When we started dating, we’d both been dancing for years and had our own habits and preferences. Listen in on a little morning conversation as we discuss how we navigate social dances as a couple.
Susanne: Good morning darling.
Craig: Good morning. I’m coming out of my dance related stupor now, and am ready for another Pillow Talk. What’s on the agenda for today?
S: Last night I met a lovely couple and they were asking me how and why I started swing dancing. In the process of telling that story, I related how I met you and how I quickly realized that dating a fellow dancer might be a little bit harder than I had anticipated.
C: Why did you think dating a dancer would be a challenge?
S: Well, I didn’t think it would be a challenge. But it ended up being one–at least for me–because dancing was my little escape from the stresses of life, and when I met you, that meant grad school. It was difficult for me when I lost that space to blow off steam after we started dating.
C: Yeah, there were certainly some challenges for us in navigating dances in that first year or two together.
S: I definitely had an adjustment period where I was grappling to figure out how to rethink my dancing experience with you in it. Also, our relationship has grown so much stronger since the beginning and that makes it much easier.
C: It does. It also helps that we teach together now which means we usually talk about dance stuff once a week or so. But even without that, we worked out some agreements that help.
S: Yes. And we sure do hold each other to those agreements! I really like our tradition of dancing the first dance together.
C: I like that one. It was hard at first when I would put on my dancing shoes and start tapping to the music because I couldn’t contain myself, and you would interpret that as me being impatient with you. So I have a lot more fond memories of our tradition to dance the last dance of the evening together.
S: I can see that. But I think I’ve grown more tolerant about your foot tapping and dancing in place over time and no longer interpret it as impatience.
C: My dance joy cannot be contained! The music moves me.
S: I know!
C: We’ve also gotten better about giving each other feedback about our dancing, something that’s become much more important since we’ve started teaching.
S: Yes. So in addition to the first song after we arrive and the last song, we usually get at least two or three together during the night. But of course that varies.
C: I think its important to be sensitive and available to your partner during something like a dance. So you always get priority if you need my attention. You gotta respect the connection. There’s lots of ways to do that, as long as you do it.
S: Having these agreements helps us say to each other, “Hey you, you’re the most important person here to me.” Not to mention that I love a tradition.
C: Do you think it matter whether people are dancers before becoming a couple or a couple before becoming a dancer?
S: Mmm. Good question. Honestly no. I think what matters is that couples are able to negotiate stressors, hear each other out, and arrive at a compromise or conclusion where both parties are happy and feel loved and cared for and that their connection is affirmed.
C: Have you seen other kinds of arrangements with other couples?
S: I only really know of one. Once I asked my friend Hilary to dance and he told me that he danced the first set with his wife but that he would find me later. Part of me likes that idea, but I think lindy women of the world would hate me if we did that. Plus, it’s just not who we are. But it works for Hilary and his wife, and that’s great.
C: That reminds me of when Marcus and Barbl visited DC this past fall, and I overheard them talking about dancing in Germany. Couples would go out together in small groups, and would dance primarily within their own small group that they went with. So it was customary to ask someone for a second dance. In some ways, that sounds nice to me – a little more intimate than our model of “I have to dance with everybody.” In other ways, I think I would miss all of the amazing new people I meet out dancing.
S: I like our agreements and they work for us now. We can always re-negotiate. And of course none of them apply when we’re running a dance. Then our goal is to make sure everyone else has a good time. On a related note, I’d heard the the Swedish model of asking someone for two dances in a row was partially related to the band/DJ practice of playing a faster song followed by a slower one. So if you danced with someone for two songs you would get them for one of each.
C: That makes sense. One other thing that occurs to me is that I make it a point now to introduce you to followers when you approach me at a dance. One of the major benefits to having a partner at a dance is that guys don’t meet guys and girls don’t meet girls, but with a partner you can mitigate that.
S: I have definitely met and gotten to know so many more follows since we started dating. And that’s something that I’m conscious of as an instructor and promoter and try to introduce people to each other. Often the first thing girls will say to each other is, “Oh yeah, I’ve seen you around, but I don’t think we’ve met.”
C: Hahaha. The first thing guys usually say is, “Hey.”
S: Is that the lindy hop equivalent of men are from Mars and women are from Venus?
C: Something like that. As always, babe, this has been fun. But I think its time for us to get out of bed now.