Dance or the Art of Meeting others

Dance is an art, art of movement. Music, fluidity, listening to the partner and to the other dancers on the dance floor, technique, belief, practice, availability, modesty, comprehensiveness, precision and others are the key elements to release the magic of dancing. Art of movement comes out of a behavior that is dictated by prerequisites, specific rules and a specific practice of theses rules.

The prerequisites can be completed (and even modified) by dance either naturally or with increased effort. When the prerequisites marry dance with some natural ability, this means that the elements forming those as education, the character, personal experience and other factors are close to the inherited personality of dance that has been forged through centuries.

31st October 1933: Fred Astaire (1899 – 1987) and Claire Luce dance in the musical comedy ‘Gay Divorce’, at the Palace Theatre, London. Music by Cole Porter. It was made into a film the following year. (Photo by Sasha/Getty Images)

We can mention for example the way a person has been taught or has the natural tendency to behave with others and especially with a person of different gender. Let’s say a dispute emerge in a couple regardless the reason. If the immediate reaction of one of them is to swear, shout or threaten the other in a confrontation paradigm, this would lead either to a dispute or to the domination of the other. To transpose the example to dance, let’s say one of the partners misinterpret a given step. If the other partner stops virulently while dancing or tries to perform the step forcefully, this would lead either to a dispute or to tension and mistrust. Otherwise, improvising another step while continuing to dance or trying to know comprehensively the reasons of such a lost movement would increase trust and fluidity between the partners. Such a positive attitude is in our opinion very important for dance to provide pleasure and fun rather than to be a duty or a burden. Dance cannot be anyhow the expression of tensions but rather one of liberation. Anyway, such prerequisites have a big influence on the dancing process, especially while inviting or accompanying back a partner from the dance floor.

Rita Hayworth and Fred Astaire, 1941

Dance has its specific rules that are more or less strict depending on the phase at which we emphasize. At the invitation of the partner or when accompanying the partner back from the dance floor, these rules are smooth and they therefore leave a big room for the influence of the aforementioned prerequisites. The latter mostly depend on the social and cultural background of the dancers. If the background is overwhelmingly traditional, the invitation to the dance floor will stick to the initiative of the man and the response of the woman. This is apparently the system that is applied in conventional dancing as in competition. However, when dancing in soirees, practicas or other informal dancing events, another system, more easy-going, may apply. This system, in our opinion, is more adequate for social dancing. To explain, Cabaceo, which is especially known in Argentinean tango, is the way to invite a person to dance: By looking playfully at each other and by accepting the invitation through a nod or a blink. While, apparently, Cabaceo is a formal way to invite to dance, it shows in its essence a communication that is based on a linear relationship and not on a hierarchical one as in the previous system. Indeed, both the man and the woman can invite the other to be a partner for a dance. Moreover, tango dancers tend occasionally to invite same gender partners to ironically test the steps and the technique’s requirements of the opposite gender. This non-rigid behavior, with the help of the adequate prerequisites, tends to facilitate and moderate the invitation to dance as well as to fulfill the desires of both partners at a given music or song and at a given time or mood.

Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth

Thus, in our view, the invitation to the dance floor is more about meeting each other than about applying a rigid, predetermined and often inappropriate process commonly influenced by correlative prerequisites. From one to another, as the invitation is based upon meeting each other, it seems natural to accompany each other back to the sitting table. Concerning the rules related to the dances themselves, they are not as flexible as the prologue and the epilogue of such dances. More or less strict rules apply and training is necessary in order to improve and to provide quality while dancing.

Rules of dance do not come from nowhere. They come from the technique that enhances the most lead’s clarity and steps’ precision. In order to move in symbiosis with each other and in harmony with the music, some specific rules apply. Although, each category of dance, either standard dances or Latin dances in ballroom or Argentinean tango, has common rules within. For example, Latin dances are danced mostly on the toes while standard mostly on the heels. Argentinean tango stresses on the pivot of the body and on the dissociation between the chest and the hips. However, we shall not forget that each dance has its own identity.

Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth

For example, in the standard category, tango is sharp and jerky while waltz is about swaying and sliding. Whereas in the Latin category, samba is much about bouncing and kneel action while rumba for example is more about linear movement and hip action. However, knowing the rules and doing our best to apply them when dancing has to do as well with the prerequisites above. Thus, dance can be perceived as a case of a larger board. It is one continuity among others of the prerequisites that have somehow pushed us towards it. If we dance with passion, the art of movement can even lead to the mutation of such prerequisites in an on-going improvement and blossoming process.

To conclude, dance is complex until we try it. Dance is demanding until we test it. Dance is easy until we taste it. Dance requires a lot of control on the movement and a lot of attention on the music. Dance requires a certain behavior with the partner and with the other dancers that is dictated by prerequisites, specific rules and a given practice of these rules. As a result, in order to dance in harmony and to enjoy it, let us hear the body of our partner just as we listen to the music whispering to our ears.