Dance! Dance! Dance!

The Joys of Dance

Once when I was dancing West Coast Swing, my partner said, “I bet you can really get down at the clubs!” When I told him that I preferred partner dancing to club dancing, he seemed surprised. I then explained that I preferred the challenge of partner dancing. Whenever two moving energies come together to produce something that is enjoyable and beautiful, that’s a great thing!

Another time when I was training in ballroom with a Romanian instructor who had a reputation for being unbearable, I received one of the best compliments of my life. When talking about me to another instructor, I overheard him say, “Sheila’s a workhorse.” Why was that a compliment? Because I enjoy putting everything I have into reaching my goal. Hearing my instructor make that comment let me know that he recognized I was giving all I had to give.

So for me, the joys of dancing boil down to the fact that I love the challenge it presents, not only physically, but also mentally and emotionally. And, I love the partnership. It’s just so much more fun when sharing a dance with someone else!

The Dreads of Dancing

There is one thing that will make me walk off the floor and never dance with someone again — disrespect. Disrespect on the dance floor shows up in various forms, but one way it’s interfered with my dancing was when my partner forced a move. I once had an International ballroom partner for almost 18 months. We both had many years of experience and practiced two or three times a week, two to three hours each time.

On the day we auditioned each other for partnership, he manhandled me on the dance floor. At that moment, I stopped dancing and told him that my weight was mine to move, not his. Aside from being rude, I explained that it hurt me. Because I have a broken vertebra in my back, if I’m jolted (as in an unexpected forced move) it creates muscle spasms in my back along with intense pain. He acknowledged his understanding, and he never did it again — until 18 months later.

On that day, we were practicing waltz. There was no music playing as we moved around the floor. He led me into a turning lock to the right which, I knew from many months of dancing with him, he would repeat. On the second turn, he jerked me around the floor and my back spasmed. Although there was no music playing, he defended his aggression by saying I was turning too slowly. Regardless of which one of us was “off tempo” in the music-less dance, his disrespect physically hurt me when he forced my body to move unexpectedly. Needless to say, I walked off the floor and out the door.

It was more than a year before I danced with him again. It was a social dance and he was polite and gentle, but it was too late for our partnership. I did not feel respected and could not trust him. Soon afterward I found a new partner who never EVER forced me to move on the floor. My new partner understood that his job was to move his weight and he respected me enough to allow me to move mine — in my own time.

Far left, the infamous Romanian. Far right, the man who would become my preferred, gentle dance partner almost 20 years later!

Disrespect, in my opinion, is the most dreaded experience to encounter on the dance floor, whether it’s just a practice or the real thing. It’s important that anyone, whether leading or following, advocate for themselves if they feel disrespected on the floor. You can either voice your feelings and ask the partner to honor you or simply refuse to dance with them again.

It’s all about RESPECT!

Now that I am learning Argentine Tango, I’m learning a whole new set of steps and dance etiquette. And with that comes new partner points to respect. As a follower, I pledge the following and ask you to do the same. While my list is not exclusive, for me this is enough to keep me on the dance floor for a long time!

R… Remember that dance is a partnership; listen to and acknowledge your partner with all of your senses

E… Embrace with gentleness and care; honor your partner’s close embrace preference and timing, even if different from yours

S… Smile; it relaxes you

P… Preserve the heritage of the dance; follow the rules of floor craft

E… Execute what works for the partnership; not what works for you

C… Correct ONLY if you are an instructor, or if specifically requested; proactively look for positive attributes

T… Tango your heart out; then tango some more!

Granted, I’m still new to Argentine Tango, but I’ve been partner dancing for a couple of decades. While that doesn’t make me a dance know-it-all, it has given me a wealth of partner experience to draw on. Regardless of the type of dance, my favorite partners are a joy to dance with; fun and lighthearted, while still taking their personal learning and development seriously.

When I think of dance, I’m reminded of a Hindu Proverb:

“There is nothing noble about being superior to another.

The true nobility is in being superior to your previous self.”

I want to be the best dancer I can be, and I will continue to be a workhorse until I get there. In partnership, I never want to be made to feel inferior, nor do I ever want to act superior. Rather, I want to be a perfect partner match every time. As long as there is mutual respect on the dance floor, every dance will be perfect.

Now, let’s Tango!

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