I always said ballroom dancing brings out masculinity and femininity. Men and women are just plain wired to think and behave differently, and that is so evident in ballroom dancing.
Yesterday at Dance Teacher’s College, we were practicing our rise and fall in foxtrot and the teacher described the look of the body during the side-together steps as a curved arc. Amanda exclaimed, “Like a rainbow! A sparkly rainbow!” Jay just shook his head at this delightfully feminine analogy, which brought on a discussion of analogies. When teaching, you want to try to use analogies that will make sense for who you are teaching – be that a leader or a follower. Jay says he once used the analogy of a snowplow to teach a lady, and she responded that he better come up with a better analogy because she didn’t want to be thinking about snowplowing while dancing. We laughed a lot at this. Then there’s the analogy of “putting on the breaks,” which our instructor used successfully last waltz class for the leaders to warn their ladies of a new directional movement. And apparently, in another class an instructor had compared some action to punting a football. I guess the analogies are only limited by your imagination!
Our differences make it so natural for a man to be a leader and a woman to be a follower in dance. Like in a relationship between a man and woman, the man initiates and the woman responds. He’s the one to ask her out on a date, to get down on one knee and propose. It doesn’t mean he uses aggression on her or that true masculinity oppresses women. Not in the least. She has the freedom to choose how she will respond to his lead and initiative.
An article I once read said the husband or father should always have his eyes on the horizon, while the woman is the heart of the home. In dancing, the man literally does have his eyes on the horizon of the room in order to guide and maneuver the woman safely around the floor. The woman’s focus is on being perceptive to his movements, responding with her own, and creating beauty within the frame.
This is why it is so dang hard to switch roles and lead as a woman and follow as a man! Probably the most frustrating (because it is the hardest) task in dance teacher’s college is reversing roles. Amanda and I get to lead Jay around the floor, while he has to refrain from back-leading us and instead, following. It can be a hilarious and frustrating endeavor. It’s surprising how much concentration it takes to reverse roles in dancing with the opposite sex, because your natural impulse wants to take over.
The point of this exercise is to hone our understanding of the dynamics of dance and enable us to effectively teach both leaders and followers.
Challenges like these are the making of good teachers!