Core values form a strong part of what people do and why they do it. Core values can be thought of as the set of principles inherent within a person that directs them towards what really matters, and guides them towards success. They are non-negotiable, and what a person fundamentally stands for, regardless of the circumstances they are faced with. They are considered to be central to the success of a team and the development of character. As a dancer, I have recently been thinking about whether or not there are a common set of core values amongst dancers that contribute to their character and the reputation of a typical dancing community.
I believe dancing is a form of non-verbal language between two people. In the partner dancing styles that I have been learning, there is a fundamental “lead and follower” concept where the lead initiates the moves and the follower executes them in the manner they feel is being called for. It’s a form of “call and response”, which eventually turns in to an elaborate and engaging physical dialogue. If you already know how to do a particular style of partner dance, or are about to start learning, you will know, or come to realise, that it is an amazing experience.
Dancers feel the presence of the dance. Dancers are aware of a number of things while they are dancing, namely the person whom they are dancing with, the music they are dancing to, and to some extent the other dancers around them. However, when the dance starts to flow, not only is there an awareness of these three things, but there is also an awareness of what can only be described as the personified presence of the dance. The dance seems to become an entity with a personality that’s defined by how the lead and follower interact with each other. Dancing can be thought of as a creative process that gives birth to this entity.
All dancers will come to know of the tremendous value that dancing adds to life. People start learning to dance for different reasons, which can include wanting to develop a new hobby, expanding their social circle, or wanting something to do that helps them release stress. But fundamentally, every dancer is in it for one thing – enjoyment. I have not met a single dancer that takes to the dance floor with the intention of having a bad time. There may be times where there is the odd hiccup during the dance routines, but the intention to go out there and have a good time is universal amongst all.
To a dancer, the dance floor is more than just a smooth wooden surface. It is a place their souls are pulled to on a weekly or daily basis. Dancers know that the moment they put their foot on the dance floor, whatever challenges and burdens they were carrying during the day or week are likely to slide right off them, even if it's just for a few hours. For a dancer, a dance floor is a place of healing, a place where they can go to stabilise their inner self.
Having had the privilege of learning partner dancing styles from some of the most experienced teachers across the UK and overseas, I have only just begun to understand the importance of a dance tutor. Yes, dance tutors are the people that make sure you develop the skills, techniques, and routines to help you perform well on the dance floor. But we often forget that the great things we experience as a result of having a good dance are directly attributable to their tremendous efforts.
It is because of a tutor’s ability to teach effectively, that dancers can say that dancing makes them happy. It’s because of their efforts to repeatedly bring people together week after week that dancers forge good relationships with each other and subsequently build strong communities. Hundreds of people go to dance tutors throughout the year and walk away feeling happier and better connected with themselves and others.
Dance tutors are people who live normal busy lives off the dance floor and have their own challenges running in the background that their students are likely to know nothing about. But, they are very resilient characters who subconsciously know that they have a big responsibility to ensure their students remain happy dancers. Dancers look forward to attending their lessons because they know they’re going to be welcomed by an enthusiastic person with a big smile, who genuinely wants to be there and make sure that they get the most out of the lesson. Dance tutors undoubtedly deserve a tremendous amount of respect because of the unseen effort they employ to instil you with skills that are going to last you a lifetime if maintained.
As someone who has been learning to dance for a number of years now within a large and highly diverse community, I have identified the 11 core values below that appear to be a fundamental part of the character of most of the dancers and tutors I have made connections with. I can even go as far as saying that if you are not a dancer, but will be starting to take lessons soon, then you will find that you start to develop these values over time.
Some of the best dancers are good at gratefully accepting dances with people who initiate them. They do not question or judge a dancer’s ability, or who they are and where they come from. None of this really matters. I have known dancers who have many years’ of experience that have accepted a dance with someone who has only been learning for a few weeks. Good dancers know that accepting a dance is very much about helping someone with their confidence levels as much as it is about enjoying the dance. Sometimes dancers may genuinely need to decline a dance due to needing a break, for example, but it isn’t uncommon for the dancer who declined to go back and offer a dance once they are ready.
In partner dancing, the dancers (leads and followers) learn moves and routines during their lessons. However, it is mainly when out social dancing that they creatively combine and adapt them to create an enjoyable dancing experience. It is fair to say that the lead dancer holds more of the responsibility when it comes to initiating moves and being creative, however, the follower tends to contribute to this through their stylistic responses. Over time, dancers learn to execute and combine as many moves as possible to ensure the dance is a stimulating experience, and it is through a streak of creativity that this is possible.
Dancing doesn’t always go well, especially during lessons. There are times that dancers are learning very complex moves that can take weeks to master. Experienced dancers know how good it feels to finally master a move and repeatedly use it on the dance floor. Dancers also know that the more moves they have under their belts the better their dancing experience is going to be, and it’s because of this feeling that dancers are determined to keep trying. What’s also great about partner dancing is that sometimes individuals become determined for their fellow dancers to master the moves so that they can experience full enjoyment when out social dancing.
Dancers are fun people on and off the dance floor. It’s easy for a dance to turn in to a serious performance, especially if the lead initiates complex routines. But good dancers never forget that the essence of dancing is enjoyment, and if that means sacrificing a few complex moves to maintain the vibe they have built up, then that’s exactly what they will do. As dancers become more experienced with dancing with each other, they also learn how to engage and entertain each other during the dance, which naturally injects more fun into the experience.
Good dancers are very clear about the fact that they are life-long students, even if they are tutors. Dancing never gets boring, and one of the reasons for this is because there is always something new to learn from someone else. That someone else could be a tutor or a fellow dancer that has learned from another tutor. They are also never afraid to get a move or routine wrong because they know that learning from mistakes is a big part of the process. Good dancers are also humble enough to seek constructive feedback from tutors and other dancers to refine and improve their moves.
Intuition is about understanding something instinctively, without the need for any conscious reasoning. Experienced dancers generally have a high sense of intuition during the dance. Leaders use it to understand how well followers are likely to execute certain moves they plan to initiate. Followers use it to understand what the lead is likely to do next to ensure that they execute moves gracefully and smoothly. The leader and follower also use intuition to understand whether or not one of them is ready to stop dancing or would happily continue, allowing them to find a comfortable point of closure.
I’m not talking about love in the sense of two people who are in a relationship. Generally, dancers naturally exhibit a healthy degree of platonic love, which brings a sense of ease and relaxation to the dancing experience. It is the kind of platonic love where dancers smile, give eye contact, express a sense of humour, and compliment and give gratitude towards each other on the experience. It is this platonic love that I believe contributes towards building a strong sense of connection and togetherness within dancing communities. Dancing communities are like large families but without the genetic connection.
Members of dancing communities will selflessly lend a helping hand to their fellow dancer if they feel there is a need for it. There is also a lot of sharing that goes on amongst dancers, which in itself is an act of love. They share videos of dance routines if a class is missed, they share cars to social dancing venues on nights out, they share tips and tricks during conversations on how to dance better, and they even go as far as sharing personal belongings.
Different people have different learning styles that will dictate the pace at which they learn to dance. Some prefer to take one-to-one lessons, while others feel they need to repeat group courses a number of times before they move forward. Sometimes, a learner can be experienced in one form of partner dancing, which can mean that it can take longer for them to adopt another style. There are even some cases where dancers actually suffer from learning disabilities that are unseen to the human eye, which affects how well they digest and apply what they are being taught. Good dancers are patient and will accept the differing levels of abilities and paces at which people are comfortable to move forward. Some of the best dancers will know how and when to help effectively.
Learning to dance can be a challenge, especially if you are a beginner. There's a lot to think about, and ironically we're often told not to overthink things to help us grasp the teachings. The best dancers are those who are fearless about getting things wrong, but immediately willing to learn from their mistakes. They don't let setbacks in their learning stop them from getting back on to the dance floor. Getting things wrong in class can be tough to handle, but getting it wrong while out social dancing can be even harder. But, because the dancer already knows how good it feels when it all comes together on the dance floor, with a resilient mindset, they compose themselves and give it another go.
This value is the one that stands out the most amongst all of them. Respect manifests itself in many forms within the dancing community. The dancing community is incredibly diverse and is made up of people from different backgrounds and cultures, people with different appearances, and people with differing levels of ability. On the dance floor, there is mutual respect for all because good dancers know that the act of dancing means a lot to each dancer in their own way. Taking the dance away from the dancer as a result of being disrespected is like sucking the lifeblood out of them. Disrespecting a dancer in any way can sadly deter them from coming back on to the dance floor, and this is not something that a good dancer would dream of doing.
While out social dancing, I have unexpectedly seen dancers end up on the floor. This has often been because they took a step or two in the wrong direction due to trying to initiate and execute a complex routine. Dancers tend to have high levels of trust towards each other. This is especially the case while out social dancing when two dancers that have never danced together decide to do so. Neither the lead or follower is sure about each other's abilities or stylistic preferences, but they trust each other to gradually build up the momentum of the dance into an enjoyable experience. As a result, members of the dance community can find that they also trust each other in relation to things that are not dance-related, and this contributes towards the strong bonds that are formed amongst dancers within the community.
As a reader or dancer, you may or may not agree with the 11 core values listed above, and might have your own to add to the list. Whatever the case, it is evident that the character of a good dancer is comprised of a set of positive core values that have a direct influence on the quality of the dancing, the relationships that are formed as a result of attending classes, and the strong communities that are built as a result.
Dancing is more than just learning how to dance. It is a process of self-discovery that can assist you with opening up parts of your character that you thought never existed, and a skill that everyone should try to develop at least once in their lifetime. It is an expression of how great it is to be alive, and has helped people get through some of the toughest periods of human history. It breaks all barriers that people have built up over the centuries and can be found all over the world in hundreds of different styles. Time will inevitably change everything, even dancing, as new styles arise going forward. But, it will never change the human urge to want to get up and release the dormant energy that sits within as a creative expression of how great it is to be alive.