What learning to dance taught me.

What learning to dance taught me.
Image courtesy of Skye Tan

by Skye Tan; Mandala Club Senior Marketing Manager and dance extraordinaire.

Let me begin by welcoming you to the world of dance. For the experienced dancers, welcome back!

I concur with the saying that dance is indeed an attitude, and not a skill - each individual retains their right in defining what dance means to them, and not by the standards of others.

Partner dancing can be found all over the world in many different disciplines, styles, and genres. It is usually danced with the gentleman as the lead and the lady as the follow. The more commonly known genres include the Waltz, Rumba, and Salsa while the less common ones include the Quickstep and the Paso Doble.

The benefits of partner dancing are endless, but here are three key gains that are less known:

A. Art and creation - The ability to express your own interpretation and style based on a given choreography allows for both individuals to exercise their artistic creativity. Dance actions can be varied based on just about anything, from the song of choice to the mood of the room, it's an excellent opportunity to flex your left brain not just by yourself, but with your partner in dance as well. More often than not, new creations are made in creative exchanges.

B. Body and wellness - Dancing is a great way to exercise your body, improve mobility, and enhance flexibility. Beyond the physically visible benefits, dance also strengthens the brain in many important ways, improving mental functions through coordination, the memory of choreography, as well as critical problem-solving skills when navigating an ever-changing dance floor filled with other dancers. Dance partners also help in increasing the challenge through counter-weight, resistance, and spatial awareness.

C. Connection - Partner dancing is a great way to hone your social skills - both verbal and physical. An evening of dancing will require both individuals to communicate their preferences through feedback and bodily cues. Every action and inaction has a meaning and it is up to each other to interpret and respond. It's a great test of teamwork while understanding what, when, and how your messages should be sent - especially important in keeping every dance fresh. The steps are just vocabulary to be strung into sentences and paragraphs for both partners to enjoy. And on the same note, different dance genres can be seen as different languages as well. Perhaps you might score bonus points in knowing if your partner prefers conversing in German or Spanish.

If you're enticed to join a dance class for the first time, here are three quick tips to ensure that you are well-prepared:

1. Dress comfortably - the first step towards an enjoyable dance is the right pair of shoes and outfit. For the Gents, it's always pleasant to be in a shirt or t-shirt and pants that allow for movement. For the Ladies, a comfortable top as well as knee-length skirts or pants that allow for ease of movement. It is always ideal to lean towards clothing made of stretchable materials.

2. Etiquette - Ensure that your partner is comfortable with the placement and firmness of your hold and touch, nothing inappropriate. Keep communication positive, remember your "please and thank you" when requesting a dance or an adjustment from your partner. Remember that it's an "up-close and personal experience" for both, do avoid strong or strange-smelling food, drinks and scents before a dance.

3. Enjoy yourself - Be present and non-judgemental of yourself and others. Create a safe space for all to make mistakes, improve and express. The only way to truly enjoy the benefits is to be conscious of what's in front of you and around you; your partner, the music, other dancers, and your audiences. Keep the distractions at bay until you're done.

Many miss out on the joy of partner dancing for the fear of two left feet. Like every experience and challenge that life has to offer, some are naturally good at scaling it, while others just need some practice to get there. But it is, without doubt, assuring to know that the benefits are worth the effort. Perhaps dancing with two left feet can be a genre on its own!

Finally, the joy of partner dancing simply cannot be expressed in words, I encourage you to try it yourself.