Dancing Will Never Be Safe

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May 30, 2018

Partner Dancing Will Never Be Safe

We will forever remember 2020 as the year the world shut down. Covid-19 has opened our eyes to fears and worries that have not been visited since the early 1900’s with the pandemic of the Spanish flu. Buzzwords like “social distancing,” and “PPEs” are as common in our vocabularies as our colorful masks are as fashion statements. “The roaring 20’s” means something very different this century around. Say, “Goodbye” to salsa, tango, foxtrot, waltz, swing, two-step, cha-cha and more! “You are all just too risky and dangerous of a behavior!”

Social distancing is the exact opposite of what we as partner dancers do. We live to create and experience human to human connection, merging bodies with music in a euphoric art form we know as dancing. Feelings of joy, laughter, and human connection with each other are the rewards of dancing that keep us coming back. Today this activity just isn’t safe anymore. Dr. Anthony Fauci, American physician and immunologist and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is quoted as saying, “I don’t think we should ever shake hands ever again, to be honest with you.” Gregory Poland, an infectious-disease expert at the Mayo Clinic says, “When you extend your hand, you’re extending a bioweapon.” For an activity that literally requires the holding of another person’s hand, this is extremely terrible news. Those face masks worn for fear and protection, now hides our frowns of disappointment for a life once filled with smiles, joy and connection.

Will partner dancing ever be safe? The answer is “no!” 

Dancing is in our nature and the soul wants what the soul wants. Will partner dancing ever be safe? The answer is “no!” The truth of the matter is that it never ever was safe. John A. Shedd in 1928 is quoted as saying, “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.” Social partner dancing always comes with inherent risks. Or to rephrase; Human to human contact will always come with inherent risks. Partner dancing became more popular than ever just after the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 with the birth of swing dancing. Now nearly 100 years later we are facing a similar threat. Dancing as we know it is going to have to make a change and adapt, or disappear altogether. What those changes fully are is yet to be determined, but it will never be considered “safe.”  Your choice to dance, or not to dance, can be a part of history this time around. Just as skydiving will never be deemed “safe,” so true is it with dancing. You can’t dance without taking a little risk.

Already things are looking like they will never be the same

Dancing is changing, and for the better! Already things are looking like they will never be the same, and that’s a good thing! Dancers are staying away from others when they are ill and not feeling well. Personal hygiene, regular hand-washing and sanitizing is a more common practice. Venues, dance halls, conventions, and studio policies are allowing for credits and refunds when illness prevents someone from attending. This encourages attendees to stay home when they are sick with symptoms instead of exposing others by attending for fear of losing money on tickets and passes. Caring for those at higher risk has become an important priority for us. Business cleanliness has become more important than ever. Taking steps to honor and respect each other in-order-to be able to dance, is what it will take to overcome the fear of what “could happen” by dancing with each other.  

Partner dancing will never be safe, and it never was before. 

Who knows what the future holds with partner dancing? In a time when everything has pushed us to being separated, can dancing become even more popular than it was before? Well it happened nearly 100 years ago after the Spanish flu pandemic with the birth of swing dancing. Dancing can heal us and bring us all closer together? People are starving for the benefits of dancing! The fun, creativity, connection, friendship, community, exercise, human physical contact, unmasked smiles, and the feeling of togetherness as one, can replace the fear and separation felt by this pandemic. Partner dancing will never be safe, and it never was before. Mike Ryan, emergencies director for the World Health Organization says, “This virus may never go away.” So to keep dancing alive, as dancers, teachers, directors, event organizers, judges, audiences and fans of dancing, have to trust and care about each other more than we did before. We must take extra care, use love, wisdom and kindness to guide us. Even with all imaginable precautions in place, partner dancing will still have dangers and risks associated with it and never be deemed “safe,” (Just like jumping out of a plane). In the end, it is you who will have to decide if the thrills of a salsa, tango, foxtrot, waltz, swing, two-step, cha-cha and more are worth it. 

-Don Clark

Backyard Ballroom