Dancing Buddha

I’m a salsera. Specifically, a casinera. I’ve been dancing casino-style salsa off and on for maybe 7 years. In the past couple of years, mostly off, but yesterday, I rejoined my fellow casineros!

Dance, like running, is a great teacher. When I take lessons, I often learn much more than the turns being taught. Yesterday I learned about being swayed by self-doubt.

dancing buddha
Jorge and I getting down!

Casino salsa reminds of square dancing in a circle. There’s a caller, and everyone does the called move in sync. Afterwards, we’re told to switch partners and complete another move.

Sidebar on partner dance: if you’re a good follower, you needn’t know the move by heart, but you should still be able to execute it well, provided a good leader is partnering you. I’m a good follower, but I came to the circle with a healthy amount of humility. It was an advanced class and I hadn’t danced in a while. I assumed I’d be a little rusty while the rhythms awakened in my body.

The first move we did together? Disaster. I wasn’t able to follow what was going on very well, and wondered if I shouldn’t switch to the intermediate class despite the fact I’d been advanced for years. We changed partners. Still disastrous. Embarrassed, I apologized to the leader. Surely this was somehow all my fault – I was throwing them off rhythm, anticipating moves instead of following – something. But as we continued to switch partners and I danced with stronger leaders, I was able to execute the moves with no problems.

The instructor, who switched between following and leading, eventually danced with all of the leaders. He realized, with just a couple of exceptions, they were doing a poor job. “I was lost doing that turn. I didn’t know what came next. I wasn’t sure what to do or when to do it.” That was exactly the way I felt! He retaught the move, being strict about pressure, torque and musicality. It helped a great deal, and I was able to dance much better with better leadership. This continued move after move until the weaker leaders began asking me for feedback on how to improve their leading for a given turn.

Now this doesn’t mean I was perfect. I made my standard mistakes (traveling too far from my partner, for instance). But I realized I was still a good dancer, despite my rustiness. I also realized I had allowed my confidence to be shaken. I thought I had a good attitude coming into the circle, but in truth, it wasn’t humility I brought but self-doubt. Our environment is happy to be our mirror, and each partner mirrored my beliefs in my ability. I felt I couldn’t do it, and my environment allowed me to prove myself right.

As soon as it hit me, I chuckled and relaxed into the dancing. Sure, I have room for improvement, but I can approach it with a smile, rather than doubtful heart.

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