Hi. This is an old blog. My name is Stefani, and I’m a scholar of philosophy and religion at the University of Oxford.
While working on my PhD, I wrote a blog about dance because I felt like a more nuanced discussion about the techniques and culture of partner dances was needed in the world. This was that blog. I regret that I’ve had to give up writing it, but as much as I love partner dancing so desperately, I am extremely busy with other projects.
Here’s the old ‘about’ page and the gist of what I was up to on the blog:
When I was two years old, I cried incessantly.
My parents noticed that if you put me in one of those swings that hung from the ceiling, I’d stop crying. One day my swing started to squeak. I burst into tears again.
This time my anguish was not so easily assuaged. It lasted weeks. Hating the universe and not the least bit sane, my parents enrolled me in ballet class. I stopped crying immediately.
25 years later, pretty much everything is the same.
I have been addicted to dance for a very long time. After that fateful enrollment on the cusp of my third birthday, I’ve logged (I think) somewhere around 26,000 hours of dancing.
In my young life, this dancing took the form of ballet, jazz, tap, acro, lyrical, contemporary, hip hop, and the like. I danced in choreographed pieces for ballet companies, in routines at competitive academies, in school productions, and in everything in between.
I loved it so much, earnestly and desperately. Dance was the universe that made my world make sense.
Yet it wasn’t until much closer to the present day – already in my mid 20s – that I discovered how truly potent, enlivening, and addicting dance really could be.
When I was 23 years old, I stumbled into partner dancing.
I stumbled into salsa, specifically. First. And then the rest of the Afro-Latin forms – on 1 and 2 and mambo and Cuban and Colombian and Puerto Rican and pachanga and whatever else you want to throw into Afro Latin music with a 123 567 beat – and cha cha and bachata and rumba and lambada and zouk and kizomba and all the many varieties therein. And then the American swing dances. Tango. And some ballroom here and there. And contact improv. And whatever else comes my way. Fusion. I will never understand why anyone only ever does one dance. They are each so beautiful and perfectly delicious in their own ways.
So what am I doing here?
When I first began salsa dancing, I didn’t understand a damn thing about partner dancing. Nor did I take the time to learn. I burst into every partnership like a bull in a china shop, flinging my arms and my hips every which way. I thought that having so much training in dance meant that I just did the steps and well… it was easy as pie to go right left right, left right left, on 123, 567. I looked down my nose at people struggling through beginner classes. I didn’t need classes. Classes were for n00bs.
But I did eventually learn that there was partnership in dancing. And communication. And a sacred dynamic between leaders and followers. I came to realize that my previous training helped me not one bit as a follower. In fact, it was a detriment to being a good follower.
Being a good follower, I came to realize, was an art unto itself.
And I was bad AF at it.
I needed to forget my programming. I needed to fit my body within the art of specific dances. I needed to study my body and it’s positioning in terms of how it related to the structure of the dance itself (for example, how big should my steps be?) as well as the particular partner I was with (do I need bigger steps for bigger leaders?). I didn’t know how to do any of this.
Most importantly, I needed to learn how to connect with and to feel my partner. This was so much harder than it looked.
But it was the most important part.
It’s hard. I am several years down the road, yet quite literally every time I go out dancing I discover some aspect of my following I can improve, and realize just how much farther I have to go.
This blog is a document of the things I have learned. It explores the things I am exploring. And it looks forward to the ever-expanding horizon of better connection and dancing.
And perhaps most of all, it invites your input. This is an endeavor that belongs to everyone, and more than anything I want your wisdom and experience.