You know, I’ve only been dancing ballroom consistently for a year and a quarter now, but I’ve learned a lot of things besides the steps and proper technique. The studio for me is like a haven that strikes me with temporary amnesia so that I forget about life. On occasion, however, the delicate veil is ripped and real life seeps through the tear–luckily, it’s the lighter side of real life.
“Where did that sound come from?
I swear I’m not old. I’m a college student with my whole life ahead of me, at least that’s what all the older adults say. *Pop* Yep, there went my hip. *Crick* Aah, now my neck feels much better! “Ugh, I’m too young for my hips to be aching this much!” If I cataloged all weird sounds my body has mad in the ballroom, I’d have a whole book. I’m almost twenty years old and my body is already protesting its constant movement. The ballroom world doesn’t have too many youngsters, unless they’re born to a dancing family. The closest people to my age in the ballroom are probably my teachers, excluding the steady stream of wedding couples that drop by. Naturally, I feel extremely young, especially when I’m stretching and an older person will exclaim “Man, I wish I could do that!” Oh, what I could tell all those wistful people! If you felt and heard the noises that my body expressed, you’d understand that the body of a younger dancer is not exactly exhilarated about its situation. What are these sounds that are coming from my hips, neck, arms, and back? I thought those sounds only happened to old people? I bend down to touch my toes, and both my knees crack. I stretch my legs and my left hip pops. Again, where are these sounds coming from? While I may be much younger than the retired couples that come in, my body sure doesn’t think so, at least with all the sounds it makes.
“Yes dear, as you say…”
Out of all the things I’ve learned, this is probably my favorite. We have a little mnemonic device at the studio to remember which foot men and women start with. The men lead the dance, so they start with their left. Women are right. Well, I’m starting to wonder: Who should be leading whom?
1) I was doing some light stretching before a group class, and I spied an elderly couple having a lesson. They were learning the bare basics of East Coast Swing. The instructor had just finished teaching them both their respective parts, and asked them to try it out of dance hold first to get the rhythm. A few seconds in I hear the woman say to her husband, “No, you don’t do it that way. You do it this way. *proceeds to demonstrate*” Cue bemused smile on my part. They were clearly both beginners, yet this lady, bless her heart, seemed convinced that her husband was doing it wrong. Where was the instructor in all this? She was waiting for the woman to stop instructing her husband wearing the same bemused smile on her face that I was wearing. Then, she re-iterated both their steps to them.
2) My first professional partner was European, Russian to be exact. Sometimes when I was dancing, he’d ask his wife, another teacher at the studio to watch as we demonstrated a step. On one such day, she was observing a promenade right-turn in the Tango. His lead was particularly strong, and I was put a little off balance, which he didn’t seem to notice. She, however, did. After some whispered words to her husband in Russian, he immediately softened his lead. I don’t know why, but it took me a couple of weeks to realize that she definitely wore the pants in that relationship. Did I mention that she was–and still is–one of the co-owners of the studio?
3) Not long after my startling “revelation” I was dancing a Foxtrot with him at our studio’s weekly social. Another one of his students, also Russian, was dancing with her husband, who danced significantly less than she. I gave them a quick glance, and proceeded to keep dancing. Suddenly, I hear my partner giggle. I ask him what he’s laughing at. He directs my attention to his student and replies, “She’s back-leading him.”
4) One of my high school friends was taking a teen dance class at a Fred Astaire dance studio. I remarked to her that my worst habit was back-leading. She told me that was her worst habit as, too. In fact, one of her instructors had called her out on it when she was dancing the Two-Step. She proceeded to tell me how her partner at that moment wasn’t leading properly, namely that she couldn’t differentiate between his slows and quick-quick’s.
Honestly, who really should be leading whom in dancing? My college professor told all the boys in class that when they got married they would not be the dominant ones. Dad often tells me that the best phrase he’s learned in all his years of marriage is “Yes dear.” I guess some women, myself included from time to time, just have to back-lead. Well, I for one am grateful that a woman’s main job in ballroom is to follow. Mostly.