It took me about 5 years of dancing Brazilian Zouk before I began to understand what deep connection in dance was about. How energy can flow seamlessly as two people become one with the music. Now I can’t imagine to dance Brazilian Zouk without seeking this level of connection! It goes without saying that this concept transfers into other areas of life...
For me, there are three ways to train deep connection: the mind, the body and the spirit.
1. When we dance, our mind is receiving information from our senses, (sound, vision, touch etc.) and subconsciously scans this information with our past experiences in search of the best option. When we allow the subconscious mind to dictate the dance, we strengthen habitual movement patterns that skip over the present moment, limiting our capacity for feedback and connection. To train connection with the mind, focus on the shortest present moment that you can experience. This may be a sequence of moves, an individual movement, or a fraction of a move. By fine-tuning your experience of the present moment, you become conscious to the subtler energies of dance and partner communication, and this is the basis for deep connection.
2. When we dance, our body is the first link in the chain of receiving sensory information and it is vital that we are able to relax and listen to the information coming in. Many times I hear the question:
How much tension should I have in my arms?
Consider this, everyone has a different weight, power, sensitivity, flexibility, suppleness and intention when they dance, and searching for a specific value of tension is rarely going to be successful. Instead, train your body to listen consciously to your partners body, slow down your thoughts, your movements and your breathing to focus attention on the information coming into your perception.
Being able to relax the body, especially the arms, and activate a frame requires training. We can use the acronym BOOTY to remind ourselves how to relax and listen to our partner.
Breathe into areas of the body that are tense to release excess contraction.
Open the ankles and hips to control weight transfers and improve balance.
Open the chest and shoulders to activate a frame through your chest and arms.
Touch your partners body with the intention of listening to their movements.
Yield trust in your partner by reassuring them that you will take care of them.
3. When we dance, our spirit comes alive, and one way to express this is through emotion. To train connection within the soul, flood the body with a happy chemistry and nurture a positive emotional state at the beginning of the dance. This will lower stress and anxiety, also relaxing our mind and body) and pave the way for a purer dance story together. We can use the acronym SAEO to remind ourselves how to prepare our spirit through nurturing a positive body chemistry.
Fuel the body with nutrients before dancing. Serotonin that puts us in a good mood, is produced in the gut where food and water are essential for its release.
Gradually build up the energy dynamics of the dance story. Adrenalin thrives on anticipation and is key to our excitement and pleasure.
Explore a fuller range of movement at each joint and extension of each limb. Endorphins that mask pain and increase comfort are released with movement.
Empathise with your partner to understand their personality and capability. Oxytocin that allows us to form relationships, is released with acts of gratitude and empathy.
I hope this post provides insights and ideas for how to experience a deeper connection in dance. Needless to say, a rich understanding of the basic steps and techniques (here) are essential in this quest for connection. Take the time to practice these techniques on your own and communicate with your dance partner what you are working on.