It is very easy to get caught up in the process of learning and dancing patterns. There is sooo much more to Ballroom Dancing than patterns. Often, Ballroom Dancers never progress beyond the pattern phase. Unfortunately, this situation is more the "rule" than the "exception". These dancers become what I call "Pattern Dancers". They know a lot of patterns, but there is very little if anything else going on in their dancing. Ballroom Dancing, in my opinion, is what happens between the steps of the patterns. That is where all the good stuff happens. Adding "S P E F" (Strength, Power, Energy, & Feeling) to your dancing is a good start.
"S P E F" is initiated by the leader but both partners participate in its execution. The leader initiates the action and the lady adds to it, enhances it, embellishes it, etc. Ultimately it is a two-headed four-legged partnership action.
"S" stands for "Strength", through partnership connections. I'm sure you have seen dancers moving around the floor and there is barely a physical connection between the partners. They are basically walking through patterns with each other. There are physical and logical connections that are accommodated through the frame. There are many different levels of strength used during a dance based on the actions being performed. The frame connection is dynamic, adapting and changing.
"P" stands for "Power" through movement. Again, you have seen couples moving around the floor that look like they are stuck in one speed (slow or fast). Power is generated from the supporting leg/foot. It is hard to follow and hard to generate any consistent and controlled power when the leader powers from the free leg/foot. The power of the partnership varies, based on the actions of the dance elements being performed. Power accommodates longer and shorter steps, starting and stopping, partnership rotation, rise and fall, etc. This gives your dancing a dynamic look and feel. When the leader changes the power the lady must match that power. It is very exhausting for the leader when the lady is not participating.
"E" stands for "Energy" through the music and the results of "Strength" and "Power". I'm sure you have heard a song being played that really makes you want to get up and dance. The energy from the music and the energy that is a result of "S" and "P" creates an energy charged partnership. The partnership is a uniquely energized two-headed four-legged animal. Once the leader is energized, the lady will become part of it almost unwillingly.
"F" stands for "Feelings" from all of the above. The ultimate goal of Ballroom Dancing is what I call "the four-legged feeling". This is that feeling of complete ONENESS with your partner. There is a sense of feeling as a partnership instead of an individual. You move as one, you think as one, you feel as one. The lady seems to know as soon as the leader what is going to happen.
Ballroom Dancing at its highest level is a feeling activity not a mechanical activity. Both parties are contributing to create an overall partnership feeling. Be aware that there is not a single feeling. The feeling is constantly changing depending on all of the above. That is the beauty of Ballroom Dancing, there are always new feelings.
Learning to Ballroom Dance may seem like a daunting task. Obviously there are many levels of Ballroom Dancing. Just take it one step at a time and enjoy the learning experience. Please be aware that there is so much more beyond patterns. You will be missing so much if you stop you're dancing at the "Pattern Dancer" level. Take heed that the more you know about Ballroom Dancing, the bigger the unknown seems to get. The great thing about Ballroom dancing, just like any other sport, there is always more to learn and enjoy.