My Unforeseen Challenge with Swing Dancing


With the inability to instinctively tell my right from my left, I knew dancing was going to be a challenge, but little did I know my real challenge on the dance floor until halfway through my first attempt at this New Year’s Resolution.

On Sunday evenings in Wichita, the Wichita Swing Dance Society takes over the Care to Dance studio in the Delano District.  At a little before the 7:30 PM beginner’s class began, a group of us sat in the chairs lining the walls and watched as the dancers from the previous session continued their mastery of the Lindy Hop.

It was the first time for the couple sitting next to me too. A desire to dance at blues bars was their inspiration to learn. While we chatted, I glanced around the room looking for other solo people and saw pretty much a mix of everything. A cute young couple wearing sweats, a few twenty-something-year-old guys wearing ties (and probably hoping to dance with the girl of their dreams that evening), people in their 50s and 60s laughing and smiling as they talked to others, some hipsters (no further description needed), and many, many others all waited for the class to start.

7:30 hit, and the two dancing instructors in their mid-20s had us briefly relive middle school by lining guys on one side and girls on the other before showing us a few basic moves for East Coast Swing.

The lines soon formed a circle with the guys staying put and the girls shifting partners every song or so as people with various degrees of experience tried to step, step, rock step with some turns thrown into the mix.

More Swing Dancing

An attractive brunette in green was my first dance partner. She sold trees at a nursery, was originally from Hutch, and really liked how the downtown was changing. Then there was a very nifty personal chef who loved making Thai food. Although originally from Alaska, a desire to go to a college that shared her last name brought her to Kansas.  Next an older lady with a touch of pink in her silver hair danced with me. A fear of regretting one day of saying, “I danced too little,” had brought her to these lessons.

Then came the cute girl in sweats. My warning about being an absolute beginner was met with her warning me not to let her lead for she had a problem with always doing so.

That conversation and many others after struck me with an unanticipated situation. That night, at least, men were always the leaders while women always had to follow. It was a peculiar juxtaposition to earlier that day where on a stage at a Martin Luther King, Jr celebration I had stressed the importance of equality.

Thanks to an amazing independent mother, a degree in cultural studies, and a belief a partnership is the best method for any type of relationship, the concept I was trying to wrap my brain around had never been part of my make up, so it was odd when my dancing partner would answer, “It doesn’t matter. Guys lead,” when asked what type of turns she liked. My verbal prodding eventually brought to light her favorites, and those were soon incorporated (or attempted because, well, I’m a dancing greenhorn) into our dance moves.

Just a quick Google search shows this topic has been the focus of many blogs, but yet never had it graced my thoughts until last night.  There probably has to be a leader and follower of some sort in dancing. The Third-Wave Feminist in me says if a woman wants to follow, she should. Still she should be able to choose and have some say where the leader takes her. Otherwise, she could become like one of my dance partners who told me with a grimace about dances with guys who turned her so much she was extremely dizzy by the end of the song and other guys who just threw her all over the place.

This whole experience, while really a lot of fun with some really neat people, gave me a taste of the likely unforeseen challenges to come thanks to these New Year’s Resolutions. I’m ready to take them on by contemplating and carrying out ways to overcome them as I continue to dance perhaps to the beat of a different drum.

A Strategy to Keep in Mind
A Strategy to Keep in Mind

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