One, two, three. One, two, three.
Last week, I went dancing after a terribly long day. I pushed myself too hard, for too long, and in too much heat. And against what should have been better judgment, I went dancing anyway. I go Contra dancing every so often, and it is a lot of hard, good fun. It is lively, energetic, and fast paced. Not for the feint of heart.
And I went, after a day at a theme park, in the middle of the summer, with a high heat index, and I didn’t do such a great job at getting all my meals in either. Like I said… possibly against my better judgment.
I went because I knew that one of my favorite live string bands would be playing. I was fairly certain that at least two very good friends would be there. I was not having a migraine day. So I went to go dance.
After an hour or so of spinning up and down the room, we break for a waltz. I was in dire need for water, but I really like the waltz as well, and so when someone offered to dance, I took him up on it.
A waltz, if you’ve not had much experience, is something that needs to be felt just as much as danced. Dancing in a waltz is more like an experiential expression of the pulse of the music than a forceful counting of steps and beats.
I have had enough practice in dancing a waltz, and in following the lead, that even though I was barely hanging on, I was easily led around the room in a gentle, graceful weaving motion through the song.
There are two roles in a partnered waltz. There is lead, and there is follow. I generally dance the follow, though I’ve practiced the lead in the main contra a few times. I have found that if you dance follow to a lead that is exceptionally good at communicating, then it becomes beautifully easy. I could have danced it with my eyes closed. I may have a little while there. I was being led around the room, flowing with the music. The music and my partner helped me journey gracefully through the dance.
Even though I was tired and worn out, the dance gave me energy. My partner helped me experience the music, not by force but by a gentle leading. I was able to walk through the simple steps, weaving in and out of a full room of people, now this way, now that way, twisting and turning about in concert with my partner. I danced to the music. I spun. I was practically on my final bits of energy, but I was filled with the music.
I think, sometimes, that I learn more about the church in a group of contra dancers than I do in Sunday morning worship. I learn about God and love and following a lead through the example of a gentle guiding hand. I practice the fellowship of community in dance and in celebration of our lives. I use my entire body to feel the music and respond to the melody and harmony and beat. I wish that the Church would look like a contra dance more often. Everybody listens to the caller, and we all respond to the music. When someone missteps then those around them gently guide them back into the rhythm. The dance would fall apart if we all chose to stop listening. We are all moving in concert, but we also are all doing something slightly different, we are responding as individuals and doing different spins and turns, but we all come back together. We move and flow through the dance, and it works because we work together.
For a dance to feel smooth, you have to give weight. Do you remember as a child clasping hands with a friend and leaning back and spinning? The main element of contra uses the same type of motion. It is difficult to give into this spin when you are a beginner. If you don’t have practice at it, and if it has been a while since you were playing and spinning as a kid, then it’s tough. It is difficult to give in and let your partner support your weight. It is difficult to take your partner’s hand and support their back at the same time.
There has to be a time when you just give in. You have to have faith that your partner will support you, and hold you up. You have to trust your partner.
It works best if you trust.