When we social dance, we give ourselves over to the dance. Sometimes to the partner as well. But to the music, the space, the feel of the dance. It can feel like a dream. But even if it’s not that perfect dance, the dance can often be broken down in a similar way.
It feels like there’s an anatomy of a dance. Like a skeleton it can be broken down, but becomes a more complete picture. The perfect dance needs a bit of everything, with the music and atmosphere on top to make that great experience and partnership. Put the pieces in a different order, and the dancers may feel awkward and the dance may bomb.
Anatomy of a dance
The urge to dance
If one of the partners isn’t in the mood to dance, making someone dance against their will isn’t going to be a pleasant experience for either person. Sometimes you go to an amazing dance event, but you’re just not feeling it. Whether it’s the music, the lighting and feeling exposed, the other dancers, or just personal feelings that someone’s brought with them from outside the dance event. All can have an impact on that want to dance.
But when there’s enthusiasm towards other prospective dance partners, and a want to dance, there’s a positive feeling before you’ve even got on the floor. Show it with a smile and look like you’re enjoying it, and it starts a dance off well.
It could just be a glance and catching the other’s eye. It could be the walking over and asking for a dance. But there will always be a request of some kind. And hopefully more than just grabbing someone walking past.
Hopefully on the end of a request there will be an acceptance. Usually accepted with a similar tone to the request. ‘You dancing?’ ‘You asking?’ ‘I’m asking’ I’m dancing’ isn’t the most sophisticated of requests and acceptances, but I’m sure most dancers have received a comic ask as well as the more standard ‘would you like to dance?’
It’s always nice to receive an enthusiastic acceptance. There’s nothing worse than having someone follow you onto the dancefloor and you can sense that they’d rather not be there.
The warm up and finding your feet
Getting used to the music and judging your partner’s ability to lead and follow is a key part of the finding your feet stage. Those first few bars of the music. Grasping the rhythm of the music and making that initial connection to your partner. Every dancer is different in what they want to feel from a dance and what their focus is. But this part is the initial conversation. The stage to set out expectations and understand how little or much to give to each dance.
The build up and climax
Just like most music tracks, a dance builds. Hopefully both dancers are working with each other in a type of conversation. Reacting to changes in tempo or phrasing, mood or lyrics in the music. The best feeling in dance in when you’re both working towards the same high point together (and yes, the obvious analogies can be made – both work best when the partnership hits it off perfectly together).
The end and relax
When social dancing, there’s usually a gradual ending. A fade out and into another track, rather than a climactic finish. It’s a chance for that dance to either continue into another track or for you to go your different ways onto the next dance.
You hope you both leave on a high, with good memories of the dance. A brief thank you, maybe a hug, maybe comments about the dance just gone. Or the music. The connection then broken as you move off the dancefloor or across to another dancer.
Most dances will have all of these component parts, but the length of time and the satisfaction of the parts will vary according to the dance partner you’re with. Get every bit right and it could be that perfect dance with a great connection. Have one bit slightly jarring and it could tip the dance enjoyment the other way.
For me, the important bits are the first few bars. When leading or following, it’s key for me to work out how the dance could go and what type of connection we both give or need. Then it’s all about the connection and whether the partnership soars together through the music. Whether the music is how I expect, and what we both hear. It’s nice to know the music, but sometimes a good dance will be to a totally new track. And that for me provides the biggest confidence boost when a dance works out well to a new track that means the connection worked well and I could let myself go into that and the music without expectation of what is coming next.
How do you feel about the different parts of a dance?