The Dance of Relationships

Ah, you seek meaning. Then listen to the music, not the song.Kosh

Six or seven years ago I danced for a Salsa team and without explicitly understanding the character of dance at the time, I acculturated into a language and system of relating built upon deep, intrinsic components of the biological and cultural human organism — body language and subtle non-verbal cues. I’ve matured in the years and relationships since my Latin dancing days and I understand better the nuance of this meta-dance, the dance of relationships, that every person experiences. My use of the word “relationship” is a bit different here, closer to the way in which one might use the word “relativity” but enlivened with human emotion; by relationship I mean the internal one between my point-of-focus and whatever the object of that focus is: a person, an idea, a desire, etc… I believe that clear, personal meaning in life requires an inversion of the point of attention from the objective relationship to a subjective one.

I’m writing this article to externalize (mainly for myself, I refine my thought a lot when I write something other people will read) a personal elaboration of the timeless and in my opinion, worn-out phrase: “be yourself”.

The timing in my life, around 2010, amplified the experiences of being on a dance team because I was hungry for richer interactions with people and didn’t understand the tacit, sometimes subtextual notes of human social dynamics. I learned that dancing well meant honing my ability to navigate the expression of Self within a complex, adaptive environment and with a non-static partner also navigating the expression of their Self in relationship to me.

The seeds of my enlightening arrived on a nondescript night at the Salsa club with my team. All of us were dancing the night away and as one song faded and the band transitioned into the next, I asked a lovely lady to dance with me. As we began to dance I realized she didn’t understand the basic step or structure of Salsa. We both ground through that song in an awkward sequencing of body parts and cow bells until that song transitioned and we both promptly walked off the floor. Directly following our exiting of the floor the leader of my Salsa team swooped in and escorted that same woman back, for the next song.

He was masterful in the interaction because despite her lack of experience he led with a strong frame, asserting in a controlled manner with the rhythm of the music fun little twirls and movements all over the dance floor. He would shine (little movements focusing attention on you) and leave her to do whatever she was doing then at just the right moment, not allowing her to feel awkward, glide right back in on the correct step to gently guide them both into more controlled movements.

The quality of their experience together was blatantly superior from the interaction between she and I. When I talked with him about what I had observed after their dance, he told me that dance is about having fun and in the case of most Latin dances it’s also about enjoying an experience with another person. He said, “the ability of your partner when you’re out on the dance floor shouldn’t negatively affect your experience and a mature dancer can craft one that is a lot of fun for themselves and for her, no matter the skill-level.”

My anecdote is gender-polarized but the generality of the meaning should remain intact: Maintaining a strong frame regardless of the circumstances or environment is the key to managing your own subjective experience and imbuing the objective one with your own panache. Relationships and interactions like this have an authentic timbre colored by each personality that is deeply human and uniquely pleasing, I think.

My understanding is the result of numerous years and experiences adapting to that abstract entity we call “Western Society” and its deficiencies in paideia; building healthy intuitions for the mode in which one interfaces with the world and the members of their tribe is important for overall satisfaction with life.

This exposition was primarily focused on an analogy with dance and a relationship to other people because “other people” have been a big topic for me in my life and I’ve applied it to instances in which I’ve encountered an idea or emotion in which my relationship to “it” was not immediately easy and needed an adaptation in my dance with the object of my attention to achieve clarity or resolve.

So, I think what I’m trying to say is: Learn to dance for it teaches you a lot about yourself and how to manipulate or observe your relationship to something or someone; learn to maintain a firm frame from which you can ground your interior experience of relationships — projecting without happens to be a second-order effect of that habit. Also, sensitivity to your inner-universe gives you a powerful adaptibility amplified by strong frame.