Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Club Ann.A: Swing Dancing in Korea! (Daegu pt. 3)

At around 8:30pm on Saturday evening in Daegu, I was simultaneously searching for something to do and somewhere to sleep. I couldn't decide which was more the more pressing matter; if I could find hospitable folks at a club, maybe they could help me find a place for the night, but if I had to go looking for a hostel, then I might not end up doing anything fun for the evening. Either way, I was very thankful that I have a smartphone. The Internet told me that there was a swing club and a 찜질방 (jjimjilbang) within walking distance of the downtown area, so I opted to find them, even though the directions given on the multiple websites and blogs I browsed were vague at best.

Jet took me to a salsa club called Babalu before he had to leave for other business. The salsa club is a pretty hot spot and the expats there were quite friendly. I explained that I was trying to find a swing club that I'd heard about, and several people tried to help me figure out where to go. I was grateful for their kindness! The American who was leading a beginner salsa class, Katherine, even gave me an impromptu lesson in bachata while I was vacillating over my plans for the evening. In the end, around 9:30pm, I decided to try my luck at finding the swing club, knowing that if I couldn't find it, then I could always come back to Babalu and hang out there.

Long story short, after twenty minutes, I was lost, and the GPS function on my phone was not working properly, and my phone itself was quickly running out of batteries... I was standing on a dark and silent street corner where the club was supposed to be, almost ready to give up when I took about five steps to the right and suddenly heard music! Swing music! Coming from a building almost hidden from view!

It was Club Ann.A! 드디어, I found it! You have no idea how happy I was when I walked in and saw people dancing -- swing dancing -- in a dimly lit room to music from the '40s. I tried to explain how happy I was, and why, in Korean to the lady at the welcome counter (who turned out to be the club owner), but just settled for saying that the place was hard to find. And then I danced!
Swing dancing at Club Ann.A in Daegu!
It was perfect. Just imagine any lindy club you've ever been to, and then replace all the Americans with Koreans, and you have the scene I was in. As I watched for the first few minutes, I realized that most of the people there were at an intermediate or advanced level, and they would have fit in seamlessly with the style and atmosphere that I've seen at Philly's LaB. It was actually a bit intimidating, but I thought, "Well, if this is just like being at LaB, then I have to work up my own courage and ask someone to dance." And when I did, I asked in English, and peoples' heads turned.

That's all it took. As soon as the ladies in the room registered that I was American, not Korean, suddenly everyone wanted to dance with me. For probably the first time since coming to Korea, I felt the "rock star treatment" that many foreigners get -- albeit usually for being tall, white, and beautiful. I am, for obvious reasons, often mistaken for being Korean. But just this once, rather than blending in, I was the one who stood out the most, and the reception was warm, flattering, and kind of funny!

Here's a compilation of some short videos I took while they did some cute line dances. (My camera was running out of memory, so the videos are short and choppy; my apologies.)
Anyway, this was probably the highlight of my weekend. I had a fantastic time, and I enjoyed meeting all of the Koreans. They were an energetic, young group, although I was by far the youngest. Many of the follows I danced with spoke English well, but I also had a great opportunity to practice my Korean, since I was quite literally the only foreigner there, and lots of people wanted to ask me some questions (Why are you here? How'd you find us? Where are you from? How long have you been dancing?). At the end of the evening, I promised to be back soon, got some numbers, and then was blessed enough to be given a ride to the nearest 찜질방 to crash overnight.

Favorite song from the night: The Idea of North's a cappella cover of Stevie Wonder's Isn't She Lovely.
Odd cultural difference of the night: Koreans sometimes bow to each other (insa) after a dance.

Here's some info about Club Babalu and Club Ann.A:
Club Babalu: Salsa, bachata, and tango. From Exit 10 of Banwoldang Station (반월당역), walk east (away from all the other exits), turn left after the pharmacy onto a narrow road with noodle shops on both sides. Walk for about two blocks; you'll pass a CNS on the right, then Babalu should a door or two down on the left. Take the elevator to the 4th floor. 8,000₩ entry for the Saturday night dances, beginning 9pm. They also offer various leveled classes all week.

Club Ann.A: Lindy and blues, as well as a smattering of other styles, from what I could tell. From Jungangno Station (중앙로역), Exit 3, walk east for five blocks until you get to City Hall (대구 시청). From Gyeongdae Hospital Station (경대병원역), Exit 1 or 4, walk north for four blocks (you'll pass a park on your left; cross the intersection and go for one more block), turn left after the galbi (갈비) restaurant and walk two more blocks until you get to City Hall. By bus or taxi, look/ask for Daegu City Hall (대구광역시청). Here is a map.

The club is located in the basement floor of Building 276, right by the pharmacy on the corner across from City Hall. The neighborhood is deceptively quiet, so don't be alarmed if you think you're walking away from all the downtown nightlife (because you are). 8,000₩ entry for the Saturday night dances, 8-11:30pm.

Ann.A was begun in 2007 by a lady named Anna who still runs the place. According to some outdated information floating around the Internet, Babalu used to be located in the same building; but several years ago, Babalu relocated to its current home at the heart of the downtown area.

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On a side note, I got my first haircut at a Korean salon today! The first five minutes were incredibly awkward, since I realized that I know absolutely no haircut vocabulary in Korean apart from "long", "short", and "Please give me a haircut." After the prolonged silence, the hairdresser whipped out her phone and started looking for photos online; she also made me have some sponge cake and instant coffee while she searched. It was nice, I guess. In the end, my hair looks completely normal, but the sides are now at an appropriate length. My host father says I look like a high school student. 8,000₩ for a haircut and complimentary shampooing! Not bad.

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