Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Dance Etiquette And Other Nonsense

Do I have to do one dance or two? Can I refuse a dance? Am I supposed to say thank you, or is that the little sister of "This dance sucked balls"? It's those questions that one faces at a certain time once you've travelled a bit. While there have been many heated discussions about this topic, I'd like to offer a different perspective on these questions. One where it doesn't matter what side you chose.

It is completely normal for any social group to have a set of certain rules. They define the design of interactions and accepted behaviours. It might even be part of the groups identity. Social rules make interactions inside of the group easy and comfortable. Social dance rules arise from the fact that dancers form groups, sometimes country-wise, sometimes city-wise and often even smaller.

Taking A Look At Rules

Let's take the rule how many dances are polite. In the some countries, e.g. USA it is completely normal to dance one dance. In others, e.g. Switzerland it is completely normal to dance two. Now what I've seen happen all over the world that when two people from different countries with different rules meet on the social dancefloor, that one feels afterwards insulted. One might think it is rude of the other person to want two dances, while other one might think the partner didn't like the dance or that they themselves dance like crap and that's why the refused a second dance or said thank you and left. Is one of them right and the other one wrong?

Another example of a common rule that is heavily debated is refusing dances. Is it impolite to refuse a dance? Often the answer is simply yes. But what if your feet hurt? What if you want to dance this song with someone else, because it's your song? What if you need a break? What if you hate this song? What if you don't feel like dancing currently?

Sticking To The Rules

The lindy hop scene is a world wide scene with people travelling all over for workshops. People from different social groups mix all the time. Naturally everybody grows up with a different set of social dance rules. Is there a correct behaviour? There doesn't seem to be, unlike teaching methods, here things are just different. The problem we are facing hence is not that certain people are not complying to the rules and being rude, but rather comply to a different set of rules.

Based on the rules we are used to, we have the tendency to make assumptions about the reasons for someone's acting. The two above described situations usually result in either a bad feeling for oneself or in bad mouthing about others. Both results are going against a good atmosphere and good feelings.

We should remember how we make those assumptions - we make them based on our rules, rules that are supposed to help us get along better. The actual results can hardly get any further away from the original intentions.

Since we've learned in the meantime that pushing our rules onto others doesn't really work well, based on all those hurt feelings from rejections and bad mouthing, we should try to find another way to solve this. 

Breaking The Rules

Ask yourself how important those rules are to you. Ask yourself if they are important enough to feel bad about yourself or make others feel bad. 

Bending those rules or throwing them out of the window is not easy. It also requires a bigger inner calmness to notice those moments where we make assumptions that make us feel inferior or get a bad impression of others. But if you allow for bending those rules and allow for more possible reasons for a person acting in a certain way, it will be worth it, because you'll feel happier and others will too!

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