Working Together

Finding a partner that I can dance with is one of the beautiful parts of my world. Finding a good match is not an easy task, but, when it happens, it changes my life. There is a sense of belonging. There is a sense of excitement. There is a high that happens so intensely, little else in my life can compare.

Being able to be synchronized and dance with another body gives a sense of connection. Being able to create with another body is another task all together. There are many things that can prevent this from coming to fruition. Difference in physical capacity can seem like a barrier, but it often can be overcome. Depending on the nature of the work, emotional capacity can be a bigger barrier. Not being able to set aside the ego is another.

If two dancers are brought together with different knowledge – this happens often with those who have trained in different fields – the physical capacity can be an issue. This is especially true if you have two dancers who have different singular ¬†backgrounds – say partner dancing vs. contemporary dancing. Ballroom dancers are used to creating movement from the upper torso connected to another’s torso and arms. Trying to create a lead by moving a person with any other type of lead can be uncomfortable for a partner who has not done this. Same goes for a contemporary dancer who is used to freedom in movement with or without a partner. Transitioning from that into a type of dance where you remain upright and are lead with stricter rules can be a culture shock. There will be moments of great discomfort for each of these dancers. The difference in the way they express themselves physically can make for interesting work to witness.

How a person moves and deals with psychological discomfort can predict the outcome of the partnership. If the discomfort comes out as hostility which it often does, that is a deal breaker. This hostility can manifest as anger toward the partner, name calling, putting the other partner down to make up for the bruised ego, or simply frustration and shutting down. Learning a new dance form in front of another dancer, especially one you respect, can be tremendously stressful even for the most accomplished dancer.

Putting the ego aside is essential when learning. There is going to be discomfort, especially if working with someone who is an expert in what you know nothing about. This is compounded further when you are an expert yourself in a dance form and then feel awkward in your usually kinesthetically superior body. The ego destroys many potentially synergistic partnerships. I have had it destroy my own in the past when I was younger and more stubborn. Age has granted me patience with my partners and myself and I can better identify when my ego is being destructive in a rehearsal setting.

If two people from different dance worlds can learn to take the best of each other’s worlds and share knowledge without judgement, it can make for beautiful work. It can also make for a beautiful learning experience. We can’t all know everything. We also can’t grow in our dancing if we don’t give ourselves the opportunity to be exposed to experiences outside of our comfort zone.

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