Photo by tfangel via CC

Last night was my second salsa dancing session (I missed last week’s class because I was on the West Coast) and though I was worried that I would have a lot of ground to make up, I learned the new moves pretty quickly. Not because I’m some sort of dance genius. The pace of the class is slow–it’s for absolute beginners–and though I’m new to partnering, after five years of breaking I am a quick study when it comes to picking up basic footwork.

The partnering part of the class, however, wasn’t quite as simple. Last night’s session featured a cross body turn that I missed last week and tonight’s special torture–a right hand turn. This turn, our instructor told us, was more of a concern for the women than for the men. We would have to do it whereas the males, while twirling us through it, simply had to continue do the basic step. Their job–directing the women to do the complex steps. They’re the CEOs of this dance. The women are middle management.

Yet despite the breakdown of roles, I didn’t particularly mind. It sounds so anti-feminist of me to admit this, but I really do enjoy being led in this dance when the man doing the leading is a sure, confident hand. In this situation, I feel like I can relax and enjoy the music and atmosphere. As I made the rounds–since there were more women than men this week, the ladies rotated while the men remained in place–I found myself looking forward to meeting up again with certain partners who had a sure hand such as the youngish man in his gym sweats or the gay guy who this week showed up without his boyfriend (who also happens to be a strong lead). I was calmer when I stood opposite them, knowing that for a minute or two I would have to think just a little less.

Is this, in micro, what being in a secure relationship feels like? Does it mean feeling less anxious, that if you drop the ball or miss a step, there is someone there to help smooth things over, to pick up my slack? If so–sign me up.

I keep lists everywhere–on my wall, on my computer, in my head. I am always worried that I’ll forget something. It would be nice to have someone else to rely on. On the other hand, when I do manage to get everything done, I feel a rush of accomplishment. Would I feel the same way had these things been achieved in a partnership?

In addition to encouraging the men to lead us women-folk with confidence, which he did several times during the class, he also offered another bit of advice–get out of the women’s way. He was referring to the turns. When leading the women through them, he cautioned, the purpose of the men’s footwork was to step aside and make space for us to pass and strut our stuff.

So lead strongly and then step away and let the women do the work? Perhaps a bit reactionary, but I’ll take it on the dance floor, at least. In real life, I might require some adjustments to this framework.

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