Saturday, February 18, 2012

Lessons from the Dance Floor

I confess - I was really surprised when my husband gave me a package of dance lessons for Christmas. For both of us. Ten years ago I dragged him into an introductory series of classes and we stumbled our way through the learning of a few steps but nothing stuck and life went on. Three years ago, he signed us up for a community center class designed for couples who wanted to dance together without using any formal style. We both loved it but the instructors decided to only offer more classes in Seattle which was pretty inconvenient for a mid-week date.

This gift puts us in private dance lessons for months. I felt somewhat bemused.

When we sat down with our instructor that first night she asked us what had brought us there and what we wanted to get out of the classes. “I need to learn to follow,” I said and my husband smiled wryly, “and I need to learn to lead.”  Oh, and if we could learn some west coast swing, that would be great too.

As the instructor worked with us, she said things like this:
To me:  If you don’t have and hold a strong frame, he won’t know where you are for him to lead you… You need to lean in towards each other, establish a connection through that engagement and hold it through the steps…you need to put the weight of your hands and arms into his hold and at the same time maintain the frame with your shoulders and body so that you move together…

To my husband – You don’t have to take huge steps, the object is to have her move with you. Hold her hand but stand far enough away so that when you move, she will be drawn with you… don’t collapse your shoulders, keep a masculine stance – watch, see? She pushes inward and won’t stop until you give her something to push against…

And we smile at each other, holding hands and begin to step through basic moves that seem to exist on multiple levels. Our instructor last night didn’t come right out and say it but I’m a bad follower.  I have a very difficult time truly giving over to someone else’s lead.  It shows up in the tension of my hands – such a small, unconscious thing – but there it is for the world to see.  Relationship building 101.

After that first class, my husband and I dropped into the Indian restaurant next door and I asked him why he had given us this gift. It’s sweet, yes, romantic – but I just had a feeling that there was some other reason.  He looked at me and told me how he had been looking around for something that we could do together during the week.  We both have hobbies and communities that sometimes overlap but mostly don’t  and he wanted us to have something to do together where we could play, touch and laugh. He knows I don’t want to play indoor soccer at 10pm on a Saturday night or join the band he’s been playing with on and off for the last couple of years. He doesn’t want to take cooking lessons or be part of a book club. Dance lessons is what he came up with. Why not?

We’ve been married awhile – it’s going on twenty six years. It’s been healthy and imperative that we both develop interests that are our own but it has been equally important that we find activities that we love and where we learn together.  As the kids head into their own lives, this feels even more important. When we learn something new together, it resets all of our experience and expertise. We go back to the beginning, rediscovering the two human beings that really like spending time together.   One of my favorite things in life is to look up into his laughing blue eyes.  Dance lessons are pretty much perfect, from where I stand.

And if we get a little Swing or Salsa out of it – that’s just icing on the cake.

No comments:

Post a Comment