If you have read my about page, you know that my favorite dances are “tangos and the waltzes, but bachata holds a fun place in my heart.” It can be a little hard to explain just what makes a dance resonate with us. Sometimes we can pinpoint it: for instance, I’m often drawn in by footwork. Other times, it’s more abstract. It’s about how we feel in the moment of it. Here I’m going to do my best to put my love for these specific dances into words.
Viennese Waltz is known for its beauty and grace, bringing to mind debutantes swirling about a dance floor. Of everything on this list, Viennese is the one I have the least experience with, but from the first lesson my love for it was instant. This does not mean my talent for it was instant. Maintaining frame and posture was (and still is) a struggle, as well as keeping my feet from getting confused as we went from one turn and the next. Much of my first lessons were spent banging into and stepping on my teacher and not feeling very graceful at all. But then it would happen. The Click. Suddenly we’re sailing across the floor, spinning over and over. The exhilaration is so intense that I feel laughter bubbling up from my stomach and tightening in my chest. More than once I’ve stumbled away from such a moment giggling and slightly dizzy.
Like for many, smooth waltz was my first love. It’s everyone’s image of ballroom and represents everything beautiful and elegant about it. And that’s what I love about it too. I love the way it feels to glide across the floor in its sloping rising and fall, to stretch out my arms and fingers with beautiful reach, to hold that beautiful shape. So when my private lessons began, this was the top of my picks, and for a while was my strongest dance. Now? That spot has been taken over by…
When I say strongest, I mean I follow it with the most confidence. If waltz is my first love, tango is that budding crush that turns serious. The first time I took a group class for it, I was eager to learn but wasn’t sure how to feel. As my teacher said, “This isn’t TV Tango.” But with each class after it piqued my interest more and more, so I added it to my private lesson roster. From that very first private lesson, I thought “oh yeah, I’m going to love this.” (That and “my legs are burning!”) I love the closeness of the hold, and how it helps me feel so much more connected to my lead. I love the juxtaposition of the smooth gliding steps and the sharp stops and angles. It’s the femme fatale of ballroom (a phrase I credit to my teacher), and I fell in love with it for its drama and intensity.
There’s a lesson to be learned here that you can’t judge a dance by first impressions, because this one became my absolute favorite by me being absolutely terrible at it. All right, that’s not necessarily true, but despite being the one I study most regularly, it’s still the one I most regularly struggle with. That was the reason I picked it for my private lesson roster. Of everything we ever covered in group class, this was the only one I ever choked on. And that drove me crazy. In the beginning, I just wanted to reach a point where I understood it well enough to not struggle so much (ha). What I didn’t expect was somewhere in the second or third lesson, everything would align for just a few sweet minutes that would have me step back and think “That felt amazing.” It’s stressful and hard, and I spend a lot of time getting kicked and bruised (as much by me as by my teacher), but I was forever hooked. The close embrace, the footwork, the subtlety and intimacy. I love it all.
Bachata was a love affair a long time coming. The first time I had ever even heard of it was also the first time I danced it. And I felt completely in over my head overwhelmed (by bachata? Yes, bachata!). But as it is a favorite with my teacher as well with many in the studio, I got a lot of practice. Soon I found my feet for it. Still, my favoritism was leaning towards the other Latin dances I was more familiar. But that was all it took. Familiarity. Bachata and I just needed to get to know each other. As I learned more steps and became more familiar with the style (and stopped freaking out every lesson), I began having a lot of fun with it. It’s not something I really learn outside of group lessons, but I love it for my private lesson warmup. I still get overwhelmed by all the different ways you can dance it, and bachata shines are far from my strong suit, but the most fun comes in those moments and discovering everywhere this dance can take me.
What are some of your favorites?