From the Oval Office

Talking with Dancers

August 9th, 2006. Posted by David Lim

First off, I wanted to say thanks to everyone who has given me feedback on my articles in the newsletter. I enjoy talking about dance with people, and I’ve gotten an opportunity to get to know some of the membership through conversations about an article someone liked. I always try to find out what people enjoy about dance, what they enjoy about our club, and solicit suggestions on improving the club.

Two topics come up often when I get into conversations about our dance community. The first is more common for follows than leads, but it applies to leads as well. I want to be friendly and approachable, so it’s not easy for me to turn anyone down for a dance. I doubt anyone enjoys the uncomfortable rejection that comes when a dance is turned down. However, it’s sometimes necessary, for the safety and benefit of others..

My wife sometimes reminds me that I’m not aware of my own strength. When I try a new pattern with her, and I give her much more power than she needs, the pattern ends up hurting her. As much as it stings when she gives me an uncomfortable face that precedes her telling me how the move hurt, I’m always thankful that she tells me. It doesn’t mean I never try the move again, but it does mean that I need to adjust it so we can both enjoy it. I hope that any follow, not just my wife, would help me improve my dance by letting me know if something hurts them.

Conversely, I’ve had rare occurrences where follows have hurt me. While I was on a dance performance team in college, I had an injury with my right wrist. Since then, there have been occasions when a follow puts a lot of power in their coaster step made my wrist feel popped out. It didn’t hurt too much, but I sat out a dance afterwards, just in case. Of course, that’s when a great song came on.

So how does someone turn down a dance because of the potential of injury? Perhaps, refusing to dance with the person once can do the trick. For me, if I ask someone to dance, and they decline with no intention for a future dance, I don’t ask them again. No harm, no foul. But for someone who requests repeatedly, the best approach I’ve heard is being “I”-centered in explaining why you wish not to dance with them. “I hurt when I dance with you,” rather than “You hurt me,” is much less confrontational and more sensitive to the other person. The first statement does not designate a fault. It just states a fact without placing blame. It might still sting for the recipient, but I believe the sincere honesty is best, especially since it involves someone’s ability to dance safely.

The second topic that comes up often is dance cliques. While I could go at good lengths about this topic with no solution in the end, I’ll just mention one anecdote that has helped me.

When I started dancing in college, I saw more advanced dancers only dance with those of similar skill levels. I unfairly judged them as dance snobs. As I got to know more dancers and learned more about dance, I wasn’t sitting out dances as frequently. I eventually associated with the so-called dance snobs, and found most of them quite friendly.

I began to wonder if new dancers saw me as snobby because of those I associated with and because I could be perceived as a “better” dancer. So I made it a goal to dance with anyone for the first half of the dance, then to intermediate-level dancers and friends for the second half to grow in my dance. I grow so that I have a greater the range of dancers I could dance well with, and have a good time.

There’s a quote on what it means to be an advanced dancer that goes something like this, “One true mark of an advanced dancer is being able to dance with anyone, regardless of skill level, and the partnership enjoys the experience equally.”

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