Below is an exerpt from a non-fiction piece I wrote titled, “Follow the Leader”, which examines the different types of relationships I have experienced in my life via the things i learned from a ballroom dance class i once took. [ For my B.A. in English at the University of Central Florida in 2010].
In ballroom dancing, the man is the leader. It is as simple as that. Every single step is guided and chosen by the male. The anticipation that builds up inside the woman is something that she can not express, is told to hide desperately behind the rapid pulsating of her heart, and carried on through the strong arms and straight posture she is expected to present to the audience. If the male misses a step or forgets to start on the sly beat of the drum, the woman can not move. She can not stare into his eyes with a look of hopelessness or pout her lips in despair. She can not even squeeze the palm of his hands in hopes he will get the signal. They will just stand still until the man moves his polyester dress pants forward, backward, side to side. While the woman, well, she must follow.
Proper technique is everything. For ballroom beginners, learning where to place your hands and figuring out where your male partner will grasp your palm per different genres of dance is key to the initial learning process. For example, if you are learning the East Coast Swing for the first time, and your male partner goes to clasp your hand with an alligator clip, you need to know that your right hand has to be placed by your side. For most dances, you learn that your left palm rests right above his pecks, where you should then press down tightly in order to release the first timer’s nervousness and discomfort.
In my ballroom dance class, we rotate partners every five minutes. It is like musical chairs. When the music stops, a new guy comes over, shakes your hand, stares at your chest, and says something sly and clever such as, “Have you ever danced before” or “I apologize, I haven’t really been paying attention.” And so, you place your sweaty palms together, make brief eye contact, and mimic each others rhythm and pace to master the Waltz or the Argentine Tango. And suddenly, when you begin to feel the most comfortable you are going to get with your musical chair, the music stops and you are forced to start all over again. All while you are left standing there, with the residue of the other persons sweaty hands left lingering between your fingers.
My Ballroom dancing teacher stops class at least once a week to point out to the 60 other students what I am doing wrong. This week he tells me I am moving to fast. That I am not giving my guy enough time to choose his next step. He tells me I need to be more patient. He tells the class that the better you follow, the better you can follow the ones who don’t lead right.
Right I say, and stare into the empty eyes of my partner who keeps on stepping on my toes.
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