The Gift

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I know I’ve been a little prolific the last couple of days but I had one of those special (to me) moments last night that warrants a post.  I’ll try to keep it short since some of you may only stop by from time to time and there’s a lot of new stuff to read.

Last night was a group class.  For some reason, my Famous Franchise has decided to do a bigger group right before the party on Friday nights so they lump together all but the very newest beginners and then teach something a little different.  Last night was a Rumba but I’m pretty sure that the step was one they adapted from Salsa because I know the Bronze Rumba syllabus and it isn’t in there.  Plus, I remember doing that step in a Salsa group.  But it was something that most people weren’t familiar with.

I’m really not sure why they decide to do things like this.  Maybe it is some kind of rite of passage.  Thou must suffer through multiple group classes where you feel totally lost to gain entry into the dance kingdom.  Or maybe they just sit around during the day and say “you know what would be cool”.  The problem is that group class isn’t the best learning environment.  If you are totally a visually learner who can pick up and mimic exactly what is being done, then you’ll have the best chance of success.  But as someone who sometimes needs to feel it to know where I’m supposed to go, I can remember many group classes where your feet felt like two lead weights incapable of moving in the way they were supposed to.  I remember ending up in some weird alignment and position that looked nothing like what the instructor was showing.  In the distant past, I’ve walked off group classes before because I’d get so far inside my head that I couldn’t see the way out and you come to a dance class for fun.

So we are rotating partners and I got to the lady from the newest couple.  She instantly apologized and said she had no idea what she was doing.  This is where I really wish I could do some kind of mind meld so she can fully understand that I’ve been there and felt exactly how she felt.  And that I really wasn’t going to be upset if we had to struggle through this and that my main goal was really to see if I could help her.  See, I think this is why we are such a supportive group.  I’ve been doing this for many years but we all have places where we get to a step that is complicated and the feeling of being completely lost can be overwhelming.  Unless you are a stone cold robot, you have a lot of empathy for people in that situation and they really have no reason to apologize.

Of course, we also know the flip side when the tumblers slide into place and the lock pops open and you’ve suddenly done a step that seemed impossible.  That is such a feeling of accomplishment to conquer a step that had been laughing at you for an entire group class.

Well, you know where this is headed by now.  I had to use a little extra effort but I got her through the turn and on to the right feet for the last part of the step.  There was a flash of excitement in her face.  I think she wanted to hug me and I may have cut her off by just doing the high five but, in that moment, I got to share in her success and it was such a great feeling.  I’m writing about it this morning because I’m still thinking about it.  And, it was very fleeting.  The next time we tried, she was thinking too much and fought me a bit and it didn’t go so well.  The third time was better but not as good as the first.  But we had that one magic moment when things aligned and she nailed the turn and ended exactly where she was supposed to be.  To have been there and to have helped make it happen was special.

Now, I’m not going to quit my day job to become a dance instructor.  I’m not cut out for that and my knees and feet would never survive.  But the ability to help someone on their dance journey is a great gift.  It is almost like I’ve got some magical power that I can use from time to time.  I wonder too that dance is such a part of life for some of us that it just means that much more when you see that joy reflected in someone else.

Well, I got a second, smaller helping at the party.  There were a couple of newbies and at one point, I was summoned across the room to dance a basic hustle with one of them.  Then, a tango came on and she said “I don’t know how to Tango”.  Since I was feeling my magical powers, I just went for it and figured I’d get her to do the basics.  I’m not a dance instructor but, ironically enough, I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last week, so I was doing the whole T-A-N-G-O thing that the instructors use at the Famous Franchise to teach beginning Tango.  I got her to get through the hardest part which is just dragging the foot on the “O” and not changing weight.  Even did a promenade where I collected her back in front of me.

And maybe this is another reason why I should be dancing more at parties and other events.  Not saying this will happen all the time but that one moment in time where I was able to help someone feel a real sense of joy and accomplishment was the best birthday present I had all day.


  1. Was that a shout out to lurkers like me? 🙂
    Having recently been on both receiving and giving end of that special kind of dance-help-magic, I totally get it. It’s amazing, isn’t it? And it’s funny, when we are dancing as the person at a lower skill level, how we tend to apologize for our presumed suckitude, rather than seeing the entire process as a learning experience for both the newbie as well as more experienced dancer. We FINALLY have a few new male dancers at our studio and while it means I am getting stepped on a bit more than usual, I really enjoy dancing with them because they are just SO EXCITED to be out there and doing something, it’s completely infectious. It really feels so freaking great to be in a group class and get through a combination with a new partner and totally nail it. And most of the time we get to the practice party on Friday and try to replicate it and bobble it a bunch of times, but we’ll usually get it right eventually, and it feels like shared success, and I guess that’s really the basis for ballroom, right? It’s no solo sport, that’s for sure.

    ps. Happy birthday!

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