This past weekend, we celebrated my daughter’s fifth birthday with a big party in a local park. In addition to family (and “family by love”), we invited her friends from various places and times in her life. We had school friends, of course, and also friends she had made and kept contact with from preschool. And, there were friends who had come into our life randomly from no context in particular. Because we were doing the party in a park rather than a hermetically sealed birthday venue, we strongly encouraged (read: insisted) that adults accompany the children.
I watched through the day as my daughter played with everyone, no matter where their connection originated. No one was left out or made to feel unwelcome our out-of-place, even if they weren’t part of a particular social group. Similarly, Marina and I interacted with everyone, at the very least to acknowledge their making the effort to attend, and to appreciate their contribution by their presence to making the day festive and special.
When we go to a dance social or a club, we often dance within the social group that we know and are comfortable with. The higher level dancers tend to stick with others of their skill, and the less experienced dancers are often sufficiently intimidated by those displaying dance prowess leaving them in their own realm of skill. Over the years, I’ve often observed people from specific dance schools only dancing with fellow students of their same dance school. And, just last evening, I had a conversation with someone from out-of-town who related how difficult they found it to break into the Toronto salsa scene, finding few partners willing to dance with a complete stranger.
There is a great lesson we can take from children: Play with everyone, and everyone will have a fun time (even you!). Dance is about creating joy, happiness, and engagement together with others. Seek out those who are new to a venue, people you may never have seen before because you never know where that first dance might lead. Take some time to dance with a relatively newer dancer to show them what it feels like to have a great dance experience. Resist the urge to teach, correct, or criticize your partner on the social dance floor (aside from safety issues). And by all means, cross-pollinate dance ideas among “competitors” with mind and spirit that are open to the possibility of learning from anyone whom you may meet when we…
See you on the dance floor.