In anticipation for Toit Nups, the boy and I are taking dancing lessons. I knew this was something we should do. BF has always been into dancing and has wanted me to do social dance with him for years (literally 10 of them, he asked if we could take dance classes the second year we were together). So even if it wasn’t at the top of my list of “must do”s, I wanted to take dance lessons. So that I didn’t look like a fool on this highly photographed night, and because someone I love wanted to do it.
All that said, I was feeling weirdly shaky and emotional walking into our first dance lesson. Not confident at all, and with that weird feeling behind the eyes that suggests tears are on their way. Which is not really how you want to enter a new learning paradigm.
So we started dancing. (We’re doing a rumba, in case you’re curious.) And at some point I asked our dance instructor Christy about how much pressure I should be putting into her head, as she demonstrated how I was to follow. She returned a thorough and lengthy response about how some people like a firmer lead than others, but for her the amount of pressure I was giving back to her as the lead was just right.
And I was like “Oh, okay. I know how this works. It’s like contact.” I perked up a lot after that.
A little later, we were talking about something else — I think steering. Christy was telling the boy that he needs to guide clearly and concisely when leading, and have a plan so that I, as the follower, have an easy job of following.
That’s when it clicked.
This is just riding.
Only I’m the horse.
who’s a pretty pony? you both are!!
So here are a few things I’ve learned about riding from dance lessons in the last week.
Rhythm is essential
I have great rhythm and timing. I can count to four, I can find a beat in a song, and I find it nigh-on INTOLERABLE when a cloud is clapping in time and the beat slowly gets faster. The boy has zero timing. ZERO.
Do you know how hard it is to have rhythm when the person leading you has no rhythm? When you’re stepping to four and he’s stepping to three, it’s literally not possible to maintain a four beat rhythm.
Dear beginner riders: if you’re reading this, for the love of all that is good in this world, do not fuck with your horse’s rhythm.
the fuck ahead
So not only does my dear future husband have no rhythm, he also doesn’t have a plan and it is literally the worst and most infuriating thing ever. Sure, we can go around and around and around in endless circles as we sloooow-quick-quick-sloooow-quick-quick around the box that rhumba prescribes.
Without a plan, we can do at best one or two movements before we peter out into nothingness (or just endless basic steps). Worse is when BF doesn’t have a plan and tries to make things up on the fly and mashes two movements together, or tries to do something and just massively flubs it. Unfortunately, this just reinforces crappy habits and bad muscle memory sooooo yeah, I’m hoping to avoid this as much as possible.
We’re obviously getting better at the “have a plan” thing. Evidently having a plan (and dancing the plan!) is a skill you need to practice. But not having a plan is the pits.
plan ahead, Nicole. do not forget your girth at a show, Nicole. do not sprain your knee the day before a show, Nicole!!
Meet your partner halfway
Nobody is convincing me to be a stronger follow by pushing into me more. In fact, it’s a lot easier for me to follow our dance instructor, who has a much lighter contact, than it is to follow my actual partner. I’ve been working hard at convincing him to lighten up, but in the mean time I have to push back at least a little bit.
I mean, in this scenario I’m the horse. So yeah, it would be nice if our horses could think it through and meet us halfway. But they can’t (necessarily). Which suuuucks, but is what we get for not riding motorcycles.
I am just like my horse
In every conflict we have in our dance lessons, I am Murray. Not just in the “Nicole is the horse here” analogy. I have the exact same problems as Murray. BF wants a lot more contact than I do. He tends to push his hand into mine with more force than I want, and in response I just back off. Just like Murray.
I have a tendency to try to take over and lead. The second my partner doesn’t have a plan, I just take over and start doing my own thing. No need to worry, fearless leader! I’ve got this. Now where are we going?
Nope, nothing like the horse I know and love. Nothing.
at least I don’t throw pony tantrums when something unexpected happens?
I am a terrible, terrible anticipator. Are we turning now? Now? Is it now? Did we do three turns last time? So three again this time, right? No? Five? WHAT. We did a change of direction here last time, are we doing it again?
Yeah so. Three dancing lessons have given me a really ridiculous amount of perspective on riding and an insane amount of sympathy for the garbage that I put my horse through.
I only hope I’m a better rider than my future husband is a dancer!
the jury’s still out, but one can hope