When I take hip-hop classes, the instructors often refer to "swag" or "swagger" in your dancing.
One of the Merriam-Webster dictionary definitions is:
"... to walk with an air of overbearing self-confidence "
Outstanding dancers almost always have swag. They may do a very simple move, but their facial expressions and body posture are all about owning their movements and character. It's about playing a leading role, being confident, going big and bold. You acting as if you own the place, own the dance, and you're comfortable with your movements, both the large and small ones.
As a lead, you should have some swag in your partner dancing.
The stronger dancers have it in any social dancing, especially the guys. Few enjoy dancing with (or watching) a dancer who looks uncomfortable or timid as they dance.
In a comment on another article, someone mentioned, "There is no place for ego when two becomes one." My first thoughts was, "Hmmm… I’m not so sure about that because that means I’m off the floor and most of my leader friends would need to go home too."
My next thought was, "Should your ego be on display when you dance?"
The politically correct answer is "No! Never. It's all about my partner!" But hey, that is simply not the reality for the strong men dancing out there. Having some swag is fine. Salsa is about opposites attracting, and guys with big egos are often in demand if they handle it correctly. It's fine for guys to "show off" from time-to-time.
In other words, it's OK to have some swag in your dancing. Nothing wrong with projecting confidence, just don't believe your own PR. (No, you haven't arrived. We all have plenty of room for growth.}
It's about balance and I like the old 80/20 rule: If you’re a guy, 80% of your focus should be on your partner, 20% of the time you may highlight your boldest and then return focus toward your partner. (Maybe 90/10 would be a better target for some of us bigger egos… You be the judge.)
I'm one of many who tell you to take care of your partners, put them first, and make them feel great. You're missing it if you “over dance” your partners regularly. Your moves shouldn’t be shouting “look at me” most of the time, but rather “look at my beautiful partner.” She should feel like you're watching out for her, even when you show off some of your strengths.
Many times when you do it right, your best will bring out the best in your partners and they will seem brighter too. Feeding off each other is the ideal.
Does that mean I don't have an ego when I put the ladies first? Do I try to simply blend in and always stay in the background?
Heck NO! I'm one of the most egotistical guys you'll ever meet, but hopefully I express that in a way that works well for others. Most guys are pragmatic, making lots of mistakes while younger and some actually learn from those experiences. More mature men (little to do with age) have learned that looking great from the refection of their partners is a much stronger statement than taking actions that shout, "I'm great" or “Watch me” all the time.
Ideally, your dancing displays a quiet confidence most of the time, with flashes of brilliance appropriate for your partner and the moment in the music. Your ego is always there, but not always screaming for attention. A sprinkle here and there goes a long way. Your swag is never hidden, but you think about when to whisper and when to shout.
It's all about ebb and flow, and great dancers often dance way below their high-end technical abilities, instead maximizing their feel and focusing on their partners. They select strategic moments to pull out all the stops. While the ego may be bubbling below the surface, the best wait for the right partners and music, and even then they have moments of extreme calm and simplicity.
The strongest often employ the, "I've got it, but I don't need to show it every dance," type of mentality. Their ego is so strong they are comfortable if you don’t see it for a while. They aren't hiding it, but rather selectively letting it show through without taking away from their partners.
Most guys would never be in the clubs if they didn't have an ego, and few would put in the effort to dance well without an ego component. Dancing exceptionally well is a choice that some make because their ego is involved, and they want to stand out from the crowd. They work on it, often to impress the women and show off their skills.
I have no problem with men showing their outstanding moves, but I'm not impressed by dancing that isn't in sync with their current partner and the music, combined with a healthy respect for those around them.
I don't respect the egos that ignore others, over-dancing their current partner, and/or push others aside to grab more and more spotlight. Some guys abuse there skills in an effort to become the center of attention, in almost every dance, while their partners appear as an afterthought. That's way outside good sense and tends to be the mark if an immature dancer (or person).
Male dancers of all styles, all around the world dance well to impress women. A smart man takes care of his partner first because that is best for both of them. You can have a massive ego but still showcase your partner on the social floor.
Partner dancing doesn't require you to hide your ego, your swag or masculinity; instead, it's about channeling it toward a partner combination, and making her the star of the show most of the time.
In my world, ego plays a strong positive role in pushing guys forward; it’s about how you use it that makes it a negative or positive. Some swag is appropriate, just don't overdue it.
Let me know your examples of the male ego at its best and worst via the comments link below.
Follow your bliss. Find where it is and don't be afraid to follow it.