I’m in San Diego for a dance event, but I feel incredibly sad. These weekends are supposed to be inspirational, energizing and rejuvenating. Sure enough, I find myself profoundly inspired by a tango performance that is the epitome of what I hope to become; it’s magical in every way.
However, my failure to find a skilled, dedicated partner has me feeling especially ungrounded. I’m suddenly feeling the angst of unfulfilled potential. I feel incomplete. I feel unchallenged and bored. I thought I had something unique to build upon; something that would attract an amazing partner who shares my aspirations. But right now, I feel that my “magic” is gone and I’m losing hope. I feel lost in the crowd. It hits me hard today and the confluence of all this has me nearly in tears.
I have time to kill, so I seek a place for lunch. I find myself at Café Gratitude; by the name alone, I know I will be at home here. I order a green drink and a black bean burger. The waitress brings the drink first. “You are complete,” she says as she places it before me with a reassuring, loving smile.
I’m a bit startled until I realize that “Complete” was the name of the drink I had ordered. The irony of this flashes through my mind as I take a sip. I don’t feel remotely “complete”, so I quickly distract myself with my phone until my food arrives.
And then it arrives. I turn from my phone to see a waiter holding my veggie burger before me. “You are magical,” he says with a powerful gaze into my eyes. He says this as if it were an indisputable truth. He says it as though he is commanding it to the universe. He says it like he intuitively knew that I’ve written myself off.
That’s when I got it. I ordered precisely what I needed to hear. I needed to be reminded that I AM complete – even without a partner. Perhaps my magic hasn’t worn off just yet – maybe I still have a shot at being a captivating dancer and living my potential after all. At Gratitude, everything on the menu is named with a word (i.e., worthy, extraordinary, brave) that is then used to present the customer with an affirmation.
I went to Café Gratitude for lunch. Yes, I got fed. But in a most unusual way, I also got validated. I felt that my soul got the hug it needed. I got reassuring whispers from angels and encouraging nudges to keep going. I heard the very things that I felt the greatest doubt about.
They could have just served me lunch and left me with a great impression of an amazing plant-based menu, awesome ambiance and flawless service. But I felt touched by their business model. I felt impacted by the experience. I felt re-centered and grounded by their thoughtfulness. One waiter, Rowan, talked about the company and menu names with such conviction and passion that I teared up.
The little things count so very much. Café Gratitude didn’t just serve me – they impacted me. And I really, truly, deeply needed that today.
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.