It’s something of which I often remind students in my classes: Salsa is a metaphor for life. (To be fair, many other lead/follow, partner dance styles are equally metaphorical for life, but this is Salsaholics after all!) I often joke about this in class, like when mentioning that the follower (usually a woman) never lets go, or that it’s always the leader (usually a man) who lets the follower go. What I mean by this a little more seriously is that we can take many lessons from being a great dance partner and apply the same ideas to being a great life partner.
In partner dancing as in life, one member of the couple cannot overpower the other without creating both literal and metaphorical imbalance. One cannot impose (usually) his will on the other without adverse consequence—and of course, the same applies to her will being imposed as well. In these instances, what we have is the clichéd “failure to communicate.” In fact, dance is a great opportunity to learn how well the two individuals in a couple communicate with each other: conveying ideas and intentions, listening to what the other has to say (even if it’s non-verbal), truly hearing the intention and needs of the other, and responding appropriately.
For instance, when a leader suggests a particular move through a clear signal, is the follower prepared by being fully engaged to pick up on, and respond to, that signal? Is the lead signal less than clear? Is it ambiguous? Half-heartedly communicated? Imprecise? Undecipherable? Incomprehensible? Does the leader pay attention to the follower’s response? If he detects that she (for whatever reason) didn’t get the message, does he adapt and respond in the moment himself to maintain the connection for the benefit of the partnership?
When a couple is connected, there must be an equal tension between the couple. It’s far from a tug-of-war or escalating force where each partner takes turns pushing and shoving the other. Rather, the equal tension must be gentle but firm, a combination of compression and extension so that the net effect on the couple is complete engagement with each other, and a type of quiet stillness between the two partners, even if they are moving across the dance floor (or through their shared life together).
If you think about the ideal attributes of a great life partner, it’s likely that you’ll be able to apply those characteristics and interactions to a great dance partner, too. And, who knows? (If you’re seeking a great life partner) you might just find one with great connection, great communication, and great partnership on the dance floor.
See you, you-know-where,