Previously on Riot and Frolic [cue cleverly edited montage of my witty and amazing writing voiced over by Morgan Freeman with some dramatic and foreboding music in the background]...
But really, I was talking about partner dancing and what the hell are we getting into when we go social dancing. And I copied my own work and changed some words and came up with this:
Number 1 when we go partner dancing is we agree to dance with someone. Once we hit the floor with our chosen partner, we're agreeing to dance with that person from this dance until the end of this dance, for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.
That isn't to say grounds for divorce won't apply, but you should have a clear, verbal agreement before you begin your partnership, no matter how brief it may last. Many of these things will be implied, but if you have ANY DOUBTS, please be explicit about your wants and needs:
- Who is leading and who is following? While most dancers think this is obvious, it's not in many circles. If you're at an event where partnerships are pretty liquid, go ahead and confirm which part you enjoy doing.
- What dance are you doing? Many songs could be a Cha Cha, Rumba, OR West Coast Swing, and if you're comfortable with all of them, it's still nice to be mentally, physically, and attitudinally [it's totally a word] prepared.
- What level will you be dancing? If you are a beginner, you can state exactly that: "I'm new to [whatever dance you're about to do]," and hopefully your delightful partner will follow suit. If you're not a beginner and you have no idea how well your partner can dance, you will do some magical basics to get a feel for their proficiency, but you WILL NOT ASK "BRONZE OR SILVER?" OR THE LIKE. That use of lingo produces a culture of separation that turns off a lot of potentially awesome partners, especially when not all dance genres use the same distinctions to describe someone's skill level.
- What are your limitations? Maybe you have a bad ankle, or just had shoulder surgery, or had vertigo last week, or got whiplash in an unfortunate Tango accident earlier that evening, WHAT HAVE YOU. Please disclose these kinds of things so your partner can help provide an enjoyable experience during your dance together.
While all these things should be understood between both parties before dancing, make sure you have your end of the pre-nup in order. There is much more implicit agreement you have accepted when you showed up at this dance function, namely several rules of good manners.
- Hygiene I've talked about this before, but it deserves another mention. A recent shower, breath mints, deodorant, and a fresh shirt or two go along way.
- Language Those who know me know I loooooove a good curse word or three, but when I'm around "mixed company" I try to keep my vocabulary PG. Please, thank you, "may I" and all that BS [see? OOPS] are all really lovely to hear, especially because the dance world is a great networking device and you never know when you might be talking to someone who needs a new contractor.
- Positive Intent When you decide to go dancing, you are also deciding to shut up, smile, and dance. You are there to have fun, dancing, with other people. You are not there to teach, or solicit feedback, or grope your partners. Have a polite conversation if you can multi-task while doing your Rumba, and dance to the best of your ability with each amazing person you get to dance with. The Golden Rule and all that.
What if our beautifully negotiated contract can't hold water? It happens. Just like in The Real World, sometimes people don't click on the dance floor. Can you last another 50 seconds with this person? Yes, you can. However, repeated or blatant disregard for the following rules is grounds for divorce with the resolution being immediate separation and an amicable reunion in the future being rare.
- Cruelty Besides the blessed light-as-a-feather/heavy-as-a-brick follow, there's the leads who don't know they're squeezing the circulation from your hand or torquing your wrist in the weirdest way. Follows meander away while turning, leads crash into other dancers, all parties might sweat profusely or smell bad. THESE ARE ALL MINOR AND OFTEN UNCONSCIOUS BEHAVIORS. Please refer to that "Positive Intent" line above. On the other hand, excessive force from either party, any tricks (continuous turns, dips, lifts and drops) without prior awareness of said skill, and general "jerkiness" (counting out loud to "help", verbal guidance, etc.) are all over the line.
- Sexual Harrassment You would think this goes without saying these days, right? But let's be clear, I can completely tell when someone does an accidental graze because they forget where their free arm was and when someone is trying a grab-ass. Let's keep the ballroom sexy, yet civilized and leave the groping to da club [uhn-ce, uhn-ce, uhn-ce].
- Substance Abuse Sure, a drink might loosen one's inhibitions to ask an attractive stranger to dance, but if you're sloshed (or worse) on the dance floor, you're a mess to dance with. Stop it.
- Irretrievable Breakdown Probably not grounds for immediate desertion, but there are people who will get on your nerves and leave your partner dance experiences less savory. It is okay to politely decline every single time they ask you to dance or avoid them like the plague.
All of this, just to dance with someone? YES. It's better to cover your ass before you start dancing with a new person, and if any of your circumstances change along the way with a dance acquaintance (injury, mostly), you should renew your vows with them.
Next time, I'll shake my head and cover my eyes as I talk about timing.