How To Be a Partner
With the Ballare Ballroom Showcase less than 24 hours away, I started thinking about what all of this dancing means to me. Why do I feel so drawn to it; like it isn’t really an option NOT to dance anymore? In a way, I was meditating on the situation, trying to put the importance of the day and event in perspective, when the strangest, but most logical thought hit me:
Dance is teaching me how to REALLY be in relationship with another person.
I realized that I don’t worry or feel nervous anymore about dancing in front of crowds, because I really trust my partner to do his part. And lately, I’m beginning to believe he has come to trust me as well – to do my part and make his job easier. But it hasn’t always been easy.
To begin here with some honesty, I haven’t always been great at relationships. In the past, I had a lot of fears about participating in the full expression of a partnership. I thought that if I did, I would lose myself and become that other person. I was afraid to give in. I didn’t know how to maintain my self-hood when I was with another person. I thought that who I was would disappear.
In the three years I’ve been dancing with my current coach, JB, I have learned a lot of things I sorely needed to learn about being a partner, not just in dance, but in life. I’ve learned about patience, about shutting up when I need to, about asking for what I need and also holding up my end. I’ve learned about letting go, as well as being all in. I’ve learned to trust and appreciate leadership and working together. I’ve learned to translate words I don’t understand into something I can relate to. I’ve learned to allow someone else to see me fail miserably, to be ashamed, to give in to frustration, fear and anger. And maybe hardest of all, I let someone else see me expressing my deepest passion and love for something I cannot contain.
I let someone hold my joy in their hands; and I survived.
Now let me take a step back for a second and point out that my coach has been dancing and competing for 40+ years and when you stack that up against my 14 years, he has the obvious advantage. But what he also has is a LOT of patience. He put up with years of my dancing badly which isn’t easy, I know. He waited a long time for me to catch up, because even though he kept telling me what to do differently, it took a while for it all to sink in and for my body to catch up with my head and heart. The good thing is that he believed in me and my ability to improve. If it wasn’t for that, I would have given up. But the fact that someone believed in me and encouraged me, and caused me to want to get better, made all the difference. I knew early on that I didn’t want him to have to carry me. I didn’t want it to be hard work and so I put in the extra time and practiced so our partnership could flourish.
To this day, I still work out, do my drills and watch videos, all with the intention of being a better partner because when we move in tune with each other, the feeling is glorious. This feeling doesn’t happen all the time, and it isn’t constant, but it happens enough now to make me believe that the partnership is a good one. When you work that closely with someone, through moments of frustration, excitement, anxiety, hilarity, camaraderie and confusion, you begin to form a bond that just makes you want to work harder. We still have miscommunication and misunderstandings, but we try to face it with a sense of humor and a willingness to try again, and again, and again.
So I think about my other relationships now, with family and friends, about how much more I feel like giving (MUCH more than in the past) because I know that for it to work for us together, I have to be willing to give, a LOT. I realize I can’t do someone else’s work or make them do what I think is necessary. I know now that “my part” is all I can do, but I have to give 100% all the time. I can’t wait around to see what someone else has to offer, to decide how much I will give. If I do, I will only be disappointed – I will be the one wishing it had gone better – or feeling regret because I held back.
The biggest realization I came to (but didn’t really want to admit) is that at some point, the partnership (and what it has to offer), has to be as important to you as your own wants or needs. You see, in order for any relationship to work, it must transcend both individuals. It must take on a life of its own; a life that both parties in it value as a unique expression apart from themselves.
Now, when the music stops, there comes that moment when we separate and I know as an individual I still exist, intact, and nothing is lost. In fact, having the partnership as a part of my life makes me feel more myself than ever because I have a unique opportunity to express the deepest parts of my being, to bring joy to the surface for others to witness and that can’t happen when you’re alone. It can only happen together.