It is important that everyone learn how to dance safely, and how to take care of our partners. It is important for leads to learn how to properly and safely lead, and for follows to learn how to properly and safely follow.
However, our quest for learning this material shouldn’t come at the expense of our patience for others.
When someone is a rough dancer, smells bad, has poor floorcraft, or some other undesirable trait, we have a tendency to equate what they’re physically doing with their intentions. But, I have yet to meet a single dancer who actually *wants* to hurt or upset their partner. These are still people who – despite all the stuff that’s not going so well – really *do* want to give their partner a good dance.
There is a caveat here, of course. Those who treat us disrespectfully as people do not deserve our patience. The dancer who ignores our requests to not execute a dangerous move is not a dancer who I would consider indulging.
But, the others… The ones who grip too tightly, or dip a little too low. The ones who didn’t realize their deodorant doesn’t work that well. The ones who aren’t quite leading or following properly. The ones who haven’t learned how to navigate the floor yet.
They should have our patience.
Patience and tolerance do not mean opening yourself to injury, doing things you don’t want to, or from encouraging improvement in others. It means recognizing that the person you are dancing with is not out to get you.
You can be patient and tolerant, but elect not to follow a dip.
You can be patient and tolerant, but ask that follow to stop gripping your fingers so hard.
You can be patient and tolerant, but still suggest a trip to the bathroom to freshen up.
If you are exercising patience and tolerance, you’ll go with whatever in the dance feels safe or manageable. You’ll dance without those bored and irritated faces some of us use. You’ll still thank your partner for the dance – even if it wasn’t super fun. This is especially true if it’s a non-dangerous habit, like being off-time or stinky.
Why? Because you can keep yourself safe without acting like a jerk.
For example, if I have a squeeze-hand lead, I have the ability to put my hands in such a way that they’re not a risk. But, I won’t sit there and roll my eyes at the lead doing the squeezing. I assume that they’re trying their best with what they know so far – and I know for sure that the finger-squeezing is not them attempting to leave their mark through a thumb-bruise.
If you are exercising patience and tolerance but feel you are in danger, your words should be your tool of choice. Ask for what you need, whether it be a lighter grip or no dips. While you always have the right to do whatever you want, a patient attitude goes a long way to both your social reputation and your enjoyment of your evening!
If you are ever in doubt on what to say, think about how you would like to be asked to stop a behavior if the roles were reversed.
I know that if you are reading this, you *probably* don’t think you’re one of those people who would inadvertently hurt someone, but try to imagine it. Imagine if you were doing something your partner found intolerable. What would you want them to do?
Well, now you know what you should do. Do it.
Patience goes a long way towards fostering dancers who are in a rough patch. If you make them want to get better by showing them how lovely dances can be, you will make a bigger impact than making them feel shitty.
People who feel shitty about their dancing rarely strive to improve. They either fade from the scene, or develop the attitude that people are against them. People who see what dancing can be like at its best want to BECOME a great dance partner.
Let’s cultivate the patience, and stop thinking in black and white. Rather than equate a bad dance habit with a bad partner or person, take it in stride. You can hate the fact that a partner is off-time, but enjoy their connection. You can keep yourself safe, but still be kind to the partner who is accidentally putting you in a dangerous position.
Photo Credit: Brian De Rivera Simon, Tarsipix Studios