By Barbara Rainey
For Christmas this past year, our six adult children gave my husband and me dance lessons. Amazingly to us, one of them remembered us (it was probably me) saying several years ago how much fun it would be to learn to dance. I had loved dancing as a teenager. As a teen in the late 60s I mastered the twist, the mashed potato, and other dances of equally elementary difficulty. My best girl friend and I would practice the jitterbug with each other and if she wasn’t available, I practiced alone by holding the door knob of my closed bedroom door. In my freshman year of college I dated a guy for several months just because he was a great dancer.
My sophomore year I became a Christian, stopped dating just for dancing skills, and four years later married a non-dancer. On our honeymoon Dennis and I danced once, but it was just the slow dance style of rocking back and forth from one foot to the other. It was fun at the time because I loved my husband, but I knew further dancing was not in my future.
When we received our Christmas gift, I was delighted. Dennis was skeptical. But he was a good sport and was willing to give it a try for me. We intended to sign up right away but the pace of life kept me from making the phone calls to schedule the lessons until May. ”On the first lesson,” our kind instructor said, “rhythm is learned.” Right, I thought very skeptically. My husband is not naturally gifted in rhythm. But she did not lie as I’ve watched him make great progress. We’ve now had six lessons and I’m thrilled to say we are actually making noticeable progress learning the waltz, the rumba, the tango, and the swing. All very much at a beginner level, but we are learning.
I’ve also realized how many parallels there are in dancing to marriage. Not the least of which is that in dancing the man has to learn to lead and the woman has to learn to follow his lead. Emphasis on the word learn for both partners. I must admit that I have realized I am not naturally gifted in following! I went into these lessons thinking it would be easy for me. It was my husband who needed the instruction, not me. WRONG. As I understood that I was not a good follower in dancing, I left the lessons several times pondering how to be a better follower in our relationship.
Connection is another very important element in dancing. The woman has to pay close attention to the man’s movements so she knows to follow when he is changing directions otherwise she’ll get her toes stepped on. It’s called maintaining connection. Even when he makes a misstep a good follower will go along with his misstep knowing he will correct it on the next step or two. If she does this no one knows a mistake was made. The instructor even had the women close their eyes and practice feeling the tension changes in his hand on her back and his other hand holding hers. The application for marriage was obvious. Keeping a close connection takes focus.
Another marriage lesson is that my husband needs to learn from the master Teacher. It’s not my job to try and teach him what I think he doesn’t know yet. He doesn’t respond as well to my suggestions as he does to the teacher’s. I’m so prone to “help” him and to want to show him the right way to do the dance and I’ve realized how true that is of me in daily life. When I do that in dancing and in life he feels it as criticism and mothering. Ouch.
You’ll never see us on Dancing With the Stars, but learning to dance has been great for our marriage as we’ve learned something new that’s taken us outside our comfort zone. Dancing has also rekindled some romance as we’ve practiced the deep connection of eye contact to the beautiful sounds of music.