Originally from Oklahoma, Cami Leigh grew up in an area where dance wasn’t so prevalent. Despite having a grandmother who was a ballet teacher and dancer, and a mother who was an avid contra dancer before COVID-19 began to surge, Camielle hated the ballet lessons she was forced to take as child. Quitting dance not long after beginning, she now wishes that she had stuck with it. It wasn’t until decades later that she discovered dance again and fell in love.
While living in Washington D.C. in 2010 Cami started dancing salsa and bachata socially. A few years later she was introduced to kizomba, zouk and blues dancing, which have become her favorites. She has even come full circle by taking an occasional ballet class. Although she’s a super beginner, she’s learned to enjoy it!
Reflecting on her time in quarantine, Cami admits that it was especially tough mentally, as she followed CDC guidelines the whole time; and In doing so she had only been doing online dance classes, and not much else that was restricted. She reflects, “I had to sadly distance myself from a lot of the social dance community online as the ‘secret’ dance parties people were having were stressing me out. They made me feel upset from a community wellness standpoint and then simultaneously jealous because of course I wanted to go too, but I knew I should not.” And because she is so earnest about her civid duty of adhering to CDC regulations and helping to slow the spread, Cami has not been back to ATOMIC or other in person dance class yet. She hasn’t even social danced with anyone but says, “I am now vaccinated so I now feel comfortable with the idea of dancing with vaccinated people. However, I can’t be sure of the vaccination status of people at an event. I can’t know for sure when I will feel comfortable but I have much more hope now than I did a few months ago.”
In regards to what dance event organizers could do to make hesitant dancers feel more safe and comfortable returning to dance, Cami has a few suggestions that are echoed by many. “Honestly, I would like to see a vaccinated only event. But I don’t know if that is feasible legally or politically, and I don’t think it should be a political issue. Short of that, ventilation, masks (and enforcement of correctly wearing them) are great places to start.”
Cami started hiking more and doing lots of yoga to try to get her through the lockdown blues and help supplement some of the dancing she’s been missing, but she found that it doesn’t fix the social or creative void of dance. However, one upside is that she can now do yoga confidently on her own independent of a video or class, and she feels comfortable listening to her body and what it needs. She’s also done more yoga this year than any time before in her life. Cami asserts that the past years events have changed her in that she is a lot more willing to put aside something that is not adding value to her life. Speaking of value, Cami truly valued her time social dancing at ATOMIC, where she especially loved going for blues dancing. Reminiscing, “(One thing that I) miss the most is connecting with another person in a creative way and also in a way that isn’t taxing – it’s just fluid. Creating something together.” This is a sentiment felt by many other ATOMIC regulars about the overall studio vibe, and particularly in spaces like the blues room upstairs.
Dancing at ATOMIC and throughout means a great deal to Cami and has impacted her life in a significant way. Cami explains, “Dance is a form of expression and connection, and it’s also very meditative. It’s an outlet for stress and love.” And that love of dance and connection is one of the top three things that Cami can’t wait to resume doing once restrictions are fully lifted and deemed safe to resume various activities. She’s also looking forward to going back to the nail salon and attending entertainment events as well.