Couple dancing

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After more than 5 years of teaching couple dances at Happy Dance Studio I can’t neglect the intuitive observation that couple dances are connected to and can have an impact on couple relationships. From the teaching perspective I often have seen how the couple’s chemistry gets lightened up or sometimes also challenged during classes, repeatedly I’ve seen how couple dancing builds strong teams, breaks the ice in between, develops mutual trust and respect within the couple. It doesn’t come without moments of awkwardness and tests of patience though – that is for sure. And yet it always has been and will be a fulfilling and wonderful adventure and a privilege for me to be a witness of these processes.

In order to verbalise my inner feel and hopefully to encourage more couples take on this path I made a short survey specifically to my students who are also couples in real life. The aim was to gain insights and feedback about dance classes and how they experienced them in the context of their relationships.

I have three types of couple dance students: those who learn wedding dance, those who join in the group classes and those who take private classes usually with an aim to spend time together or train dancing skills for some specific event. So I sent all of them a message and asked to fill out 10 question survey. 35 couples responded, from which 20% are foreigners and 80% Latvians. Their age is between 23 and 55 years.

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92.1% of respondents stated that dance classes have been qualitative time with each other. This feeling is shown to be even for both genders. One of the reasons of the positive valuation might be the motivation of starting the dance courses in the first place. 28% of students stated that their motivation to start dancing was spending time together, to have a common hobby or have fun together. 72% stated that their prior motivation was dancing, more specifically, learn dancing together, have active hobby, learn specific dance style, prepare wedding dance.

Respondents have mentioned also some doubts and struggles before they started the dance courses. Mostly they included fears of failing and awkwardness, financial concerns and time constraints. However, at the end 83.6% of couples are concluding that dance courses have definitely contributed positively to their relationships.

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I wondered if the positive affect to relationships might be connected to the 5 love languages discussed by Marriage and Family Life Consultant Gary Chapman: words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, acts of service and physical touch. To my mind there are two most obvious love languages a person can experience during dance classes – quality time and physical touch. In order to check if there is any correlation I asked couples to rank what is the most important for them in their relationships. Indeed three significantly favourite love languages got ranked and they were quality time, acts of kindness and physical touch.

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The facts are not graved in the stone but still I would suggest that if both or one of the partner’s top love languages are quality time or physical touch then couple dancing could become a valuable and enjoyable couple’s hobby that not just grants the common joy of dancing but also likely improves couple’s relationships.

Additional surprise for me was noticing that despite the small rate of males initiating the dance courses (only 9%), at the end they are the ones evaluating the overall dance course impact on relationships more positively than females (5,4% more). Is it because they had lower expectations or more concerns before starting the course, or maybe in a way learning leading has been a bit more joyful for them than learning following for their partners? These are just some of my guesses.

From what I see changing throughout last years it appears that more couples join dance courses because they are looking for fun dating options or mutual hobby. That makes my teacher’s heart happy and hopeful to see that the world is changing and so is the role of couple dance in Latvia.

Here is a link to my private dance classes page for couples just in case also you want to start a new adventure with your loved one.

 

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Year of 4 elements.

The end of year 2015, in Riga, is a piece of my diary. “This was a year of learning about my self and getting myself together, a year of 4 elements.”

 

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The year started with the realisation I hadn’t asked myself the most important questions for too long. It was time for a lesson from the Earth. I felt I had to get back to the basics. Was my purpose really what I had thought? What did I want to leave after me and how would I accomplish those things? These questions unfortunately can’t be answered by others or Google. It is only I who asked and who could answer. It was time to be alone and question. I remember it as quite dark, frightening and heavy time. Avoiding it felt as an attractive option, except I was so sure I needed to stop my doubts. The answers didn’t come fast. But I became more and more conscious as I focused on finding them.

The Fire taught me a lesson of being here and now. My teacher told me the ritual of walking across hot coals symbolises meeting all of my inner fears. He taught me how to walk on the fire so that I won’t get burned. He said I needed to be completely focused on what I was doing during the ritual so I wouldn’t get burned, instead I would break my usual thinking pattern and get a great energy boost for my next challenges. However if I started to be too confident, or if I dose, I will get burned. All my dancers learn about walking on fire, too. For example, each time they get on the stage, they have to be absolutely focused on what is happening and ready to react on unexpected turns. Sometimes the stage is more slippery than usual or sometimes the stage floor is in the sands, sometimes one forgets piece of choreography or sometimes music suddenly stops while one needs to continue. The stage is just one context through which we all together have felt how such moments lights up new strengths for new horizons.

The Water taught to take the risk of letting myself to be more honest and peaceful for all of the emotions I have, and especially for those emotions which we are usually taught to be kept inside because it is safer. Water taught me to say, I am sorry, I love you, I made a mistake. It helped to let tears run and laughs to be lived out loud, to consciously experience the moment of choice, to do as usual or to be more honest. Those are the best moments. It feels like time stops for a while and then it turns into a healing and refreshing flow. Flow that changes relationships, melts the ice, and fulfils hearts. Even if we think at that moment we are the most unprotected beings of the world, and even if that were true, there is no better road than accepting yourself as who you are. I love seeing how dance heals souls and the relationship with oneself. We are who we are and in the dance we often might be even more honest.

The Air. At the beginning of the year I was quite confident that I am an expert of letting myself go with the flow and taking the risks. I was challenging my students regularly to step out into the unknown. It happened as I was sitting with tears in my eyes, heavy heartbeats, and interrupted breath, when my teacher told me “You can’t walk on two roads at the same time. Because you don’t even give a chance to either of these roads to lead you somewhere and to please you somehow while you are still considering the backup roads. You have to choose. Take the risk and JUMP.” I understood my mistake. Similarly as in relationships, you are truthfully committed only when you let someone in your heart, lock it down, and throw the key away. Follow the calling, have no guarantees, and for bigger life decisions it may mean to actually let part of yourself die. So I jumped.

I am thankful to all my teachers who have confronted and counselled me. They helped me to not only stay on my road, but to enjoy it as well. It led me to create the dance concert “4 elements”.

Lilly’s labyrinth.

It was a dark night of the summer when I found myself at one of the biggest crossroads of that period in my life. At this time I came to a church – a white church in Krimulda. It turned out that it was opened to people all the day long. As I entered, I saw it, “Lilly’s labyrinth”, carved in a massive stone. I couldn’t believe my eyes – Lilly is usually my character’s name in the dance concerts. And I then read the lines below:

“Oh, God, of many roads, today I stand in front of this labyrinth, which is similar to my journey towards you. I had been taught in the western world that ‘the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, and as I am an impatient human, it is hard for me to wait. I take my way towards you by the example of a straight line. But you, God of infinite gratefulness, showed me that there is another road – a road full of turns. Walking this road has me hoping and longing more when I get closer to the centre but then I am taken farther away again. This road feels much more like my life.” (Jean Sonnenberg)

For a long time I was on a path of making a normal white collar career. I had studied hard and achieved a bachelors degree in economics and business. I got what at that time I thought to be my dream job as a strategic planner in a big advertising agency. Family and friends were proud of me and according to the standard viewpoint I was doing quite well.

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In summer of 2011 my friend invited me to a camp she was organising to lead some dance classes for kids. I felt quite insecure because it was my first time doing something like this and I didn’t have a clear plan of how it all will happen. I was more like going with the flow. Now when I look back on these couple of days in the camp they seem to be a turning point of my life. At that camp I started to realise what my purpose is and I for the first time felt that I was doing exactly what I am supposed to do. We were dancing and talking with the kids for most of the time that was left when they didn’t have other classes. They were passionately asking permission to the headmaster if they can wake up at 6 am to learn more dancing. We ended up dancing not only during classes but also at sunrises and nighttime. In a few days the camp of mathematics and physics became a camp of creating a dance performance for a concert to locals of the small town. I met my first devoted students who made me believe that I am good at teaching dance, and made me realise I could inspire people to be themselves as well as step out of their comfort zone. So my normal life got a bit shaken up.

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The following year my job at the agency became less and less important to me while my time with students became more and more valuable. My career led me to a natural point where I quit my job to open my own dance studio. The huge relief and joy I felt was taken over by doubts of wondering if I am doing the right thing and a phase when I had to learn live differently to accomplish my goals. At that time I saw myself as a creative entrepreneur and dance choreographer. I knew that I was following the signs that God was giving me but at the same time the road was bumpy and full of struggles. Sometimes I couldn’t believe that I was on the right path and considered I should turn around to the big and smooth road where all the other people I knew were driving.

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It was 2015. when I was working at my dance studio, teaching jazz, ballroom, and lindy hop. As a teacher it is important that my students do not relax in their comfort zone, I challenge them to take risks and grow and at the same time try to provide them with a dose of inspiration and a comforting environment.

As a choreographer I always create pieces that has a story with which I can personally identify. When I was working on a dance concert “4 elements”, I so immersed myself in the creation of the concert that it started a new chapter of my career. And that’s gonna be another chapter of the blog.

 

The beautiful battle.

People come to the studio with a beautiful dream – to learn dance. The beautiful art and way of self-expression. Rarely they are conscious about the other side of dancers’ world – the side that often has been kept in silence although is a daily experience.

There is something mysteriously wonderful in being on the edge.

So what really happens is that we enter a room full of battles: meeting own limits, encountering clumsiness, getting impatient or weak. In all of that the worst struggle, the most terrifying enemy we all face is the critique between our own ears. In other words – learning dance comes with battles. And from all that sometimes an inner question appears – why are we going through that?  I will tell you some of my observations.

There is something mysteriously wonderful in being on the edge. On the edge of our limits. When we think,”I’m not enough flexible, skilful, strong. I am done with this. I want to go home and eat chocolate (read – hide in my comfort zone)”. Mostly it’s not a question of our skills but our endurance. For me that moment is when I have to pull all my strengths to not give up. It is the moment to work up the courage to move past own vulnerability and uncertainty. That is the moment to continue striving. Because the beauty usually starts right a way – smaller or bigger victories of inner battles. The moments when we grow. The moments in which we fall in love and that keep us running and excited.

Through all these battles it’s so important to stay honest and loving to oneself. As one of my favourite choreographers Mia Michaels has said, the pleasing part of dance starts where we celebrate our strengths and weaknesses, our passions, our age, our sorrows – our individuality. That is when we consciously know and accept what we go through.

At the end, we need others. To teach and to learn from. To share the discoveries of ourselves, and to rejoice with them in their discoveries. We need others because we are all connected. We are part of the same whole. We need others as they need us – not to take care of but to be caring with; not to do things for but to do things together. And, here I want to say thanks to my dance students that I can be a witness and a companion of our inner battles and growth.

The sweet spot in dance.

When people play tennis they want to hit that one spot in the middle of tennis racket. That is the most precise rebound there can be. It is called the sweet spot. The sweet spot in advertising is when the ad brings “aha” moment within the audience. Sweet spot is that one spot which we want to hit no matter which science or field we are in. Today I was wondering what could be the sweet spot in the world of dance.

I see various options. Still, the one for everyone – those who are dancing professionally, those who are just having fun, those who dance only in front of the bathroom mirror or the ones dancing only in their dreams, could be the following. That moment when the mind does not criticise or worry how your dancing looks from aside. That moment when your moves are not planned and predictable. Your body is interpreting the music and surprises you. And that can’t go wrong. That is the point where you let yourself to be authentic and truthful. When you hit that point there is no way back. You are in love. And that is happiness. And, yes, it might take some terrible battles and a long way to reach.

This kind of sweet spot dance is not about performing or competing. Rather about daring to find your own movement voice and making it louder. Today is the day when we celebrate this beautiful art – dance. So I invite you to spend at least a moment, at least when no one sees you, to dance! Just for yourself.

Happy International Dance Day!

L.