101 Days, 101 Strangers, 101 Stories: Day 51

I took the advice of my stranger from yesterday and had a lot of fun with my stranger of the day today. His name is David.

He and I met very briefly a couple of weeks ago when I was at the store he works at on Granville Island. After talking to him for just two minutes, I knew he had a fascinating story that I wanted to learn more about. So, in the spirit of connecting with strangers, we met up for lunch today on Granville Island. He’s incredibly interesting and I’m excited to share his story.

David is wonderfully unique. He’s a dance teacher, a stilt walker and entertainer, a multi-instrumentalist, a musician, and a social and environmental justice advocate. But above all of this, I learned that he is kind, patient, knowledgeable, and an absolute pleasure to be around. It was an honour to spend a few hours in his presence… some sitting, some dancing.

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David teaches dance classes for couples out of his home. Many couples approach him before their weddings to learn how to dance, whether they want to learn basic steps or learn an elaborate routine to wow their friends and families at their receptions. He explained that dance has a special way of revealing the dynamics of a relationship. You can tell if a relationship is tense or relaxed by seeing how they interact with one another through dance.

But while it reveals characteristics that already exist in the relationship, David explained that dance can really bring people together. So, he tries to teach intimacy through dance. For example, instead of telling the following partner to put their hand on the leading partners’ shoulder, David encourages them to feel the shoulder. Simple cues can make all the difference and can connect people with one another on a different level.

While we ate our lunch together, a busker performed some lovely tunes nearby. The music was perfect for dancing, and so I couldn’t help but ask if he would be willing to teach me some dance moves. He was intrigued by the idea and was more than willing to dance with me in front of a couple hundred strangers.

So we got up and started with a polka. “I have to warn you”, I started. “I’ve been told I’m a bad follower.” A couple of my friends have told me this before. But when I got up there with David, I was somehow dancing without even thinking. “Let my actions guide you. Your body responds more quickly to the movements than your mind”, he explained. It turns out I’m not a horrible follower after all. I’d just never danced with a leader as talented as David. We polkaed, waltzed, and rumbaed, skipped, twirled, and dipped, all pretty gracefully (which was especially striking to me since I had never really danced these genres before!) It was hard to believe it was actually happening.

They say you should dance like no one is watching. But perhaps this saying perpetuates the idea that we, for whatever reason, should feel reluctant to put forth our most authentic selves in front of others. After dancing up there with David, I say dance like you love dancing so much that you don’t care if anyone is watching. It’s much more fun that way. And it liberates others to release their inhibitions, too. In fact, a couple more strangers came up and started dancing with us. It was great!

David was born and raised in the US. When he started out in college, he enrolled in sciences. But after his first year, he discovered swing dancing and never really looked back. Performance, arts, and performance arts pulled at his heartstrings. He plays a variety of instruments including the didgeridoo.

He’s performed in a bunch of different settings, the most vivid of which he says was probably the time he hung suspended from the ceiling of Rodgers arena playing the djembe. Once, he acted as tofu in a dance video about tofu and it’s romantic encounter with greens. Yes, you read that correctly. It’s absurd and  absolutely adorable. Check it out here:

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