Ballroom dancing is a conversation made entirely through the body. And, as with any conversation, there are some who ‘speak’ better than others. This metaphor is useful, because it puts the focus of dance on understanding your partner better, and helping them do likewise.
Do you know someone who you tend to avoid talking to? Maybe they talk quietly, or slur their words, or maybe they always want to talk about themselves, while never asking about you. We avoid these people like mosquitos, yet we often convey ourselves like this when we dance.
Thinking of how you communicate can go a long way towards improving the dance conversation. Let me explain.
1. Proper enunciation
Like a certain slogan, there’s a lot to be said for clarity. Clarity of movement means complete weight changes, strong leads and responsive follows. For leaders, it also means committing to whatever pattern you start – nothing frustrates a follower more than a lead for one pattern that morphs into another without warning.
2. ‘Speaking’ confidently vs hesitantly
A friend of mine once said ‘Even if you’re wrong, be really insistent about it’. So if you’re going to mess up a step, do it confidently! Your partner needs to know you trust both of you enough to move with everything you have. You can’t do that with partial weight changes, tentative connection, and collapsing your frame to protect yourself.
3. Sometimes you talk, sometimes you listen.
Even if you’re the leader, every dance gives your partner some room to add their own styling and expression. Forcing your follower to follow your rigid plan without deviation is going to lead to an angry follower.
4. Don’t just talk about yourself.
If you aren’t sensitive to your partner, you might as well be dancing alone. Ask yourself, what is their ability level? Do they like a lot of spins or dips? Do they like faster or slower movement? Do they sometimes hijack your movement? Recognizing and adjusting to your partner’s needs shows them you aren’t just here to show off – you’re also here to show them off.
5. Cover up each other’s faux pas’.
Slip-ups in any conversation are inevitable, but a savvy wordsmith can smooth things over quickly. In ballroom dancing, it helps to think of each ‘mistake’ as an unintended variation – work it into the dance as best you can. Because the best dancers aren’t perfect – but they are the best at covering each other’s mistakes!