One of my favorite parts of 2011 has been the time I have spent working on learning to swing dance. I am still a beginner, but already I love the music because it makes me smile. I love the people. And I LOVE the dancing. I love all of it. I come a way from a dance feeling nothing short of joyous. And I usually come away from a dance wanting to wrap my poor feet in cold cloths when I get home.

Last night the North End Swing crew held a Swing Out the Old Year dance here in Kalispell. I honestly cannot think of a better way to start 2012 than dancing. A night of dancing sets the tenor of the year. Or at least I hope that will be true.

Of course, it wasn’t all dancing for me. For the last dance of the year I had a camera in my hands. Typical. : ) But I put the gear down for the first dance of the year. Our dj Pete graciously took my recommendation and we started the year with one of my favorite songs: Be Careful (If You Can’t Be Good) by Buddy Johnson and His Orchestra. To hear it go to:

Now, make sure you listen to the song before reading what I have to say next, otherwise the following comments might unfairly bias you against this song. …

Did you hear it? Let’s be honest about this, the lyrics are outrageously bad. “Now look here honey, if you want to die, spend my money on another guy. Be careful, careful if you can’t be good.” Is that really the positive message we want to be sending out into the world? Is that really the advice we want to start the year off with? If you can’t be good, be careful? That’s right up there with if you’re going to commit a crime, don’t get caught. But the music is so happy… When I’m dancing I tend to ignore the lyrics as I search for the rhythm, and so the lyrics become irrelevant and truth be told, this has become one of my favorite songs to dance to.

Swing dancing presents a unique challenge for me. It has become one of the few arenas in my life when I am genuinely torn between my desire to photograph the event, and my desire to participate. As a photographer I have had the chance to witness amazing events. I will always count myself blessed for the life this profession has opened up to me. But when you are there to document you must also be there, at least in part, removed. If you are photographing what’s happening, then you aren’t taking part in what is happening. Normally this doesn’t bother me because photography is how I interact with the world. Except in swing dancing. With dancing, I don’t want to always be behind the lens because I want to be out on the floor. You can’t do both.

Most of tonight I danced. But for the last hour or so I got out my gear and started snapping pictures. I did this one out of habit, and two, because I had an idea for a photo. Sparklers. I have these wonderful childhood memories of sparklers. Happiness. Celebration. I remember the sparkles, but I had forgotten how much smoke these create. My idea was simple enough. Buy sparklers and lighters and have everyone come out at midnight and dance in the streets to celebrate 2012! Simple, right? Except for the smoke. Oops. I’m really happy with the photos, but I felt incredibly guilty when we had all the couples out there dancing and coughing. Yes, I know I’m forgiven, but still I’m really hoping these photos will make everyone feel the smoke inhalation was worth it.

Minus the self-inflicted guilt at the end, this was exactly how I wanted to end 2011, a year that has been incredible on so many levels, and how I wanted to start 2012, a year I have exceptionally high hopes for.

Happy New Year to you all! May God bless you in the year ahead.

Okay, to wrap up this post, the last shot of the night, Shim Sham on the streets of Kali. Cheers! And one more link, this time to a video. Last night Kent Halfast was taking some video shots of his nephew and I happened to be dancing with my friend Pete in the background. To the best of my knowledge this is the first time I’ve really been caught on video. I am always behind the camera. Kent was kind enough to share these with me and so I put the clips up on youtube. Here are Pete Milne and I dancing to “I Won’t Dance” by Frank Sinatra.