Saturday, January 3, 2015

swing your partner

My father taught me how to dance.

He would play music from the 50's in our living room, hold my hands in a partner dancing pose, and teach how me to keep the rhythm with my feet, while waiting for his cues for each move. On his say-so, we would spin, twirl, and dip to the sounds of The Best of Doo-Wop Uptempo.

Learning to follow was a challenge for me. Since early childhood, I have always been a little bit anxious. And, when you're anxious, one of the best ways to soothe yourself is to keep yourself apprised of what's happening next. This is not so easy when your dance partner is the one deciding your next move.

It took Evan and me some time to get our dancing rhythm down. He is an excellent leader, but, in the beginning, I found myself fighting to lead, if, for no reason other than to soothe my anxiety about what our next move was. I had to manually override my desire to take over, driven by the fear that I might fail to follow effectively, embarrassing myself by spinning out instead of in, or dipping prematurely.

Evan is a really good dancer. His embrace is gentle, but secure, and he holds my gaze as he twirls me away, before pulling me back in. With every spin around the dance floor, I've learned to trust his ability to navigate things. When he asks me to dance, I no longer feel like I have to choose between fighting for the steering wheel and giving up all control. It's something we do together.

On New Years Day, while on vacation in Austin, Texas, we went dancing at a famous Honky Tonk club in East Austin, The White Horse. We were surrounded by intimidatingly talented couples who wore Wranglers and cowboy boots, and knew the involved multi-step dances to each song, but we decided to give it a try anyway. I had a purse with me, and didn't want to set it down, so I kept it on as we headed out to the middle of the floor. The music was unfamiliar, my bag was cumbersome, and we were tired and still a little hungover from the previous night's festivities, but still, we danced. Together, we found the rhythm, we managed to work around my purse, and we moved to the music in sync with one another.

And there, it occurred to me that this is what being together is all about: sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow. You work around each other's baggage. You communicate. You catch each other. You hold hands. And even when it's scary, you find a way to see the unknown as an exciting adventure ahead, rather than something to fear.