One of the things that we want to accomplish through ballroom dance is to go beyond the personal need to feel seen, heard, and valued to eventually see, hear, and value others. Partner dancing can take us from worrying less about what others think of us to worrying more about what others think of themselves, and ultimately, ballroom dancing can help us become more confident with and more caring toward others. If we only teach people to dance and give them the confidence to move outside their own comfort zone step by step and we do not give them the encouragement and the tools to help change the lives of those around them, we have not shared with them the most wonderful gifts of social dance.
Our number one job is to get guests because our goal is to spread the benefits of the movement, the cooperation, and the recognition people get from dance to as many people as possible. By showing our students how to better see and to reach out to other people—family, friends, acquaintances, and strangers alike—we are improving our students’ confidence in themselves. We are helping them to see the potential of the people around them and to reach out to make a difference in another person’s day, if not their life.
Today, through social media, we can feel we are much more connected to others than we were in the past. We reach out into the ether and can get a like or a comment that makes us feel as though people see and know us. The irony is that social media can separate us as much as it can bring us together. We often focus on the best, most impressive images, events, and people in our lives in an attempt to craft our online identity. How happy, fulfilled, and busy we seem online may not align with how we really feel. We think this profile helps others know us better, but in actuality, the artifice of the portrayal puts more distance between us. This pretty fiction we present to our friends and followers gives us the illusion that people really understand and appreciate us. While they see what we post, they rarely understand where we really are. This disparity between what we perceive and what is really going on reminds me of a poem I read in college by Stevie Smith:
Not Waving but Drowning
Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.
Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he’s dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.
When we don’t take the time to really tune in or to really listen to people, we can get the impression everything is fine, while in reality, most people live lives of “quiet desperation.” We are all drowning a little. We are all fighting our own battles. When someone takes the time to focus on us for a time can mean the world to us. So we owe it to ourselves and other to reach out and connect with others. Even people that seem to have it all together from a distance could use a smile, a kind word, and, yes, a little more dance in their lives. Ballroom dancing brings us close enough together to really see more of each other. We, literally, get back in touch with each other.
So remember, the next time someone says they are “fine” or the next time you reach out a hand in invitation and are rejected, they may not be open with you because they may be afraid you are simply being polite or cautious of revealing their vulnerability. We owe it to ourselves and to others to be persistent in our attempts to get to know each other better and to encourage each other to take steps to try new things and meet new people. For only through our connecting with other people can we become more than who we are and join the dance of life.