THE RULES OF SOCIAL DANCING

How well you dance is not nearly as important as your willingness to get up and try.

How well you dance is not nearly as important as your willingness to get up and try.

Even in the 21st century, it's worth repeating a few basic civilities.

If someone bumps into you on the dance floor: apologize, even if it's not your fault.

Be considerate of the person asking you to dance, even if you're going to tell them you're not interested.

Use your words. A forceful gesture, an imposing glare, or a vigorous shake of the head does not communicate.

Thank your dance partner.

Try to enjoy yourself by enjoying the people around you.

They're all such basic ideas, yet so elusive to so many people. Perhaps more important is that they ought to apply to most aspects of contemporary life. They need not be relegated to dance floors of the world.

If you're a guy who identifies himself in a traditionally masculine way, don't worry. Going dancing with your girl is only going to make you more of a dude. If you're a woman who can't easily cotton to the idea of letting a man lead, abandon your concerns at the door. Are the traditions built on the tropes of ancient gender roles? Sure. Can they be translated into modern expressions of joy, without too much tarnish from oppressive paradigms? Uh, yes. Yes, they can.

In short, the rules of social dancing are these: take care of the person with whom you're tripping the light fantastic. If you're good at this, kick up your heels. If you're fortunate simply to balance on your own two feet, revel in the change of your ordinary ambulation. Social dancing is that perfect fusion where creativity speaks in rhythm. It's a moment where what we're feeling right now gains fuel by tapping into a license for letting those feelings out, without hesitation.

For the many people terrified at the prospect of getting up and shaking their tail feathers in public, consider the scene a little differently. When you design a skyscraper, it all begins with a doodle on a pad of paper or a gestural stroke on a computer tablet. The significance may result in a physical building years down the road. But when you go dancing, and abandon all thoughts of self-consciousness, you're making those same strokes in time. There may be no skyscraper; the physical expression of your body becomes the tangible result all by itself. Traveling through space with someone else, simply for it's own pleasure, is a moment of invention that should be grabbed whenever possible. In fact, that's why dancing generally happens surrounded by other people doing the same thing. Buoyed by similarly transported people, the expression of life in all of it's messy, off balance, try-as-you-might ways amidst others doing similar things reminds us that we all must find ways to create, even as we all must rely on other people to make our social spaces. Without them, there is no one to occupy our skyscrapers. Or more specifically, without anyone else to dance, we're just dancing with ourselves.

--MS

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