Last week, I saw a beautiful story of how a mother explained the concept of Santa Claus to her young son. It was about the idea of  becoming a Santa, rather than not believing in him. It’s about learning to enjoy the giving of joy rather than only receiving joy.

I think we can use this idea in social dancing, too.

Receiving Joy in Dance

When we start social dancing, many of us rely on our partners to give us joy. We are like children: still focused on our own development, rather than giving back to the dance. It’s not that we don’t want to do well – sometimes it’s all we can think about! But, we’re still so new that the only ‘gift’ we can give is our positive reaction to what others ‘give’ us in the dance.

Soon, we realize the joy that others give us when we dance with them is intoxicating. We want more and more of that joy – so we start investing. We start ‘growing up’ in the dance scene.

Then, we realize that all those awesome ‘gifts’ aren’t always that great. One person is off-time. Another isn’t smooth enough. A third isn’t musical. So, the amount of ‘dance joy’ we receive starts go down. The magical feeling of dance-high that newer dancers get all the time begins to fade.

We’re starting to lose the ability to receive joy from all our partners. That’s natural; it’s part of ‘growing up’. The ‘older’ we get as a dancer, the more gaps we’ll see. The more picky we get, and the higher the bar is to be a ‘Dance Santa’ for us.

The Turning Point

The key factor to determine the turning point is when we stop being able to find joy in what our partners provide to us. When we reach the point that other dancers can’t consistently make us happy, we have a few options:

  • Quit Dance
  • Start Travelling or Training
  • Become a Dance Grinch
  • Become a Dance Santa

The One Who Quits

If people are looking to only receive and they stop getting the thing they liked, they leave. These people are the ones that become disillusioned or bored. They realize that other dancers can’t give them the joy, so they ‘grow up’ and move on to new pursuits.

The One Who Travels or Trains

Another option is to start travelling more and more in search of a new Dance Santa. This usually means a lot of congresses, and travelling to the ‘mecca’ of a dance style. It may mean taking a lot of classes in hopes of ‘recapturing’ the magic.

Very often, this is a transitory stage that either leads to quitting, or becoming a Dance Santa/Grinch. As they grow and branch out, the gift of ‘joy’ will be harder and harder to find externally. Eventually, only the best dancers in the world can fulfill the requirements.

So, the dancer is still faced with the choice:

  • become disillusioned with dance and quit,
  • become an elitist or snobby dancer, or
  • become a Dance Santa.

The One Who Becomes a Grinch

For the people who love dancing enough to not quit but are disillusioned, they frequently become ‘snobs’ or ‘elitists’. These are the Dance Grinches.

Instead of looking what they can contribute to make a dance amazing, they want to remain like the newbie dancer: reliant on others to ‘make’ the dance great. They want to take, and they are not ready (or willing) to give.

If the dancer can’t live up to the expectations, the Grinch makes sure neither of them are going to get any joy from the experience. They are the antithesis of a Dance Santa: experienced enough to dance well, but unwilling to spend effort to make others happy.

So, they steal joy. Instead of giving joy to the newbie, the Grinch treats them like an idiot. They won’t smile. They won’t overlook any lead or follow ‘annoyances’, even if it would cost them nothing. Instead, they wait for the other dancer to impress them enough to be ‘worthy’ of their joy.

The One Who Becomes a Dance Santa

The people who don’t turn into a Grinch and stay with dance become a Dance Santa. They are people who start to understand how to create joy in a dance, rather than take joy out of what others give.

For example, smiles and ‘thank you’s mark the end of a dance, and even declines are with kindness and grace. Annoyances are dealt with through compensation and kind words, rather than a scowl

Dance Santa leads find ways to interpret music their partner can work with – even if it doesn’t mean dancing ‘on beat’ or ‘hitting’ everything. They adapt the type of movement they use to the follow they’re with.

Follows learn how to express through their own movement, rather than relying exclusively on the lead for musical fulfillment. They smooth out the inconsistencies to make great experiences.

They start nurturing – rather than expected to be nurtured. When they have a bad day, they take responsibility for creating their own happiness. They are not waiting to be impressed – they’re ready to make a good impression.

Spreading the Joy

When there are more Dance Santa’s, more dancers are happy. Newcomers feel lifted up and empowered – rather than crappy and incompetent. Communities thrive.

Every dancer has the capacity to become a Dance Santa. Some newer dancers need a little more time before they learn how to give that joy to others – but that’s because they’re new. Actively giving joy can only be done when you’re not constantly worried about what you’re doing.

That doesn’t mean newer dancers can’t be amazing and give advanced dancers joy – they just don’t have the technical skills to use dance to do it. The joy others get from them is because of who they are as a person, and is often linked to the joy the advanced dancer gets from giving the newer dancer a great dance.

So, here’s to becoming a Dance Santa, and spreading the joy of dance around the world!