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Following a man’s lead

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Since my divorce, I’ve had a fear of dance classes. Not because I’m concerned about following the steps — I’m reasonably adept at that. But it’s for another reason — something that I think might plague other accomplished women.

It might be something that you struggle with yourself.

I’m concerned that I won’t be able to follow a man’s lead.

For 20 years, I slow-danced with one man — my husband. I knew his moves. He wasn’t a strong leader (in anything, really), but I learned his steps and could follow along quite nicely.

Post divorce, I slow-danced with only a few beaus, and rarely in public. They held me so closely, it was impossible not to sway with them.

But dance class — in the arms of a strange man, doing a dance with specific steps I was supposed to follow. Oy vey! It was so scary, I stayed away from any dancing that would require being in a hold.

This was magnified exponentially when I had the melt down on the dance floor with the astronaut a few months ago. When this man I had just met pulled me close on our first (and only) dance, I froze. I didn’t move when he tried to move me. My statue-like state caused him to count the beat in my ear. I was humiliated.

So a few weeks ago I decided I needed to break through this barrier. I screwed up my courage and attended a salsa dance class, having convinced a gal pal to accompany me for moral support.

The instructor had the women rotate partners, so I danced with 8 men several times. Most of them were weak leads, but I fought the urge to take over. I survived — and even enjoyed it. But how would I be with a man who knew how to lead? Would I be able to follow even when they weren’t leading? Passivity wasn’t a strong suit.

This weekend, I got to experiment again, attending the  second class. This time, there were only 3 students — all women — so we got to take turns dancing with the three instructors.

Commenting on what I thought was a normal hand hold in our first turn together, the primary instructor, Frank, said, “I’d hate to meet you in a back alley — you’re strong.” It didn’t seem like a compliment. In our second turn, I thought I was following nicely when he said “You have to let the man lead. If you don’t, he feels emasculated.” I wasn’t appreciating his editorializing. Just tell me what I need to do to dance well, don’t lecture to me.

It fed into my insecurities about not knowing how to follow. So much so, I checked out the impressions with a younger, strong-leading instructor with whom I’d danced. He said I followed just fine.

What’s your experience with learning to follow? Do you have any issues with it or do you just naturally follow a man’s dance lead? Have you gained any insights if you had to learn this behavior?


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About Yury Zvyagolskiy

Yury Zvyagolskiy
In almost all American movies there is a bad guy who is usually Russian and his name is Yury. If the bad guy is not from Russia, his last name usually starts with Z. So here I am - Yury Z. My specialty is personal effectiveness. I am an expert in goal achievement, personal effectiveness, relationships and effective thinking.

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