Dancing isn’t all raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, but we all have an answer for this question. There are some common denominators which make any type of dance attractive to society. Maybe it’s the music, the costumes/clothing, or the warmth you feel watching this art form. I’m going to offer up some of My Favorite Things. And whether you’re into Ballet, Lindy Hop, West Coast Swing, Salsa, Country Swing , Waltz or whatever, feel free to comment with some of your favorite things…
Shani’s Favorite Things (About Dancing)…
- The Music – I can’t imagine a world without music and I LOVE all kinds. Music can bridge languages. Music exists in some form within every culture. It’s a wonderful common denominator which evokes emotions and rational technicalities. Jazz and swing music have always been central to my life. It makes me happy, it makes me sad, it gives me energy and it provides me with a structure through which to express myself as a social dancer. Classical music stimulates my intellectual and emotional centers – particularly when watching ballet. Country is my ‘secret’ lover. Pop and hip-hop are my funky-self. Seeing different interpretations of the same music is one of my favorite things about dancing!
- The Commnity or “Third Place” – Everyone wants to go to that place (which is neither home nor work) where everyone knows your name…that’s right, Cheers. But you don’t have to go to a bar, where social interactions are predicated on alcohol and sexuality. Instead, you can go to a place where physical interaction brings people together. Ballet dancers may not hold hands when dancing (often), but there is a sense of community in a class where everyone is training together towards individual goals. Social dances – such as swing, salsa and ballroom – bring people together for the expression of a particular style. You get to know people. You share time together by choice and common interest. I find it fascinating that introverted people and extroverted people find some usefulness from engaging in the ‘Third Place’. For some, community is a place to recharge while for others its a safe-haven to explore on an individual basis. Whatever you get out of these varied dance communities, the mere fact that these dancescapes exist is one of my favorite things!
- The SHOES – Oh, do I LOVE shoes! Ballroom shoes, and West Coast sandals, Tango heels, Cuban heels, vintage shoes, and modern shoes. I already had a shoe problem before becoming a lindy hopper, but when you’re dancing, what you put on your feet is so indicative of what type of dancing you do. Ballet slippers are made to show off the elongated leg line and practical for execution. Smooth ballroom style shoes require a different heel from a Tango or latin dance shoe which moves differently along the floor. Lindy Hop and Balboa are often focused on vintage aesthetics, therefore many dancers wear shoes styled from the 20s, 30s and 40s. Shoes don’t necessarily make up the dance, but they certainly have practical purpose and aesthetic appeal.
- Training & Self-Improvement – Whether I mean technical training and improvement or personal and emotional growth, dancing is an excellent vehicle for both. Learning to dance is an investment in yourself. We study in classes and we study on our own. Even when you are a social or casual dancer, you are training your body and mind, forming new mental pathways, and developing your social-self. Individually, we grow and learn at our own pace. We are free to express our growth in our own time. And we have opportunities to share and grow with a community. For some people, this may not be a central motivator for learning to dance (and that’s perfectly okay), but they are growing none the less. I happen to love being good at what I do and always seek to improve myself. Dancing is just one way I can do this.
- IT’s FUN – No matter how many times you get upset at not being perfect, fighting with your dance partner over some minor detail or being frustrated with your instructor as you attempt to grasp some difficult move/concept, dancing is fun in the end. That moment you let go – relax – release and rely on the knowledge you already understand, is a magical moment. That’s what I would call fun. The music and work come together to create art within. I love to watch other dancers (of all genres) and see that look on their face when pleasure takes over. For some this is easier to achieve or recognize than for others, but we wouldn’t all be torturing ourselves if it weren’t fun!
- ANYONE CAN DANCE – able bodies, deaf, blind, handicapped…it doesn’t matter. Dance is expressive and provides us each with something special.