So last Wednesday I received what the doctor told me was a mild acromioclavicular joint separation injury, or commonly known more by its street name as “Shoulder Separation“‘.
Luckily when I made an appointment at Penn State’s student medical center they had a doctor who specialized in sports injuries and had handled dancers before. The bad news was I had to keep my left arm in a sling for 1-3 weeks to rest my shoulder. The good news is as long as I kept it in moderation and carefully monitored my shoulder I could still dance!
Dancing With Only One Arm
After coming to the realization that I would dancing one armed for 1-3 weeks, I couldn’t help but think of Jimmy Valentine. If you don’t know his story, Peter Loggins writes a great article about him on his blog the Jassdancer. Jimmy was an amazing one-legged swing dancer who threw down in competitions like the Harvest Moon Ball and in jam circles, a legendary dancer in spite of his injury.
So feeling inspired the last week I have been dancing only using my right arm as a lead. Only having my right hand means all my swingouts have to either start from closed, cross-hand, or right hand to right hand. All visual cues that I could possibly give my left hand were now non-existent. I have had to rely on the free-spin version of many turns such as the tuck-turn or inside-turn.
One of the big things I have learned from being able to only lead swingouts right handed is many follows often use the letting go of the left hand as a signal for a free spin on a swingout. In result I have been leading a lot of forward swingouts. When not the forward swingouts, I have been having to lead crystal clear swingouts to not be misinterpreted. What is also interesting to see is how follows handle the left hand not being there, sometimes when I am going for her left hand my follow will present the right hand or vice versa. Lastly I have been dealing with the struggle of tensing up because I still mentally out of habit am trying to use the left hand for things before I stop myself.
It’s been a good learning experience. For myself I have learned what moves I know for my cross-hand and right-to-right hand repertoire. I’ve learned for teaching and for social dance what visual/physical cues some follows rely on from the left hand for certain moves. Lastly its a limitation that forces me to be creative with my dancing, I have noticed I have been focusing more on footwork lately since the number of moves I can lead consistently have been cut down.
In about a week or two I can start using my left arm again to dance, but for now I am enjoying the unintended benefits I am getting from the situation.