Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Dance Crush

Ah! So sweet, exciting, exhilarating, that scintillating feeling: dancing with your dance crush!

Social Partner Dancing is one big "flirt fest": its a celebration of movement and music with someone of the opposite sex (or role) and oh-la-la! how much fun it is with the added thrill of a crush.

And just who is the Dance Crush?
He's the guy who makes your face light up when he walks in the room... or the gal that makes your heat beat just a little faster when you see her. The dance crush is a dancer you've made a "mwah!" dance connection with on the dance floor. On top of that, he or she has caught your eye because there's something extra that you like about them:  something about a smile, a swagger, a sway, a certain je ne sais quoi that you can't quite put your finger on.

When you see your dance crush different things happen: your mind goes blank, your inner giddy school girl or spazzy geeky boy emerges. Forces of attraction conspire to make you orbit nearby. Sometimes you'll stick our your chest and want to preen like a peacock to show off your 'skillz'. Sometimes you giggle at every little thing and get all googley eyed. Sometimes you just spaz out from nerves. Sometimes you get weak in the knees (and boy! am I glad I'm a follow because at least, he's holding me up when that happens). Sometimes that slap happy smile (or grin) is just plastered on your face.

Its a thrill to be near your dance crush (oh, my beating heart!) and yearning when you're not (sigh!). Admire from afar if you wish but wait! There's this thing that you both do - dancing. What a perfect excuse to have them close. You're happy when they're near and then not so much when they're far.  A crush can be a doorway to something more if its mutual or temporary, a thrill to enjoy.

Crushes come and go and I've been lucky enough to befriend some of my former crushes and we continue to have great dances. I know because of the close proximity of dancing, that can create bonds and feelings of attraction (oxytocins) but these crushes are just a little bit different with a quality that's got a wee bit more on top of that dance connection. Here are some snippets or moments of "crushing" on someone:

I notice him as he dances with someone I know: someone new I haven't seen before. He looks good and he's smiling and having a great time. A few songs later, he walks up to me and offers a hand as he asks me to dance and then when we start, he sings with the band and oh my - what a voice! oooh! (swoon) I'm done for - the connection is very sweet and there's  a serenade to accompany it.... heaven!

He's got looks, and moves: we have a good connection but he looks so serious, focused. I catch his eye and smile and he relaxes and smiles back. Oh my! What a smile! I'm done for, a new dance crush. I start to style and he smiles even more. Before you know it, we've danced the next 3 songs. 

I'm walking outside, about to leave and he stops me on the side walk  and says "Are you leaving already?" I stop and talk and realize the bands not done. I decide to return and he walks me in "Save me a dance, I'll come find you." I find my friends (they were late) and start to dance. In a few minutes, he finds me "There you are, let's dance!" He's smooth and attentive, he feels the music so well, I close my eyes as he leads me to a soulful jazzy tune. The song ends and he says "That was lovely, thanks for saving me the dance." and inside, I swoon.

"I get so weak in the knees
I can hardly speak, I lose all control 
Then somethin' takes over me
In a daze...knocks me right off of my feet"
~from the song Weak by JoJo

A tribute to all my dance crushes: current, former and yet to come.

No matter how you cut it, the dance crush is a slice of sweetness whenever they're near; you get a high when you see them and even more so when you're dancing with them.

The room seems brighter, the mood lighter
Problems? worries? what are those?
A big smile: can't help it, shining, beaming 
or sly like a secret - I hope no one notices
My best friend comes over, I barely say "hi !"
I only have eyes for my dance crush.
Large, wide eyed
I hope I'm not drooling
or looking a fool 
for openly staring and stealing looks
Trying to be calm, be cool, be coy...
Easy does it, don't let it loose
but Oh-my-god! Did you see that? A smile, for me!
So fine, so divine
Can I get a dance? Will he ask me? Will she say yes?
So delicious, 
I'm swept off my feet
I dance like I'm the best there is
I pray no mistakes please
Whoosh! a Rush!
so sweet, I smile - another dance perchance?
the music stops...he leaves, she leaves
I sigh

Till the next time

AND if you're not quite sure you have a dance crush, here are 10 signs that you do!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Shall We Dance?

Asking someone to dance can be a challenging prospect. After all, putting yourself out there, open to rejection, is never an easy thing to do.

I'm writing to share my thoughts on who should be doing the asking and how to respond. One of the best ways to improve your dancing is to get out of the classroom and onto the social dance floor. One of the biggest hurdles to social dancing (especially for a beginner or someone new) is the daunting thought of asking someone for a dance. I offer some thoughts, tips and entertainment to those of you interested in the topic.

[A small digression]"Shall We Dance?"
For me, this phrase is inextricably tied my childhood memory of a song in the movie The King and I (1956) with Yul Brynner as the King and Deborah Kerr as Ana. The King had just seen a polka and Ana explains the dance with a song. He is supposed to be learning western ways and he asks her to teach him about the dance. [ Check it out through this youtube link. ] The scene demonstrates the joy of learning a new close dance and a little bit about the romance in dancing.. sigh! I had a big crush on Yul Brynner ...
[ok, back to the topic at hand]

I've often been asked why follows don't ask leads to dance more. In this modern day of feminism, it seems to be expected or taken for granted that its perfectly fine for follows to ask a lead to dance.

Here's an indisputable fact: there are 2 roles in Social Partner dancing - a LEAD and a FOLLOW.

A LEAD initiates the movements, provides direction during the dance, sets the tone for the dance, gives their follow's the cues on what to do next and make sure that the follows are taken care of on the dance floor. A FOLLOW responds to the directions of the lead, enhances wherever possible, oftentimes inspiring the LEAD and completes the movement of the dance. LEAD, then FOLLOW.

So, who should be asking? LEADs

"C'mon! At this day and age, women should also feel free to ask the guy to dance!"

Yes, that's true. Certainly when there are good friends around, a simple "hi!" is synonymous with "let's dance!". BUT, if you just think about the 2 roles: LEADS initiate. Its really that simple.

I remember something an instructor said in a workshop (the instructor is a lead): "Leads, MAN UP! When you see ladies waiting on the side, don't wait for them to ask you to dance, step up, ask them to dance and lead them to the dance floor!"

Easier said than done right?

There's a lot to do: the pressure, the stress of having to think of the moves, take care of the follow, etc.

BUT - here's the bottom line: it's your perogative! You can choose to ask anyone you wish! Sure, they might say no, but you do the asking and can determine you're dance card for the night.

General Guidelines:

  • Be nice, smile and introduce yourself. [check out simple rules for social dancing ]
  • If you're not sure, watch 1st before asking (that applies to the music too! Listen before you ask.)
  • Emulate confidence: even if you're not quite sure what you're doing, confidence can be the difference between a great dance and an ordinary one. So what if you only know 4 sequences?  Dance them with relish and smile!
  • When your out of  town, try not to be a snob against your fellow "townies": I've travelled to other congresses with folks from my own city and I sometimes hear "I'm not dancing with anyone from [insert home city here]" because they're so excited to dance with new people. I'd just like to point out that starting the night out with a fantastic dance with someone you know can help you both! You can both "strut" you stuff and show off your follow in a room full of strangers and they'll all want to dance with you (and your follow). [Yup - this one applies to follow's too.]
  • Don't make a lame excuse about a follow being so busy you couldn't ask them to dance. Here's a universal truth: if one wants something bad enough, they'll make it happen.
  • Sometimes, you just get a lemon: keep remembering, its only a few minutes, let it roll off your back and find a good follow/friend to dance with after that to get you back on track.
  • Sometime, you just get a lemon with a live band: ok, this takes longer... so wait for for the song to go for a few minutes before you ask a total stranger to dance with live bands. They've been known to play 15 minute songs and that can be an eternity sometimes... just let it roll off your back.
  • Don't be a dance hog - unless of course, she's ready and willing. Dancing multiple songs one after the other can be misconstrued as rude. I think its polite to dance multiple dances with someone, especially if you had a great dance to begin with, but, don't monopolize the follow's time. You can always ask them to dance again later.

As a follow, I don't do a lot of asking because I strongly believe for the dance to be successful, it relies a lot on the LEADS initiative right from the get go. There are exceptions of course, with good friends and people I'm familiar with, I greet them with a warm hello and they'll ask me to dance if they're so inclined. If not, no sweat. If I really want a dance with a friend, I'll ask if they don't.

Most leads tell me that it should be easy for a follow to ask a lead to dance: what guy would say no to a girl? Believe me, leads have turned follows down before. Skip to the "Never Assume" section below to make sure you don't take it to heart.

Follows, if you do ask the leads, I suggest doing it sparsely. I think that if you establish yourself as one that asks, then you don't get asked to dance. If its working for you though, by all means continue (go girl!) - see my universal truth below.

At the risk of giving away some feminine wiles, here are some ways to "invite" the guys to ask:

  • As you see a lead dancing to them music on his own, catch his eye and start jamming along with him. Anyone that into dancing will see you dancing and its highly likely that you'll end up dancing together
  • A warm smile and hello does wonders, especially if you reach out with both hands to great them.
  • Never look like a wall flower: I know this is hard when you're in a new place by yourself. Smile, dance to the music, walk around and find the "advanced corner" and enjoy the show. When you look like you're enjoying the music, you'll get asked to dance.
  • When you catch someone's eye that you want to dance with, just give them a big smile and slightly incline your head towards the dance floor - that's usually a good enough hint.

My universal rule: do what your heart tells you, without disrespecting those around you - especially with something as fun as dancing.

Accompaniment to my universal rule: don't take anything personally, its just a dance.

My personal policy is that I will dance with everyone at least once unless I've been warned ahead of time that the person is too drunk to hold himself up or is clearly not there for the dancing. I feel strongly that everyone has to start somewhere and I don't want to discourage people from dancing if I can help it.

There's always this "stigma" when you turn someone down. In the end, its just a dance and not some vital judgement on the character of a person. Here are something to consider when you do ask someone and they say "No."

Never Assume
There are always 2 sides to every story (and sometimes more as it gets retold by others). If you get rejected when asking someone to dance, don't dwell on it too much or read too much into it! There are too many reasons why someone would say no in that moment and life is much better if you let it roll of your back and move on.

Here's what I suggest: Don't take the rejection personally!

  • Don't come up with some story about why they said no. For all you know, the lady is pregnant and very tired and here you thought she hated your dancing.
  • Don't feel bad if you see the person dancing with someone else: they could be partners, boyfriends, best friends. Its not about you in that case, its between them.
  • Don't let it ruin your dance night.
  • If its someone you'd really like to dance with then ask again later but don't be a "stalker" I'd say after being rejected 3 times - move on!
  • When they say "next dance" assume they mean in it and come to find them. If they're not there, move on, if they are, well, you know what to do.

On the subject of saying "No"
I'm not advocating that one has to say "yes" every time one is asked for a dance. Follows/Leads if you're not up for it than just be polite and respectful: a simple "No Thank you" should suffice. Don't promise the next dance if you don't want to. Don't try to make an excuse.

Do I like getting rejected? No, but the truth is, I have no control over what other people do and I do have control over what I do. So, I'm suggesting that you develop a thicker skin and not dwell on the rejection. 

When all is said and done: do not to let some poopy head ruin the joy of dancing for you! Stay true to yourself, dancing is so much fun (here's why I love it) - enjoy it.

Monday, September 20, 2010


Retreat: removing oneself from day to day life to focus on something  else, usually spiritual or self-discovery.

I'm on the tail end of my latest vacation - a Salsa and Yoga Retreat in Oaxaca, Mexico (you can check it out the link to the right -> ) If you're even wondering if its worth it to try - STOP. It IS.

In the last 9 days, I've had the pleasure of meeting and getting to now some wonderful people that I hope to stay in touch with and see again. I've been bitten by mosquitoes and other small critters (ay!). I've eaten some amazing food and drank hot chocolate evey night. I've danced with some amazing dancers, worked on my own dancing and helped others with theirs I've returned to Oaxaca to see it lush and green and teeming with beautiful flowers amidst the colorful decorations of Mexican bi-centennial independence. 

Its my last day here in Mexico and I have one more adventure left - a temezcal spa treatment to "cleanse" me as I get ready to return to "reality".

My flickr photo blog will soon be flooded with the many pictures I've taken but before that happens, I thought I'd at least share some highlights from my trip.

I realized the bug spray has an expiration ... basically, one needs to spray every 4 hours or so before the bugs work up the courage to come back and bite you again.

Dancing is so joyful - I knew this already. I was able to just dive into it everyday, share it with old and new friends alike and watch everyone blossom as they too immersed in the dance.

There are so many stories to hear and share with people - even ones that I consider close friends. Time is always well spent when you start to share more and more of yourself, with people you trust and enjoy.

Oaxaca is a land of so many wonderful treasures: from the food, to the chocolate (yes, a class of its own), to the people, to the colorful windows and doorways, to the various flora and fauna that are thriving, now that the rains have come.

Lying in a hammock under the shade of trees, reading is a wonderful thing...I wish I could put a hammock in my 1 bedroom apartment back in Seattle.

Casa Colonial

Eating out after Salsa dancing is universal! I had my 1st taste of Mexican pizza at 4am on the streets of Oaxaca.

Mexican Chocolate: with milk, with coffee, just smelling it - warms my soul

I've had the pleasure to meet and befriend some wonderful women who I hope to see again soon in Seattle, in San Francisco and who-knows-where-else :D

Corn covered in mayonnaise, cheese, cayenne pepper and lime juice is AMAZING.

Dancing in the crowded floor at La Candela was incredibly casualty free.

I am still surprised by how infectious my joy in dancing can be: if everyone danced, this world we live in would be so wonderfully different.

Dancing is ageless; you can come to it at any time in your life and still enjoy it as much as if you danced all your life.

I wish I could continue, doing yoga for an hour, dancing 2-3 hours of salsa (or some other dance) everyday... despite the humidity and the bugs.

I'm lucky though, when I get back home, I'll have the comfort of my bed, no more bugs to contend with, will still have dancing to look forward to (oh yes!) and my family to laugh and hug again. I'll even bring back chocolate from Oaxaca so I can enjoy that for a little bit longer.

Almost everyone that came to the retreat has left... its quite and somewhat lonely but I'm happy and content.

The 1st trip to Oaxaca transformed my dancing and helped me take it "up a notch". I met one of my best friends on that trip. This 2nd time around is no different.

I'm sad to leave this wonderful place but I'm excited for the new friends I've made (we'll see each other again).

Salsa Retreat Sept. 2010 and Tumbao Instructors