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Etiquette: The excellent adventures of a student supporter (SSP) – Chapter 10

All the little gallantries!

Student Supporters in Rio Rhythmics’ Latin dance classes see chivalry everywhere.

Instructor Chris treats followers he’s borrowed for demonstrations the way an old-fashioned gentleman might. When the dance is done he takes their hand, folds it under-and-up-and-over his forearm, then escorts them across the room and back to their original places.

Director Tarcisio tunes into his student-followers’ dance wavelengths faster than you can say “Carnavale.” He starts simply (for confidence’s sake), then gently increases the complexity of his dance language (for communication’s sake.) After a few minutes, his followers are dancing better than they ever could have imagined. (And if one was to ask Tarcisio how this magnificence happened, he’d smile and say it was the follower’s own good work.)

Leaders in gallantry are those who guide their follower and never, never wrestle her. They don’t spin her to the stage where she’s ready to throw up; and they don’t start their moves late then FORCE her through the steps (even though she hasn’t had enough time to respond.)

Shining lights among followers are the ones whose diplomatic skills are so refined, they can request a less squeezy hold on their hand or waist (or anywhere else) while preserving their leaders’ feelings. Bouquets also go to the followers who understand that moves have variations and different endings. When a leader does x, they know not to anticipate y and z. They wait. They don’t backlead and for that, their leaders are eternally grateful.

Good dance partnerships are like any good life partnership: gender doesn’t matter. What does matter is that leading requires one set of skills, that following requires another, and that both skill sets can be learned. By anyone. No matter the skin they’re in.

At Rio Rhythmics, Student Supporter Nigel is an exquisite leader with bucketloads of performance experience. He’s also a light-as-a-feather follower with fine-as-lace dance-listening skills. In his capacity as a follower, he’s known as Nigella. (Go, on… ask your Student Supporter for their leading and following names.)

All of which means it’s perfectly acceptable for you to dance with someone of the same sex or gender in a dance class in whatever role takes your fancy. Your dancing will be the better for it.

And you might just discover a world of chivalries you never knew existed.


Linda Brucesmith is a writer and public relations consultant based in Brisbane. She managed Rio Rhythmics’ marketing from 2003-2008 and has danced with the Academy ever since.

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