Dancing. When your hear that word, what is the first image that pops into your head? Fist-pumping at a concert? A choreographed hip-hop routine? A graceful ballet concert? Most likely, the picture in your head does not involve any form of partner dancing (ballroom, swing, salsa). While all types of dancing are fun and wonderful ways of expressing oneself, I believe that partner dancing is an especially unique and effective tool for doing so. Unfortunately, it is a dying artform in modern American society. Earlier in our history, the great majority of people knew at least the basics of partner dancing. In fact, this kind of dancing was almost an expectation. Now, however, the great majority of people have never even attempted a partner dance (excluding the awkward swaying that occurs at high school prom), and thus, it has become the exception. I propose that we reverse this shift in our attitude towards partner dancing. Why? Well, below are just a few reasons! Hopefully, after reading them, you will understand how much better life would be if we all knew how to dance together!
- Partner dances are good, clean fun! Every spring, my old high school holds something called the Big Band Dance, which is basically a swing dance with cheesecake, dancing lessons, and 4-hours of live jazz music. I have attended the dance 5 times now (alumni are always welcome to come back), and it is hands down one of my favorite nights of the year. I love learning how to dance with old friends, laughing as we experiment with the new moves, and I love the light-hearted atmosphere. Unlike homecoming or prom, there is no trace of alcohol or sexual activity on the dance floor, and it still seems as if everyone is genuinely enjoying themselves. In our society, where drugs, alcohol, and sex are much too pervasive, we are in desperate need of more public events like the Big Band Dance. I imagine a world where people of all ages crowd the dance floors every weekend, ready to have good, clean fun together! In my opinion, this would make life much more eventful and enjoyable.
- Partner dancing is a fun and effective way to exercise. To be honest, I really hate running, along with most other mainstream forms of exercising. I find it boring and painful, and I try to avoid it as much as I can. However, I still want to stay in shape; thus, I am quite grateful for the fact that dancing constitutes as exercising. All types of dancing get the heart pumping in a fun way, but there is a unique component of partner dancing that makes it an especially good workout. You see, when you are dancing by yourself, you can give less effort or even stop dancing whenever you start to feel tired, and nobody will notice much (unless you are performing)! However, when you are dancing with someone else, you must keep dancing and trying your best because your partner is counting on you! Partner dancing is a balancing act. Both participants need to give the same amount of effort and must be equally engaged in the dance in order for it to work. Thus, if you start to slack off a little because you are tired, your partner will know, the balance will tip, and your dance will lose its momentum, rhythm, and enthusiasm. If you have never danced with a partner before, you may not believe me, but I can assure you that I am speaking from experience. Whenever I finish dancing with someone else, my lungs are burning and my heart is beating so quickly that I feel as if I just ran a mile. I know that I couldn’t have crossed the finish line if I hadn’t been with my partner, who was counting on me and who gave me the motivation to continue.
- Partner dancing can strengthen connections between people. Partner dancing can improve the relationships that we have with romantic partners, friends, strangers, acquaintances, family members, and even enemies. There are a great deal of reasons for this, and I have explained some below.
First, partner dancing requires eye-contact, which is unfortunately lacking in a society full of cellphones and computer screens. When you truly look into someone’s eyes, I believe that you are reminded of his/her humanity, and thus, you are more likely to treat that person with empathy and kindness (two necessary components of a healthy relationship).
Second, partner dancing requires you to respectfully touch and draw near to another person. Once again, this is quite rare in a society where wide personal bubbles are encouraged and the concept of touching another human being is almost always over-sexualized. However, it is important to realize that no matter how uncomfortable it may make you feel, proximity to another human being is essential for strong connections. By allowing someone to come close to you, you are showing that person that you trust and intend to respect him/her.
Third, partner dancing requires teamwork! You may know all of the steps to a certain dance, but your partner may have never touched a dance floor before in his/her life. You can’t just start dancing and expect your partner to pick it up immediately! No matter how much experience you or your partner may have, you must work through the moves together, laugh as you make mistakes, be patient with one another, and teach and listen to each other. Eventually, you and your partner will be dancing as one unit! This teamwork is not only important on the dance floor, but it is also necessary for success in our everyday relationships.
Fourth, partner dancing allows you to express your thoughts and feelings in a unique and creative way to another human being. In the song “One Step Closer” from The Little Mermaid musical, some of the last lines state, “dancing is a language that is felt instead of heard, but it says much more than language ever could.” I completely agree with this! Dancing is a wonderful tool for communication, and communication is a key component of any kind of relationship.
Lastly, partner dancing can make a relationship unique! No two pairs dance the same. In other words, you will dance differently with each person that you decide to take to the dance floor based on his/her personality, experience, and connection to you! Thus, whenever you see one of your dance partners, you can be reminded of the one-of-a-kind dance style that you share with him/her. It may not seem like much, but it can deepen your ties with that individual and give you memories of him/her that you will never have with anyone else.
4. Partner dancing teaches life lessons. This may sound strange, but it is absolutely true! For example, whenever you are dancing with someone else, there is a certain rhythm of giving and taking that you must get used to. You give your partner your trust, and he/she will take that trust and give you an opportunity to try a risky new dance step. Your partner gives you energy, and you can take that energy and give him/her the momentum needed to spin into your arms. Life requires this giving and taking as well. If you receive a certain gift or talent (food, intelligence, love, musicality), your duty is to take it and then use it in order to give back to others. For example, if a soldier dies to give us freedom, we must take and use that freedom to give basic human rights to all people. Besides this valuable lesson, dancing teaches how to go with the flow, how to let inhibitions fall, how to live in the moment, and how to take have courage and take chances (because what takes more courage than asking someone to dance?).I encourage you to start making dancing the expectation instead of the exception! It is a wonderful artform, and we need to do all that we can to keep it alive in our society. It can add enjoyment and excitement to anyone’s life, and I truly believe that it can create more connected, well-rounded, and healthy individuals in this world. So, what are you waiting for? Find a place in your town that teaches salsa lessons, watch YouTube videos on how to do the foxtrot, have your friends over to practice the tango, and keep your eyes open for announcements about local swing dances. You can help start a dancing revolution! It all simply starts with one question: can I have this dance?