The examiner would give us a complicated French word to turn into movement and I hesitated to see what the other girls did first, in case I got it wrong. I was a natural follower, because I didn't want to make mistakes. Then, movement came second to words and the need to be right.
Now I dance the tango and I'm supposed to follow. It's an exercise in switching off my head, my thoughts, the words that put a degree of separation between me and the experience. The movement still comes second, but now it follows a feeling – the impulse and energy of the lead.
The tango is a lesson in allowing myself the freedom to find an almost meditative space of being in my body, without a running commentary of self-critical mind chatter – You didn't do that very well... You've done it wrong... You'll never be good enough...
To dance, I have to trust myself and the lead I get from my partner. It's sometimes frustrating and challenging. It can also be beautiful – a flow of two bodies in the same moment. That's the part I aspire to - with the desire of that little girl who wanted to feel those wings on her heels. It's also the embodiment of rapport, subtle communication and consideration between two people. It's about interpreting music together.
I often make mistakes, but you have to learn and swiftly move on. That foot out of place is a moment gone and if I dwell on it, I mess up the two or three that follow. And when do those mistakes happen most frequently? When I stop trusting myself and what I'm feeling.
I have to give myself fully to the process and commit to it. If I hang on to indecision and doubt, the next step I take lacks conviction - and if I can't be wholehearted about myself, my dance partners experience only part of what I could be.
The tango is an invitation to connect with someone else, to be a part of their world and to share my own. I choose - or not - to accept, because although I'm a follower, I have my own space, my own boundaries and my own sense of self. I also have to keep my own balance.
I can enter into this relationship with a sense of pride, confidence, strength and passion or I can be small, apologetic and mouse-like – which would you rather be?
Of course there's so much more to learn and hours to be spent on the dance floor to give my movements the confidence I want them to have, but in the meantime, I just have to forgive myself for my weaknesses, give myself credit for what I do best and enjoy the dance, wherever it takes me.
Image gratefully borrowed from visualvamp.wordpress.com