Tuesday, February 22, 2011

To Date or Not To Date a Dancer

That is the question.

Whether its better to date a fellow dancer or not is a topic that comes up every so often within social dancing circles.

I realize broaching the topic of relationships can be like taking a dive off the deep end so before I do that, let me explicitly say that I am not any kind of expert on relationships. I do not judge any opposing views to mine as "wrong". Everyone will have their own answer to this question, I simply offer up my thoughts on the matter.

So What Do I Think?
Dating to me, is a means to finding my "partner in crime" for the long haul. There are 168 hours in a week. I sleep, on average, about 5 hours a day and have a full time job. Assuming I have a normal 40 hour work week give or take, that leaves 93 hours (out of the 168 hours in a week) to do other things. Of that time, I spend easily 20% dancing and then another 10% on dance related social activities. Needless to say, dancing is a big part of my life (though its not the only thing in my life).

Personally, I'd love it if my Prince Charming is a dancer! The benefits are obvious (but I'll write them down anyway):
  • We both love it! We share a common passion and we can understand each others passion for the dance, no need to have conflicts over "why are you spending so much time..."
  • Dancing with someone you're attracted to is simply scrumptious.
  • Romance will never die: all we have to do is pick the right song and dance to it.
  • We'll have the same social circles, so integrating into each other's lives will be a bit easier.
  • I'll have a dance partner for life: oh! what fun.
Does that mean I'll say no if he's not a dancer? Nope, not at all.

I'm crazy about dancing but that's not the only thing that I do. I'm open to dating someone who's not a dancer but he should be able to understand how much dancing means to me and that every so often, it would be lovely to share a dance together.

As dance crazy as I am, dancing isn't life (its a reflection of life) but life is much better and fuller and happier with dancing in it. Life is comprised of my loves: my passions, my family, my friends, my activities and my Prince Charming (when he comes along).

    At the heart of it all, the answer to the question is "It depends on the people involved." There is no formula that you can plug into that will give you the right answer to the question because there are so many other factors involved when it come to a relationship.  That being said, there are certainly indicators that can help determine whether or not one should date a fellow dancer. I've grouped them into red, yellow and green flags. Red flags are like STOP signs: indications that should basically tell you to steer away from dating a fellow dancer. Yellow flags are signs that make you go "Hmmm!" and finally "green flags"  are fuel for the "YES!" answer to the question.

    Jealous, much? This works both ways. If either you or the other person in question is the jealous (or possessive) type, well, dating another dancer is just asking for drama. People can get CLOSE when they're dancing and it just doesn't make sense to stir that pot if its already boiling.  

    NOTE: There are some cultures that do not condone social dancing once you're attached. I suggest you find out about cultural biases sooner rather than later!

    Dance High Does NOT Equal Relationship Success The dance high is deceptive. It has such a strong pull that it becomes almost like blinders. As a social dancer, its the occupational hazard that's part of what make dancing so much fun. Its something that happens in the moment of the dance: there and gone again, sometimes lasting longer than just the dance. Its just really hard to ignore so, beware: dance highs fade and the high can totally cloud you're judgment. You'll see everything in your favorite color and then when the high fades, and people's true color shows, you'll be left wondering what the heck happened and who changes all the colors? If you still haven't been able to distinguish the dance high from normal interaction, then you're probably inviting all sorts of drama by dating another dancer.

    He/She is as Great Dancer so they must be ...? Just that, a great dancer. Don't attach any more significance to being a great lead or follow unless you have evidence off the dance floor. Simply because a follow is amazing, doesn't necessarily translate to her personality. A lead may be a gentleman on the dance floor but a total "get me out of this crowd" persona off the dance floor. A follow could be passionate and expressive as a dancer but a totally reserved. I'm not saying that one's dancing doesn't reflect one's personality. I'm just suggesting that dancing is not the ONLY thing you should be basing personality on. So, if you made a conclusion about someone simply based on their dancing, just remember to add "only when they're dancing" until you do see that it is part of their personality off the dance floor too.

    Dancers at Different Levelswatch the person grow and blossom! Its great to grow with someone. It totally sucks getting "left behind". As long as each party is loving and supportive, the fact that both are dancers can certainly help to strengthen the relationship.

    Dancing is one big Flirt Fest: Flirting is natural consequence of dancing. There may be attractions beyond that dance connection BUT on the dance floor, that's very hard to distinguish. So, if the flirting off the dance floor is just as good as the flirting off the dance floor, then take it as a good sign that there's a healthy attraction and go from there.

    The Talk of the Town: Part of the challenge with dating someone popular in a social circle is that you too will be popular by default.  Which means there's scrutiny whether you want it or not. Just be aware of that and figure out what works for you. If you like privacy, then you have to realize when you're dating Mr. or Ms Popularity, that's all going to go out the window. Just be prepared!

    Let's Keep this Quiet, ok? If you like privacy, then you have to establish that from the get go. If you want to hide things, just be careful because that will put a strain on the relationship eventually. I believe when you care about someone enough, you shouldn't hide it if you can help it. You can be discreet, and in most cases that wise in the beginning. To hide a relationship with someone you care about sets a precedent that you can't be open about someone who supposedly means a lot to you: its a contradiction and when it goes on for too long, leads to all sorts of drama and stress.

    Dancing is my life! The degree to which dancing rules each person in the relationship is also important. If dancing is #1 and will always be #1, then you, the significant other, will have to deal with that (or vice versa). I've seen relationships where one is a dancer and the other isn't and there's a wonderful balance. Its all a matter of knowing where you stand and where the other dancer stands and matching up expectations.

    They Get It: Another dancer will understand what the obsession is with dancing. They'll understand why you do it, why its so much fun and what drives you to dance. So much of the success of a relationship is based on how well both people communicate and understand each other. This is just one manifestation of that and one that, when shared, can only help.

    You have the Same Dance Goals If your views on dancing match AND its not the one thing that rules you, then that's a good thing. Its one less thing to worry about that could cause potential conflict.You both can collaborate too which is also a ton of fun.

    Dreamy Dancing is always a prelude to ... if I have to fill in the blanks here, then you've clearly NOT experienced that electric connection so go read about it in my other blog article.

    I believe the answer to this question really boils down to a trade off:

    Are you willing to risk that the POTENTIAL DRAMA from a failed relationship with a fellow dancer will far OUTWEIGH the POTENTIAL BLISS of a relationship that works?

    I know that I don't control how someone else feels and reacts, I can only control what I do and how I act. I know that when it comes to drama generated by other people, I may get sucked into it for a time, but, I trust that I can extricate myself intact from that drama when necessary. So, for me, the potential bliss far outweighs any potential drama.

    Friday, February 18, 2011

    Tips for a Great Congress Experience

    I've had some fantastic congress experiences in the last year so I thought I'd share some tips in case you're considering going to one or have already gone and didn't have as good a time as you hoped. If you're already a pro at the at congress experience, feel free to share your tips by commenting to this post. If you've never gone to one before - DO IT!

    plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose
    I'm writing this specifically for folks (like me) who like to know what plans are ahead of time and make decisions accordingly. In the world of congresses, there is a LOT in flux all the time so plan for change - it is a constant.

    A long weekend of workshops and dancing for anyone at any level interested in dance. There are events all over the world for all sorts of dances. Just check out this site Worl Salsa Festivals to get an idea of just how many there are. [NOTE: This site isn't the only resource to use, just search through Google or any other search engine of choice to find out.] I've attended salsa and bachata congresses so my experiences reference those dance types specifically. A congress is an event that bring together dance fans, dancers, instructors, musicians and performers from all over the world. You have the opportunity to take workshops, see performances and dance with folks from other cities / states / countries.

    Its like dance camp  - for adults!

    The event lasts over a long weekend and is typically held in a hotel near the airport of the host city OR in a hotel with the capacity for large functions. Festivities usually start on Thursday evening and end by Sunday. Occasionally, there will be Monday activities targeted to folks that decide to hang around a little longer before heading home. Thursday starts with a pre-party at a local club or at the hotel. Workshops are held Friday, Saturday and Sunday followed by performances and then social dancing with DJ (and/or live band). The peak of quality of performances and attendance is typically on Saturday as many people tend to leave sometime on Sunday.  

    WHAT DO YOU WANT?  Workshops, Performances, Social Dancing, the Experience or All of the Above?

    If you go for the workshops, be warned that schedules generally don't get published until closer to the event itself. So, if you're going just for the workshops, you may have to decide things with not all the information available. Bear in mind that schedules are pretty fluid: they can change during the event as well. Check the  performer and instructor lists to give you some idea about who's going to be there that might be teaching. Workshops are typically held during the day through early evening (10am to 6pm) on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The levels of the workshops can vary. If you're looking to experience a variety of instructors, this is certainly the right venue for that. If you're looking for very specific techniques and training, this is likely not the right venue unless you schedule privates with the instructors that will be there (an additional expense that you will have to coordinate with the event coordinators and/or instructors themselves).

    There will be a mix of  "headliners" and local teams performing through out the weekend. The program schedule for who's dancing when is also one that doesn't get finalized till the event gets closer. The performer line-up will be updated periodically so you can see who will be performing. Typically Saturday performances have all the big names and will be the longest one. If you're going for performances, then you should shoot for Fri, Sat and Sunday night stays. Performances are typically from 9:30 to 11:00, before social dancing begins.

    Social Dancing
    Social dancing happens every night till wee am hours (3am, 4am, sometimes 5am). After performances wrap up, there is usually a small break so that the venue can be setup for social dancing (chairs are put away, etc.) so dancing sometimes doesn't start till midnight depending on the performance schedule. At some congresses, there will be dancing before the performances begin but that's usually attended by a smaller group. Depending on what you're after for social dancing, this has been my experience about the 'flavor' of  each night.

    Friday nights are like going to a "new place" for the first time. There will be lots of people and I think in general, some initial trepidation to ask newer people to dance. This is where if you go with a nice group, you'll be able to still dance and then from there, new dances can take off. My experience has been that with the group I go with, I can dance comfortably with people I already know, we can get warmed up, strut our stuff (yes, there's a little of this element to show that you can dance, you're in a brand new venue with people that don't know you) and then continue with the rest of the night.

    Saturday is the "big" night - everyone and anyone will be in attendance. If you're like me at all, I feel a bit lost when there's so many people. These large well attended nights can sometimes feel like a combat zone to me. I feel like I need to "work" to get a dance and that's when I feel less comfortable. There's a feeling of people watching to see if you're any good and of course, lines of people waiting to dance with the superstars. If you're someone that thrives on the large crowd and energy Saturday is definitely the best night for you.

    For me, Sunday is the best night. Its not as crowded because some folks have left to go home and everyone that's there for performances or event organizing is way more relaxed. They can let their hair down and just kick back and enjoy the night. Also, you've now spent 2 or 3 days at the event and have met more people and danced with more people at workshops and other social dances so you're not "new" anymore. There is no more "saving energy" since its the last night to party it up! I find it more relaxing and definitely a lot more fun. 

    Most of the time, the congress workshops and activities are packed into 3 days, there's really no time to explore the surroundings. Sometimes, the surroundings are basically the airport that you arrived in. So, if you're thinking about the overall experience, do a little research about where the congress if being held. There are all sorts of different places from a sunny beach, to a cruise ship or an all inclusive resort. 

    Tip #1: Go with the right group of people
    I think this can make or break your congress experience unless you are truly one of those extroverts who just thrives being in a  new place with new faces. For me, it can be bit overwhelming and the company of familiar friends is very welcome. Not only can you share the experience with people you care about, you can also dance with your friends and "strut your stuff" to get your dance mojo on before drifting out into the "wild" to meet with the rest of the people around you. Being with friends won't stop you from enjoying the experience of meeting new people or doing something different . Dancing is such a social thing, its just that much more fun for me to share a congress experience with friends who are just as crazy about dancing as me.

    Tip #2: Get Some Sleep Beforehand and After
    Seriously, there's very little time to sleep if you want to do everything that's available so get sleep before hand! If you can afford it, give yourself time to recover when you get back. There are breaks during the activities for eating and napping so use them wisely. Sometimes, between performances and dancing, you may be able to take a catnap. Dancing usually goes till the wee am hours, so you have an hour or more (depending on the venue) after the performance to catch a quick reboot before heading back out the dance you socks off.

    Tip #3: Ask Someone Who's been to that Event Before
    This isn't always possible but because schedules and event information change so much prior to the big shebang AND you have these great ticket deals way in advance of all the juicy details. It helps to find out who's been to the event before and what to expect. You can also contact the event organizer directly with specific questions.

    Tip #4: Go with the Flow
    Change is a constant so don't be wedded to anything and be flexible and open to new things. You can plan a little bit but the best experience will probably be a combination of doing what you wanted and keeping an open mind. Don't be afraid to try anything once and don't be shy! I've been blessed with some of my more memorable dances and interactions with people as a result of things "not going as planned".

    Tip #5: Have a GREAT TIME!
    This goes without saying and doesn't need a whole lot of explaining but its important enough so, here it is!
    Leave your worries behind and soak up the experience: eat, sleep (if you can) and dance (lots) !