About a year and a half ago, my good friend Sarit called me to invite me to a special public event at the Arthur Murray Studio in Raanana intended to showcase the school's unique approach to teaching ballroom dancing. I had never heard of the school before and didn't know much about ballroom dancing, but I did know that if Sarit recommended it - I should certainly check it out.
I entered a large rectangle studio paved with a beautiful honey colored parquet floor. The studio was full of people of all ages, students and teachers, newcomers and veterans, smiling, chatting, and most importantly - dancing their hearts out. I knew at that moment that I was hooked. Ballroom dancing would be my newest addiction.
To be honsest, I entered my first lesson with my darling teacher, Anna, with a bit of a sense of overconfidence. Afterall, what's the big deal ?! all you have to do is memorize the steps and the rest is just having fun. I could not have been more wrong.
It quickly dawned on me that in order to really dance and in order to really lead in real-time - I must learn to really communicate with Anna.
Communicate without words.
As a person who has made a career of communicating through words, the shock of having silence imposed upon me generated a sense of both confusion and excitement. Many other past addictions felt similar at the beginning, so I had to trust my past experience, and dive head first into this strange place full of silence and music at the same time.
During the following months of practice and lessons, Anna taught me how to use our physical connection to transmit signals and silently lead her with clarity and conviction. Dancing had become our wordless conversation,
For example, we both lean forwards gently at all times to create a pressure point between our bodies so that I can indicate if we are about to move forwards or backwards. The palm of my right hand is always placed on the back of her left shoulder as the means by which I indicate with soft pulses whether I want us to move left or right, fast or slow, together or separatley.
The frame created by my right elbow and shoulder together with the shift in rotation of my torso is how I tell Anna that I want to take a sharp turn or suddenty stop. Sometimes I need to block Anna's movement intentionally to absorb her kinetic energy and through my resistance propel her, like a spring, into a a swirl or twist.
So, next time you see two ballroom dancers dancing a Waltz or Cha Cha - remember that their dance steps are just the words. There's a whole conversation going on hidden from sight that is enabling those two dancers to transform in real-time those single words into poetry.