Learning ballroom dancing with a partner is a cheap way to get some psychotherapy. A dance instructor usually charges less than a counselor. Plus, you get to listen to music and have fun while you're getting insights into yourself.
I've blogged about my fascination with leading and following, which touches on the core of male/female relating. But today my wife and I had a dance lesson that focused on how I relate with Me, an even more intimate relationship.
We've been taking some private lessons with Salem's Debra Seeck, also known as Mz. Jitterbug. She's given us some good Salsa and Swing tips, along with pointing out to me how I need to do a much better job of listening to the music and recognizing a rhythm.
Today, though, Debra started off by challenging my basic dancing attitude.
"I've watched you at a social dance, Brian. You're worried about keeping up with other dancers who can do more moves than you. You compare yourself with them, and that distracts you from focusing on the only person you should be relating to: your wife, your partner."
I nodded. I agreed. This wasn't exactly news to me.
But Debra was talking about my skewed attitude toward dancing in a fresh fashion. Her passion about relating on the dance floor -- with your partner, through the medium of music -- got through to me.
"I'd much rather dance with a guy who only knows a few moves, but is into the music, and most importantly, into me while we're dancing, than with a man who does a lot of flashy stuff, preoccupied with trying to look good, who lacks musicality," she said.
"You've got four minutes with your wife while a song plays," Debra added. "It's all about her. Don't pay attention to anyone or anything else. None of us knows when death will come. Maybe this will be your last dance. You don't know. Make it special. Make it real. Be there for her, even if you're just leading a few simple moves."
Debra had me pegged. I'm not very musical, though I have a decent sense of rhythm when I pay attention to a beat. I'm competitive. And I like to learn new dance moves, even when I haven't mastered the ones I already know.
Isn't this a lot like life? Not just my life. Almost everybody's life.
We aren't content with doing just a few things well, rather than many things mediocrely; with having just a few intimate friends, rather than many shallow acquaintances; with enjoying just a few pleasurable material goods, rather than gobs of needless clutter; with embracing the here and now as it is, rather than an imagined past or future.
Quality. Not quantity.
This is really the essence of what dance instructor Debra was trying to get across. (Which reminds me of "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance," since quality is a recurring theme in the book.)
Marcel Proust sagely advised, "The voyage of discovery is not seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes." Which is another way of saying, It isn't so much what we do, but how we do it, that's key to a satisfying life.
And to satisfying dancing. One of our Argentine Tango instructors was fond of saying, "Tango is simple. It is walking with a woman so she will fall in love with you." (At least for as long as the song lasts.)
Today, before we got going on the dance floor, Debra showed Laurel and me a You Tube video that she liked a lot. It's of Nicholas King and Cameo Cross winning the Jack and Jill 2011 US Open Swing Dance Championship.
Debra explained that "Jack and Jill" is when two competitors are randomly assigned and don't know what music they'll be dancing to. So this requires strong leading and following skills, since the dancing isn't choreographed. Debra loved how Nicholas is totally focused on Cameo. In return, she trusts him completely, as evidenced by some pretty amazing moves that she flows smoothly with.
Have a look. This is how dancing should be danced, and living should be lived.