11th August
2011
written by Randy

I love it when I learn something that becomes a metaphor for something else. That’s what happened this week at dance class.

I always felt clumsy and uncoordinated on a dance floor, and I thought attending dance classes would teach me the footwork I needed in order to get past that. But I’m finding that the most important thing in dancing isn’t the footwork at all… it’s actually all in the hands.

When the dance goes well, it’s because the lead went well, and when the dance goes badly, it’s because the lead went badly. I could have terrible footwork and no clue about the steps, but if I feel the rhythm and provide a good lead, my partner will dance well. Meanwhile, I could have perfect footwork and amazing steps, but if I give a weak or indecisive lead, my partner will be lost and the dance will fall apart.

As it turns out, this is a huge realization for me. My whole life, I’ve been a believer of such advice as “lead by example” and “don’t be pushy”. I’ve always been the type of person to provide a suggestion and then get out of the way so people can follow it if they want.

And interestingly, this came through in my dance as well. For turns, I would put my hand up and wait for my partner to spin. For changes in step, I would just sort of change and hope she was paying enough attention to notice, and follow. Basically, I was “leading by example” and putting all the responsibility onto the follower to, well, follow. (That’s your role, so do it!)

This week at dance class, I realized what was happening and I changed my style of lead. That is to say, rather than just putting my hand up and waiting for a turn, I figured out how to gently pull my partner into a turning motion, and rather than confusing her when I changed steps, I figured out how to gently push into a direction that tells her the change before I do it.

Basically, I learned how to be a leader.

It’s weird to think of this being such a revelation at 35 years old, but I suppose it’s better late than never. Our partners want to be led; they need a gentle push to tell them which direction to go. Indecisiveness breaks the step, so don’t go there until you’re sure. Leading by example is hard to follow. It’s dancing, but it’s also life. That’s cool.