“It’s Just an Old Ballroom Injury”

Happy Saturday everyone! Did you all have a good week?  Mine was rough, but I ended it with dancing, so it’s ok. I worked at a monthly social dance held by the local USA Dance chapter Friday night. I met one of the officers at a different social dance last year, which I was also working at, and he asked if I’d be interested in volunteering at his parties. I don’t do a lot, basically just help set up a few decorations at the beginning, audit the group class, and then hang out until the end to help clean up. Of course, I also dance.

In general, the same crowd shows up every month. And as usual, I am the youngest person there by at least 25-30 years. It doesn’t bother me; I actually really love seeing the older couples that come to dance. It doesn’t matter how skilled they are, it’s just great to see them enjoying the dance together. Makes me look forward to finding my own dance partner to grow old with!

I don’t get asked to dance a whole lot. Like I said, pretty much the same crowd shows up every month and I think they like to stick with people they know. Plus, at least when it comes to waltz, tango, foxtrot and Viennese waltz, I think everyone there has learned the International Standard style, as opposed to American Smooth. I can follow most of it, 99% of it with a good leader, but some figures I just don’t know and so I can’t fake it when the lead is unclear. When I watch others, I can tell that often they both just know the pattern that they’re dancing really well. There isn’t a whole lot of lead and follow happening. It’s always easier to dance with someone when you both already know the routine!

I’ve always wished social dancers would get more instruction on technique like proper lead and follow, and last night reinforced that wish. My shoulder was wrenched during two dances, partly because I think the guys didn’t know how to safely lead the turn they wanted and so they just tried to force it.

I think I could have prevented the first wrenching. The guy I was dancing with was giving me a very strong connection, and I tend to match whatever I’m receiving. But I realized later that while I was returning the strength I received, I was also tensing up. So instead of being firm yet flexible, I was strong and stiff. When the guy tried to lead an extra turn I wasn’t ready for, my tense muscles fought it and I felt that awkward twist and pull in my shoulder. It didn’t help that he was putting so much strength into his arms that he forced the movement instead of feeling my resistance.

The second wrenching was simply a result of innocent ignorance. I was dancing with a different guy and he just led a turn too late. Usually if the lead comes too late, I just don’t follow through and we try again. But this time, I think my partner, realizing he was late, put extra force in the lead to try to make up for the late timing (like it would make me get through the turn faster). Another awkward twist and pull in my shoulder.

Today, my shoulder is a little achy. No serious injury occurred, but I think I was just lucky. I’ve got strong arms, so they can withstand a little trauma. But the other ladies at the social dance who were all at least 30 years older than me?  Probably not so much.

I’ve heard stories from other ballroom females about men yanking, pulling, wrenching, etc. to try to force them into a move at a social dance. Some have been seriously hurt as a result!

I guess this post is a public service announcement. Guys, please please please don’t force your dance partner into any move! Neither I or any other lady should have to deal with a shoulder that aches when it rains due to an “old ballroom injury.” The blame isn’t completely one-sided. Like I said, if I had recognized I was tensing up during that first dance and adjusted accordingly, I probably could have avoided that first wrenching. But it also could have been avoided if the guy wasn’t trying to muscle his way through the dance.

So just take it easy on the dance floor! Your partner’s shoulders will thank you.


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