I had my first dance lesson this evening.
I’m finally learning how to swing.
I’m finding that the hardest things for me to learn are not the steps.
The hardest thing is actually unlearning the things that I’m good at – being an independent, single woman.
But this sort of dancing isn’t about me, it’s all about how you move together. So the unlearning has begun.
1. Don’t Expect –
When I would expect what step would be next or where on the floor I would be led, most of the time I stepped on my partner’s toes and got ahead of the beat, messing up the dance. The only expectation necessary is that my partner will lead me into the next step. To dance well with another, one has to be present to the step at hand and not focused on guessing what is coming next.
2. Follow –
When I’m used to doing my own thing, in my own time and in my own way, “following” is a challenge on the dance floor. The free spirit in me that likes to flit and float whimsically doesn’t help either. The instructor said this evening, “on the dance floor the man is always right.” The man has more to remember, granted but simply put, dancing doesn’t work with two leaders. To dance well, one has to follow and one has to lead, so that two can move as one around the dance floor.
3. Close your eyes and trust –
I have this tendency when dancing to look at my feet. This is a hazard when moving around the dance floor. A shy streak doesn’t help either. To break me of this, my instructor had me dance with my eyes closed. Closing my eyes, called me to trust my partner and feel the movement of the dance. To dance well with another, takes trust and and the courage to look them in the eye.
4. Tension is good –
I’m a laid back gal and am not a fan of conflict, stress or tension. But tension is necessary in dancing. It is necessary to be able to relax and move together. Tension in the frame (the points of contact of the arms and hands) allows me to know what direction we’re about to head and when I’m about to be turned. Tension actually allows one to lead and one to follow without a word being spoken. To dance well with another requires a frame, a defined space and the right amount of tension in the connection points.
6. Small steps are best –
I have long legs, which means I have a long stride. Big steps, long strides and before I know it, I’m out of sync completely. Small steps are best in dancing. Yes, they help keep me in time but they also slow me down. I relax more. I enjoy the dance more. I trust more. I move more fluidly. I rest into the lead of my partner more. To dance well with another is easier and better with smaller steps
7. Be ready –
My partner said to me towards the end of one class, “always keep your arms up, so you’re ready for the next move.” Of course my tendency is to drop my arms as soon as one of them has been released from my partner. But this means I’m not ready to follow whatever comes next. I’m not ready to be twirled, rocked, pulled or pushed because my hands aren’t available. To dance well with another is to be available and ready for the next move.
Ironically, I’m finding in many ways that dancing (and the practicing) teaches me more about how to move well in relationships with people than in spins, rocks, and dips. Don’t get me wrong, the dancing is a blast. I’m doing what I’ve always dreamed of doing. But the challenge to move and connect better with people in this world is priceless.
Maybe I’m not such a hopeless case on either front.