Here’s a dispatch from Ph.D. student Kirsten Ronald, who discusses her summer of teaching dance lessons.
Hello friends! I passed my oral exams in April, so this summer I’m doing all those fun post-orals things: putting together a dissertation committee, working on my prospectus, and investigating the brave new world of grant writing. And yes, for those of you who know about my penchant for rubrics, I am already making flowcharts and schedules galore to help keep myself on track. I’ve even got a timeclock called Toggl, so I can punch in and out of work. Some things are just too much fun to resist.
But after so many months of sitting still and not talking to anyone while studying for orals, man, I’ve just got to dance. I learned how to two-step back when I first moved to Austin, and there’s still nothing I like to do better on a hot Texas summer night. For all its aspirations to be a global city and the live music capital of the world, Austin is still very much in Texas, which means that in addition to being home to some of the best barbecue in the state, it also has an awesome (and growing) old school country and honkytonk scene. I’m not talking the watered-down twang of pop country here – Austin’s country music is hot, dirty, and downright swampy, with far more boozy lovin’ and leavin’ than will ever make it onto KUT. The dance is alive and evolving, too, a hot and sweaty mashup of traditional moves with East Coast swing, Lindy Hop, West Coast, and jive. It’s Texas two-step with a cosmopolitan twist, and the chance to create something new and beautiful every single time you go out on the dance floor makes it wildly addictive.
Last summer, I started teaching two-step lessons at a local honkytonk called The White Horse, and since then my partner and I have formed a little dance company called Two Left Foots that teaches free beginning and intermediate lessons to 50 or 60 students a week. We’re a small, new addition to a very large, very old and very well-established scene that is growing like everything else in Austin. It’s a ton of fun with a lot of wonderful, warm, accepting people, it’s great exercise, and it’s a great way to be a living part of Austin and Texas history. So come on out, y’all. And don’t forget to bring your boots!