towards dance, see not being able to do something irritates me and not being able to understand why I can't do it really gets to me; at this point I wasn't about to give up before I could at least do the basics. As it turns out the basics are a bit more complicated and difficult than the term implies.

There were a few people who were giving me some help during this time, Jerry for one tended to answer questions when I asked them, to an extent and James was one of the only people to actually come up to me and offer advice, something I was and still am appreciative of.

The person who was far and away the most helpful during the time was Richard, perhaps because he didn't always have a partner to practice with at the time but perhaps because he's genuinely good spirited. Regardless my first few weeks were quiet, very quiet. I doubt I said more than a few sentences and I worried a little about what the society at large thought about that awkward new guy in the corner.

There were a few key point in the term went on that started to change how I interacted with the society. I don't remember the exact order of them but the earlier, smaller ones were the first time I went to a social class and the first time I stayed for open practice.

I was very hesitant to go to the social class and I don't really know why. Perhaps because it's called social, so I felt I needed to be at least vaguely a real part of the society to join in? It seems really stupid to me now. Regardless, it started making me realise that this place is very welcoming when people are not focusing entirely on a huge competition.

Going to an open practice was an experience. The first time I went was intimidating, frankly. Ended up with me sat on the side just watching for all of the time, but it was certainly interesting. It would be quite a while before I had the confidence to really dance on the same floor as the inters and I think that same strange sense of intimidate stayed around off the floor to an extent since it was even longer before I really spoke to any of the inters besides James, so long in fact that I still don't think I've really spoken to most of them. Something I really ought to change going forwards.

The first bigger turning point for the society was the housewarming party James hosted. I'm not sure why, there wasn't anyone there but Richard and James who I actually knew at all beforehand but for some reason it was the first time I'd felt comfortable drinking properly in a group of people. Once again, I don't know why but it certainly gave me my first taste of the other side of BALADS. I started to realise once you moved out of the highly competitive environment of the society is incredibly friendly and a comfortable place to be, at least once you've managed to integrate into it which I hadn't done at that point, but I got a glimpse of it.

I'll talk about how I started to actually feel part of the society in the next part, where due to some strange whim of mine I decided to go to Blackpool, not really knowing anyone and not able to dance.

To summarise during this first part of the second term, joining BALADS around Blackpool is honestly a pretty bad idea if you have a mind to actually get stuck in with the society, but it is worth it if you're stubborn, irritated or determined enough to push through it.