I fully expected to dance only with my date, but a few minutes into the lesson, the instructor told us to switch partners. At first, anxiety twisted at my ankles. But, by the time I came back around to my date, I found that switching partners had been surprisingly beneficial to us both. Exposure to the different styles and skill levels of the various dancers in the room had taught us more than we would have learned if we had remained in each other’s arms all evening.
Some lessons I learned in that class apply both on and off the dance floor.
1. Be collaborative and patient.
As a designated leader, I found that not every partner successfully followed my lead. Some could not follow me because they were so busy trying to remember the steps. Others did not follow because they were accustomed to being the leader and could not change their ways with ease. Regardless of their skill level, though, the followers that did not follow contributed to the awkwardness and difficulty of our dance. On the other hand, those that did follow my lead made me feel like the best dancer in the world even when my rhythm was way off or I repeatedly misstepped. They achieved this by collaborating in my missteps and patiently working with me to correct the issue with time and practice.
2. Don’t stare at my feet.
In a lesson about balance and looking good, the instructor pointed out that some of us were watching our feet instead of keeping eye contact with our partner. This was distorting our posture and making the dance more awkward. Though I was uncertain of my steps, I would have a much better and easier time if I focused on my partner and did not stare intensely at every step I took.
3. Create happiness, not perfection.
As a perfectionist, I would get frustrated with my missteps and my failures. I kept apologizing, pausing, restarting, and tried quitting on multiple occasions. Thankfully, my partners insistently encouraged me every time I wanted to quit, pulling me back into the dance. Those who smiled and laughed and misstepped along with me contributed significantly to my enjoyment of the evening. Time and experience will improve my skill if I practice, but it is the encouragement of other happy people that motivates me to keep practicing through my inadequacies.