Monday, February 22, 2010

Connections: The Bad and the Ugly (Part 2 of 4)

[Part 2 of 4 about Connections. Here is Part 1.]

In my perfect world, there would be no such thing as a bad connection with another human being. I've been relatively lucky as far as my share of undesirable experiences go and strive not to let the ones I have experienced affect me in a way that takes the joy out of life. Doing this on the social dance floor is so much easier because the interaction is always framed inside a 3-4 minute song. [If you need a new thought on how to not let the bad things bring you down: check out this blog post].

First things first: In writing about "The Bad and The Ugly", I want to make it clear that I am describing how things feel from one follower's perspective (that would be me!) on the dance floor. I am NOT claiming to speak for all follows, nor do I know the true character of the leads who might be guilty of these connections. A dance may tell me something about a man's character but its certainly is NOT the sum total of who he is as a person. These observations I share are not judgments. For me, dancing is a state of mind and I do my best to suspend the analytical/thinking part of my brain so I can fully focus on the present: the music, my lead and the movement of the dance.

The Undesirable Connection
There are times when i wish that one could award technical fouls or red cards on the social dance floor for these "offenses". The result would be a time out off the dance floor so that they are informed of their offense and they don't deprive someone else of a joyful dance.

Herky Jerky
Ah, they mean well but boy! do I feel like a rag doll in the hands of this lead. Bravo for the enthusiasm of expression! I would like to remind them though, that while they may enjoy swinging their arms whole-heartedly to the music (and it may even help them to stay on beat) there's a lot of strength generated by that motion and while you are holding my hands, my arms become an extension of yours and the hard, wild movement is not so much fun sometimes. I can't totally relax for fear of an arm being pulled or hyper-extended so I match the tension which can be tiring. Its also hard to distinguish that normal swing for a pre-lead to another move. I'd like to remind these leads that a firm and gentle hold goes a long, long way. Relax a bit, the swaying will naturally happen when your body moves to the music. If you're wondering as a lead, whether you're guilty of this or not: if your arms are circling way outside the frame between you and your partner and you watch them carefully as they are gritting their teeth or thinking "when is he going to stop?" then I would suggest "less is more".

Gropey Creepy
This is the guy who likes to take advantage of the fact that social dancing gives him leave to get close to a girl by just asking her for a dance. He likes to pull the girl in an extremely tight embrace even though the song is going over 180 rpms (its fast). Sometime, he may even reach out and touch (or grope) some body parts that should be admired, not mauled. The irony here is that despite the abundance of physical connection, the dance itself is so uncomfortable, as a follow, all I can think about is how NOT to make any more of a connection. In this instance I try to practice what I can about defensive dancing: my left arm is no longer draped over the shoulder but positioned more as a lever between this lead's chest and my own, I do my best to minimize any natural hip movement for fear of instigating more unwanted attention. I remind myself - its only a 3-4 minute song and at the end of it, I will do my best (and quickest) exit, politely decline any future dances and move on!

Body Odor
Sense of smell is very powerful and even if someone is a great lead (or follow for that matter), body odor can ruin a perfectly wonderful dance. It simply overrides everything else. Personal hygiene is extremely important and its every dancer's responsibility to know what impact you're having on the person you're dancing with. This is one offense that is so easy to avoid! Please, do take the time to check out how things smell before you subject someone else to it. There's a reason why there's are whole industries that provide people with products like deodorant, cologne, perfumes and mints to mask those odors that are a by-products of the food that you eat or the natural way your body tries to modulate its own body temperature (perspiration). If you're lucky, you can ask a good friend to be your "test" and if you're someone's good friend, you should help them out by letting them know. If you're my friend - then please, pull me aside and let me know!

Can't Find the Beat
Of all the offenses, this one is hardest for me to cope with. I am still not quite sure that there's a good way to "fix it" without being a total a_ _ to my lead and back-leading. The beat is the pulse of the music and dancing off beat just feels wrong! Its like being pulled in 2 directions at once. The music says one thing and my lead says another: I want to flow with the music but also need to follow my lead and they are at odds with each other. Its like being in the middle of an argument between my mom and dad who want me to do 2 entirely different things: a paralyzing conundrum. I find myself stuck in place between 2 opposing forces and still having to move! I shudder at the thought. My dear leads who have a hard time finding the beat - please listen to the music as much as you can! Practice finding and moving to the beat: tap it out, bob your head, tap your fingers. You don't have to find the 1 to start all the time - just find the beat 1st. After that, when you get used to hearing and feeling the music, you'll be able to find that 1 or 2 or 5 or whatever count you desire.

The Uncertain Connection
This next category of connections is on its own because I think its has an easy fix and the connection isn't as ugly as the previous ones. Its more like a warning or yellow card versus an all out penalty.

Confidence is attractive. To dance with uncertainty takes positive energy away from the dance and as a follow, its hard to respond well when I'm not sure what I've been asked to do.

The solution here is simple: "Fake it like you own it." A simple dance, led with confidence and fun will trump a series of botched up, uncertain set of moves any day. Everyone makes mistakes and I can tell you that leads who dance with confidence will make a mistake part of their "plan": flash a smile to charm or a sheepish one to apologize and its like we shared a private inside joke instead.

I know that there are some leads out there who might not agree and who feel like they have to be "all that" and more to lead a good dance. All I can say is, if you dance with confidence (remember confidence does NOT equal cockiness), there is a positive energy that you bring which enhances the connection.

Dancing is supposed to be fun - so have fun! You can still smile, take care of the lady your dancing with, distract her with your charm and let her enjoy the dance with you. Uncertainty is another "joy-killer": how can you be happy if you're not sure? When I sense that uncertainty in my lead, I do my best to smile to help to put him at ease.

If you're a beginner lead and are too busy worrying about not knowing enough moves. Check this out: most beginner classes will teach you anywhere from 6 to 8 moves and you can execute the moves in closed and open position: 2 for the price of 1!! So, think about all the possible variations: simply change the order of how you lead the moves and you can easily fill up a whole dance.

This type of connection, while uncomfortable, isn't undesirable because in my experience, confidence builds over time with positive feedback and practice. Its so cool to dance with someone who's actively learning and improving because one day, without even knowing it, things just "click" and I'll be swept off my feet into a dreamy dance connection.

Coming in Part 3: The awesome connections!

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