Dance Chemistry

This post is about Dancing

The Good, the Bad, and the Neutral

I received a text from a friend last week that asked me to explain what dance chemistry means to me. I asked if I could take a bit to respond to her in a form that wasn’t a text.

Dance chemistry basically comes in three different flavors for me, good, bad, and neutral.


This isn't really the tango tranceGood dance chemistry is usually categorized by both partners dancing with complimentary emotion, taking pleasure in the music and the motion of each other’s body, and a focus on the other dancer’s needs as well as his or her own needs. These all usually happen with varying degrees of success, but when everything comes together and the stars open up, that’s what I call the Tango Trance, though I hear it happens in other dances as well.

Occasionally (all the time), this chemistry can be mistaken for sexual energy. Dances can be sexy without being sexual. I’ve licked people I’m dancing with in completely platonic ways, but that’s because of the dynamic we have. (I definitely wouldn’t lick someone who I wasn’t sure would be okay with it.) However, when the energy is sexual and there is that attraction there, it’s okay as long as both people are professional about it, or that’s something that’s acceptable between that couple. (It’s awesome to have a great dance with a significant other or crush and then make out. You might say it’s basically one of the best things.) If people aren’t approaching the dance from the same angle, that can lead to negative dance chemistry.

People don't always smile in tango, it's because we're too busy paying attention to each other to convince you that we're happy.             Since I brought it up and love talking about it, some discussion on the Tango Trance is warranted. I’ve had two types of trance. The first one, which is typically more common for me, feels like the world shrinks away and there is nothing that can go wrong; it is only you and the person you are dancing with and somehow you know what they’ll do before you know you’re leading it and it all flows together seamlessly—it’s like the music is doing the dancing for you and everyone else disappears. The second type is more akin to possession or lucid dreaming, and it only happened to me once. I was dancing around when suddenly I felt like I was moving so much more efficiently than I normally did, that I could feel my body like it was something separate going through the motions of dancing, but I didn’t actually have any say in what it was doing; afterwards my limbs felt tingly and I had this great air-bubble in my chest that I didn’t ever want to pop. Would it have been great to make out with someone immediately after both of these happened? Sure, but was I super bummed that it didn’t happen? Of course not, I just had a beautiful dance that I wouldn’t trade for any amount of face-licking.

In general, I find that good dance chemistry, especially with new dancers, is sort of like love at first sight. Your bodies already know how to react to each other and it’s just delightful and pleasant, but it helps if people know how to separate themselves emotionally from what happens on the dance floor, and the reality of how things are off the dance floor, so no one is made to feel uncomfortable.


Bad dance chemistry is like spoiled food. It’s something that’s supposed to be good, but isn’t  It can happen when one partner isn’t having their (I would keep going with his or her, but I’m using them, they, their as gender neutral singular pronouns dammit!) needs fulfilled. It could be the lead wants a very romantic dance, while the follow needs something lighter and more fun, which creates a conflict between the dancers where one has to meet the other, which might change the chemistry of the dance, they’ll find a way to meet in the middle (dancing in a cute romantic way that’s still fun and energetic), or neither get needs met.

If one person decides to make the dance all about them, that can also lead to bad dance chemistry. Occasionally you need a selfish dance where someone takes care of you and makes you feel like you’re the fucking shit, but if there isn’t some implication of “Hey, thanks, I’m so glad we could share that,” or “Wow! I really needed that and it was great.” If your default says this dance is about me only and you are my arm candy kthxbai, that’s a problem. Bad dances come from not respecting your partner, the people around you, the music, or yourself. All of them need to be in balance for you to have a good dance, but if a partner is a little short in one department or another it probably won’t ruin a dance.

No one's fault. Well, maybe someone's fault, but they aren't a tango dancer, so we don't care.

This is with one of my favorite people to dance with. But this night I was shaking because I had such a bad day, I thought I was going to throw up.

Sometimes negative dance energy isn’t anyone’s fault. Someone is having a crappy night and isn’t with the right person to deal with it, the song that just came on is terrible (I’ve had this happen before with someone who I normally have amazing chemistry with, we just walked off the floor rather than add something bad to our record), or any number of events can be going on. The best way to deal with the kind of bad dance chemistry where you and the other person are still friends is just to keep on plugging and have an open mind. Don’t blame them, and keep working on whatever made the last dance not as good as it could be; eventually the chemistry will get better.


It's all fun and games until someone gets pregnant

What do you mean this isn’t how you tango?

There isn’t anything wrong without having a ton of dance chemistry with someone. It probably happens with someone who you think is a fine person, but you don’t do backflips for the opportunity to dance with them. Maybe they’re style of dancing is so incompatible with yours that it’s difficult to form a connection with them (this could also mean they’re newer to the dance; new dancers aren’t bad, they just have a very different style), or you both are so tired that it just isn’t happening. These dances can be technically good, you can enjoy them, and you can even learn a great deal from them. I think many dancers tend to have a more neutral dance chemistry than people think, but that’s only because having excellent dance chemistry all the time, while awesome, is a bit exhausting.

Neutral dances probably lack emotional investment, but they work great as a sort of break between other dances if you just want to keep moving a bit. They aren’t really good or bad, they’re –gasp– neutral.


Hopefully all of that made sense. If you aren’t a dancer, I hope you can find some sort of connection that makes this clear to you since so much of life involves interacting with human beings. When I sent this to my friend, I asked her what her opinions on dance chemistry are, and I think it behooves us all to ask ourselves what our interactions with other human beings really mean. What are your thoughts on chemistry between people? On dance chemistry between people? Is there a difference between the two?

Go hug someone

Be a hero, dance tango.


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