We went swing dancing last night for the first time in way too long, and we were rusty. I started to feel self-conscious, but then a guy walked by (whom I had observed skillfully dancing the Lindy) pulling his partner by the elbow to a darker corner of the floor. “Let’s go over here where no one can see us,” he said. I figured if the best dancers were self-conscious, I may as well not waste time being self-conscious myself– everyone is too busy looking at their own feet to notice how often I stepped on Steven’s!
We danced alot when we were dating, and I always said that a couple’s dancing style says alot about their relational style. Who leads? How? Who follows? How? Toes will be stepped on- how is that handled? How do they dance? Flamboyant? Stiff? Small, careful steps? Aware of eachother? Aware of everyone else?
My part is easy. All I have to do is stand on the balls of my feet, loosen my arms, and let Steven lead me around the floor. Steven has to decide when to twirl, when to step, when to dip. So when I felt us losing beat, I was sure it was Steven’s fault. After all, since he’s leading, shouldn’t that dictate the quality of our dance?
I thought so, until I observed the girl in the pink shirt. She was obviously formally trained in dance- she had a dancer’s body, grace, and flexibility. She wore jazz dance shoes, I noticed, but she was unfamiliar with the steps.
I watched guy after guy falter around the dance floor, taking tiny, unsure steps. Then I watched each guy dance with the girl in the pink shirt. They went from dancing with two left feet, to dancing with confident flair. Steps turned artful and well-timed. Movements were loose yet deliberate. The common denominator was the girl in the pink shirt.
I wondered if perhaps she was leading them. Perhaps she had stiffened her wrists, manipulating herself into appropriate spins. But then I watched each of her partners go on to dance with other partners, and it was as though she had give them a shot of rhythm and skill. She was completely revolutionizing the dance floor.
“Steven, watch this girl for a minute,” I said with wonder. “She dances with guys who don’t know how to dance, and suddenly they know how!” He watched her, and saw her partners come to life. “How is she doing that?”
“They just feel confident, I guess,” he said. He didn’t seem very surprised.
“What does she do different?” I asked, as he pulled me on to the dance floor again. I needed to know what magic this girl possessed. I wanted that magic.
Steven shrugged his shoulders. I have a feeling that if I had asked the guys she danced with, they would be about as enlightening about it. So I stuck to observing. I know it sounds neurotic, but I cannot put words to how fascinating it was to me.
I observed that she stuck to the steps they were doing. If they were dancing the balboa, she stuck to the balboa. If they were rockstepping, she stuck to rockstepping. She concentrated on doing whatever step her partner was doing, as lightly and beautifully as she could. She didn’t seem bored or frustrated with the monotony of repetitive steps. She danced her part with as much flair as her partner’s leadership allowed, and she did it with a huge smile on her face- she looked like she was having a blast!
I watched her partners’ steps widen, and then I watched them try new things. The girl in the pink shirt never conducted a sideline tutorial (which I have seen girls do before). Her partner would spontaneously decide he was up for a dramatic dip, and she would lean back and point her toe at the ceiling. No tutorial necessary.
I love a tangible life lesson. Can you feel it coming?
Sometimes it’s difficult to dance within the confines of another’s leadership. Whether it be a husband, a boss, or even God, being led can be frustrating. If I am asked to take steps I am unfamiliar with, or that I find monotonous, or that I could do better, I am tempted to dance my own dance, make my boredom obvious, or find another leader.
In marriage, I believe in defined and different roles for the husband and wife, and I find joy in watching Steven lead. There are moments when I feel we ought to be dancing a different step, but the best thing I can do is live life with as much joy as I can.
My work, my play, my rest, is done with gusto, not because I hope he will get the hint and follow suit, not because I’d like to shellac over my disappointments, but because I love to dance. Because I have joy in something bigger than my wonderful but finite husband, and I love living life simply because I am alive. I love to dance this dance, not because I have such a great dance partner (I do!), but because this dance is a joyful one!