When I was a child, I would sometimes dream about being a ballerina. It was never as part of the corps de ballet but nor was it about being a star soloist. It was always pas-de-deux. The important thing seemed, somehow, to be able to relate to another human being as a dancer and hopefully for something beautiful and meaningful to come out of it.
As a child, of course, I could not express it in those words. Nevertheless, my unconscious mind must have known what it wanted because the dream never changed. As a dancer, we dance with people who are our own age, older than us, younger than us, gay, straight, usually opposite sex, and sometimes same sex. However, these are only the surface differences. The really important dynamic of the dance situation which gives it its pleasure, difficulty, and sometimes fury or fear is that two separate identities are trying to create something together. Neither can do it without the other.
The way we relate to those we dance with is as varied as the way we relate to people in normal life. We all have our own default personality but we have to alter it depending on who we are relating to. We have to adjust in order to be able to communicate effectively with others. The way we communicate nonverbally with those we dance with will greatly influence the outcome.
When teaching my teenagers to drive, I tell them, “People drive like what they are.” Angry people drive angrily. Crazy people drive like lunatics. Calm people drive safely. Attentive people are aware drivers. Dreamy people don’t pay attention. I must admit that one of my sons tells me that when I start getting into a deep conversation with him, I drive slower and slower as the conversation gets more and more absorbing until I am well below the speed limit and probably most annoying to other drivers.
Like driving, people dance like who they are. If we are drawn to dance with someone and have the opportunity to do so then we must try to accommodate and appreciate the other person, as they must try to accommodate and appreciate us. If they cannot even really see us and who we are or if we cannot see them then that is not a good start. First, we must actually see each other. That is less common than one might imagine.
It is for the very reason that people are different that something alive and interesting can possibly happen in dance and in life. It is fragile, definitely. In dancing, not only is there the technique and dancing capabilities of each person to consider, there is the even greater, more impactful field of the nature of each – the depth or lack of it, the amount of fire inside them, the presence or absence of calmness (or water element as described in Chinese medicine), the quality of mental lucidity, the willingness to navigate through emotional openness (which all artists must struggle with), the capacity to not indulge in neediness and self-pity while still maintaining an emotional transparency, and the willingness or otherwise of bringing one’s soul to the table and seeing what the other will do with it. All high risk.
Everything truly beautiful and powerful is, or at least was at various points, high risk. Along the way, we gain patience and perseverance by accepting the ebb and flow, up and down of human life. We may even gain an underlying spiritual equilibrium by riding the waves with as little resistance as possible.
This article is from Love’s Longing