Sunday, February 22, 2015

Dating and marriage: Some thoughts from the dance floor

A few months ago I began taking lessons in West Coast Swing, and I’ve been having a blast. Since there are so few WCS dances in the Pittsburgh area I go to as many as I can, including most Tuesdays at the studio where they’re held.

There’s a culture involved in these dances — since in my observation no one is hitting on anyone else, you dance with whomever asks you and change partners with every song. And while I do have favorite partners (I’m sure that some women also prefer to dance with me as well), I usually invite the woman physically closest to me. It isn’t even considered gauche for a woman to approach a man, which happens to me about once a night.

The experience is showing me some things about relating healthily to the other gender.

For openers, I’ve never been of the opinion that you should date only those people you would marry; after all, everyone, men especially, needs to learn how to build a relationship, to see what works and doesn’t work. The studio offers lessons and a “practice party” afterwards, so that you can try out new moves and/or refresh old ones. Thankfully, since it’s a “safe” place, you can do that, with instructors ready, willing and able to help.

Were more people able to help each other in doing so, in love and life.

Second, I learned quickly that West Coast Swing is fairly unique in that the roles between “leader” and “follower” might change at a given movement; as such, I need to be ready for something different that my partner may want to do and thus create a “frame” for her to do it. For this reason I often prefer dancing with more experienced partners.

During one move called a “right-side pass,” in which a “follower” is normally twirling under the leader’s arm, one woman I was dancing with didn’t complete the pass but held my hand high and simply started moving in the direction I was taking her, indicating that I was supposed to respond. After this happened a couple of times, I finally realized what she was doing and didn’t force her to follow me, just “going with the flow.” (Technically it’s not a ballroom dance, most of which tend to adhere to strict rules.)

This happens a lot in marriage because, even though the husband is the “leader,” the wife may have some ideas of her own that he would need to, and thus should, support. Perhaps she may want to go back to school or seek a new ministry opportunity that would broaden her — and thus their — horizons.

And there’s no feeling in the world like knowing that you’re doing well. The last time I danced with one of my favorite partners, a 20-year-old who’s been at it for longer than I, I noticed at one point that her eyes were closed, I’m guessing because she had gotten "lost" in the dance. At the end of that evening she thanked me not once but twice for dancing with her.

I said in response, “I should be thanking you.” Because she was allowing me to grow.

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