I’ve been watching copious amounts of figure skating on the Olympics (this is why I missed church two weeks in a row shhh) and it’s reminded me just now much I love dance. There is so much you can tell about a person from watching how they move. Look no further than two Russian figure skating superstars: Julia Lipnitskaia and Evgeny Plushenko.
Dance is a great way to discover something about a person: How they like to move, how comfortable they are with the opposite sex (yes I am from a Jane Austen novel), what sort of music appeals to them. How people dance with others says a lot about them—whether they care about their partner and try to help them, or hold on too tight and hurt their partner, or carry their partner (literally) across the floor because they are so tense. I’ve had all happen to me!
Below are just five dances and what they might say about your characters, as described by an amateur ballroom dance enthusiast.
The cha-cha is lively and fun, with enough distance to breathe but with enough bounce and Latin movement (ahem, hips) to be sensual. My dance instructor used to call the cha-cha the flirting dance. You strut your stuff but you’re allowed to be looking around the room and in general just have a fun time.
My main character, Perl, is a closet cha-cha dancer. She presents herself as very straight laced, but when it comes to it she can bust out those hips and have a lot of fun with a song like Ladykiller.
Rumba is like the cha-cha but far slower and more intimate. Moves are long and elegant (characterized by the cool slow-motion poses in the upper levels). It’s a dance for those so madly in love they won’t notice how (sometimes painfully) slow the beat is. My instructor used to tell us that whoever we were dancing this with, even if we hardly knew them, we had to convince everyone watching that we were crazy about each other. This dance has a lot of eye contact, and a tender but firm lead to it.
My romantic interest character, Luc, is a complete Rumba fella. He wants that one-on-one connection, the fade away of the world when you look at that someone special. Basically, he’s a sap at heart, no matter how chill he tries to act.
Quick, elegant, and close—the Viennese waltz is the dance for those who have very good coordination and who like being in someone’s arms. One thing I love about this dance is that, though it’s lead by the male, the follower has to be aggressive or it won’t work. My dance instructor always used to get on the girls in class because we would try to step around the guy instead of “through” him in the turn. It takes being very much in sync to even get the basic down in this complicated dance, but when you get going it feels like flight.
My princess character, Elatha, is a Viennese waltzer. She’s controlled, graceful, and does what it takes to get the job done. When it comes down to it, she’ll do what it takes to make the dance work and make it spectacular.
Swing is for having a good time and just going at it. This dance isn’t nearly as close as some of the ones above (though there are certain moves that bring you closer, of course), but the distance can be nice. It’s easy to chat with your partner, and it still requires an incredible amount of silent communication for the follower to read the leader’s moves. There’s also an underlying gentleness, even though the dance is fast, because it’s quite easy for the leader to hurt the follower if he isn’t careful about how he holds her hand or how he catches her. If your character likes to play around but doesn’t necessarily want to be abdomen to abdomen with somebody, this might be the dance for them.
I’ve got two characters who would love swing: Velimir and Melle from Blessings. They work as partners, and what’s important to them is letting loose and enjoying the freedom of movement you get in a fast, crazy dance.