One of the best dances for developing good partnership skills is the Tango. The necessity for clean lines, strong striding movements, brisk changes of direction, staccato footwork and flicks,all make tango a fun and dramatic dance, but also one of the most challenging. You can't get away with poor leading or sloppy following in tango.
In ballroom and other social dancing, a successful dance partnership is not based on the gentleman and lady each giving a 50/50 percent effort; instead the only way for the dance to work – to look seamless and beautiful – is for BOTH parties to put in 100 percent effort. Lately, I have been pondering how much this concept parallels other relationships (dating, marriage, business), as well as our relationship with Jesus with him as the leader and us as the followers.
Let me demonstrate.
Then he [Jesus] told them what they could expect from themselves: “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat – I am….Follow me and I’ll show you how.” Luke 9:23 (The Message)
As I mentioned in my previous note (posted here if haven't read it yet), I draw from my experience teaching ballroom and partnership dancing in how I relate to God. I've been ruminating for several weeks now on what it means to follow God and His will for my life, and relating it to how a lady must learn to follow a gentleman in a social dancing situation. For me it comes down to one word - TRUST - but I find that trust is sometimes harder in the application than the concept. So I started breaking it down - that it starts first with focus. I have a phrase on a vision board in my room that reminds me of this daily - "FOCUS ON
WHAT MATTERS". This reminds me to keep my eyes on Jesus, to love him, to love people, and to love myself.
Secondly, it is important to stay in the present, and celebrate the place God has me in right now; and to be aware of the traps of trying to anticipate every next move God will make in our lives. Or in my impatience to bring a dream or goal to pass in my own strength, instead of waiting on God's timing. And that brings us to Part Two: The Reality of Leading.
(This started as a short blog, but the inspiration hit, and ended up long enough that I've split it into two parts. Part two will be posted later in the week!) ~Jessica
If you ask me as a ballroom dancer what it means to follow, I would sum it up with one word – TRUST. But even as I say that, I hear the ladies saying, “Yeah right – sounds sooooo simple, but sooooo tough to execute.” And then you’ll flood me with questions like:
“How can I trust him when I don’t know what he is going to lead next?”
“What if I don’t know the steps or it is more advanced than I am comfortable with?”
“How do I ‘trust’ if my partner’s sense of timing is…different than mine (i.e. he’s completely off beat in my estimation)?”
“If each guy I dance with leads differently, then how do I relax? How am I supposed to do this TRUST thing?”
So let me unpack a few things I’ve picked up in my 10+ years of teaching ballroom dance. If you like to dance and want to become a better leader or follower, you may pick up a few tips. But I believe there is a broader application, and also hope to show you how learning to follow as a dancer applies to all of us as we learn to follow God and His will for our lives.
One day at three o'clock in the afternoon, Peter and John were on their way into the Temple for prayer meeting. At the same time there was a man crippled from birth being carried up. Every day he was set down at the Temple gate, the one named Beautiful, to beg from those going into the Temple. When he saw Peter and John about to enter the Temple, he asked for a handout.
Peter, with John at his side, looked him straight in the eye and said, "Look here." He looked up, expecting to get something from them. Peter said, "I don't have a nickel to my name, but what I do have, I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk!" He grabbed him by the right hand and pulled him up. In an instant his feet and ankles became firm. He jumped to his feet and walked. The man went into the Temple with them, walking back and forth, dancing and praising God. (Acts 3: 1-9)
How often are we like the crippled man - who is constantly reminded of his shortcomings, his inadequacies and failures. He was placed at the Beautiful gate every day to beg for any small blessing. On the threshold of the sanctuary, but never entering the Temple - he would have been considered unclean. He was born this way - unable to walk or run; and for over 40 years had only known this way of living, and could see no hope it would ever change. His head was down, staring at the dusty, dirty street; staring at the lameness in his legs - that's all he could see. He identified himself with the dirt. He was ashamed of himself and felt worthless and didn't want to look other people in the eye, even if they gave him a few coins, even if they were
the source of his blessing.
We must keep our eyes on Jesus, who leads us and makes our faith complete.
~Hebrews 12:2 (CEV)
I love to dance Salsa. Whether I am at a ballroom dance studio’s weekly dance party or at a venue with a live salsa band, I enjoy dancing enough that I dance with everyone regardless of age or experience. I admit that I do love to get in at least one or two salsa dances with a really good lead. A good leader will challenge my body and my mind to its limits.
Salsa is Latin jazz, so the music is complex by nature, and very fast. The basic foot rhythm is constant, but when you add turns, spins, walks, hand changes and fast music it gets really interesting! There are also plenty of opportunities for individual styling and expression. All of a sudden, as a follow, my reaction time to whatever is led is whittled down to a fraction of a beat. I have to be so aware of my partner, that I rarely look my partner straight in the eyes; instead I literally stare at his chest - because then I can use my peripheral vision to see everything he is trying to lead. I also have to tune out everything and everybody else around me, which is usually a bit of a blur, and my partner becomes the only constant in the room. I have this saying when I teach salsa and other Latin dances: dance heart to heart. This puts you directly in front of your partner and helps keep your frame and your connection. No matter how many times he spins me, I have to come back and find him with my eyes and end up facing him – heart to heart.
“Draw near to me and I will draw near to you."
Jesus is the Perfect Leader in this dance we call life.
In ballroom dancing a gentleman (the leader) invites the lady (the follower) into his embrace by raising his hand and waiting. It is the lady’s job to step into that embrace; and she is in charge of establishing her distance from the gentleman (according to what she is comfortable with). A good leader never forces the follow to have closer contact by pulling her in.
This reflects how Jesus invites us into a relationship with him. He waits, and is completely patient; that hand is always outstretched, because Jesus desires to dance with us, to lead us through this life. But we must choose to step into that embrace. As we draw near to God, he draws nearer to us.