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Monday, March 10, 2008

i'm a little bit country

it all seemed like i was in the midst of a very disjointed dream. there i was, country line dancing in yoga pants and birkenstock sandals while dave stringer continued to chant govinda jaya jaya... huh?!? no wrangler jeans? no cowboy boots? no achy-breaky heart?

strangely enough, it was no dream; i was wide awake and, as far as i knew, quite sober. so how did i end up in this bizarre yoga-meets-country mashup?

leave it to the organizers of this past weekend's SYTAR conference to include something completely unexpected to their conference social program:


SYTAR 2008 attendees are invited to enjoy a unique and fun evening of country western line dancing at the SYTAR SATURDAY NIGHT SOCIAL HO-DOWN at the Hilton LAX! Bring your beginner's mind and laughing spirit and be prepared for a "YAHOO" not found on an e-mail address! As a special and original treat, Mike Bendavid, Country Western Caller will debut a country western line dance choreographed to one of Dave Stringer's Kirtan tracks and commissioned exclusively for SYTAR 2008!

i had just spent the better part of saturday volunteering at this annual yoga therapy event, and it sounded like something fun to do before i headed home for the night. besides, it had been a long time since i had last tried my hand -- or rather my feet -- at line dancing. plus i really needed to work off the calories from the cheese and crackers i had polished off at the "meet and greet" earlier that evening... as well as all the chocolate i had helped myself to while taking a break in the volunteer room that afternoon...

by the time i had reached the function room, line dancing instructor michael bendavid and his assistant, diana dover, were already lining up the small group of conference attendees who were brave enough to show up for the class. i found an empty spot in the middle of the group and stared at my feet while waiting for further instructions. i had on a clunky pair of birkenstocks which had kept my feet nice and comfortable throughout the day; unfortunately, there was no way they could take the place of dance shoes. or even cowboy boots. oh well.

michael started by introducing himself and diana: they currently teach line dancing around the LA area, including rec classes at UCLA. they've also been responsible for training actors to look like seasoned country western dancers for TV and movie shoots. hey, if those students could look good, maybe i could, too :)

after warming up with a run-through of the popular electric slide (there's nothing like boosting your confidence by having fun with something you already know how to do), we soon found ourselves grapevining right and left, shuffling forward and back, kick ball changing, scuffing, stomping, and even cha-cha-chaing. for the most part, we were accompanied by recorded country tunes. and as promised, there were the familiar kirtan strains, thanks to dave stringer (also recorded, although dave did perform live at the SYTAR celebration the night before).

speaking of dave, someone with a video camera recorded our group dancing to one of dave's commissioned pieces. i've been told that dave asked for a copy of the video so that he can share it with his fans on youtube... eeks!

so if you somehow catch sight of me struggling through the moves -- despite my attempt to hide from the camera -- just know that i totally blame my klutzy footwork on my clunky birkenstocks. that's my story, and i'm sticking to it :)