“Do you wanna dance?” cooed a young Bette Midler in her breathiest, most innuendo laden tone, building to an explosive vocal climax. My first International Rumba, pro-am showcase, cheekily attempted at the Ohio Star Ball, before I possessed more than a sketchy idea of what a “hip settle” was, displayed more attitude than technique. Gratifyingly, it made a male judge’s eyes pop. The judging panel’s marks, however, did not reflect that moment of pleasure. The two-minute performance also featured my partner, a pro, dropping me as I did a leaning, standing split that abruptly became a split on the floor. Concerned viewers believed my left ankle broke then, but thanks to loose ligaments, it just rolled over. You could say the routine was a tease with neither the skill nor sufficient support to follow through. Early in my development as an amateur ballroom dancer, I didn’t know what I didn’t know!
Two skilled teachers and innumerable coaches and 5 years later, I’m closer to “I know some stuff. What I don’t know doesn’t scare me.” Improvement is a never-ending journey. Desire to grow and the ability to relax and breathe into expression count as much or quite possibly more than drive. Hours on the dance floor and in cross training count when you are fully present. Body, heart and mind united. If stuck in yesterday or fantasizing about tomorrow, you will spin your wheels. A dancer can assimilate a great deal through observation and mimicry, but what distinguishes one dancer from another is originality — even if it’s only the brilliantly timed quirk of an eyebrow or flick of a wrist. The syllabus represents the shore: safety, security, a known and revered quantity. You ignore or forget it at your peril. Yet, you must push out from it and broach unknown waters to be your own dancer. And, when it’s ballroom we’re talking about, you need a partner with similar ideas about the journey. Sink or swim, you are one.
My most technical and expressive dancing now is with a very accomplished teacher, Ian, twice a week, in 45-minute sessions. My practice partner is Mr. Invisible– you cannot see him in my frame although I glide around the floor accommodating his space, lengthening to his imagined stride, counterbalancing his imagined weight. Frankly, my dear, it ain’t enough. Sorry, Viz, it’s not you; it’s me. To continue to grow in ballroom, I require a practice and competition partner’s corporeal presence several days of the week. Putting it out there to the blogosphere, the Universe, the Laws of Attraction, the Fields of Dreams.
Do you wanna dance?