A funny blog suggestion came my way that I simply can't (and don't want to) ignore: dance floor etiquette! Not surprisingly, questions like this gentleman's come up quite often, so let's delve into this world of good behavior on the hardwood. As you already know, this is merely my opinion (hence the blog format as opposed to say, a textbook) but I'll do my best to illuminate all the treacherous nooks and crannies of the social dance floor.
Let's start with the easiest first...
- Brush your teeth! Simple, yet often sadly overlooked. If you can't swing this monumental task, get some minty gum. I emphasive the flavor because personally, the fruity smelling variety makes me want to wretch! Or suck on some mints, but stay alert - shortly after those puppies are gone, the breath comes kickin' back.
- If you tend to perspire...profusely, bring a change of shirt. There's nothing wrong with sweating - we are dancing after all. There are a few things wrong with asking a woman to touch your drenched shirt.
I'll sum up the hygiene section by saying, "Come on, do I really have to go over these? This is stuff we all learned by third grade. Put your best foot forward."
On to the slightly trickier...
- Who asks whom to dance? The truth is: anyone can ask anyone. Man or woman, instructor or student, beginner or advanced - if you're out social dancing be happy people ask you to dance. Now for the fine print. Guys, it makes us ladies feel good to be asked. It gives us confidence in your ability to do your job on the dance floor and lead, because you're taking charge before we get out there.
There's a whole psychology behind this that could be it's own blog. I'll sum it up like this: if you want to dance and no one is asking you, stop pouting and go take that scary first step yourself. I ask guys to dance all the time - because I don't like sitting around when I'm supposed to be dancing.
- When is it OK to say No? Oooh...tricky! To be honest, I say "No" sometimes. Usually it's when I honestly need a break or have to go to the bathroom. Think of social dancing like you would any other facet of your life- you're not going to get all "Yes!" all the time. If you get a no, just go to the next person. I guarantee I've gotten more no's than everyone reading this blog (yes, all five of you;) put together.
Here's my rule: I'll dance with anyone at least once. If they hurt me, or if they show off and act like I'm not there, or if I just don't vibe with them - I might say no the next time - but I never say no because I think I'm better than them! In fact, I'm getting fired up typing this because dancers with attitude really piss me off! When each of us started, there were better dancers than all of us. And they were kind enough to dance with us. How dare we cop an attitude now that we think we're hot stuff!? Do the world a favor and stay home!
OK, back to nice Allison. Where was I? Oh yes...
- How to conduct yourself once you're dancing with someone. It's ironic I got this question when I did because I had an interesting experience just last week. I asked a guy to dance (told you so:) and he accepted. We went to the floor and proceeded to do a perfectly nice salsa - except for the fact that he never smiled, spoke, or seemed to care he was dancing with me at all. In fact, by the end of the song, I was convinced I had offended his very nature in some way.
Was it because I asked him? Why wouldn't he just say No?! One student postured it may be because he was intimidated to dance with the instructor. Perhaps, though silly from my p.o.v., but why would he handle intimidation with stone cold silence. Don't most people use small talk or comedy to cover awkward situations?! He never even asked my name. I was about to ask his, but then I realized, "Wait a damn minute! I asked him to dance and I'm following everything he leads with a smile. He can ask me if he cares."...he obviously didn't. I haven't had that little fun on the dance floor in a long time. And I won't be asking him to dance again...shocker!
So when you're dancing with someone, give them your all. If I've said it once, I've said it a hundred times: when you're dancing with someone, let everything else go and just create with that partner in that moment! Don't look around for your next partner. Don't look at the floor. You don't have to stare into each other's eyes the whole time, but check in once in a while with a smile. People know when you're less than excited to dance with them. Make it your mission to be excited with everyone - and everyone (save Mr. Silent Treatment from last week) will be excited to dance with you. If they're not, they're not meant to be your partner. Move on with all the skin on your back in tact.
I've saved the best question for last:
- When is a "yes" an eyebrow-raise-wink-wink-lick-your-lips-I'm-going-home-with-you-tonight "Yes!" Unfortunately, this blog is already too long (I'm really struggling with that resolution!) so you'll have to tune in next week for the titillating answer. Until then - See you on the hardwood!
By the time the song ended, I was unequivocally his. He could have danced me off a cliff and I would have happily followed. His name was Julio. The dance: Argentine Tango. Suffice to say, after dancing with Julio, I know why they call A Tango a lifestyle, not just a dance!
Julio was one of the cast members in the Broadway show Forever Tango. Luis Bravo, the producer of the show, is a fan of horse racing. Kentucky, my home state, is famous for horse racing. Fortune smiled on the independent dance studio I was working in almost five years ago, when Luis brought some of his dancers to give us a show and workshop. Julio and his partner, Catherina, performed at the after party. To say it was jaw dropping, would be doing them an injustice. I honestly don't think I took a breath the entire time they danced.
Then, in an unprecedented act of generosity, Julio began dancing with each woman in the room. Let me repeat, so everyone understands the scope of how huge this was: Julio danced on Broadway! Quite successfully! And here he was, dancing with what could only have seemed like paltry amateurs to him. But we weren't. To him, we were the most important woman in the room while he danced with us. And that's why I'll remember that dance for the rest of my life.
We never danced any flashy moves. In fact, we did basics for most of the song. He slipped in a boleo every now and then. That was it. And it was the sexiest dance I've ever done in my life. Here's why - he completely controlled my body. Half way through the song, I even closed my eyes, because I didn't want any distractions. I only wanted to submit to his will.
Now, some of you may think I'm crazy. (My husband would agree with you...but probably for different reasons:) But I assure you ladies, when you have that experience on the dance floor - where the man takes total, respectful control of your body - you won't want to dance any other way. That level of trust and confidence in your partner (even if they are a total stranger) is exhilarating!
Others of you may be saying, "But how did he do that?". The answer is more complex than you'll want to hear. I'd say start with learning your own body dynamics really well. Practice! A lot. Learn to move as many of your body parts in as many ways as you possibly can. Learn to connect your movement to the floor - (for more on this, call me for a lesson).
Then, learn to move the woman. Notice how I didn't say "learn some moves to impress the woman". This is an all too common misconception among dancing men- you have to know a lot of flashy moves to impress us. It's not about that at all!!! Julio had me weak in the knees and only did two moves the whole song.
So here's what most women don't know or won't admit to, sometimes even to themselves. We (women)
want to be able to trust our bodies to you. We want to know that at the moment we're dancing with you - you're not thinking of anyone besides us. If we feel confident you'll take care of us and we are your number one priority, we'll amaze you (and ourselves) with how much we give you. Now ladies, this doesn't happen overnight. Following takes a lot of practice, too...and trust. But you have to start sometime! Do yourself a favor - start Today!
So there you have it... the dance that will live in Allison's heart for eternity. I feel I haven't done it justice. The room actually dissolved around us like a scene out of a movie. My heart beats faster just thinking of that dance. My knees seem to forget how to hold the rest of me upright. My breath catches in my throat. That's what a great lead can do to a woman.
Don't lie to yourself and say, "Well, Salsa is different." The principles of partner dancing are universal! The type of dance is irrelevant to how amazing a moment can feel. What I'm trying to say is: it's the partnership that makes it worth while. Give your all to each partner you dance with and watch what magic happens. Wow... Life really is a dance! See you on the hardwood:)
"No? Ma'am? Hmm...shame." This should be the greeting at every dance door. However the answer should be, "Oh Please! I won't be using it." But that's not exactly true, is it? We all have our pride. We all have an image we want to portray - whether we admit it or not. We all visualize ourselves as knowledgeable or good at something. And for my blog - let's say it's dancing.
A funny thing happened on my way to the Avalon...(hee hee hee;)... I took a private lesson in Argentine Tango. Yes, you read it correctly: I took a lesson, not taught. And let's address this stigma (if you listen closely, you can hear the shudders running through people's offended natures right now) about instructors who have the nerve to take lessons- because it drives me crazy! How dare I, right? I can sum it up in three words people: Never Stop Learning! Or, if you'd like a different three: Hone Your Craft! If you can't agree with either of those, then I have another three words for you but they're not as...inspirational;)
So, the lesson went fabulously! I impressed the instructor to the point where he actually shouted across the room to his wife, "This one's going to be a lot of fun!" And he meant it: (it wasn't a secret code for "high maintenance" - I asked him;). If you haven't tried Argentine Tango - I highly recommend it!! It has the power to transport you!
Needless to say, I'm pretty stoked by the time I get to the Avalon to teach Salsa. I've been there for a few years now, so I feel pretty comfortable. In general, I believe people regard me highly...except those that think I'm a raving lunatic or just mean - (if that's you, read my previous post;).
So there I am, doing my thing, when I give instruction on the frame I want. A face I don't recognize, isn't doing what I ask, so I reiterate. This face then proceeds to offer me an education as to what he's doing. Me. He's going to teach me about salsa. The woman teaching the class he paid to take. I literally had to stop myself from making him look like a total fool in front of everyone. But if I had, what would I have looked like? A jerk.
That's when I realized - I am a jerk. Or, more accurately, I have jerk tendencies. Shortly after coming to this conclusion I also realized - I'm a nobody!?! So I teach Salsa. So I've danced in LA, New York, Miami, the Dominican Republic, etc. So I've been in dance videos. Who cares?! I have no titles to my credit. I've never won any professional dance competitions (though, I've never had a partner, so it's like hoping to win the lottery when you don't buy a ticket). But my point is - the world doesn't know my name. There, I said it!
As much as I would like the world to know my name - because my mission really is to get the world dancing - they don't yet. And apparently that's a good thing, because I have a lot of work to do on myself before I get any kind of famous. I'm sorry, new face, that I wanted to make you look stupid. That's not cool. In the future, I will try to check my ego at the door (and not pick it up on the way out).
In my heart of hearts, I want to be more like Julio - the man who gave me the most amazing moment I've ever had on any dance floor. If this weren't a long blog already (silly resolutions) I'd tell you about him now. Tune in next week to find out more... and believe me, you'll want to know more about Julio... the world does know his name!
See you on the hardwood!
...is to take what I say with a grain of salt. As a teacher, it's my job to help make you the best dancer you can be. Part of what that entails, is giving feedback, and it's not always going to be wine and roses. So I try to make light of it - because that's what I do in life - I use comedy for everything! I was cracking jokes during my
c-sections...both of them. Bottom line: if I make a joke about something someone is doing when they dance it's because I care enough to tell you.
It's important to know that it is NEVER my intent to hurt anyone's feelings. And I definitely don't want to deter you from dancing. I want the whole world to Dance! But I want you (and your partner) to have fun and be safe when you do it. Yes, we're still talking about dancing;)
I'm going to go out on a limb here and say it is never any teacher's intent to hurt feelings - but someone has to tell you... that's why you pay us. Think of it like this: if you had a big green piece of spinach in your teeth, wouldn't you want someone to tell you?! Wouldn't that be preferable to walking around all night with your food hanging out? If they tell you by joking about it, don't get offended. Instead, know they're trying to keep the mood light for everyone.
I found out recently my name apparently means "truthful". Ironic, I thought, because my friends always joke that everyone needs one friend like me. I'm the girl who'll tell you (if you ask) when you 'don't look your best in something', or give you an honest critique on a project when I could have said, "it's great!", or tell you when you have something scary and green in your teeth. A teacher who spends all their time complimenting you, instead of educating you, is just trying to get your money. Run the other way.
So, for goodness sake, thicken that skin, brush your teeth, and I'll see you on the hardwood!:)
Allison loves to write almost as much as she loves to dance, so no one had to twist her arm to get her to write about dancing!