Lessons From the Dance Floor: It’s Okay To Be In Control

***This series of stories, “Lessons from the Dance Floor” is only partly true. True parts have been overly dramatized by my own hyperactive imagination to make them, umm well, fiction***

David laced up his shoes, flexed up, down, left right with his ankles. He was, as always, a bit nervous at the start of class. The work day anxieties replaced by the pressure to remember to walk left foot, then right, stop, pause. It seemed like a much simpler concept than the processing problems facing him at his desk. He constantly wondered why was he having problems every week with both.

Last week’s lesson was just in walking the tango walk. How simple an idea, how difficult in reality. Chest out, shoulders back and down, swing your legs forward. But not with a stiff leg, should be soft. Then to the music, stepping with the beat. 

At first seemed totally unnatural way to move his body. No one had ever told him to walk with his chest out while he sat at
his computer. Sure he’d seen a command to stick out your chest in old black and white sitcoms like McHale’s Navy or Gomer Pyle, but in this day and age seemed out-of-place.

A few women walked in the door and began to chatter with the instructor as the changed from their workaday shoes to glittery heels. How they changed instantly. David felt nothing as he looked down at his black, unpolished ballroom shoes. Not that he wanted to wear glittery shoes, it just seemed easier for the women to transform and mutate into tango divas, assume the posture and poise in stilettos.

He stood and started to practice his walk. Feet together, sliding forward in a line, trying to keep from meandering across the floor. He kept his eyes fixated on his feet in the full length mirror. Soft knees. The two woman didn’t take any notice of his uneasy steps and he relaxed a little. Chest out and a few more steps. It seemed a little more familiar to him, more like this is what he should be doing. A tango song started and David began to walk to the beat.

Fast, fast , slow, slow…he changed his beat patterns has he walked. Finally feeling like he was getting somewhere musically.

The song ended and the instructor got his small class out onto the floor. It was 7 people in total, 3 men and 4 women. Good odds thought David. He knew his chances of only practicing with the most beginner of students would be for only a few minutes before they switched. He liked to dance with the instructor’s wife, she was quiet and patient, but most of all she made him look good and would tell him in a soft voice where he was going wrong.

The harder followers to dance with would look at him with a blank stare when things went wrong. “Like, why did you do that?!” quietly blaming him with sharp sideways glances when steps were missed. Their visual attitude could be quite unforgiving.

But the worst followers were the ones who were too impatient for him to decide what the next move would be. One night, he stopped on the floor because another couple hadn’t moved from in front of them and his partner tried to pull him into letting her do a backward ocho.

He felt frustrated. He had given her undeniably clear instructions to stop and yet with a single embellishment, she accidentally kicked the couple behind her with her pointy heel. And as the lead, David got the blame.

He gritted his teeth remembering the events that night. “Why didn’t she follow my lead?”

As David tried to push this embarassing memory out of his mind, he felt his arms becoming more firm with the current woman he was holding in a close embrace. She wriggled a bit, he moved his hand upward to just under her shoulder-blade, feeling her bra strap underhand and pressed slightly. They walked, stopped, he changed his weight and she followed. With her weight on one foot he turned her 90 degrees with no fighting back, no jerking movement from her, just a smooth turn, and they continued.

Wow, that worked, his eyes smiled. He breathed a little easier and stopped. She stopped with him. Okay, now we are getting somewhere. He felt a new sense of confidence realizing he knew the basic steps and no one was going anywhere without him saying so.

It was so simple, it’s all in his hold, the embrace. In tango, there is no shame in firmly holding a woman and letting her know his intentions. His own frustration lead to a light turning on and he wanted more.

Too quickly the song ended and it was time to switch partners. He let go of his partner and thanked her, stepping to the next woman. Facing her, he stood up taller, smiled and held out his hand and thought, “Wonder if I can find some wingtips online?”


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