The Responsibility of the Advanced Dancer

In 2000, I was just an enthusiastic young dancer, who had taken lessons on and off for a few years, but could not keep up with my training because I've joined the U.S. Marines.  Needless to say, I was very rusty.

During one of the many visits to my family in the NY/NJ Metro Area, I tried to take as many classes as possible, and dance at every social.  Jimmy Anton's, Taj, Nell's w/ DJ Elvira, Greek Lounge in Hoboken, Copa Cabana, Latin Quarters, Mambo Throwdown, Side Street and Bernard Martinez Social.

I could dance and execute some cool moves, but my timing was a bit off, and  New Yorkers are very particular about staying on time... Needless to say, I was having a hard time.

I was there about twice a month, quite often for living in NC, so my face was becoming somewhat familiar.  During one of Bernard Martinez's socials, his wife, Sonyo Martinez, asked me to dance.  I was surprised, because she was not only the host, but one of the best follows in the social.  She was so nice to give me feedback about my timing, and spend a whole song after the dance, helping me understand the on2 timing.

Then we danced again, and it was incredible.  All the moves I've worked on, all the shines, all the spins, all of the sudden found a place within the music.  She changed my dancing that night, by spending 5 minutes with me.  She made me feel welcomed, she made feel capable.  Within those 5 minutes, she changed my life.  I doubt I could have ever become a dance instructor if it was not for this experience, which I'll forever hold in my heart.

20+ years later, I've tried my best to pass that gesture forward, and I try to dance with as many new faces as possible.  I encourage my dance instructors to do the same, and we try to teach our dance students proper etiquette from their beginner lessons.

Advanced dancers only got there because other advanced dancers helped them during their beginner steps.  We have to remember that.  I'm pretty sure all advanced dancers have a similar story.  That one person that helped you, guided you, inspired you.  You probably remember the night it happened, the place where it happened, maybe even what you were wearing (Mambo Fateegz Black On2 t-shirt, blue jeans and white jazz shoes for me ).

In a healthy dance community everyone is welcomed.  No matter age, size, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, social status or dance level.  We all need to continue with the work, so that many more generations can enjoy it... just as much as we have.

Finally, Dance instructors, as leaders in this community have the power to change someone's night, day, week, life.  We are responsible to create, develop and maintain a healthy dance community.  Let's help create an environment, in which we all can unite with respect, and enjoy each other's love for this art form.