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On dance and relative introversion

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Apr. 25th, 2006 | 02:21 pm
mood: thoughtfulthoughtful

Sunday was an interesting experience, in an observation of dynamics and of my dance-self versus the 'real world'.

I had noted earlier in the week a somewhat interesting facet of my partnership with Steve. In 'real life,' or life that is the world outside of the dance floor, Steve is by far the more extroverted of the two of us. He is the one who will be loud and silly at parties, even when he doesn't know most of the people there, the one who will seek out new people and new contacts. He gets cranky if he doesn't socialize enough. I, for my part, am the quiet one, generally, who won't strike up conversations with other people just because they're there, the one who has to be approached and engaged. And socializing does eventually tire me to the point that I need to retreat to my own home or a lake in the woods or somesuch thing.

On the dance floor, however, and in the dance world, which is sort of a bizarre microcosm, I am more extroverted than he is by far. When dancing, I'm the one who is engaging and charismatic while he prefers to appear calm and aloof. He walks onto the floor with an attitude of 'here's my dancing, take it or leave it' where I play to and engage with the crowd. Which is probably why I describe the self that exists on the dance floor as a character of sorts. She is my 'inner diva' who loves to be the center of attention, a contrast to the self who would generally let other people shine and contribute quietly in the background.

The odd part of this is that people expect someone who is engaging on the dance floor to be equally engaging off the dance floor. As theatrical and melodramatic as ballroom is, somehow, people think that they're seeing the "real you" out on the dance floor. People often come up to me after competitions telling me how much fun I was to watch and how they hope that I do well. People come to me and ask me how long I've been dancing and who I train with and so on and so forth, and Steve sort of fades into the background. As the more extroverted of the pair of us, Steve is used to being the life of the party, the center of attention, and the person that everybody knows, it proved unsettling for him on Sunday, when he realized that he is becoming known as 'Liz's partner' -- the person who guides me around the dance floor.

shallwedance_ wrote a post once about how dance alters one's personality. While I disagree with that premise, I think that it certainly alters the facets of one's personality that people see and probably therefore alters perceptions. Meaning that, success in dancing is contingent on technical discipline, but also on performance, so the performative pieces of a person's personality start to shine through on the dance floor, eventually extending to social dancing and practice, because those traits are rewarded. (My partner, I think, has been slow in developing them because he has never needed an artificial social construct to start a conversation with someone. He is quite content to make small talk and have conversations about nothing, where I am decidedly not and often grow impatient with people who want to prolong these sorts of conversations for more than a few minutes).

An acting teacher I had once described acting as "behaving honestly in imaginary situations." While the situations are not entirely imaginary, competitive ballroom is certainly about evoking a feel and playing a part. For the Standard dances (Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot, Quickstep and Viennese Waltz), the feel is a recollection of Old Hollywood glamour. Of English gentility with men in tails and women in ballgowns. It is evocative of a time when things were restrained and formal and those formalities gave everyone a common ground. For the Latin dances, the feel is one of exotic abandonment that has been tempered by civilization. They are reminiscent of a culture (or set of cultures, really) that had to take their histories and rituals and conform them to an imposed set of vastly different ideals. Even social dancing takes on this feeling, to some extent as it certainly has a prescribed set of social graces, a clearly defined etiquette that is rare to observe in modern culture. Perhaps it is an unconscious recognition that construct that enables me to tap into my training as an actress and behave in a manner more extroverted than my typical self. By the same token, it is perhaps because Steve's general viewpoint about dance is that dancing is a sport and about technical excellence, not performance that causes him to be quieter and more distant in the same situation.

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from: anonymous
date: Apr. 26th, 2006 03:42 pm (UTC)
Link

Liz: http://www.dekay.org/blog/archives/does-dancing-affect-your-personality
Any thoughts?

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