(Dont you fight it til you tried it, do that conga beat!)
As some of you have heard before, Baptists and dance have not always been friends. I'll give my mother credit in this regard by telling me it was okay just as long as it wasn't "the most important thing in your life." It seems her father gave her a lot of grief about dancing and she didn't see anything wrong about knowing how to dance. Some the best memories of my mother are of her teaching me swing moves on our yellow and green kitchen linoleum.
In elementary school, one of the more bearable parts of physical education was learning how to square dance. However that was where my dance education stalled. At high school dances, it seemed the "anything goes" style was the name of the game and I just copied what looked cool at the time. And my primary excursions to gay dance clubs weren't much different (with the exception of dancing with people I wanted to dance with for the first time!).
When I moved to Seoul, I was invited to join my British friends in learning Scottish country dance. This was similar to square dancing in some ways. At first I was a little bummed about the importance placed on who danced the role of the "man" and "woman." But I figured who was I to question this style of dance formed over centuries of tradition (list of dances here)? While I was in Seoul, I went to the St. Andrew's Ball twice and had...well...a ball!
Soon after this I got interested in swing dancing and went to several weeks of lessons both on the campus of my school and at a swing bar in Seoul. It was great for improving mental acuity but again, I was disappointed that the male and female roles were so rigidly defined. Why are men in formalized dances always "leading" and women always "following?" There's nothing wrong with this per se. It just seemed kind of limiting to me.
So this brings my tale of toe-tapping to Toronto. One recent night out on the town, my partner and I stumbled into an amazing club called El Convento Rico. It's a mixed (both gay and straight people) Latin dance club. When people started dancing, we just sat with our mouths agape and watched with envy and wonder. That very night we got online to see if there were any Latin dance classes for couples like us. And lo' and behold, there were!
Rainbow Salsa is an extension of the 519 Church Street Community Center. Instead of having the men lead and the women follow, the instructors just divide people up into "leaders" and "followers." Since English was my native language, we opted for me to be the leader and my partner to be the follower. This way when moves are called out in the middle of loud music, it would be easier for me to react quickly.
All this dancing has caused me to think about the nature of relationships. I've heard people compare relationships to a dance, where one person is leading and the other is following. But I think this can change depending on the situation and the strengths and weaknesses of the individuals. Would a better metaphor for relationships perhaps be a dance class where people, regardless of gender, learned how to lead and follow and are equally comfortable doing both?