When interaction with other humans happens, no matter how awesome things have been to date, there is bound to be conflict at some point. How this conflict is handled speaks volumes about a person. How it is handled when you have to continue to deal with the person speaks even more.
In the ballroom world, there is often a male dominating attitude towards partnerships. This is news to no one in this realm. It seems to come out most in the least accomplished dancers in the mix. I am not sure if it is a need to prove manliness or just insecurity while being lined up and judged against others. It is palpable at times and I have experienced it first hand throughout my history with this group.
The domination can come out it in subtle ways that are ignorable at first, but eventually add up to a detrimental amount. Sly comments about the girl not following, being heavy, not being sexy enough, not being feminine enough, being too aggressive and the like are usually the start of the domination in these insecure men. Small putdowns to break her spirit a little at a time seems to be what is happening – whether consciously or not – it happens a lot. From there, it can turn into putting down a partner within a group, yelling at a partner in private or on the dance floor, walking away from the partner during practice, etc.
We have all seen it. If you are a female in this realm, you have likely experienced it first hand. Why do we continue to let this BAD behaviour continue? Is it because those we learned from modelled this BAD behaviour so we think it is just part of the game we have to play to succeed in this field? Is it because there is a shortage of male partners in the dance world and so we will take what we can get no matter how BAD the behaviour? It is because we are supposed to just shut up and listen and be a good girl? All these justifications seem like b.s. to me. They seem like justification of BAD behaviour because we don’t have the energy to fight and try to change the realm to be a healthier place. Often when we speak up, we are in a position to lose our partner, so having a voice carries risk.
Beyond the BAD male behaviour, I see BAD behaviour on our side of the partnership as well. It is often starts as a defence mechanism. Then it can turn into passive aggressive behaviour because if we don’t actually vocalize our malcontent, then we can’t get in trouble for our description of the problem. I also see descent into a pissing contest of who can behave the worst.
Who wants to work with someone who is going to undermine you then state “but we’re supposed to be a team”? I often see little team work when this BAD behaviour creeps in. I often see a broken spirit dancing with a demon trying to make it through x number of months she’s promised herself to win some trophy she has convinced herself will bring her happiness if she can just stick it out.
We ladies of the ballroom need to ask ourselves why we put up with this. We need to ask what we are going to do about it. We need to ask ourselves if it is worth it. If this were a romantic relationship, would we stick it out or would we walk away before our spirit is intact. The men of our ballroom world need to stand up and say that this behaviour is not ok. I know many of them would interrupt a man berating a woman on the street, but they turn a blind eye when it happens within the walls of a studio.
We want to bring a new and younger generation into this world. These young people are part of a generation that is finally starting to see women as equal to men. If we bring this new generation into the studio and the actions state that women are far lesser than men, is this something that will help build our community?
It’s time we start working with our dancers with the attitude that women are equal to men, that their experience is valid, that their ideas are valid, that their worth is valid. This will lead to a generation of partnerships that are stronger because both partners feel respected. This will lead to a generation of female dancers that do not put up with abuse in the dance relationship. This will lead to a generation of male dancers that will only be able to keep partners if they act like decent human beings. Doesn’t that sound like a better future for ballroom dance than propagating the past and present relational behaviours?