Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Dance and Life Lessons

Tom and I began dance lessons last night. I've always wanted to know the steps to the basic dances. I felt cheated growing up in an age where you made up your own dances. That was never my idea of a good time. So we are living the cliche. The kids are out of the house and we're taking dance lessons.

We now are acquainted with the Rumba, the Foxtrot, Swing, and the Merengue. All in one hour! Needless to say, it is merely a nodding acquaintance but we hope to improve it substantially in the weeks to come.

I used to be good at aerobic dance but, it occurs to me, that didn't need a partner. There is something daunting about minding one's own steps while coordinating with one's partner. Oh, and "listen to the music, this is supposed to be fun!" as the instructor said.

What? I can't do all that at once. Although by the end of the hour I did have moments where it all came together briefly and showed me the fun to come. The Merengue was easy enough that various partners and I could have brief conversation between rotations and twirls. I suddenly understood the Hollywood musicals where couples could break in on each other's dance partners and pick up complicated conversations. While dancing.

Interestingly, it didn't take many changes of partners, as they rotated around the room, until I could tell a practiced dancer from a neophyte. We were told that it took three or four months of classes before becoming adept enough to move on to intermediate. So there was a smattering of practiced men and women among us.

Most interesting of all was the fact that at the end of an hour, I could tell a good partner from a bad one. I don't mean that a bad partner was unpracticed in dance. I mean that there were some very generous partners who recognized my inexperience and adapted their steps to my pace and my mistakes. The bad partner never slowed down or tried to make our dance work as that of one couple. He just whisked me along expertly, me stepping on his feet as I lost track of what was going on, and then moved on.

At one point, I glanced over at Tom who was leading a young blonde woman in the Foxtrot. He, like me, was gamely struggling with the steps but with the additional pressure of leading his partner. She was gliding smoothly and I heard her murmuring to him, "Slow, slow, sidestep fast." It warmed my heart. That was generous on her part.

I hesitate to label the lack of adapting oneself to one's partner as pride, but it did spring to mind, especially since the person in question had been called upon to help the instructor demonstrate dances before we learned steps.  Perhaps it was a beginner's lack of experience, just in the area of dance courtesy rather than steps. But it did make me very grateful for the people who didn't forget that at one time they too had been absolute beginners and that it takes two to make a good dance couple.

Of course, this doesn't just apply to dance. It applies to all of life. We're thrown into situations with other people all the time. We can make it easy or we can be proud, show off. Sometimes, I'm sorry to say, I am the one showing off without consideration for the person who, often through no fault of their own, is slower for some reason. This is a good reminder to me, especially as this reflection comes on Ash Wednesday, that I need to strive to always be one of the generous partners.


  1. I am so glad that you're enjoying learning to dance! I first met my husband through ballroom dance, and we have both danced competitively, albeit with other partners. There really is so much insight into relationships that you can gain from dancing, and it is a great way to physically get in tune with one another.

  2. Sounds like fun. But I can't see my wife and I doing it. I've been blessed with a wife that probably hates to dance more than I