Relationship Lessons Gleaned from Lead/Follow Dances

Dancing Argentine Tango for seven years, many of my classes and workshops are on perfecting the skills of being a good leader and follower. I’ve noticed many of those lessons are good for relationships in general. While men are often leaders and women followers, anyone can lead or follow, so to be as all encompassing as possible, my references will be to leader and followers only, as opposed to gender. After all, I’m not North Carolina.

1. Both parties should stay on their own axis (balance). If you are leaning on your partner to the point they are having to hold you up, the dance will never work. Have we not all dated someone like that?

2. Leaders should not pull, push, shove, or otherwise forcibly try to get the follower to “get it”. I mention this since SC is quite high on the national list for Domestic Violence, and because reading followers posts, it seems to be epidemic. Maybe you really want to be in mixed martial arts or wrestling instead.

3. Stated differently in different languages, “the leader proposes, the follower disposes”. A lead is not a command, but an invitation, to which the follower accepts or rejects. (or maybe interprets differently then you intended in an even more lovely way) Followers, like people in bars, appreciate your picking up on this after your third invitation is rejected (or first). Know the difference between persistence and harassment.

4. If your lead doesn’t obtain the intended response, my advice is to consider this to be something you miscommunicated rather than an error on the followers part. Here’s why, there’s nothing you can do about an error on the followers part (during a social dance) , but there’s a lot you can do to make your non verbal communication skills better. In fact, one of the greatest benefit of lead follow dances is that you ACQUIRE non verbal communication skills. What married person wouldn’t like THOSE to be better? For themselves and their significant other (SO). For workshops, consider that most issues between couples are a combination of both parties. Take a “how can we make this better approach”, as opposed to a “you need to do or not do X,Y,and Z.” Even if it is one person’s issue, it’s easier to accept if determined in a cooperative format.

5. Likewise, as a follower, if you are confused by your partners lead, you can’t do anything about that in the moment. What you can do, is focus on what YOU’RE doing and go through your mental checklist: posture, balance, arm position, looking at partners chest, etc. Wouldn’t most relationships be better if we worked hardest at “fixing” ourselves, rather than taking our SO’s inventory.

6. Follow etiquette. “Etiquette is a code of polite conduct. If you practice proper etiquette, you are less likely to offend or annoy people — and you may even charm them.” https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/etiquette Rules regarding the dance moves in a counter clockwise circle, that one does not instruct during a social dance, that one doesn’t talk DURING the dance (before or after is fine) are all designed to avoid injury, and create an opportunity for everyone to have a pleasant social experience while dancing. While some neglect etiquette in relationships, one might argue that relationships need just as much etiquette as public situations. Like not talking during a dance. Who hasn’t been in relationship and far too often thought, “will they just not shut up”.

7. You will not have chemistry with everyone. This is not a surprise. You may even find that someone you had chemistry with at one time, you no longer do. Or you may find that they no longer have chemistry with you. Usually some distance is all that’s required. Stabbing, poisoning, shooting them is not recommended, nor is defaming them, trying to cause them financial ruin or slashing there tires. While intentionally hyperbole, anyone who’s been to divorce court knows exactly where I’m coming from.

8. Personal Hygiene. Who hasn’t wished this was a more popular endeavor in ALL facets of life. Whether dancing or in a relationship, applying the Golden Rule to yourself for any situation in which you will spend significant time cheek to cheek is not rocket science.

9. Your current lack of ability at “whatever” is not an excuse for not learning, participating or getting better. This is one of my favorites. When I tell people I take yoga classes, a typical response is “I can’t do that, I’m not flexible.” “Neither was I when I started, but I can now stick my head up my ass, and you’re apparently flexible enough for that”. Or, “I can’t dance, I have no rhythm”. Uhhh, that’s why you take lessons. Just say I’m not interested in that rather then suggesting a lack of knowledge is a good excuse. We could have all gotten out of public school if saying, “Wow, I can’t go, I don’t know math”. Over seven years, I’ve been told I have no rhythm, can’t move to a beat, act like I’m always at a funeral, lack musicality, have no creativity or imagination. And those comments were just from my former marriage.

One thought on “Relationship Lessons Gleaned from Lead/Follow Dances

  1. Lawrence
    I can related to all 9 points you make in your article. The first one about learning how to stand on our own to feet with leaning or relying on our partner is key for life as well as for dancing. We hear this over and over again during every class… still getting embracing our dance partner without learning on him/her is more difficult than one can think. Same goes for relationships. Once we master this skill, I feel we are ready for a successful relationship. Great post. Looking for to reading more.

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