Learning to Follow

Photo by Genevieve Collins

Most Wednesday nights find me in the arms of man after man after man… in ballroom dance class that is – west coast swing, specifically. Not long ago a more experienced dancer told me I followed well. I was thrilled! I also had to laugh because until recently, following wasn’t exactly my thing.

In fact, until a few years ago ballroom dancing wasn’t at all my thing.

I took ballet when I was a little girl. There weren’t any boys in my ballet classes so partnering opportunities were scarce. That was fine by me. The thought of having to rely on someone else to catch me and hold me was kind of scary. I didn’t want to have to trust someone not to drop me.

Fast forward to about five years ago. My mom and I were watching Dancing With the Stars. We enjoyed critiquing the dances and disagreeing with the judges.  (My mom is a former ballroom dancer and instructor.) I must have commented one too many times about how much fun dancing ballroom would be because after a while my mom asked, “What’s stopping you?” She offered to watch Ryan and practically shoved me out the door.

While I found I still had a knack for quickly picking up new steps, I also discovered I was abysmal at following. The whole concept was extremely difficult for me to wrap my head around. I was used to being given choreography. I enjoyed knowing which moves came next and what I was supposed to do. Having to just wait for my partner to lead me was nerve wracking. I kept trying to anticipate the moves and kept failing. How on earth was I supposed to know what to do if I didn’t know what was coming next?

I dabbled off and on with different ballroom classes before finally settling down with west coast swing almost exactly a year ago. I have a fantastic instructor and a great group of fellow dancers. I don’t know how or when it happened but somewhere along the way I relaxed and began to follow.

I’ve come to realize following definitely has its charms. It’s liberating not having to worry about what moves are coming next – that’s up to the guy! If I don’t know a particular step, that’s okay. If the man is a good enough lead, he’ll get me through it one way or another. If I mess up, it’s no big deal. I can simply laugh and go on to the next move. Perhaps the most important thing I’ve realized is if I just relax and let go, things flow a lot more easily and even better, both my partner and I enjoy the dance so much more.

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