Tis the season for employee engagement surveys—that annual exercise which provides a typically unreliable glimpse into motivation (or lack thereof) in an organization. In an environment that is overly bureaucratic, where an individual’s autonomy might be limited, where the HiPPO (Highest Paid Person’s Opinion) always take precedence, it’s easy to understand how people might simply be going through the motions when it comes to their contributions to the organization’s success.
This got me thinking: Is there an analogue in the dance world? Is it possible that some people are simply (if literally) “going through the motions” on the dance floor. What does it mean for a dancer to be disengaged?
At a basic level, a dancer could be disengaged if s/he repeats studio patterns to the count in their head. In this case, the dancer does not engage with either their partner or the music. Instead, they are caught up in replicating a pattern of moves that had been taught in a prior class. This isn’t to say that one shouldn’t use the social dance floor to practice new skills and even new repertoire. Rather, when doing so, one should respect the enjoyment of their partner and the social milieu. If you’re trying out a novel combination and it doesn’t quite work, make sure that you flow seamlessly into moves that you do know well so that your partner still enjoys an engaged experience with you.
Some dancers disengage from the dance event when their ego gets in the way. They may consider themselves “too good” to dance with people deemed not worthy of their talents. Or, they may disengage when potential partners are too tall, too short, too skinny, too fat, too plain, wearing the wrong clothes, hanging with the wrong people. These people show up to be seen, possibly to dance with objects of their desire, but are so engaged with themselves that they are effectively disengaged from anyone or anything else.
So what does it mean to be fully engaged when you dance? Clearly, you have good connection to the three, critical elements: music, partner, and floor. Moreover, in those connections, you are totally present, especially with the partner. You aren’t thinking about the next dance with someone else, or whether the previous dance was better, worse, or otherwise! Your focus is on creating something magical in this moment, with this partner, dancing to this music. To be fully engaged often means that you have a fleeting moment (or two) when you think, “this could not be any better!”
Next time you’re on the dance floor, check in with yourself. Do your own, personal dancer engagement survey. Create an “action plan” with the intention of enabling every dance to be your best.
See you on the dance floor.