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Being a Captivating Dancer

I don’t aspire to be a world class dancer. I want to be a captivating dancer. Watching 15 years of various styles of dance has left me wondering why some dancers are simply captivating and others are great, but… not so interesting to watch or dance with. Here are a few insights thus far.

1. We are an art form: Yes, dancing is about fun and expression, but it is also an art. The whole package – the movement, the outfit, the shoes (if you’ve seen tango done in dance sneakers you know what I mean), the hair, the body’s physique, the lines and shapes we create in our movement, even our facial expressions and attitudes. I love how ballroom, classical and modern dancers have perfected this concept. It seems that embracing dance as an art form changes how we dance – even socially. Beautiful aesthetics are always captivating for me.

At the end of the day, looks matter (that’s why they tan in Ballroom before a comp!). People flood to the ballet to see a beautiful body, in a flattering costume, moving gracefully and artistically. I don’t believe size rules out anyone here; but know how to move YOUR body and how to flatter it and showcase it beautifully in both movement and dress. People wouldn’t have cared about Jewel McGowan’s switches if she had been wearing cargo pants.

2. We are a storyteller: Some of my best dances are with guys who are actors. They understand how to tell a great story in a dance… They get into character and take me with them. Sometimes my partner eyes me like I am a morsel of buttered steak that he’s about to devour – and the next song he looks cold and furious and won’t look at me.

For me, captivating dancers are emotionally connected. And when that happens, a fascinating story begins unfolding. Whether we intend to or not, we are telling a story when we dance. Make it a good one. Make yourself vulnerable and express the energy you feel with your partner. Make eye contact. I never understand why people don’t look at each other when they dance. For me, it creates the impression of dancing together but not actually being together – so they seem disconnected from each other and the moment being shared. I use eye contact like spice; a dash here and there for emphasis. Eye contact is styling – use it!

3. We are in a relationship: The moment you say, “sure!” when someone asks you to dance, you have officially entered into a temporary relationship. So act like it. You wouldn’t enter a relationship and just do whatever you want with zero regard for the other person. In a respected relationship, no one truly wants to inflict pain, danger or embarrassment – or leave their partner feeling ignored or used. If you wouldn’t do it in a 5 year relationship, don’t do it in a 5 minute dance. We all deserve that respect, right?

I get tremendous insight in how someone operates in a relationship by how they dance. I can tell whether someone is a good communicator and a good listener by how they dance. Good partners are very in tune with what their partner is doing and expressing. They work in collaboration with one another… they assume joint responsibility for the experience. They expect nothing, but give everything. They listen more than they talk.

When the chemistry is good, my goal is to captivate my partner. I want my partner to be fascinated by the experience we are having. Sometimes a dance is not “just a dance”. We do that by fully entering the relationship and letting ourselves connect with vulnerability, openness and respect for our partner. I don’t want to be a “pole dancer” who treats my lead like he is nothing more than a pole holding me up while I do whatever I want.

What captivates me most is when I see two dancers who are utterly captivating to one another. If they are telling a fantastic, dynamic story (or conversation) in addition to being fully lost in their relationship with one another, they have won my heart. For total perfection, make the entire experience an art form with attention to all the visual details.

THEN we have a experience that captivates me at my very soul – and inspires me to pursue that in my own dancing.

young beautiful dancer posing on a studio background

credit: istockphoto

When Your Art Gets Ruined

Many years ago, I took a class from Dee Wallace, the actress who played the mom in E.T. At the time, she had been “blackballed” in Hollywood and consequently, was holding acting classes and life coaching seminars, one of which I stumbled upon.

Those weekend seminars fascinated me, but one particular experience stuck with me all these years. It was a rather jarring watercoloring exercise.

At the news of doing an art project, I immediately grew anxious. Definitely not my forte. Dee got everyone settled in with the proper acoutrements and told us to paint whatever we desired.

A miracle happened that day in July because somehow, I created something worthy for a lobby in a Marriott hotel. Sure it was an 8×10 watercolor on paper done in 15 minutes crouched on the floor, but I remember being extremely proud of what I had created. I was ecstatic.

Then Dee tells us to take our watercolor and hand it to the person next to us.

The guy next to me was a sketchy, struggling actor who looked hyper-paranoid and super emotional. I had zero interest in handing my precious artwork to someone who was probably going to be on the 6:00 news before he got cast as an extra.

Dee then instructed the group to use our watercolors to destroy the piece of work we just got. Paint all over it! Make it as ugly as you can! Do whatever you want! The Emo-guy holding my opus lit up – he slashed brown and green all over it before she stopped talking.

I’m horrified. My heart breaks. For the first time in my life, I did something artistic that I loved, that I was proud of and I had to watch it get destroyed by some emotionally unstable hipster?

The moment Emo-guy stoically handed my piece back, I felt broken. Dee tells us to really look at that piece. And then she calmly tells us to take our watercolors and to “fix it”.

How do you fix something that seems hopeless? Those first few moments felt tedious as I struggled out of paralysis into action. But my brush somehow found a color and a place on the paper… and then another color and another place… and ten minutes later, I looked at my watercolor and froze.

What I did the first time was good. But what I ended with that day – after fixing it from the brutal artistic trauma it endured – was actually FAR BETTER.

When Dee got blackballed in Hollywood, someone “ruined” her art. But it was only because of that incident that she got into doing the life work that brought her to her true purpose in life. She wanted to impact people on a spiritual level. Being an actress was fine, but being a coach, speaker and writer was a far greater contribution to humanity.

Recently, my “art” has been getting ruined. My plans for life changes keep getting hijacked. I’ve been stuck in “fix it” mode. So tonight, I pulled out my watercolors and I painted. And I remembered that session with Dee. I remembered that a ruined plan is simply the layer beneath something beautiful that I haven’t created yet. From destruction comes inspired greatness.

The ruins and broken pieces are what generates inspiration, creativity and brilliant new paths. Every broken situation is simply a call for us to dig into our creativity. A nudge toward something better.

Perhaps the ruined art, the fiasco at home, the loss of a job, or the mishap on the dance floor is simply an invitation to be greater…. to become more than what we ever thought we could be. We might just surprise ourselves.


JMW_Turner,_The_Sarner_See_(Lake_Sarnen),_Evening_c.1842,_watercolor

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