The practice of partner dance is more than just two sets of dance moves fitting together. There is that third element, that sense of something larger than the two of you working it’s magic in the dance.
I feel myself lucky to have started my career as a dance teacher as what would now be termed an ‘old skool’ freestyle aerobics instructor. Basically, choreographed sequences of moves to music for the purpose of increasing aerobic fitness. However, apart from a great level of aerobic fitness, what this gave me was a great sense of group energy when everyone is doing the same thing and moving in the same direction at the same time, as if we are one unit consisting of our own individual parts. It’s one of the reasons why group fitness is so popular and satisfying. It’s like when you do a group meditation or yoga class, somehow doing it in a group helps you go deeper and often feels like it is a more satisfying practice when compared to doing it on your own.
What I’m equating that to is that sense of ‘the third element’ that enters into the dance partnership when you really are in flow with your partner (or dance group). Understanding your moves/steps and how they fit into the context of your partner dance is one thing, but falling into sync with your partner and being uplifted by the energy of the dance you create together is another thing on top of that – a really beautiful part of the partner dance experience I think. You become like a tight band (the musical kind), everyone has their own instrument and part to play but when it’s really sounding great, it’s more than just the right notes in the right timing, it’s that tapping into the energy of the ‘whole’ that brings the music to life.
So, as a dance teacher, I wouldn’t want to talk about this subject without giving a few practical ways you can cultivate and strengthen your own awareness and ability to tap into this ‘togetherness’ energy. I would guess that many times for you it’s happened quite naturally on the dance floor, when you weren’t watching, you were suddenly in sync with your partner and being carried away together by the dance you were creating. How exciting! However, if you have the chance to specifically practice this with a partner, or a whole group, I would recommend it.
Stand together facing the same way (or in a circle if you’re in a group). Don’t face your partner as I want to take the emphasis off the visual and on to feeling the moving energy of your partner, which will be easier if they are next to you rather than in front.
Find a piece of music with a definite beat and begin to step side to side in the same direction as each other. Keep the moves simple, just stepping right together then left together, making definite movements to the right then to the left.
Keep going and take your focus off your feet and become aware of your partner’s movements.
Now softly focus on the beat of the music. Expand your awareness to encompass what you are doing, what your partner is doing and what the beat of the music is doing.
With your awareness expanded beyond just what your feet or body are doing, you begin to tap into the energy the two (or more) of you are creating and you can let yourself get carried away inside the whole dance you are creating together.