During our Foxtrot class, Lora, the instructor, talked about how dancing usually is looked upon as a way for couples to come closer together. But it doesn't always work out that way, she said.
If a man and a woman are having problems before they begin learning ballroom dancing, whatever strains exist in their relationship are going to brought to the fore on the dance floor.
Laurel and I have been taking dance classes for just two years. But already we've seen a bunch of different approaches couples use when the moves aren't flowing like they should.
Laughter. The preferred response to a stumble, trip, collision, or any other of the myriad mis-steps that are endemic to dancing, no matter how good you are. If a couple can't laugh at themselves, dancing is going to be more frustrating than fun.
Discussion. After the laughing dies down, you've still got to figure out the reason for what's going awry. Talking it over sometimes is necessary if one person or the other doesn't blurt out an immediate "Sorry, I messed up!"
Blame. If self-criticism is lacking, some dance students aren't shy about placing the blame where it belongs: on their partner. This can be done in either a light-hearted or heavy-handed manner. A "What was that all about?" is fine (I hear it all the time). Demeaning your partner isn't.
Argument. The dark side of discussion. Lora said she's seen couples go at it during a class, bringing to the dance floor the same relationship crap that happens at home.
Once, she said, a man stormed out the door in the middle of a session. The couple never came back. Later she learned that they'd gotten a divorce.
Their marriage counselor had suggested they take dance lessons. Not a good idea. Partner dancing is just going to bring out communication problems in a new setting. It won't do much, if anything, to help a couple deal with the problems.
However, if a man and woman are just normally dysfunctional –like we all are at times – ballroom dancing is going to bring them closer together. That's been my experience, at least.
I always feel better after a dance class or practice session. And not just in the way I feel good after other sorts of exercise. There's another dimension to dancing: your partner.
And the music, of course. So you've got to adjust yourself to two other entities that aren't you – the melodies entering your ears and the person in your arms.
Control issues soon surface under these circumstances. In ballroom dancing the man leads and the woman follows. Lora, our instructor, likes to say to the men:
Guys, when you step on the hard wood, you're in charge. You're holding the remote control. You're driving the car. When you leave class and step back on the carpet, everything goes back to normal.
I've blogged about why men lead and women follow. Pretty simple, really. Men prefer it. Women prefer it.
Normally. But if a couple is butting horns with each other, it's going to be really tough for the man to take charge and lead, and for the woman to let go and follow. Dissention, and maybe even divorce, can follow.