From my male perspective, it's nice that there's still one place in this modern, egalitarian world where men always lead and women always follow.
The ballroom dance floor. At least, that's the way it's supposed to work, as Lora (our RJ Dance Studio instructor) explained to us a few days ago.
We're taking a beginning Foxtrot class. Laurel and I have taken quite a few classes from Lora, but most of the other Foxtrotters were new to dancing, so she went over the basics.
Including this weird and wacky notion: the woman should do whatever the man wants – unless you're about to crash into someone or something , then she can bail. Otherwise, Lora said, relax and go along for the ride (unless he's acting like a jerk).
Even if your man is going in the wrong direction. Which happens all the time with me and Laurel. And just about everybody who ventures out onto the hard wood.
Lora drew a distinction between the carpet in her entry way and the ballroom floor. "Once you step back onto the rug, ladies, everything is back to normal." Meaning, your guy is back under your control.
I find this whole leading – following thing the most fascinating aspect of dancing. In another post I tried to answer why men lead and women follow. Don't know if I succeeded, but I had fun trying.
And that's the purpose of dancing: fun. Laurel and I haven't been practicing much, but we went to the weekly open dance at the studio last night and enjoyed ourselves.
When RJ, the DJ, called out a dance we didn't know, like rumba!, at first we shrugged our shoulders and remained in our chairs.
But RJ came around and offered to show us and another clueless couple the basic rhythm and steps. So what the heck – we got out on the floor and did something that maybe once in a while looked something like rumba, if you squinted your eyes and didn't stare at us too long.
Yet throughout, even when I knew next to nothing about what I was doing, I was still expected to lead.
Though in practice, as this informative Wikipedia article on leading and following says, a woman can hijack the lead, or backlead. There are more acceptable and less acceptable ways of doing this. It's generally undesirable, though, especially if the hijacking or backleading is obvious.
Lora spoke to the women in the class ("girls," as dance instructors like to say) about the joy of being a follower. She said that this was an opportunity to relax, to relinquish control, to feel your partner's movements and intentions without thinking.
As I talked about in my "Tango, where men lead and women follow," there's a simple Me Tarzan, You Jane attitude in partner dancing that's an appealing counterpoint to the complexity of modern male-female relationships.
Yet there's a tender aspect to leading and following also. It's all about communication, the main point in this overview of the subject offered by BallroomDancers.com.
I liked the description of the connection between partners:
According to this definition, a connection can be any point where you actually touch your partner. While this is technically correct, it's not entirely accurate. Normally, when we think of a connection, we think of a point through which you lead or follow your partner. So it's not enough to simply touch your partner or hold their hand. In order to lead or follow, your connections must do more. For example:
A connection must have TONE.
In order to function properly as a transmitter of signals, the connected body parts should maintain a certain degree of muscle tone. If the connection is limp or weak, the lead-and-follow signals will not run through it.
A connection must be ACTIVE.
A working connection is a living, breathing thing. It must be alive, responsive to the situation, and ready to transmit and receive signals. In addition to being toned, it must also be flexible, and ready to change to accommodate any situation.
A connection must be MUTUAL.
It takes two to have a conversation. Both parties must do their part to maintain the connection. When one person falls short, the conversation dies, no matter how much the other may try to compensate.
As in dance, so in life.