the Dancing Root Blog: written by Tian Yu!


Hey everyone!10801947_664685253358_2438155636664960155_n

When we were talking about the Dancing Root at our last team meeting, I got inspired to start writing a Dancing Root Blog. I’ve never blogged before, and in general I choose to maintain a relatively low Internet presence. Why then was I so excited to start writing stuff for all of you?

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been reflecting on what I have to offer the community. I’ve been dancing in the Swing/Blues/Fusion dance scenes since 2006, and after a decade of dancing, I realize that there are a lot of people who have only been dancing for a few years who don’t have a lot of context for our dance communities in Denver and across the nation. So I decided that I would start creating a resource, a space of reflection, critical dialogue, and an archive of cultural memories, narratives, and history…

Well, at least that’s some of what I hope to do! One step at a time right? Before I dive into all the big stuff above, I thought I would start by giving you all a little context about me. I think that whenever you read content, its important to know a little bit about the author, and especially since a lot of what I intend to share comes from my own experience and memories, I figured it was important to offer more of where I come from first.

Where My Dancing Journey Began…

It was actually my mother who got me into dancing. She was a contra dancer, among other things, and when I was in high school, she showed me what it meant to be a part of a rich dance community. However, while I occasionally went dancing, it was not until a year later at Folk Life 2006 in Seattle that I self-identified as a dancer.

Folk Life 2006 was my first “dance weekend”. I had just finished my first year at Reed College in Portland and also a year of Lindy Hop lessons taught by Stefan and Bethany but had not yet gone out social dancing. Now there is all sorts of dancing at Folk Life, but if you wanted to go where all the cool hip dancers were, then you were going to go to the Contra dance hall. There was dancing starting at 11 am and ending at 11 pm all weekend, Friday through Monday. So there I was, a new dancer in a huge dance hall filled with hundreds of people all dancing in synchronicity to live fiddle tunes… And I lost myself in the twirling masses.

To be honest, I remember very few of the dances themselves. What I remember is that I must have only missed 4 or 5 hours of dancing all weekend. There is something magical about your first dance weekend: its a combination of sudden realization that there are hundreds of people who share your passion and the exhausted, euphoric, adrenaline-filled exhilaration you feel after dancing for over five hours. By the second day, I was in complete dance zen. I remember that a lot of my swing and lindy hop techniques and moves found there way into my contra dancing (my own first “fusion” moment), and that I was wild, crazy and free. And I remember that somewhere in the joyous, world-spinning magic of the contra dance that I decided that I would be a dancer for the rest of my life.

Where my Dancing Journey Went…

After Folk Life and the pivotal moment when I decided I was going to be a dancer, I began to go out Lindy Hopping in Seattle. Now recall that I had never been out social dancing at a swing or lindy hop event. I was super excited about Lindy Hop. In my head, I remember thinking to myself, “Lindy Hop is the most awesome, funtastic thing I have ever done in my life (next to Contra Dancing). I have to SHARE THIS WITH EVERYBODY. I am going to TEACH THE WORLD about this AMAZING dance!” Of course, when I finally went out social dancing in Seattle, one of the current capitals of Lindy Hop/Swing in the country, I found out that I was a very small fish in a very big pond.

But the humbling was good, and the dancing was even better. I spent the whole summer dancing two nights a week and I improved greatly.


The first dance piece I ever choreographed titled “So What?”

When it was time to go back to school in the fall, I decided I would explore more dancing. I took Argentine Tango with Alex Krebs. I took a modern improvisation class with professor Carla Mann. In the next few years, I explored hip hop, jazz, ballroom, and much more. I also taught Lindy Hop classes at Reed. Those years were formative for me, both in terms of developing and solidifying my technique, but also in exposing me to the vastness of dance and dance styles.

I didn’t start “Blues” dancing until the summer before my senior year. My friend Kayce kept telling me that I would totally love it, and that I should stop being such a Lindy Hop snob (yes, I was one of those people once too) and try it. And of course, Kayce was right, I did love it!

After that I mainly danced in the Blues dance scenes in the Seattle-Portland corridor until I moved to Denver in 2011. Needing something to take my mind of the stress of teaching, something more regimented than social dancing, I started training Capoeira here in Denver. Then about two and a half years ago I started finally learning to Blues dance.

That may seem confusing because I had been dancing in the Blues dance seen since 2008. However, as I hope to discuss in my next post, when I started “Blues” dancing there were very few people in the scene who knew the difference between Blues idiom dance and the dances we were calling “Blues”.

Of course, two years ago is also about the time when Aimee and I started the Dancing Root with Tresne and Josh, and the time when I started meeting all of you lovely people!

Final thoughts…

I hope you enjoyed hearing a little about my dance past, and thank you for reading about my “dancer” birth. If you have had an “Aha!” moment when you realized that partner dancing was for you, we would love to hear about it! Like I mentioned above, I am hoping that this blog will be more than an avenue to express my thoughts and reflections, but also a space for sharing memories and narratives and stimulating discussion.

Thanks again, and stay tuned for the next Dancing Root Blog Post: “What’s the difference between Blues and Fusion? And where did these dances come from?”

And don’t forget to subscribe to our blog!


-Tian Yu


  1. Robert

    February 21, 2016

    Thank you for sharing Tien Yu! I’m curious to seeing where your writing goes.

    For me my ‘Aha’ moment had a gradual buildup over time. During my tango training I was working towards giving the sensations of ‘Flying and Floating’ because I heard several lady friends gush about that feeling.

    Somewhere along the way I learned more about connection and I ended up having an embrace to a sweet soft song where we felt everything the other did. Every move we made, every breath we took, every beat of our hearts. For that song I was lucky to move her heart to beat to the beat of the music.

    While that moment didn’t scream “This is it folks!”; it did change how I viewed what I was doing and what I wanted. It was just so ‘right’ that to not do it… feels hallow. Empty. Like a bowl begging to be filled. I decided that that sharing that kind of connection wasn’t something I was going to ‘do’, but I part of who I am.

  2. Tyler

    February 21, 2016

    You write very well! It’s neat to see your dance history and see where we overlapped in time or space. I don’t dance too much these days but it’s still in me. The body remembers the whirl. I would like to take you up on your offer and extend an anecdote about my aha moment.

    In the fall of 2009 I was cajoled into going to a contra dance. A friend had discovered it on the east coast while hiking the AT and convinced me to give a shot, just one night. Dubious, I allowed myself to be lead along during the instructive half hour lesson before the figures began in earnest. To settle my nerves, a friend danced my first dance with me, something simple with four moves. The rest of the night is a blur of laughter, joy, EYE CONTACT, and connecting with strangers in a way I previously would not have believed possible. It felt as if I was home.

    That was the autumn of my last year at college and I was more than ready to be out of there. I truly believe contra dance is what kept me grounded enough to stick out the final year and earn my two degrees. Whatever academic BS tore me down, whichever assignment gnawed at my brain, at the very least I could look forward to Friday night contra where all my troubles would absolutely melt in three hours of mirth. My friends were there and every week I made more, learned a new move, enjoyed a new waltz, saw a new band, had an excuse to meet strangers in a new town. There really is something to that social dancing.

  3. RuthAnne

    February 21, 2016

    Looking forward to your blog.

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