The very term “Social Dancing” implies two very different types of activities coming together, socializing and dancing. I often find it hard to do both at the same time. I can talk to a partner, but then I can barely dance with her. Or I can dance, but its hard to talk when your partner is whipping through a swingout. There’s also the option to sit a dance out to have a more involved conversation, but that can be a challenge, too, if you’re trying to talk over the music. In the past few weeks, I’ve had two experiences at the opposite end of a spectrum that have gotten me thinking more about the nature of social dancing.
First, I was at a local blues dance where I ran into an acquaintance that I had met at an event earlier this year. I had a marvelous dance with her where we chatted through our entire dance together. Normally, I don’t talk much when I dance. I have the impression that most follows want to have good dances, and I can’t talk and turn at the same time. When I said something about it to the follow, she replied, “This is the social part of social dancing, something which is too often neglected.” I know I am certainly guilty of that. Like many gentleman who start swing dancing, I’m often a tongue tied mess when I’m not dancing. Later, I found her again for another conversation with a little dancing on the side. Those two dances were some of the most pleasant and rewarding that I’ve had in a long time, and definitely the most memorable ones from that night.
On another night out at a local lindy event, I went with the intention of dancing full out to every song. By dancing full out, I mean athletically using all of my abilities, nothing half-way or mediocre. Even when I was dancing to slower songs, I tried to be deliberate in each of my movements, following through, composing good lines with energy through my entire body. Lately, I’ve felt like I’ve been slacking in my dancing, going through motions, and this was my determined effort to break that habit. I went prepared with four extra shirts and an extra undershirt for good measure. I didn’t need them all, but I did need one more than normal.
I had a lot of fantastic dances that night, and pushed myself in many ways. It was definitely my “A” game. For me, that’s the “dancing” part of social dancing. The dance become primary, and as a form of expression there’s certainly a great capacity to share yourself and connect with other people. Its not that “dancing” is anti-social, but its a totally different expression of what it means to be social dancing.
I think all of us go to dances with different expectations around this continuum of “Social — Dancing” when we go out. We shift our emphasis from Social Dancing to Social Dancing. I suspect that we all have a place that we tend to fall on the spectrum, usually somewhere in the middle. We avoid the extremes. Sometimes, its good to push outside of that comfort zone to explore the full range. I know for me, I’ve learned a lot about my dancing, how much I was holding back on my dancing and how much I’ve been missing not getting to know the amazing people I dance with better. I’ve set a little goal for myself to dip my toe into each end of the spectrum when I’m out dancing to remind myself of these lessons.