What Ballroom Dance Teaches Us About Connection

December 10, 2018

Every morning, I jump out of bed at the crack of 4:30 AM. It’s a little early for some, but the gym opens at 5:45 AM and that’s when my dance partner and I can find the time to squeeze a few more hours of practice into our respective days. Not only does it mean we can spend more time getting ready for our next competition, but it puts us in the right state of mind and gives us the momentum to make each day better. Getting to start every day by dancing is a blessing in of itself, but dancing with a person? That’s where the real magic comes in.

Discovering Dance

I fell in love with ballroom dance my freshman year of college. Roped into it by a few strangers, I thought it would be a nice time or a way to dance around and goof off for a bit. I came to a couple of lessons and quickly grew more passionate, but I had no clue it would become so important in my life and I was not prepared for the lessons it would teach me.

My coach whipped me into shape and before long I was on the competition floor. I loved dancing; it seemed like whatever I was doing, I was aching to get back to the gym to practice or back on the dance floor to perform. It wasn’t until my now dance partner (pictured with me above) found me and I started dancing with one person did my hobby turn into something much more meaningful.

We began at roughly the same time, and after we had each been training with other dancers for around a year, she approached me to form a competitive partnership. We started practicing as soon as we could. As we drilled basic technique and worked on our Waltz, our Cha Cha, and everything in between, the game changed. We got more connected and operated less like two people dancing next to each other and more like a single unit. 

Connection

As we danced in our partnership more, I started to get a better sense of what her body was doing. We could hold hands and ‘connect’ and I could feel how every muscle in her body moved. With my eyes closed, I could see the rotation of her hips, feel the movement of her back, and know exactly how much pressure her feet were applying to the floor. If she tensed her shoulders I could tell and if she changed the angle of her thighs I would know. With that, I had the knowledge that she could feel the exact same movements in my body. We had a new language, where touch gave us indescribable amounts of information about the other person. It was frightening and weird and spectacular all at once.

That said, connection isn’t just about information; it’s about sharing. When we’re in frame, we don’t just dance next to each other with an exasperated amount of knowledge about where our partner is in space. Instead, we commit parts of our body to our partner. We offer them some control over how we move as we use their body to gain momentum and stay balanced. There’s a sense of trust in that to dance well together, we each have to forfeit our autonomy and commit something to the partnership. Then, instead of dancing next to each other, we can move as a unit. 

The sensation you get as you connect with your partner in this way is magical. You feel balanced and athletic and more capable in your partnership than on your own two feet. But the experience is not just physical: there’s an emotional component and frankly? It’s vulnerable.

Dancing with another person means you are surrendering yourself to them. You are giving yourself up to your partner and allowing them to know everything about how your body moves and giving them a say in it. That in mind, dancing is an artistic sport, so instead of just sharing mechanics, you’re offering your artistic expression and opening yourself up in a primal way.

That’s what it takes to connect with a person, and what it really means to be vulnerable. We have to offer some of ourselves to our friends, family, or lover and trust that they will not only be accepting of us, but work together with us as a unit. If we can do that, we open ourselves up to a world of momentum and balance that we could never achieve on our own two feet alone. 

So getting to start every day connecting with another person? It’s pretty wonderful, and I wouldn’t want to spend my mornings doing anything else.