Dance "hacks"?
April 24, 2016 3:06 PM   Subscribe

Ok, "hack" seems like a gross word for dancing. But someone said, make eye contact with your dance partner and track their head. And it really helped...

I've been doing "ecstatic dance" type dancing for a few months. I hadn't really danced, ever, but I did lots of years of martial arts, so at least I could do things with my body, even though the actual motions are extremely different. And, now, I don't look too terrible when I'm dancing, according to my friends.

I've noticed, though, when trying to dance with a partner, for the briefest of fleeting moments there's sometimes a "syncing" feeling. I want more of this feeling. What do I do?

I'm trying to watch their bodies, hips, shoulders... I feel like when I move it's almost never quite... synchronized with what they're doing.

I'm male. I can feel beats, count beats, distinguish between upbeats and downbeats. I've read about some of the communicating with tension and pressure, and I've practiced with my girlfriend.

But that "syncing" feeling--I want it less fleetingly. Are there other feelings, too?

What do I do now?
posted by zeek321 to Human Relations (10 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Dancing is kinda like sex. If you're both immersed in the moment, with heightened attention being paid to each other, things start to flow.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:26 PM on April 24, 2016 [5 favorites]

You also might try learning some partner dances... with swing, there are all kinds of cues that leaders give to followers that keep them in sync, but are not obvious if you don't know them.
posted by Maias at 3:40 PM on April 24, 2016 [3 favorites]

Learning to move multiple parts of your body independently but in rhythm apparently helps.
posted by limeonaire at 3:51 PM on April 24, 2016

There's a fun exercise you can do with your GF, called 'mirroring' that will help you get better at this. You stand facing each other, and try to mirror (in sync) what the other person is doing. Start with just hands, like in the video, as you get better you can speed it up and incorporate torso movements, etc. If you do this often you'll start to get a lot better at looking for the subtle cues in how people start to move in different ways so you can follow or sync up with them.

Because ecstatic dance is less formal than other types of partner dance (and isn't necessarily partnered at all) there aren't standard 'cues', it's more a matter of learning your partner's personal indicators and / or developing your own dance vocabulary with that person. Once you get good at mirroring, though, you'll find you are able to drop into that space with a new partner relatively easily.

If you're doing the contact improv style dance, you can also take classes, as it's actually quite a difficult dance form to grasp if neither of you have done it much before. I'm not sure if they do this in Chicago, but here in SF most ecstatic dances have a contact improv class right before.

Best of luck! That awesome synced-up feeling when you're really flowing with someone is amazing.
posted by ananci at 3:52 PM on April 24, 2016 [3 favorites]

Seconding Maias. Learn partner dances, even just the basic steps for ballroom dances like foxtrot, swing, etc. Develop a strong lead and you can apply it outside of ballroom-style dancing.
posted by Cookiebastard at 4:36 PM on April 24, 2016

While I think social ballroom is delightful and will often teach you sync and flow, I argue that if you always lead -- or always follow -- you'll reduce your chance of feeling it. Imagine if you only ever pushed in t'ai chi push-hands... Getting someone else to reliably do what you want is not the highest form of synchronicity.

I bet if you just dance a lot more, with lots of interesting people and especially with your significant other, you will feel synched more and more often. Sometimes you will be synched with your partner, and the band, and everyone else on the floor, which if it isn't the Eleusinian Mystery is good enough for me.
posted by clew at 5:46 PM on April 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

Do what they do. And. But. Focus on how it feels to be then, to move like them. Take your own joy in these new movements, this new energy. its a form of physical empathy. Yes, like sex: revel in their joy as it lives in you.

Bonus: every new person is a chance to learn new moves.

Are you smiling when you dance?

Also: as someone who dances a lot, those moments of 1-on-1 syncing are always somewhat fleeting. I think the reliable best feeling is when you're generally vibing strong with a small group of friends or strangers on the dancefloor. Everybody's energy is feeding off each other's, and the sync is shared.
posted by wemayfreeze at 1:17 AM on April 25, 2016 [4 favorites]

As a martial artist and bad dancer, I will say that I have had some success adapting blocking techniques into dance moves. Shaolin Kenpo's 10 point blocking systemworks pretty well. If you know some forms you might think which of those could work also. It helps to take something you already know how to do and riff on it, which lets you stop worrying about what to do and just go ahead and do something, which lets you relax and pay more attention to your partner. Just make sure you don't knock anyone out, but that's something you have to pay attention to in martial arts anyways.
posted by cubby at 9:12 AM on April 25, 2016 [3 favorites]

I love this question so much because it speaks to the awkward joy of connection I learned to feel and seek in my early years of Lindy Hopping. There's such a joy when the invisible ego boundary between you and another person is temporarily transcended and you just flow. I'm gonna get very woo-ey (but this is a woo-ey question), I think the ecstasy you're finding in sync is part of a connection to unity (Unity?) that a large majority of humanity yearns for. It's magical when the sync happens because you are human and animal and holy all at once.

It will take time and practice, as it's a process of learning to feel the movement in your own body and embracing how your body moves. Like wemayfreeze says, a way to find that connection is by learning to transcend your self and anxiety and extend your perception and intuit/empathize with the movement of other bodies. Like feckless fecal fear mongering said, sync is the essence of sex, and I'll add also the bond between an infant to its mother- we seek bliss in Oneness with each other because it is primal and sacred.

I understand I'm throwing a heavy spiritual element into my response (and my apologies to anyone it turns off, I hear myself saying it and I know I seem loony, but I just believe it now after all these years dancing!) but the magic of dancing has lead me down a spiritual path I never expected. Musicians find this path too when playing with other because they've learned to listen. Watch the Ken Burns Jazz documentary and you'll see for yourself the beauty of bands that flow. I would also recommend meditation as a way of centering and knowing where your boundaries are so you can learn to send out safe tendrils past them when you want to.

For me the spiritual aspect informs my dancing, and I'm able to achieve sync more often while dancing, in part because I've been partner dancing long enough and with variety enough to be able to read the cues that lead towards sync, so it's partly fluency. But I've also learned to just drop all pretense and self-consciousness and just smile and be present for the dance with my partner. And when the power of the music heightens the moment, it creates a space where if they're ready, they can feel that openness and respond in kind, and it's this positively rewarding feedback loop that enables more moments of sync.
posted by Queen of Spreadable Fats at 12:05 PM on April 25, 2016 [3 favorites]

Actually, many good swing teachers will make you do both lead and follow! and since I mainly follow, I completely suck at leading, but it does improve your dancing.
posted by Maias at 6:03 AM on April 28, 2016

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