Bunhead in the ballroom

I remember the first time I mentioned it to D, “let’s take a salsa class together, it would be so much fun”. He smiled but it was an uncomfortable smile – you know, the kind people make when scrambling for something to say to change to subject. His face said it all and I resolved not to bring it up again. But then, a while later, he sent me the confirmation email for a salsa course he had booked us on. That’s just how he D is, selfless and willing to do anything for dance-obsessed me. The thing is, D is also an “if we do it then we have to do it well” kind of guy, which is great but it led him to book us on two classes per week instead of just one 🙂 (you’ve got to love his enthusiasm).

We’ve only taken a few classes so far and I can already say that salsa is just as fun as I thought it would be – the music is fantastic, the hip shaking is a nice change from ballet’s rigidity and we have a great teacher. Yes, everything would be perfect were it not for one annoying observation I’ve made – I hate being “led”.

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Ballet is definitely my “default dance language”. It’s the form of dance I feel most comfortable expressing myself in. But ballet is also an independent form of dance involving little to no “leading”. In pas de deux, the woman is just as “in control” of her body and movements as the man is. I’m learning now that salsa and other ballroom dances work in a very different way – the man is in control and the woman follows his cues. For some reason, this is proving much easier said than done for me.

In ballet, tell me plié and I’ll do it. Tell me to jeté and I’ll do it. But “lead” me into a spin in Salsa and I want to “lead” you right back. It really is the strangest thing.

I’ve thought about this for a while now and I know the problem is not D “leading” – I don’t mind that at all and actually love spending more time with him. I think the problem is that I can’t seem to switch my ballet brain off, which is good for other aspects like posture and foot placement, but terrible for everything else.

Do any of you ballroom dance alongside ballet? Please tell me, is there an “off” switch for ballet brain mode? If so, where can I find it?

I would really appreciate some advice. I’m sure D would appreciate it too. 🙂

6 thoughts on “Bunhead in the ballroom

  1. Ohhhhh man I recognize this!!!! I’ve done salsa in the past (bachata & merengue too) and every man I danced with said that I danced ‘heavy’ because I wouldn’t be led. I think it has to do with doing ballet but also with being ‘in control’ too much..

    I really had to learn to LET GO, just as I have to do again to fully surrender to contemporary dance instead of ballet!

  2. I’ve done it, but not really enough to be comfortable. And I’ve had almost the opposite problem. Because of my tendency to watch the other person (in ballet), I’ve found myself watching my partner at times to try to figure out the steps.
    But I’ve gotten a lot better at leading.

    1. It’s nice to hear about it from a male perspective! I totally understand what you mean about watching others in ballet and can imagine that would make leading VERY difficult. Do you still salsa dance or have you stopped?

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