Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Let Go and Experience the Magic

[I believe that partner dance is one huge metaphor for life and if I ever get around to writing something more than a blog entry, this would be one of the chapters...]

I once read about this advice somewhere: let go and experience the magic.

Partner dancing as a follower has taught this to me time and time again.

Aside from the obvious characteristics that make up a good dancer: balance, musicality, presence, style, rhythm, poster, etc. a good follow has to have one key trait: the ability to let go and truly connect with the music and the lead.

Partner dancing is not about who has control. Its about connecting with the music and then working together to create movement with one person initiating and the other responding.

While the connection to the music is the key to establishing this wonderful interlude, for me, the true magic of the dance happens when I react to the movement initiated by my lead without having to anticipate what’s coming next. The dance becomes a series of moments that flow so seamlessly, where things just fit together almost as if they were just meant to be.

Not every dance is this way, there are certain styles that can be difficult to dance with. There are certain dance leads who use moves that don't quite fit with the melody and rhythm that defines the song. Regardless, when I dance with a lead that can match the music, no matter what his style of dance or level of dance is, as long as we have that connection, I let go and the rest of the world just fades to the background. 

I know I have a great dance when intended moves that don't quite turn out as they were first envisioned do not cause a "bump" in the dance. That moment is not marred by apologies. Instead, the magic continues: there is something new that was just "created" , always a shared smile of accomplice and the dance continues, uninterrupted.

The same is true in life: letting go of the outcome contains the ultimate reward. As with dancing, there less stress, less anxiety and less disappointment from non-existent expectations: things are smooth, joyous and fun.

There is a sense of stability in staying true to yourself, a focus on being independent and owning your own happiness. There is a confidence that comes with being so in tune with the present moment that what to do next just unfolds with ease.

Believe me, I know how hard it is to let go, especially when you want something so very, very much or when you're just learning something new. But, just think back to times when it seemed like something “magical” happened. You might be able to trace it back to moments where you haven’t been as “in control” as you thought you should be. The “pleasant surprise” is a surprise because you had no expectations – you just went along your merry way and "hello!" something nice happened.

When I find myself stuck, its usually because things are not the way I want them to be: I'm too wrapped up in why and the how and the "what the heck happened?" To get un-stuck, I dance ;) or, I breathe, focus instead on enjoying what I have in the present and let go.

There are many other people that have shared this same sentiment in words far more eloquent that I could ever come up with so I’ll end with several quotes that I could've used as titles to this blog:

Loving someone is setting them free, letting them go.
-- Kate Winslet

“Less is more.”
-- Unknown

“Don’t force it.”
-- Unknown

Breathe. Let go. And remind yourself that this very moment is the only one you know you have for sure.
-- Oprah Winfrey

By letting it go it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go. But when you try and try. The world is beyond the winning.
-- Lao Tzu

Courage is the power to let go of the familiar.
-- Raymond Lindquist

Creativity can be described as letting go of certainties,
-- Gail Sheehy

When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.
-- Lao Tzu

We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the life that is waiting for us.
-- Joseph Campbell

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


I received one of the best compliments ever while dancing on Monday night and it inspired me to write about some memorable compliments that I and other friends have received. This is written as a tribute and a big SHOUT OUT to everyone responsible for these comments: you have given the recipients of  your remarks a memory guaranteed to bring out a smile.Thank you so very much!

Here they are listed in no particular order with some license on the wording because I don't have perfect memory. Some were said, some written and it's no surprise that a lot of them have to do with dancing. :D I don't believe any of these are trademarked and I'm sure they're ok to repeat to someone else if you meant it. Feel free to share more by posting through comments below. Enjoy!

"You're such a great follow that it doesn't matter how f_ _ _'d up my lead is, you'll still follow it." 
NOTE: This was of course followed up with "That was meant to be a compliment by the way."

"That was the best dance of the night." 
NOTE: Later when bidding goodbye at the end fo the night, this person added: "I was having an off night and after our dance things turned around. That was definitely a great dance."

"I think I was a fan even before I danced with her"


NOTE: This is definitely situational too - it happened at the end of the dance that was too sweet for words and we both said it at the same time when the dance ended.

"Dancing with you reminds me of dancing with my wife."

"You always make me look good."

"I'm really happy that you're in my life."

"Thank you for being you."

"Everytime I have an email from you in my Inbox, my heart smiles."

" Your smile just lights up my day."

" That was just perfect."

"That was HOT!!"
NOTE: Believe it or not, the actual context for this one was during a volleyball game. The left side hitter had just scored a point on a hit he just NAILED and the 1st thing he did when he landed was turn to his setter and say this.

"Its so much fun to watch you dance. You enjoy it so much and dance so gracefully."
NOTE: Delivery was way cool because it was given by some total stranger who was not a dancer and just watching on the sidelines.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Fall Reflections

No matter how many times I've experienced it, I never tire of the fall: the green leaves turn into golden hues of yellow, orange or red, the air is crisp and the ground cover is now dominated by golden brown leaves that have fallen from the trees as they grow dormant.

I am visiting New England after being away for 2 years. Its been a lovely, restful visit so far; punctuated by delicious, indulgent meals that I hope are balanced out by my walking around. (I have some serious dancing to do to make-up for all the food that I'm eating!!!!)

Its been so much fun walking through my old haunts and seeing what's familiar and new: changes that mark the passage of time and talking to friends that I haven't seen for a while and enjoying our memories and new adventures.

This is a perfect break from my normal routine. I'm celebrating everything that I have and all that I am looking forward to:
Dancing, volleyball, glass blowing, new friendships, old friendships, family, travels.... who knows what else?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Simple Rules for the Social Dance Floor

I am surprised and saddened by the bad experiences people sometimes have on the social dance floor. I wanted to share some simple rules that I believe would make bad experiences extinct. In my ideal world, there would be NO bad things on a social dance floor.

Here goes!

From Webster's (
Pronunciation: \ˈsō-shəl\
Function: adjective
Marked by or passed in pleasant companionship with one's friends or associates

1) The key word is SOCIAL: It’s not a classroom or a performance stage. It’s a laid back, social gathering that is meant to be pleasant. There's no test, there's no grade. People go out to socialize and have a good time. Keep it FUN, keep it joyful, keep it relaxed. I know there are many factors that could add stress to a social gathering and things may not always turn out the way you want them to but don’t force it: magic does happen when you let go and just go with the flow. [and I’m not just talking about being a follow :) ]

A small note about PRACTICA: A PRACTICA can be a bit different since the purpose behind them is for practicing moves BUT, it’s still social. So, for you leads who like to perfect a move: we follows love that perfect lead and we also understand that you need to practice but please remember that some people do go to practices to just enjoy dancing in a non-class, non-clubby atmosphere. Keep the practicing to short spurts - check in about whether the practice time is too much. Sometimes, you just need to dance and relax instead of beating a move to death.

2) Remember to look at your partner and SMILE: A smile is a wonderful thing. For so little effort, it can immediately put your partner at ease. Its infectious. The returns on this one small gesture on your part is priceless. Honestly, I think it’s the one thing that is entirely within your control where the return on investment is HUGE! Just think about bringing out the smile on that dance crush you’re currently into … sigh :D [Speaking of which, I need to make a plug on salsa crushes here.]

3) Do unto others as you would have done to yourself: I know this is totally cliché but it’s a universal truth and really, a very simple rule. If you don't like it when you experience it, odds are someone else won't like it either. Some of us may not have been brought up in the same social circles of etiquette but if you keep in mind the things that you like and don’t like, and make sure that you don’t do the things you don’t like to other people, I think it’s safe to say that you won’t step on anyone’s toes.

For those of you that need some concrete examples of what NOT to do:
Don't grope
Don't nag
Don't teach
Don't handle your dance partner like a rag doll
Don't ignore the person who's right in front of you

4) Remember: Its only a few minutes – just grin and bear it.: There will be times when you’re in the “lemon” situation. Where you’ve either said yes to a dance or asked someone to dance who is hopelessly off beat or just plain uncomfortable to dance with (for whatever reason). It’s only a few minutes of your life. Yes, they could be rude. Yes, they could be creepy. Yes, they could be totally “ewwwww”. For those few minutes (and hopefully it’s not a song played by a live band that’s lasting 10 minutes or longer) in your life, just plaster that fake smile and grin and bear it. You don’t have to accept (or ask for) a dance the next time you see them AND (more importantly) don’t let the experience ruin the rest of your night! Brush it off like water off a duck and move on.

I know this last rule can be hard. After all, you can't control someone else's actions. Here's the question to ask yourself: "Why let a ______ (you can insert whatever negative adjective you want here) person ruin your day?" Absolutely make sure you have your support system nearby so that you can vent to your hearts content and immediately replace those last few minutes with something much more worthwhile.

When all is said and done, I believe that dancing is meant to be a joyful expression and one that should not take place in an environment that causes someone else to feel bad. These simple rules just help to reinforce that.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Fall Reflection: One Door Closes, Another One Opens

I love the fall! It's just as vibrant as the summer. The warmth of the yellows, oranges and reds of the changing foliage light up the landscape. The cool, crisp cold air now accompanies the sunny days. The colors of the sunset somehow seem a bit more vibrant despite dropping temperatures and shorter days. Despite the fact that I have to put away my sandals, tank tops and shorts; its a good time. The fall is a time for reflection, another change, a new year is coming while the old one winds down.

Sometimes that reflection makes me melancholy because I remember some things that I love that are no longer meant to be.

But, as the saying goes: when one door closes, another one opens. The universe (or higher being or whatever it is you believe in) never ceases to amaze me by providing new experiences for me to revel in, so I don't get stuck wanting something that is no longer within my reach.

Last night was one such experience.

In my salsa journeys, while exploring music, different styles and different instructors I became aware of sub-cultures [I'll write more about that another time]. I've met so many great people but discovered that these people didn't all get along! Salseros consist of casineros, the la style dancers, the on1's, on2's...I'm sure I'm still missing a few.

I started dancing rueda - which is basically casino style but in a circle, where there's a caller that calls out steps which the circle performs. I love it because its partner dancing with a group and you get to dance with everyone in the circle. There's something satisfying about the coordinated movement as well as the lip-smacking goodness of traveling and going in and out of this circle in unison.

This led me into one of the sub-cultures: the casineros who dance the cuban style salsa. They have such zest for the music and dance - you can hear them singing and exclaiming their enjoyment as they dance. Its infectious :)

I love dancing both casino and LA style and often lament on the fact that I can't have both in one place and that the people I like who dance one and the other don't really mix. Not only that, there seemed to be a dominance of the LA style in the "mainstream" and a lack of awareness for the cuban style. I would really like to see one venue with a little bit of something for both and an equal way for one side to learn more about the other.

Last night was a baby step in getting to that.

Last night at the Century I was able to dance with some of my favorite casino leads, salsa leads (on1 and on2) and it ROCKED! AND - there was a performance of Casino and an impromptu performance of Rueda (that I was able to join in on)

Until I figure out a better way to embed the video from facebook - here it is!

A wonderful congruence of dancing styles (casino, LA, on1, on2, cha-cha, merengue, bachata) and an experience I hope to repeat - where I can dance every style and type that I enjoy, with my favorite leads and some new ones - all on the same night :)