I had a funny dance experience recently I thought I'd share. There's a lesson at the end, so stay with me.
I gave Bill and Sharon a lesson one Saturday afternoon at The Ballroom. We finished at 7:00 and saw that Deborah, the dance director, was giving a lesson in Bolero that night, our favorite. We decided to hop into the lesson and see if she taught something we'd like to add to our repertoire.
Things were going swimmingly, and I was rotating from partner to partner. There was the usual collection of non-leaders and bad leaders and leaders who thought they were great dancers and leaders who knew they weren't but were trying hard. I came to one gentleman, who immediately started telling me about how Bolero is all about control, etc. etc.
I raised an eyebrow, but tried to keep my face composed. After all, I've never seen this man before, and he has never seen me. I rarely go on Saturday nights anymore, so a lot of people don't know me, and if he's from out of town or something, of course he wouldn't know who I am. I smiled and nodded.
Deb finished talking and told us to try again, so Mr. Bolero proceeds to over-lead me almost to the point of inflicting pain and throwing me off balance, counting for me and telling me what to do next. Had he been paying attention when we first started dancing together, he should have been able to tell the difference in my frame from a non-educated dancer and perhaps held off on the "help" until he could see whether I needed it (I didn't, thank you very much). Most leaders, when they get me in class and don't know who I am, immediately say something like, "oh!" Not to toot my own horn or say I'm a great dancer, but I am an educated one and there's definitely a difference from your typical beginner at dance class.
Anyway, we changed partners again and I moved on. When the dance started and Linda played a Bolero, Mr. Bolero saw me standing by the side of the floor and asked me to dance. I obliged, trying to rein in the smirk. He proceeded to over-lead and count for me for three or four moves before he said, "Oh. You dance Bolero!"
I smiled graciously and said, "Yes, I do. Thank you." I didn't mention I was a teacher. I usually don't at these things, because people invariably want free lessons on the floor.
He asked who my teacher was. I said, "Oh, I've studied under different people over the years."
He said, "Oh."
We finished the dance, he said we should do another some time and I graciously agreed, although I managed to avoid such an event for the rest of the night and haven't seen him since.
The lesson here is not that I am some sort of dancing goddess who should be revered (perhaps I should be, but really, that's not the point!). The point is...this man was so self absorbed that he had no idea what sort of dancer he was dancing with. Had he been CONNECTED to his partner, he would have noticed right away, not after five minutes together in class and several moves into the social dance.
I've posted about this before: connection is everything! In closed position, you can't necessarily look at your partner and are often told specifically not to...but that doesn't mean you are not fully aware of where your partner is, what their frame is like, and what they are doing. You can feel it all through your body contact and dance frame.
When you dance Rhythm/Latin/Swing, you are encouraged to look at your partner, especially in open position (open positions in American Smooth, too). You have much less contact with your partner, so having that visual not only helps with your connection, but with your three-minute dance relationship. Otherwise, you might as well be dancing with a mop.