Sorcha Bowler, Software Developer and Blues Dancer

In my early twenties, I broke my foot. While recovering, I realised that the thing I missed the most was dancing. At that point I had no formal training, and I was just dancing in clubs (mostly Fibber Magees). When my foot healed, I took up Swing Dancing and discovered how much being with a partner and training could add to the dancing experience. Dancing, whether in Fibbers, Swing Dancing classes, or Blues Dancing socials, has always been about community to me. Sharing that intense passion with other people makes me feel like they understand me, and that is an amazing feeling. I would not say that dancing changes something in my life, because I cannot imagine my life without dancing in it. Dancing is a fundamental part of who I am, and I feel incomplete without it.

Hi, my name is Sorcha Bowler, and I am a software developer. I was born and raised in Dublin, and I have never lived further than Maynooth for more than a few months. I have been interested in software from a very young age, mainly because of my father. He used to have a permanent, pensioned job in the insurance industry in the 1970’s. One day, a colleague of his arrived with an aptitude test for a new ‘computers’ field. My Dad took the test, did well, and decided to change careers. This spawned a coding dynasty, with all of his children following him into coding, and several of his young grandkids now showing an interest.

I began by writing BASIC on our home computer. After college I failed to get a job writing code because everywhere wanted experience. I settled for a service and support job and only tried to get back into coding about five years ago. I have been a professional developer for nearly four years now, and I am really delighted with myself.

My passion outside of programming is Blues Dancing. Blues Dancing is a form of partner dancing danced to Blues music. It is all about the lead-follow connection, the connection to the music, and the connection to the ground. Blues Dancing feels amazing – the rest of the world stops existing and it is just you, your partner, and the music. It is an incredibly sensual dance, and though it can be sexy, it is not sexual at all. I started getting into dance by taking Swing Dancing lessons in 2005. A year or two later I did a taster class in Blues Dancing. I was hooked immediately, but I had to wait several years for the Dublin Blues Dancing scene to get started.

When I first learned Swing Dancing, I misunderstood the roles of lead and follow. I learned to follow first and to recognise the move that the lead was doing, and then to ‘do the appropriate follow part’. It was similar to the few salsa classes I had done before. When I did the taster class in Blues, I got a whole new perspective on conversing through dance. Rather than looking for specific cues to do certain movements, I was always listening to my partner, following their suggestions, listening to their movements and matching them with my own. I saw the possibilities for limitless conversations through dance and I was fascinated. When I later learned to lead blues, I learned to listen to the music and bring my partner with me.

There are so many good stories from my time dancing. My husband does not dance much, but he sometimes comes to our live music socials. Once, at one such social, he saw me dancing with someone he did not recognise. He thought the other dancer must have been a regular he just had not met, because we moved together like we had always known each other. Then he saw us introduce ourselves to each other at the end of the dance. We were simply fluent in the same language.

I have not really tried all that many other styles of dancing. I chose Swing Dancing because a friend had introduced me to the basics. I chose Blues because I was introduced to it through swing and felt it was similar, but better. One of the first times I ever Blues Danced, I was at a weeklong Swing Dancing camp in Sweden. One of the nights was Blues night. I was dancing with a man I had never met before. I could not believe how good he was at dancing. He led a move that I now know well, but it was the first time I had experienced it. I felt like I flew, just for a second.

I find it difficult to create things from scratch, and I am much more comfortable remixing and interpreting things that already exist. My Blues Dancing lessons and workshops give me the tools and vocabulary to interpret the music via a conversation with my partner. Dancing to the same song with a different partner will produce a completely different dance, as we each bring our own skills and interpretations to it. I think that understanding this has been useful in my technology career, because communication is a vital part of making sure that you are writing the right code to solve the right problems. Understanding that different ideas are required to communicate with different people, and that combinations of people make totally unique things from the same ingredients has been useful for me.

Blues communities all over the world are renowned for being friendly, welcoming places. You do not need to have a partner; you will dance with lots of people in the class. Stay for the social after the class because that is how you really get good at the dance. It is a fantastic hobby for introverts and people who are socially awkward. It gives you a script for interacting with people, and a reasonable and polite reason to walk away if you have run out of things to say (“thanks, I am going to go dance now!”). It is okay to be rubbish when you start. It is expected, actually. We all were. Experienced dancers would rather dance with beginners who are enjoying themselves than a really skilled dancer who is bored. So if you are interested in Blues Dancing, find a beginner’s class near you and dive right in!

Interested? Check out Dublin’s Local Blues Scene here!

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