Six years ago I started dancing Salsa as a way to overcome my social anxiety and various insecurities. Salsa became more than just a hobby. It taught me about life and relationships. Here’s my top 5 takeaways in my six years dancing (with probably tons of lessons to come as I continue my journey):
- You will always suck:
That sounds bad but it keeps you humble. The more I practiced, the better I got. But the better I got the more I realized how much I didn’t know, how much I had yet to learn, and where I needed to improve.
Some people are fine living a mediocre life and dancing “just OK.” Some people are actually perfectly content being “meh”. There are others who expect more of themselves and their partners.
If you like “meh”, expect “meh” from your partner.
If you like greatness, expect greatness from your partner.
I expect greatness and my dance director knows that. My director forces me to spend hours on my basic, which can be extremely frustrating. It’s a long and awkward process having to slow down and make sure your foundation is set before you try to challenge things you aren’t ready for. When you can’t even do a good basic (which is still my main issue), your partner is forced to slow down to match your level, which makes for a less-than-enjoyable dance leaving both people feeling “meh” in the end.
- Leadership isn’t a position that puts you in control of people; leadership is a responsibility to be present for others and inspire:
Just because you are playing the role as Leader (either as a Lead in dance or a director of a dance team), doesn’t make you a great leader. True leadership inspires. One of my favorite quotes on leadership by Simon Sinek:
“Leading is not the same as being a leader.
Leading means others are willing to follow, not because
they have to, but because they want to.”
What do you bring to the table? Why would anyone want to follow you? Why waste your time or theirs? Don’t make this all about you. Maybe you aren’t a great Leader or Follower (YET!!). That’s ok. Let your partner know where you are in the game. Give them a heads up as to what you have to offer. Who knows? With such transparency, they’ll probably still be happy to dance with you.
- You don’t need a partner to enjoy the dance:
After a few years dancing with a partner I realized that I had a lot of work to do on myself. My technique was off, my basic was shit (still is), and I couldn’t for the life of me find my core (and I still struggle with that). So I decided to stop dancing with a partner and join a ladies team in which I would be forced to own ALL my flaws by myself. I could no longer blame my mistakes and weaknesses on my partner. I could no longer ask someone else to help me keep my balance.
And when you’re ready to go back into partner work, there’s still moments when you gotta be on your own. In salsa, we call it “shines”. It’s your moment to shine. Show what you’ve got. Show what you’ve worked for. Let your partner shine as well. When the two of you are able to shine together, but separately, it’s a fun, exciting, and beautiful dance the whole world wants to see.
No relationship, whether it be a 3-minute dance or a long-term romantic relationship, can survive without trust. We trust that our partner chose to dance with us because they wanted to invest that time in us.
NOT because it made them look or feel good.
NOT because they were hoping to get lucky later…
NOT because it made them feel guilty if they didn’t.
And definitely NOT because they were bored and you were the only
thing available at the moment…
That said, before we can trust anyone, we MUST be able to trust ourselves. One of the biggest reasons we don’t trust others is because we don’t trust ourselves. But what is trust? Trust isn’t expecting that no one ever will ever disappoint you, that nothing will ever go wrong, or others will always make you happy.
Trust is knowing that you have what it takes inside of you to show up
as the best version of yourself in whatever moment,
and get through the dance knowing you did your best.
Trust is having faith that the process you’ve chosen to engage in
will work out exactly as it should
because you’ve done the best you can in that moment.
It may not be perfect,
Maybe it was the worst dance of your life.
It may even end up being the best dance of your life!!
But you can trust that you gave it your all and that made it a success.
Everything else is completely out of your hands. How your partner dances is on them. How they juggle their own insecurities and weaknesses is also on them. This kinda follows the previous point, which is that you gotta do your part and work on yourself. But trust is a two way street. We want to trust that the person we choose to dance with is also doing their best. We can usually tell fairly early on when they are just not into it. Regardless, if you trust yourself, you have more patience within yourself, allowing your partner the space and time to work on themselves, express themselves, and feel the joy of dance.
- Life is the dancer. YOU are the DANCE:
One of the biggest challenges we all face in life is thinking that we are in control and that we know what is best for others or how things “should be”. We believe we know what is “right” and judge everything else as wrong. We determine in our minds that “Once I make things or people change… once I convince that person they are wrong…once I get what I want… then I can finally be happy. I can finally be at peace.”
We are at a constant war within ourselves and reality, only to be drastically disappointed when we find out that what we thought we wanted was NOT the key to our happiness.
Through dance, I learned that “life lives within me” and I am a mere vessel. The more I got to know my fellow dancers, I realized that life was expressing itself artistically in all of us, in such a unique way, and it was ALL a beautiful collection of dances. Life dances through us all, it uses us to express itself and makes us the choreography. We can choose to be “just another dance” or we can choose to be the most beautiful, thoughtful, and inspiring choreography that life can dance through.