I had an epiphany Sunday, driving home alone at 2 in the morning after a night of Blues dancing.
I had the perfect dance.
That wasn’t the epiphany.
In almost the same moment I thought I had the perfect dance it struck me that the perfect dance wasn’t perfect.
But it was.
And not just because it was with the Viking of a man who so enchanted me the time before.
The dance was sublime in ways I would have sworn only happened in literature. It was intricate, it was joyous, raucous, sensuous, it meant everything and nothing. It was in turn light, fun, playful: clapping with the beat, call-response movements, disconnected hands, taunting steps.
We’re following the lead-er, the lead-er, the lead-er…
A heartbeat later it was serious: deeply grounded synchronized steps, lunging surges of movement, an embrace so closed our arms could have completely circled each other. His arm around my waist. My weight giving him leverage for a sliding pivot, his weight buoying me up and back towards the mirrored wall of the dance hall. His arm dragging mine ’round his neck. Serious. Intimate. Breathless.
There is no way to describe the heady feeling of giving in to the dizzyness that comes from being spun like a top between two large, warm hands.
I learned to spot a turn as a baby ballerina. Eighteen years practice and in the space of a breath I somehow lost the crack in the mirror that staved off the dizzyness. Somewhere in the shifting momentum, spinning faster, faster, again and again, I let go. My head spun and I embraced the maelstrom.
Blues is nothing like Ballet.
Ballet puts no one between you and the hardwood.
The Viking will not let me fall. It is a truth spoken with simple matter-of-fact confidence.
I’ve had dances with equally experienced leads, where I executed equally fast, equally complicated movements but felt like some sort of clumsy puppet, tossed around like a rag doll. Drowning, casting about for any way to steady myself. This was not the same.
It was intuitive. My feet fell into a seamless grapevine, my hips snapped around exactly the right way without more than a shift in the incline of my Lead’s body. He lunged and my spine bowed, a perfect arc over his arm until my ribs protested the bands of their cage, trying to loose my heart and lungs. The mirrored wall reflected me suspended there, draped like silk over his arm.
With every other Lead I have a moment where I know I’m about to be dipped (you should always know, or they’re doing it wrong). I have a moment of doubt chased with the acceptance that I may very well be seconds away from a concussion and trip to the ER. With anyone but the Viking I am just waiting for the fall.
He won’t let me fall.
This instinctive trust both unnerves me and frees me while dancing with him.
So there is the fairy tale end of things.
It was perfect.
But I stumbled.
I’m still a beginner at best. I don’t know all the fancy footwork. I don’t know any tricks. There were shuffled steps, turns I interpreted incorrectly, a moment where I laughed in self deprecation at how UTTERLY lost I was in some intricate movement he tried and admitted “I have no idea what we’re doing.”
The dance was still perfect. I messed up right and left, and it was perfect.
In the classes I took with Jo a while back, an instructor talked about dancing “on the same level.” At the time I asked how to communicate that you can’t dance on the level of someone with 11 years experience. How to say “I suck” with your dancing so you don’t wind up getting flung around.
They said to get heavier. Resist and slow things down. Dance deliberately at your own level until your Lead catches on.
Inherently the Viking is on a level head and shoulders above mine. He was dancing at his level, but in a way that encouraged me to rise to meet him. I don’t feel like he was dumbing himself down for me. I went with it, I matched his intensity and pace and just interpreted in the best way I could. I feel like I DID dance at my level, but I also danced above it.
Intuition took care of the rest.
So despite a lot of missteps and nervous laughter, it wound up being a truly singular moment.
The perfect dance was not made perfect by somehow magically knowing the choreography: that’s never going to happen. Social dancing is not choreographed. Like blues music its made mostly of improvisation.
I cling to control, safety, staying inside the lines. It seems to be why I struggle with Blues. I have to let go, and in this one dance I may have found the key.
The perfect dance became what it was because despite the VAST expanse between my own Blues experience and that of my Lead, (and I state this as the same simple truth as “he will not let me fall”) he ENCOURAGED me. Like the rest of what he did in the dance, there were no words, nothing overt telling me what to do, the encouragement was just there.
He’s never said “I won’t let you fall” or “don’t worry” or “let me show you” or “like this” but its there. Without thinking I respond and the dance that results is electric. Transcendent.
And now I’m in trouble because I thought the Viking was handsome and likable BEFORE I discovered this weird intuitive dance connection.
Its also a good thing this is anonymous because this whole “dance zen” vibe I’ve got going on would earn me some SERIOUS eye rolls.