Coming from someone who has a reputation for long discourses and digressions on technique during group classes, this may sound like a surprising title. But, over my many years teaching the art of Ballroom and Social Dancing, this is the most important lesson I have learned and the one that I would most like to imbue in our students.
Let me explain. Most of the time when a couple is learning to dance together, one half of the couple has more desire, more musicality, more skill (perceived or real), or a combination thereof. None of this should matter, but we find over and over that it does. Whether it is the couple coming in for the first time trying to decide if dance lessons are right for them, or a couple that has been taking lessons for years, this inequality consistently rears its head in the most frustrating, awkward and uncomfortable ways.
Time and again we hear how excited someone is to take dance lessons, but their partner wants to discuss it before making a decision. Or, we hear one sided criticism during a lesson (not coming from the instructor). Then there is the student who truly believes their partner is a better dancer than they are. Most painful for me is when both halves of the couple enjoy dancing but because of the discrepancy in skill level and the stemming conflict, they don’t enjoy dancing together.
As a professional dancer, teacher and lover of Ballroom Dance, these situations are beyond painful for me. I find myself saddened and, in some cases, genuinely angry when I encounter this type of attitude. I’m going to get personal for a minute. What many people don’t know about me is that I have a spouse who DOES NOT DANCE. I don’t mean he doesn’t Ballroom Dance. I mean he doesn’t dance at all, period.
While I am happy to extol the many virtues and social benefits of Ballroom Dancing, there is something unique and powerful about sharing a dance with someone special to you. In truth, the act of moving in unison to the music with someone you care for deeply, is (I’m told) an entirely irreplaceable and emotional experience. This phenomenon of dance, which is at our fingertips, is one that so few people ever have the opportunity to experience. So, why are we preventing ourselves from attaining this level of joy?
Whatever our reasons, I promise you they don’t really matter. Be kind. Be humble. Be understanding. Be gracious. Most of all, be grateful that someone you care for wants to share something so emotionally powerful with you. Next time you feel the need to say something that prevents you or your partner from enjoying dancing together, please think about this and instead…Shut up and Dance!