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 dancers, we dance with people who are our own age, older or younger than us, gay, straight, the opposite sex or the 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.

The weight of arrogance is such that no bird can fly carrying it.
And the man who feels superior to others, that man cannot dance. St John of the Cross.

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, the quality of mental lucidity, the willingness to navigate through emotional openness, 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.

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Aristotle

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.


We bring all that we are to any partnership, and certainly to dancing. Even without touching, the energy field around each person touches the other’s auric field. And, of course, the eyes are the transparent waterway to the soul. Do not the eyes tell a million stories? Whether conscious of it or not, we want to extend ourselves through this contact with another soul or souls.

The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed. Carl Jung

If we bring neediness to an independent person, they will think we are pathetic. If we do not need enough, our partner will feel that they have nothing to give us. If we push too hard into someone’s fears, they will run away. If we don’t push enough, nothing will grow. As a man, if you do not give a woman freedom to be herself, if you dominate her, if you protect her so much that she cannot move, if you give her nothing to lean on, if you do not let her know that she can trust you to do your part then she will not flourish. As a woman, if we do not give a man our trust, if we do not let him know that we need him, if we do not let him fulfil his responsibilities, if we do not let him have space to grow then he will not feel like a man. Both must ask, and if that doesn’t work demand, strength from the other. This is the beauty and power of it – the wonderful, exhilarating, funny, humbling, painful, surprising, enlightening beauty and power of our lives together.

This article is from Dance: A Spiritual Affair

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