I remember learning to dance Cuban Salsa. It’s a pretty technical dance that looked amazing on YouTube videos and I wanted a piece of it! My expectations of myself were pretty high – I thought that I should be able to do it pretty easily. I was wrong.
I remember some nights – my lessons were on a Friday – leaving the club right after the applause at the end of the class, being close to tears, as the music was turned up loud and all of the dancers returned to the dance floor for the social dancing. I was incredibly hard on myself and so frustrated at my lack of “getting it” as I reminded myself “This is meant to be fun!” It didn’t feel fun and my self-flagellating thoughts accompanied my footsteps as I pounded along the pavement to the train station as I made my way home from the torture of not learning.
Then one week and I don’t know why, I started relaxing. In partner dances like Salsa, the male leads. The woman’s role is to be relaxed enough and flexible enough to go where he leads her. The more complicated the move, the more she has to be relaxed in order to make it happen. I thought I needed to learn the steps and the routines. What I needed was to learn to let go.
Once I knew that, it felt like I had access to the biggest secret. All I needed was the basic footsteps and even then I didn’t have to deviate anything until my partner lead me to change direction. I continued going to my Salsa classes long after I learned this secret. I had to continue going to learn how to relax, and how to “let go” and be lead; how to stay light on my feet, never being too connected to one spot on the dance floor and always ready to be swept in a new direction or taken on a new spin.
This lesson translated from the dance floor to life too. I realise that I have to be flexible, that I have to be sure of my footing as well as light enough to take flight whenever I need to. That there is adventure and mystery “just over there” if I’m ready to go and explore it, like it is with a new step or a new partner that you’ve never met before. I also have to be reliant on those in my space, happy enough to let them lead me sometimes and trusting that they will keep me upright and not let me fall. I have “mastered” Cuban Salsa but I still have times when I dance with a new person and it takes a little while to get accustomed to his way of moving before we are completely in sync.
Life is like that, too…