Tuesday, May 03, 2005

to lead or not to lead

would have been shakespeare's question if he was a dancer.

tuesday nights i have been going to a salsa class with my friend olga, in the mission. it's pretty fun and helping me accomplish one of my goals (see previous blog on "ten goals so far this year").

olga and i discussed after class last week the travails of whether or not a woman should help the guy out on the dancefloor if he is having problems leading. see, the guy is the leader, but that doesn't mean that he can always hear the rhythm or remember the steps. we both are pretty good at salsa dancing in our class and some of the guys need to practice more to get better at hearing/feeling the beat and aligning their feet with it. we had endeavored to follow them tonight, even if the steps they danced were not the right ones. we would follow anyway.

right. that worked for about three partners who were beginners. on the fourth- this one guy we'll call rob, i got fed up and as he tried to turn me too soon, i didn't budge and showed him what the step should look like and asked if we could practice it again, which we did and by the fourth attempt, he understood that i needed to be on my right foot, so my left foot could step forward and pivot into a turn. meanwhile, he had eaten some form of fish and was breathing large gusts of air into my face. hot air. i tried my best to be patient and kind and not pass out from the bad hot breath, focusing all of my energy on the point where his collar makes a v.

here's the thing- and i am going to spout off a little bit more than usual here- in the end the guys and i all want to be better dancers. probably for most of them so they can have the confidence to ask a woman to dance at a club and dance with finesse and grace. i am NOT helping them achieve this if i am silent and let them step on my feet. but that does not give me license to lose patience or be rude or become the leader. they still are the men and in dancing, men lead. but sometimes they forget this and start watching my feet to see what i'll do next. one guy even asked, "what's next?" to which i responded "whatever you want." so on the one hand, i want to help them by pointing out which foot i need to be on for them to turn me so i won't trip and hurt myself. but on the other hand, i don't want them to look to me for direction on how to execute the entire routine.

to lead or not to lead... i have been spoiled because my dad is one of the best dancers in the world and he is the one who taught me how to dance latin and ballroom dances. he is a great leader, and i always know what he wants to do next on the dance floor because he communicates it very clearly, using his hands, body movements and the occasional (in his spanish accented voice) "annelies!" i am not versed at tango, but i can follow him okay because he is a good leader.

a few weeks ago, i danced with a salsa dance instructor who is a new friend of mine. before we stepped out onto the dancefloor, i made the admission that i sometimes have a problem with trying to lead, like it was a form of disease. to which he responded, "that's because you have had to since you have probably danced with men who are not good at leading."

i can't begin to tell how i felt an amazing amount of freedom in his simple statement. it's not that i want to lead on the dance floor, but i want to be a dancer of integrity and not let my steps get all messy and muddy just because my partner's are. i'm still figuring this out because i think this has larger implications than just the dancefloor. i'm wrestling with this internally. i will say though, that tonight when i decided "to hell with it," i was going to dance the steps we'd been taught even if the guy screwed them up, i could hear the beat even more clearly and sink my hips down into it, a smile breaking out on my face. and i think that counts for something.

2 Comments:

Blogger Sandra said...

Olga -- haha!

12:51 AM  
Blogger katy said...

I'm going to ask Jaime about this whole thing.
On a side note, if you check out citizen cope's tour schedule for this week, you see his support listed as Mieka Pauly. She and I were friends in HS. CRAZY!!!! As excited as I am that David Ryan Harris will be w/Cope at Slims, I was floored to see my old friend touring with him, too.

2:07 PM  

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