It didn’t take me long to figure out I’m terrible at salsa dancing.
To this day, I bless my mother for deciding ballroom dancing lessons would be a healthy and productive social outlet for her teenage daughters. I’ll never forget my first round of swing dance lessons in New Jersey; there were eight or nine of us teenagers, and we all slouched onto the roller skating rink-turned-dance-floor once a week and did our best to pound out the steps as the instructors called them. By now, I’ve got a pretty solid background in swing (East Coast), with waltz, cha cha, and even a little bit of tango and foxtrot thrown in (at least enough that I can toe my way around the floor without seriously injuring myself, my partner, or anyone else). Then my roommate introduced me to a new ballroom dance (really, a whole new culture of ballroom dancing): salsa.
It didn't take me long to figure out I’m terrible at salsa. They probably passed around flyers with my face on them at the club where we sometimes went, just to warn other dancers to keep away. On one unfortunate evening, I put a whole slew of fellows through the ringer with my ineptitude. There was the poor little Asian man who kept glaring wildly at the ceiling and crying, in the tone of one coming head-to-head with an existential crisis, “Something is not right!” Or the burly guy in jeans who finally dropped my hands and said, “Fine, I’ll dance to your rhythm.” Or the suave black dancer who grinned at me smugly and said, “You’re a beginner.” I chose not to mention my ten years of swing dancing experience and only nodded. To which he replied, “I can tell. Dancers don’t wear sweaters.” (A reference to the cardigan I had on over my sleeveless shirt, because, gosh, I dunno… it was 15 degrees outside and I was cold.)
That aside, I love the way dancing presents so many opportunities for charity. I mean, let’s face it: you’re going to run through a wide variety of partners, some good, some okay, some just plain bad, and it’s tempting to roll your eyes, or comment, or leave the dance floor before the end of the song when the other person and you just aren’t working out. I’m so grateful for the good dancers who simply laugh with me at my fumbles and mistakes and offer kind, practical tips on how to improve. And because I’m determined to have a good time, I bite my tongue and say nothing when I encounter the ruder sorts like those mentioned above. In the same vein, I have danced my fair share with men who simply (*cough*) weren’t very good. But you know, that was OK, too. I appreciate them trying, and even more, asking me to dance at all.
Dancing – like any other relationship – is a give and take. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but you should both put something into it. And even if it doesn't work out, you should both walk away with your dignity intact.
Mary Beth Baker writes a bi-weekly feature entitled Life in the Gap. Mary Beth’s outstanding personal blog, also entitled Life in the Gap, is about a young woman’s daily journey “in between.” In between what? Between the single life and whatever marvelous things God has in store. But far from being about a time of anxious waiting, Mary Beth’s reflections underscore the richness of living in the present moment.
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