We all know the saying that every coin has two sides. Two sides of a coin can symbolize two sides of yourself, two different meanings of something, two sides of the situation you are facing, two different schools of thought...
Two sides of a coin oppose each other, although they belong to the same coin. Recognizing the edge of a coin, another dimension to it, can open new perspectives, which you might find beneficial in establishing collaborative relations in movement and with other people.
Difference in seeing or feeling things can cause confusion, can be a start of an argument or even a fight. How many times have you found yourself in a conflict with your partner, teacher, parents, friends or colleagues? But more importantly, how do you deal with disagreements? Conflicts are inevitable, what matters is how you respond to them.
The edge of a coin
Two sides of the same coin seem different, yet they are very closely related. The issue at hand is an "either/or", "one or the other". For example, your own or your partner’s violent reaction can also be an expression of deep insecurity. Or something else?
Being able to stand on the edge of a coin offers seeing both sides more clearly and recognizing that there is a third option. The edge of a coin helps you realize that "one or the other" could be "both", "one and the other" or even "other than that", an additional option beyond the usual binary perception.
Have the courage to walk on the edge of the coin. The edge might be the best perspective to see that at one point, one side cannot exist without the other, but eventually, other ways could be discovered as well. Wise people are teaching us that the third option is often overlooked. When you lack awareness behind your thoughts and emotions, you act from a limited perspective. Your mind would insist on choosing between "one or the other" side of a coin while your awareness can elevate you to see more options at hand.
The pleasures and dangers of ambiguity in dance
Ambiguity is the quality of being open to more than one interpretation, therefore it is the most potent aesthetic function. The combination of opposites creates new expressions and provides unlimited possibilities for creative work. Ambiguity has always inhabited all art forms and ballroom dancing is a perfect example. Continuous merging of different movement and music traditions from all over the world have created new aesthetic expressions. Each ballroom dance has unique life history, from its birth place and era to the present day.
You are playful and creative by nature, therefore your spirit, your curiosity, will always drive you towards the unknown, discovering new. It is a game we like to be part of, as it requires boldness and an adventurous mind – a challenging game of “eat the cake – have the cake”. On one hand, you should keep the stability of basic principles, but you want to fly away freely, release your fantasy and give a new look to old material. Your experiments are not necessarily destructive to the style of the dance, they could be your sincere attempt to search for new expressions or just a naive choice of a shortcut in order to trick or even deceive spectators. As long as the clarity of our dance style is not violated, there is nothing wrong with experimenting.
Ambiguity can lead into absolute vagueness – for whatever reason.
In competitive dancing it seems that “more”, “bigger”, “faster” have crossed the line of common sense. Overloaded choreography cannot cover up for the lack or even loss of fundamental ingredients and their balance. Yes, you can put nearly all Ballroom figures into Viennese Waltz, including Feather Step, but do you end up with the same dance? When the ambiguity in dancing will become too self-negating, denying the fundamental principles and historical evidence, then perhaps it has no chance to attract greater audience or survive the test of time.
You have to learn how to play this game. The new meanings will derive from purely movement transformations in the sense of actions and dynamics chosen. The more ambiguous the movement gets in this sense, the more expressive it will become. In ambiguity, the structural clarity can occasionally be lost, however, new meanings can be created. All great choreographers and dancers are in a way rule-breakers, but they are not without an innate awareness and intuitive perception of sense. They know that artificial language will never compensate for the truth of the human universal language. Otherwise we would have a form without the content or a form at the expense of content.
Stylistic differences are maybe not so crucial, regardless of how far we go from established concepts. You can always rely on your inborn sense for qualities that you perceive as stability, concept, the character of a dance. What your eyes and ears perceive as sense and completeness will be holding you on track, therefore you should trust it. Some walls of tradition and stability were often knocked down for the purpose of rediscovering, creating new movement expressions. You can find yourself on the side of tradition, you can be opposing it totally or you can elevate yourself to the edge of the coin. From there you can appreciate both, the tradition and new discoveries and add your own contribution.
Try to see your own dance interpretations as a process of growth. Your growth is continuous, it's not the dream of a lifetime; it’s the dream that takes a lifetime. Use your abilities, grit and curiosity to balance old traditions and values with your new discoveries and thus contribute to the institution of Ballroom dancing.
"Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist."
Ego and a deeper sense of self
There are two dimensions to who you are. One is known, defined through your physiological form. It is your thinking entity, which creates your conventional sense of who you think you are. When you identify with a thought, this identification becomes a part of your ego, which is attached to your achievements, position, wealth or even others’ opinion about you. Others’ opinion or your views are not the essential part of who you really are. Problems that you face are mostly created by the narrative of your mind that conditions you to see things in a particular way. You can then be immediately offended as your ego loves to be offended. And to prove somebody wrong is also a big win for the ego. Your ego is one side of a coin and your opponent's ego is the other side of a coin. If you accuse others, they will probably fight back with their ego. So the reality can easily be taken over by fiction, created in your mind. Ego, in a way, is a disconnected sense of self.
But you have another dimension of self available, your awareness, your true presence and consciousness that allows you to be a watcher of your thoughts. This other dimension of yourself is deeper and not so defined. Your deeper sense of yourself doesn't necessarily rely on what your mind is saying, but it can use your intelligence as an instrument of expression. The purpose of everyone's evolution is to find that deeper layer which connects your real self with others. This is your “edge of a coin” perspective, which awakens you from subconscious patterns, often full of compulsive judgements and labels that your mind creates.
How to step out of compulsive thinking, habits and where to start? Peace in your mind means less fear and anger. You need to calm down, be it through breathing exercises, meditation or a walk in nature. Any activity, where you can just be present and peaceful inside, is helpful. Being in peace with yourself will allow you to deal with other people or situations differently.
How to improve communication with others
Be aware that you don't identify yourself with a problem or your thoughts about it. The situation you are in and the way you think about it are not one phenomenon and you need to learn to separate them.
Ask yourself: "How would I experience a certain situation, if I wouldn't have any unnecessary thoughts about it?" How would you react to the situation without the interpretation of the mind, with no extra baggage from the past? Experiencing a situation through the narrative of the mind or without it are two types of differentiation, one of the self, and one of the situation. You can approach the situations in an undetected way. When people face different aspects of the same problem, the focus should be on the situation and not the person with the different view. You can see the other person as a counterpart who is struggling with some aspects of the same problem that you are. Using your empathy, you may become aware of the other side's perspective, how they see the situation and what they feel. When you understand better their rules and drives, you can communicate rather than argue. The other side can be seen as a cooperative possibility and not as an enemy.
Good conversation is a collaboration rooted in empathy.
In the actual conversation try to avoid using "I" (like "I feel" or "I think") as it is not only about you, it is primarily about the situation with two or more people involved. Terms like "It seems", "It looks like" or "Sounds like", "Feels like" are holding neutral grounds for all involved.
It is more important to perceive and understand the situation rather than control it. If you feel that you need to know more and you are about to ask questions, avoid the question "Why?" as it can often cause a defensive reaction. Using questions starting with "What?" or "How?" will make people who are in conversation with you feel more in charge and without fear that they are being attacked. You may also ask for empathy by saying: "How am I supposed to do that?" or "How will I overcome the challenges that I have here?" We all appreciate the help offered or received, when we need to think it through.
When you argue, you want to prove your point of view, you want to explain it, therefore you are not really ready to listen. Hence, it is your non-reactivity which gives time to the other side to start listening to their own intuition first. The best fighter is never angry. In any conversation you can count on the sanity of others. Do not hold rigidly to a single idea or a set of assumptions. Stay open to multiple theories, styles, or ideas in order to gain complementary insights into a subject.
Using suggested approaches above, you can be a collaborator rather than an opponent, always open for new, undiscovered ways of communicating and perceiving.
Sources of inspiration
Leonard Bernstein, Harvard lectures, 1973
Eckhart Tolle, Stillness Speaks, 2003
Chris Voss, Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It, 2016