Tonight I went to a swing dancing class at the House Cafe. It was an hour long lesson in swing basics and then a dance. And it was fabulous.
As long as you had a good partner.
I won’t get into the politics of the gender roles of dancing. I just wanted to dance.
But I noticed, it was easiest to dance when my partner was a confident leader. Especially for me, as a beginner, it helped to have someone who knew what they were doing and how I should respond. The dance style is, in fact, designed like that. You place and hold your hands in such a way, as to be able to feel changes that signal where you should move next.
Weak hands on my shoulder or in my hands made it so much more difficult. I had to focus on guessing what style of dancing my partner was partial to, how he moved, where he was likely to move next. I had to look at our feet. I couldn’t think about the music beyond counting its beats. I couldn’t feel its rhythm in my knees and my hips. I couldn’t follow my body freely.
But with a good partner. With strong pressure in my hands, my back or my left shoulder, I could free myself. I could let the music drive my actions. I could try new things, new steps. I could move beyond the basics, the rules, the guidebook. I could add another step. I could add a slide of my hips or bend of my knees. I could step wider or spin longer. I had more freedom because I had more support.
And not only did I have better direction to follow, but I had someone who was paying attention to me. My weaker partners didn’t know what to do with my mistakes (which were prodigious) and, as I said before, required me to focus on the fundamentals so much that I couldn’t let loose. Which is what makes dancing dancing. With my stronger partners, as much as I was following them, they were following me too. They reacted to my movements, even when they were mistakes, and made them part of the dance. Instead of being appalled that I missed step 3 of the prearranged movement, my partners incorporated my flaws or my experiments and we created movement.
I didn’t just have one good dance partner. I almost vomited at the couple who spent the whole night only dancing with each other. We have a myriad of relationships and partnerships in all areas of life. And we need to lead each other with respect, confidence, and most importantly awareness. We need to listen and observe as much as we lead. And we need to be inventive and take risks in our following. Neither role is more or less important and neither role is stagnant.
Its going to be okay.