Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Digging is like Dancing

As you may have guessed, "Greek & Roman Studies Course Union" is not my real name. My name's Elliott and I'm a 4th year Greek and Roman Studies major at Uvic. In my time there I've gotten involved with a few clubs, one of which is the aforementioned course union. Mostly we organize social events for the department, such as receptions for visiting guest lecturers like our prestigious yearly Lansdowne lecturers, who stay for a few days and hold several interesting talks and workshops. This past year it was Dr. David Kennedy, from the University of Western Australia, who is an expert and pioneer in aerial archaeology. This method of surveying sites from above gives the archaeologist a unique view of the site and its relation to the landscape. This is something we're familiar with at our own site of ancient Eleon and we use an RC plane to take photo and video from the air. This allows us to see the whole trench and the relation of features to each other. So now that I've done my plug for the GRSCU, let me tell you about the other club I'm involved in, the Uvic Ballroom Dance Club. This September will be my 2nd year with the club and in that time I've learned a lot about "dance etiquette." These are general rules to follow so that you and your partner both have a safe and enjoyable dance. Since I've been on this dig I've been struck by how these rules can equally be applied to your partner in the trench, your pickaxe. Thus I'd like to share some tips on dancing that I've picked up, whether it's with a person or a pick.
1. Cleanliness: It's next to godliness. This may seem like an odd one to bring up, since it gets pretty sweaty and dirty in the trenches. Trust me though, 3 hours of dancing in a crowded hall with minimal ventilation (re: an open door) gets very sweaty. Still, hygiene is important. Apply deodorant liberally, try to shower at least semi-regularly and those around you will appreciate it, especially on those crowded rides home from site.
2. Correct frame. Don't break your back. Frame is everything in partner dancing. In ballroom this generally means shoulders back and down, chin up, comfortable but sturdy. However frame also relates to how you hold your partner as you move through the dance, so as a lead you can communicate your movements and your follow can anticipate them. Frame is equally important in the trench. Keep a firm grip on the pick and keep your hands away from the head when swinging it in a wide arc. The momentum from the picks weight will do the work for you. Just so in dance using your partner's momentum to propel yourself is key. Physics is a beautiful thing.
3. Moving around the floor. No collisions. This is the golden rule in ballroom dancing. Most standard dances (foxtrot, tango, waltz) move in a line counterclockwise around the floor. This is to keep everything going smoothly and make sure no one crashes in to each other. In the trenches moving in a line is also important. Picking in a line helps you establish a clear idea of where your level is at in relation to the rest of the soil you are removing and creates tidy artificial lines that will make your area look clean and professional.
4. The most important rule of all: remember to smile and have fun! This sounds cliche, but a negative attitude will bring down your partner and those around you. Plus unless you're taking a 10m pass, you don't want to pick angry.
The list goes on, but these are the really important ones. I've loved to apply my dancing knowledge to my first archaeological dig and I hope to take all I learn here and use it throughout my life.

P.S. You should check these out:
Greek & Roman Studies Course Union:
Uvic Ballroom Dance Club:

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