Part of the joy of dancing is discovering how it relates to the random things that you come across in your everyday life. As someone in nonprofit communications, I read a lot of literature on how to communicate effectively and I never cease to be amazed at how appropriate the principles apply to dancing.
The latest gem actually comes from a book about successful people in the workplace. The author states that the difference between a “good” leader and a “great” leader is not just the ability to listen, but listening to people as if they are the only person in the room at the time. (Bill Clinton is apparently an excellent example of this – part of his charm as well as his ability to manage a presidential administration.)
I always teach that any good leader is also a good follower: one who responds to his partner, allows her to express herself and finish her intentions. But I’m curious by this idea of a great leader being one who dances with his partner as if she’s the only one in the room.
When I used to dance lindy hop, there was a certain leader who made every follower swoon. After noticing his magical charm on all the women, I asked some of the followers, “What is it about this guy?” And they all said the same thing: “He dances with you as if you’re the only one in the room.” They all knew that he did this with all the women, working his way around the room with equal flirtation for them all. Still, they loved dancing with him because for those few minutes, they experienced that feeling for themselves.
Then I think about competitive swing dancing, which is so much about showing off yourself, flirting with the audience, acknowledging that your partner is just one of many in the room. Most competitors win with this outward audience-focused energy, while few can draw people in with a partnership-focused energy. Angel and Debbie Figueroa’s “Sometimes” routine is an excellent example of how two partners can be so into each other, as if they were the only two in the room, that to watch is so captivating. In fact, it’s almost uncomfortable, as if you shouldn’t be watching such an intimate dance between two people. Personally, I think that kind of dancing is a real art, but few can master it, and few try.
But what about the social dance floor? How often do we really invest all of our attention and focus into our partner? How often do we treat our partner like he or she is the only person in the room? How easily are we distracted by our own issues, our dance “homework” and the many people around us? And if connecting with a partner is the ultimate goal, shouldn’t every dance have some of that partnership-focused intimacy?
Have you ever experienced the feeling of a partner treating you like you were the only person in the room? What was it like? And how do you think we we create that more often? Would you rather see an intimate routine or an audience-mugging one? Which would you say is “better” dancing?