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Dance and the Benefits of Oxytocin

 

two women dancing together

The author having a blast! What can be more fun than dancing?

Oxytocin is the hormone our bodies make that makes us feel sociable.  It’s what gives us the desire to collaborate with each other and to help other people out.  It’s what makes mothers feel connected to their babies and what bonds lovers to each other.  It’s one of the all time  great feel good hormones.  Women have the power to make more of it than men, another fabulous perk of the gender, but men make it too and all of us can consciously seek out ways to get more of it.

 

I first heard about Oxytocin at Rise, a conference of an organization called Braveheart Women, whose goal it is to bring women from all over the world together to collaborate and support each other to the end of no less a goal than saving the planet.  Founder Ellie Drake created an exercise designed to raise the level of Oxytocin in a room of 800 women who were mostly strangers to one another.  After this remarkable activity, we felt like an enormous family, emotionally connected to a room full of sisters whom we all wanted to support and trust.

 

One of my heros, the Dalai Lama, said that is the world was going to survive, it was up to western women to save it.  My guess is that it is our combination of access to global connection through technology, access to free time, and yep, oxytocin.  That’s what makes us WANT to understand people of other cultures instead of eradicating them.  I hope we’re up to it.

 

Clearly right now the world is mostly up to seeing other cultures as enemies and trying to eradicate everyone it doesn’t understand, so perhaps we need more oxytocin and less testosterone in the foreign office.

 

Well, how did we get into this mess and how do we get out of it?  In a so called primitive African culture a western visitor held a contest for a group of boys.  These people were impoverished, by our standards, and had very little.  The winner was given a delectable treat  which he divided and shared with the other boys.  The perplexed westerner asked why he didn’t keep it for himself.  The equally perplexed boy said what would be the fun in that?

 

There are a lot of wonderful amazing things about western culture for which I am very grateful, not the least of which is leisure time, Lindy Hop, and indoor plumbing. But we have gotten so far removed from our own basic natures that greed is more natural that our natural intstinct to share pleasure with others.

 

Human beings are social animals and we thrive on human contact.    People need to touch each other in order to be physically and mentally healthy.  That very touch, the source of Oxytocin, is becoming more and more scarce in a society that is becoming more and more technical. People need to touch each other in order to be physically and mentally healthy.

 

Respected family therapist Virginia Satir is famous for saying “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs a day for growth.”  She said that in 2012 and it’s been said so many times it’s become trite. You might say, especially if you’re single and don’t have a cat, “I don’t get 12 hugs a day and I grow.  I don’t even get 4 every day and I’m still alive so obviously it’s not only trite, it’s bullshit.”

But here’s the thing.  When you experience real growth, you might look back on your hugless existence and say “I can’t believe I called that surviving.”  It’s all a matter of degree.

Because  I’m a single woman, it’s hard to get enough hugs every day to thrive even though I do have a cat.  Two cats even.  And I’m an introvert.  I envy those people who can stand in a public square with a sign that says “Free Hugs!” but Nooooooo.  That’s way too extroverted for me.  Plus, I like people and I’d like my hugs to be connected at least most of the time to actual relationships.  If not deep friendships, at least people I know or have met and feel some kind of connection to.

Partner dance to the rescue!

Partner dancing is like a musical hug, but that’s not the only reason it’s an Oxytocin raiser. Even dancing by yourself to music you love will raise your oxytocin levels.  Dancing is joyful and joy is big trigger.  Combine the joy of dance with the touch of partner dance and you have a double whammy of Oxytocin.

And of course you have community.  When you go dancing regularly, you get to know the other people who regularly dance in the same places.  You connect over a shared activity. And it’s an activity in which you are constantly touching one another physically, in a natural, organic way.

I know it works, though, because of the way I feel when I do it.  In a word, joyful.  At Frankie Manning’s memorial service, the minister cited this quote in the bible: “The purpose of life is joy”.  I think God said that, but I can’t find it so I’m not sure.  The minister said that Frankie, who never went to church, was a deeply spiritual man because as the “ambassador of Lindy Hop” he spend his life spreading joy.

When I think about world change, I think first about joy.  Joyful people want others to feel joyful.  Sharing joy creates joy.  Dancing with a partner is not fun if your partner is not having fun.  It’s all about connection.     Go out there and be joyful and together we just might make a real change!

By LaurieAnn Lepoff

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Go out there and be joyful and together we just might make a real change.

My Favorite Dance Students, Part 2

This is a continuation of last week’s post, so if you missed it, read it here first.

Another reason some of my students fit my target market is an unusual learning style.  One of my specialties is finding out how people learn so that I can teach to their particular learning style.   Most people are some combination of visual, audial, or kinesthetic learners, but some people just don’t learn in any kind of normal way, so they know they need a teacher who can figure them out.

Often they already know how they learn and they tell me exactly what does and does not work for them.  It still takes a fair amount of creativity, even so, to figure out how to make dance fit the parameters of their learning style even when I know what it is.  For me,that’s the fun part.

But also there are people who don’t have a clue as to why it’s so hard for them to learn. The last student who fit this description was a hundred percent kinesthetic learner.  He got nothing from watching while doing and no kind of explanation, counting, or verbal reminders of any kind had any effect whatsoever.  I had to back lead the moves so that he could feel what his body should do and then repeat over and over until his muscle memory took over.  Even then, he never had any conscious understanding of what he was doing, or why.  He just knew what it felt like.  Fascinating!

A lot of my students self identify as hopeless dancers because at some point in their youth they attempted to dance with someone who said something devastating to them when they were feeling particularly vulnerable.  My friend and mentor Frankie Manning said that when he tried to copy his mother as a young child, she said “You’ll never be a dancer, because you’re too stiff!”  Frankie’s response was “I’ll show her!” and used that memory as fuel to become one of Harlem’s greatest dancers.  (Frankie’s mother, by the way, didn’t remember that she ever said that.)  None of my students had the “I’ll show her!” response.  Mine had the “I’ll NEVER give anyone a reason to say anything like that to me ever again because this is the LAST time I’m ever setting foot on a dance floor.”

We’ve all experienced responding to a trauma by creating a belief that in some way kept us smaller for the rest of our lives.  Until maybe at some point we decided to challenge it. Usually because something we want overshadows our fear of taking on that old ingrained belief.  Like a fiance who really wants a first dance at her wedding.  Or a guy who really really likes a girl who really really likes to dance.  Or a shy guy who’s figured out that  being a great lead is the world’s best babe magnet.  By the way, a friend of mine who admittedly learned to dance to get girls and then found he really liked it told me it’s a great way to get your foot in the door but you still have to work really hard to get them into bed.  So it does have it’s limitations.

I work primarily  with beginners, so I teach a lot of the same material  over and over again. I never get bored because I teach it differently to each student.  I do tend to tell the same jokes over and over but I never get bored with that either because I’m always just as funny.

I have so much respect for these people who are willing to be so vulnerable, to place so much trust in me to see them week after week doing the one thing that makes them feel the most inept.  What a gift they give me with that trust.  And what a reward for us both when they find out they CAN learn to dance and not only that, but have fun.

I believe that anyone really can learn to dance and find the joy that is our birthright.  Who do you know that is convinced they can’t learn to dance but might have a compelling reason to question that conviction?  Wherever they are, somewhere out there, there is a dance teacher for them!

by LaurieAnn Lepoff

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My Favorite Students, Part 1

I’m not going to talk about specific students in this post, but rather the kind of people I most like to work with, and why.  In other words, as marketing people like to say, my target market.

I like to work with people who think they can’t learn to dance.  This isn’t everyone, of course.  I do have students who come to me without the baggage just because they heard I’m a good teacher and they want to learn to dance, but the majority have some kind of issue to get over.

Sometimes they are people who have always wanted to dance and have finally reached a point in their lives when they are willing to take on this huge challenge.  They’ve been attracted to, and terrified of, this enticing activity for as long as they can remember and here they are, giving themselves up to someone who does FOR A LIVING this thing at which they feel totally incompetent.  Could anyone possibly be more vulnerable?

They often begin by assuring me of how competent they are at whatever they are good at, least I mistake their ineptitude at dance for general stupidity.  If, as is remarkably often the case, what they are good at is technology, it gives me a perfect opportunity to put them at ease because how they feel about dance is how I feel about what comes so easily to them.  I still have phones that don’t do anything except make phone calls as you would know if you’ve ever tried to text me.

Dancing has always come easily to me but that doesn’t mean I can’t relate to my student’s experience.  I studied Jujitsu for eleven years and not only did I totally suck at it, but I still couldn’t fight my way out of a paper bag.  We’ve all got things we naturally do well and things that make us cross eyed.  I love seeing people take on the challenging stuff and truly feel honored that they trust me to guide them through it.

Because I specialize in teaching people who are dance phobic, the one thing a lot of my students have in common is a conviction that they are terrible dancers and will be difficult if not impossible to teach.  “I’ll bet I’m the worst student you’ve ever taught,” I hear from almost everyone except the worst students I’ve ever taught.

So why do so many people self identify as hopeless dancers?  Many of them are not only not hopeless, but are perfectly normal.  Sometimes people think they can’t dance simply because nobody ever taught them.

So when they tried, of course they failed miserably and were mortified.   They assumed the problem was not their lack of education but that something was just wrong with them.  They just can’t dance.

There is a popular myth about leading and following in dance.  The assumption is that it is natural for men to lead and women to follow and that they should just kinda know already how to do it without any instruction.  The truth, of course, is that not only is it a skill like any other, but it is not even gender specific. In fact most people are naturally inclined toward leading or following and you have about a 50 50 chance of falling into the category that society has assigned to your gender, not unlike the rest of life. You may remember a past post or two about that.

OK, so how about the people whose self image is on the money, the ones  who really DO have a tough time learning to dance?  Well, they fall into all kinds of categories.

Some of them have difficulty finding the beat, and I’ve devoted entire posts to that in the past.  But most of the people who have the most challenging time have a kind of physical dyslexia, and I encounter this phenomenon all the time.  It’s as if they understand how to follow the instruction, but by the time it gets to their feet, it gets twisted into something different.  They do get it eventually through perseverance, but it takes dedication and a lot of practice.  And a very patient teacher of course.

I once had a student who took a month of dedicated practice to learn the box step, something my average student can learn in about 10 minutes and a quick student can learn in about one minute.  Next week I’ll talk about some other reasons people might fall into the category of my target market.  Stay tuned!

by LaurieAnn Lepoff

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When Your Partner Dances Better Than You

 

nerdy guy asks for a dance

Asking strangers to dance takes courage, but it’s the only way to learn!

Swing dancer consults Abby

“I’m a very good swing dancer,” wrote a woman to Dear Abby, “and my boyfriend doesn’t dance.”  She goes on to say that while her boyfriend is willing to learn, she doesn’t want to stop dancing with partners at her skill level while waiting for him to catch up.  He doesn’t want her to dance with other men because it makes him feel jealous and insecure.

A common dance couple conundrum

This letter generated a huge flurry of responses from readers, most of whom were not dancers but a few who were.  I read it all with interest not only because I’m a Dear Abby addict, but also because I run into this situation all the time.  The guy is willing to take on an activity in which he has no real interest so that she won’t have to give up something about which she is passionate.  In return, he wants her to dance exclusively with him.  She is happy to dance with him, but she also wants to dance sometimes with other partners.

What is the missing information here?  Unless you are a natural, leading is not an easy skill to master.  It takes commitment and effort, and the reward for all this hard work is the light in your partner’s eyes when you delight her with a really fun move.  It is fun to light up another person, and it’s especially so when you are in love with that person.

But what about all the time it takes you to get to the level of being a good lead on the dance floor?  Is it fun for her to dance with you as a beginner?  Well, up to a point it is.  Depending on her personality, it may be exciting to see your progress and touching to see how hard you are working to share this special activity with her.  She may get a lot from supporting you in your goal, but at that stage it’s still what a friend of mine refers to as a “mercy dance”.  It can’t compare to the joy of dancing with partners who are already competent at leading.

Also, in the swing dance community, the custom is to dance with a variety of partners.  Even couples who are at the same skill levels don’t usually dance any more with each other than with the rest of the crowd.  A lot of the fun is the variety of dancing with a lot of different people.

 So is there a solution?

So what is the solution?  Well, every couple has to find their own way around their particular relationship issues, but I always suggest to my students that as a beginner you dance as much a possible and with as many different partners as possible.  When you are practicing at home, the advanced dancer can help her struggling partner out as much as she can without feeling resentful.  Again, everyone is different about how much patience they have with beginners.  But when you go social dancing, if you are the beginner take responsibility for that and practice with other beginners.  Dance once each with a variety of intermediate and advanced dancers, but don’t make a pest of yourself.  Be grateful for the mercy dances and be gracious.  And that goes for the help your girlfriend bestows upon you as well.

Also, remember that it’s not a game of how can I ever catch up to her.  It’s not about how many steps you know.  It’s about how well you lead them.  Once you’ve nailed the skill of leading, you become a fun partner.  You’ll want to increase your repertoire or you’ll get bored, but your partners will be happy with just a few steps if you lead them well.  Concentrate on learning to lead, take private lessons at the beginning to understand your strengths and weaknesses, and make use of your dance community to get in your hours of practice without burdening your partner.

If you are too insecure to do this, the problem is not with dancing, as Abby was quick to point out.  Use this new challenge as a challenge to work on the challenges of your relationship skills as well, and add couples counseling to your dance lessons.  Your personal relationship and your dance relationship are more connected that you think.  Work these issues out on the dance floor and your relationship will be more secure and more loving.  If you don’t, your girlfriend just might take Abby’s advice and dump you!

by LaurieAnn Lepoff
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Dancing for Seniors

elderly couple dancing

Two seniors enjoy a dance

Let’s Dance

A short article in United Health Care’s Magazine Renew entitled “Let’s Dance” reminded me to take up this subject again.  There has been much research on the subject of the best exercise for aging bodies, and dance keeps coming up number one.

 

Dance if it brings you joy

Of course, I still hold with the truism that the best exercise is the one you’ll do, so if you don’t like to dance, and I’ve heard rumors that such people do exist, it may not be the best one for you.

It is true that dancing is great for balance, strength, bone health, posture, flexibility, stamina, stress reduction, confidence, and it’s been proven to ward of a number of age related illnesses, but I believe it’s greatest benefit is joy.  It’s no coincidence that this ad for a senior living facility chose dance as it’s metephor for what it will be like to live there:

[embedplusvideo height=”390″ width=”640″ editlink=”http://bit.ly/1ybmSzx” standard=”http://www.youtube.com/v/bF6ChLt8UeI?fs=1″ vars=”ytid=bF6ChLt8UeI&width=640&height=390&start=&stop=&rs=w&hd=0&autoplay=0&react=1&chapters=&notes=” id=”ep8859″ /]

Dance is the embodiment of joy.  It’s the perfect expression of a joyful feeling, and doing it also brings that feeling to you.  My unscientific contribution to this discussion is that a joyful life keeps us young.  I can’t say which benefit is the most  important, though.

Or maybe dance anyway

If something unhealthy and sedentary brings you great joy, like say watching old movies while consuming great amounts of chocolate, you might want to give dance a go anyway.  You may find that you can reduce the amount of time you spend on the couch and the amount of sugar you consume and still have great joy and a more cooperative body into the bargain.

You get to have joy in more than one way in this life.  Exploring new things also brings energy and delight.  Who do you know who’s feeling low because their aging body is beginning to betray them?  If you celebrate the gift giving traditions of this time of year, consider giving them a package of private lessons from an inspiring dance teacher.  It could be a life changer!

 

by LaurieAnn Lepoff
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What is Your Learning Style in Dance Class?

elderly couple dancing

No matter how you learn, you’re never to old to learn to dance!

If you know how you learn, you’ll know what kind of dance teacher can teach you.  Some teachers do know about learning styles, but most teach the way they learn, so the easiest way to pick a teacher is to observe until you find one who teaches the way you learn.  If you know your learning style is unusual, don’t waste your time in group classes.  Find the best private teacher you can and explain how you learn.

Learning styles for dance

Most people are some combination of visual, audial, or kinesthetic.  Kinesthetic learners don’t get it until they do it, but most of them also are helped by something like counting (audio) and/or watching while they do it (visual).  This post was inspired by a student of mine who is 100% kinesthetic.  Counting does not help him remember to move his feet.  Watching me is equally unhelpful.  He just has to do each piece of the movement over and over again until his muscle memory kicks in and then he can put it all together.

Teaching an unusual dance student

One way to work with such a student is to dance with him, back leading the movement until he feels the timing and can do it on his own.  If your learning style is this unusual, you’ll be lost in a group class of any kind and unless you have an unusual amount of self esteem as well, you’ll probably feel inept or stupid.

The truth is anyone really can learn to dance, but it takes knowing how you learn (or finding a teacher who can figure it out for you), and finding a teacher who can work with you.  

The rewards of learning to dance anyway

Some people are more challenged than others. We all have areas in which we are naturals and areas that challenge us.  If you are drawn to learn a skill in an area that does not come naturally to you, know that it will take time and patience.  The rewards, however, are that you will open up parts of yourself you never knew existed and realize that you are more capable than you ever imagined.

And of course, you’ll also be dancing, which has it’s own fabulous rewards no matter how easy or challenging the path to that end.  Dancing is our birthright.  Don’t let anyone (including yourself)  tell you you can’t have it.

by LaurieAnn Lepoff

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A Spiritual Definition of Following in Dance

Some wise teacher once said the definition of freedom is not needing to know what comes next.  I can’t remember the originator of the quote but no doubt one of my readers will recognize it and come to my rescue.

When I saw the quote I thought, that’s a perfect definition of following. Both the joy and the challenge come from being able to let go and let someone else do the driving.  If you are following, you DON’T know what comes next.  Every move is a surprise even though it’s often familiar.

Letting go is a phrase that is common in spiritual speak.  Organised religions as well as non-denominational  practices like yoga and meditation all refer to “surrender.”  In dance it means to stop trying and to let the flow of the dance and the music take over.

Of course you must first learn to do it right so that when let the music take over you are still connected to your partner.  But once you’ve learned the skill of following, it indeed becomes a meditation.

Are you one of those people who hates meditation?  Me too.  That’s why I was struck by the opening quote when I first read it.  I realized that I do have meditation in my life.  Every dance I share with a competent lead allows me to turn off my brain, take a thinking break, and surrender to the dance.  Not only do I not need to know what comes next, I don’t want to know.

If you are resistant to meditation and you want to find a way to make it fun, learn to follow.  Sheer joy in motion!

by LaurieAnn  Lepoff

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Dance Like Your Partner is Injured

 

An easy way to improve your lead

The other day a young man asked me to dance.  I could tell immediately that he was either a beginner or had never learned to lead because he was a yanker.  I have an old shoulder injury that I need to protect, so I told him to go easy on that shoulder.  He promptly adjusted his lead and his dancing improved dramatically.  “If you pretend that everyone with whom you dance has a shoulder injury, you’ll be a much better lead.” I told him.

First learn to lead

Because he knew he wasn’t a very good lead, he told me he thought he had to lead extra hard to get his meaning across and that he was trying so hard to remember his moves that he couldn’t think about his lead at the same time.  My advice to this earnest youth who really did want to learn how to be a good partner was the same as I tell everyone.  Learn to lead a few moves very well and forget about expanding your repertoire.  A few basic moves led well will make you a sought after partner.  A lot of steps badly led will make you the guy everyone avoids.

It happens all the time

This guy is far from the only dancer whose lead improved when he was concentrating on not hurting my shoulder.  I see it all the time.  I can’t stress this enough: Learn to lead FIRST.  Then add more moves to your repertoire.  Nail your basics before building your step list.  It’s not the variety, it’s the skill that makes everyone want to dance with you.

Take a private lesson to find out where your lead is lacking and practice what you learned until the feel of the right lead is in your body.  The rest of the dance will fall into place much more easily once you’ve done your due diligence and meanwhile you’ll be rewarded with happy partners who tell their friends to dance with you.  I guarantee it!

by LaurieAnn Lepoff

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Acknowledging Your Dance Partner

On my way to a dance last week in bumper to bumper traffic, I stopped to let a car change lanes in front of me.  It was stuck in a left turn lane and evidently had been having considerable trouble getting anyone to let it in.  As the car moved into my lane, a flurry of hands emerged from every window waving at me in gratitude.  It caught me by surprise and felt like a huge group hug.

Did anyone see that great dance move?

And of course it got me to thinking about the power of acknowledgement.  When I have an inspired moment on the dance floor and my partner breaks into an appreciative grin, or says something like “Wow, that was great!” it doubles the fun of the moment.  When we dance well, it’s wonderful to know that someone else noticed.

That rare perfect dance

That person is usually your partner, the most important person to acknowledge your moment of greatness, but sometimes it’s other people.  Sometimes it’s spontaneous, like the time a crowd gathered to watch me and a French guy enjoying a particularly spectacular connection during an evening dance in Sweden.  When that rare perfect dance happens and you wish you had it on video, the next best thing is to see at the end that others saw and admired it.

 

Sometimes it’s planned and rehearsed, as in a performance or contest.  Many people are motivated to do well by working toward a goal with an audience.  My goal may be to have great social dances, but I love the attention of a spontaneous audience and I understand the motivational draw of preparing a performance.

Performing a dance or doing it socially

I love to perform too, and  audience appreciation (along with the paycheck) is the reason for dancing professionally.  And why do so many dancers perform for free?  Well, that’s another blog and then some, but for most of us, it’s the high that comes with dancing well and being appreciated for it.

 

So this next time you are dancing with someone, and later you say to your friends, “Have you danced with that guy?  He’s really fun!”  try to let go of your shyness and say it to him or her as well.  We all appreciate knowing our dancing has pleased our partner.

 

by LaurieAnn Lepoff
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What Throws Dance Students Off Their Game?

wedding couple dancing

Don’t let your first time dancing in a big dress be your wedding!

In a perfect world, dance lessons would be ten minutes long.  You’d go home and practice and then come back to learn the next step after you’ve mastered what came first.  In the real world, you work on the first thing until you’re doing it right most of the time and understand it well enough to practice on your own.  Then you move on to the next part and promptly forget the first part.

Cover all bases!

That’s the learning process for most of my students but it’s not as bad as it sounds.  You keep shifting your concentration from one thing  to the next and eventually it all falls into place.  But because of this annoying phenomenon, I try to make sure all bases are covered with couples who are learning their first dance for their wedding.

Just being in a room in front of people is a new thing that can cause everything to disappear if you haven’t experienced it before.  Dancing in heels if you’ve been practicing in flats can throw you off, as can dancing in a giant gown, or dancing with a partner in a giant gown.  And don’t forget the possibility of alcohol!  (If you haven’t read my post about the effects of drinking before your dance, check out my earlier post on that subject.)

Use props!

For this reason I have a wedding dress petticoat in which all of my brides practice before their last lesson.  Both they and their fiancés get a chance to feel what it’s like to dance with a ton of material surrounding her.  One of my students found that he had been using his peripheral vision to guide him.  When he couldn’t see her legs, he was totally thrown off and couldn’t remember any of his steps.

I also recommend they practice at least once in front of other people. If this also throws them off, they know they have to do it more often.

An embarrassing example

Once when I was rehearsing for a performance many years ago, I neglected to have  a dress rehearsal.  The dress was not belted at the waist and when I was upside down in an air step, it dropped all the way down, covering my face and exposing me from neck to feet.  That was the last time I omitted a dress rehearsal, and I always wear tap pants under my skirts when I go dancing!

If you are learning to dance for a particular occasion where you will be doing a performance of some kind, think about what will be happening at the event that isn’t there when you are practicing. Enlist the help of friends to think of things you may forget.  And when you are visualizing yourself doing your dance, put yourself at the real scene, not just in your living room!

by LaurieAnn Lepoff

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When Is It OK to Say No to a Request for a Dance?

animation

How it feels to be turned down for a dance

At a recent outdoor dance event I was approached by a couple wanting to know if this event was open to anyone.  I chatted with them briefly and after learning that they didn’t know anything about dance, told them that there would be a lesson in about half an hour.  Then they asked if I would teach them something.  They didn’t know I was a dance teacher, so this wasn’t a rude request.  I taught them a basic step and danced briefly with the woman to show how the basic was all she needed to know in order to follow this simple dance.

Getting stuck with new dancers

A woman who had been watching us immediately jumped in and took my hand in indication that we would dance together.  It was obvious after the first step that she didn’t know anything either.  She clearly wanted to dance and didn’t know how, saw that I more or less instantly turned another newbie into a competent follower and wanted the same experience.

 
I’ve mentioned before (see how to tell if you need dance lessons)  that a mark of a great leader is the ability to instantly assess the skill level of the follower and lead a dance that she can follow without feeling stupid and that makes her feel like a great dancer.  I can do this, but unless it’s a friend I’m fond of, it’s not much fun for me.  In this instance I did dance with her, but I did have the thought that if another would-be dancer was waiting for her turn that I would have to come up with a polite excuse to turn her down.

Rules of  Dance Etiquette

Generally speaking, if the music tends to be short numbers and the custom is to dance once with each partner as it is in the swing community, it’s ungracious to turn down a dance.  However, if the request is from someone who is dangerous, drunk, or inappropriate, it’s definitely OK to do so.

You can say “no” to drunk dancers

Several years ago I was at a dance in a club.  A family was having dinner, celebrating a birthday.  They were all drunk and the birthday boy asked me to dance.  I have long curly hair that’s very distinct and seems to be a magnet for drunks.  I didn’t want to put a damper on the occasion so I accepted, but afterwards he informed his family that I was great and they should all dance with me, which is how I ended up dancing with an entire drunk family.  I was too polite to say no, but I don’t recommend this.  Being too polite to say no has gotten me in far worse trouble than this, so I suggest practicing in situations like this if you have this problem too.

 
In retrospect, it wouldn’t have been hard to simply excuse myself saying I had promised the next several dances and had to get back to my friends.  It can be hard to come up with a good exit line when you are taken off guard, so I also recommend practicing in advance.  You don’t have to be rude to say no, but if you don’t prepare, it can come out that way.  “Ask me again when you’re sober.” will get you out of there, but is unnecessarily rude.  Think up a few good excuses to have at hand for emergencies and you’ll be able to get away without creating a negative vibe.

 
And if you’re an advanced dancer, do be nice to the newcomers and grace them with an occasional dance.  They’ll remember you when they gain more experience and you’ll be rewarded in the future!

 
by LaurieAnn Lepoff
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Fusion in Performance Dance

students at NW Fusion Dance Company

Some schools specialize in Fusion. This is from NW Fusion Dance Company

I’ve written before about partner dancers combining styles, but performance dancers do it too.  Some years ago I spent 8 Julys  in Sweden studying the European partner jazz dance Boogie Woogie   My favorite teacher, Christer Isberg, was the best all around dancer I’d ever seen.  It seemed he could do anything.  His background included classical ballet, jazz, tap, modern, and I’m sure other genres.  He encouraged us to study as many different dance styles as possible.

 

Sometimes when dancers learn more than one style, their creativity leads them to fuse different dances into one choreography.  In this example, this extraordinarily talented young dancer combines contemporary hip hop with his obvious training in classical dance.  The result is a gripping performance that speaks his heart.

 

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One of the first fusion performance dances was Afro Fusion.  Check out these talented women in this example:

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African dance has influenced the roots of many dances, so it does beg the question: What is fusion and what is the development of a new dance.  Lindy Hop has it’s roots in tap, charleston, African, and Jazz.  Yet we don’t consider it a fusion dance.  For those of you who like to clarify your definitions, I would say that most, if not all, new dances are rooted in previous dances.  It’s fusion if a dancer or choreographer consciously puts more than one dance style together with another.

 

It’s a new dance if it rises out of new music and is an expression of a movement to the music, like Hip Hop, Lindy Hop, and Salsa.  If you have another idea on this interested topic, I’d love to hear it!

 

By LaurieAnn Lepoff

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