asked what I've been doing with dance lately. Mostly the answer to this is zouk, and I'm happy to say that my practice-partner and I are coming off hiatus next week! Before our break we were working on spins, counterweight, and balance moves, which are all areas I tend to find challenging, so I'm looking forward to getting back to those. There are three things that really make a dance for me: partner connection, spatial awareness, and musicality. Luckily, S and I share all three! We have a fantastic connection which has only solidified since I moved here, so that's not something we have to fine-tune much; and he's always looking at where he's going and where he's leading me, since he has a safety-first attitude towards dance. Similarly, we share an intense musicality that allows us to play so much
with every song, which is really the quality that turns "yay dancing with this person is awesome!" to "DANCING WITH THIS PERSON IS LIKE FLYING AND ALSO MY NEW FAVORITE THING, HELLO NEW DANCE CRUSH!" What I mean by musicality is a really subtle and detail-oriented kind of ear for music (I developed mine through years of classical music lessons as a kid; I'm not sure how S trained his). I've noticed that most leaders fall into one of two categories: those who listen for the melody of a given song, and those who listen for the beat. S is one of the few people I know who pick up on and play with absolutely everything
, which is why he's one of my favorite leads ever. :D
The other thing I've been doing is only zouk-adjacent, though I definitely think of it as a kind of cross-training, haha. Last summer, I started doing contact improv practices with a few zouk ladies, and it's really opened up my body awareness and sensitivity. Thanks to years of ballroom, I have a long-established habit of falling into learned patterns of movement that I've never quite lost. This is all very well and good for choreography/competition/performance purposes, but it's a problem when I'm dancing zouk in a social setting because zouk is super improvisational in nature. You can't do improv well if your muscle memory operates like an autofill/autocorrect! Contact improv helps to correct this issue because it literally doesn't have any preprogrammed movement; it breaks me out of default muscle memory and thinking ahead and focuses my consciousness on what's happening in the moment. I've said before that A:TLA's "wait and listen" description of earthbending captures the essence of what it is to follow in dance. Contact improv is helping me to achieve that state faster and without having to dance-marathon my way out of my head the way I've done at congress parties before. This, too, is a work in progress for me, but even with the few months of weekly practices we've done, I've noticed a distinct improvement!