When it comes to dancing, “just” is a four-letter-word.
Ladies who think to themselves “Why doesn’t he just lead, just remember the step, just start with the music…” might do well to remember that he is doing what he can for now and that it is partner dancing after all. She should try to focus on gratitude, because dancing with a man is better than dancing alone or with another woman. It befuddles us sometimes at the studio that she seems to want to help correct him…she would do well to remember how long she had to work to convince him to try this! And she would also probably prolong his willingness to persist if she can be encouraging. Even a simple smile…and as teachers we should do our best to gently remind her of this.
Similarly, it is unfair to expect the man to learn a jillion things and juggle it all and then diminish what we expect of the lady. If we tell her she should “Just follow,” we are signaling (unfairly) that her part is less important, less difficult, or less work. Perhaps it is the single most challenging thing we demand of a lady on the dance floor…she is expected to become an extension of his intentions and we tell her “just” to follow. Following is the most active role imaginable, and at the same time the most vulnerable and open. She should learn her patterns and her timing, but she should not anticipate. She studies all the technical aspects but then must relinquish in the moment, trust him, feel and respond. The simple action of moving backwards involves trust. The less simple activity of delaying her own commitment to a foot in hopes of being able to read his intentions (timing, direction, speed, amount of rise and fall, degree of rotation, etc) involves a relinquishing of control that might challenge any human being.
In short, as men and women of the ballroom and social dancing world we owe each other a large dose of kindness and compassion. Whether we are partnering random people or significant others (or even our instructors) we would all be blessed to remain in a state of gratitude and avoid diminishing the challenges our partner may be facing. Partner dancing will teach us lots about ourselves, and also help us grow more forgiving of ourselves and others. Patience is a virtue, and learning anything is a process that requires healthy amounts of patience.