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The leader: The excellent adventures of a student supporter (SSP) – Chapter 6

“D’you like leading?”

We’re dancing forro, the starters are just about to finish an eight-week intro course, and we’re short on leaders. I’m a Student Supporter, so I step up.

“Do you like it?” my follower wants to know.
I think what she really means is, “I don’t know if I could lead. It’d be awkward. I’d be bamboozled, gobsmacked, and discombobulated.”
I say, “I worry about spoiling people’s time.”
She says, “You could never spoil people’s time.”

The call comes to change partners. She moves on.
A gem of chat. A sweet sharing.

Later, I look back on her question. I ask myself, “DO I like leading?”
The answer surprises me.

I think, “It isn’t about liking or disliking leading, because dancing isn’t about the leader or the follower. Dancing’s about what two people do.”

And that’s not the look-at-me, stage-and-floodlights stuff, either. Partner dancing’s about the sharing and communicating and humility that goes into it. (Just like life, really.) It’s about what two people do in the dance-minutes to come. Things they mightn’t have been able to do in the dance-minutes just gone.

I had danced for more than ten years before I went into a Rio Rhythmics Student Supporter workshop where leaders and followers were asked to swap roles. I was a first-time leader and in my nervous embrace, all the male dancers went heavy as lead. Not understanding, I wanted to ask them, “What’s the matter?” Clumsily, I galumphed one follower after another around the floor. And then, a light bulb moment. “Hold your horses,” I told myself. “Just a cotton pickin’ minute, now. He’s following YOUR lead, isn’t he? Doing what YOU’RE asking him to do, just the way he’s supposed to.”

So I adjusted my frame. (Suddenly we were a little lighter.) I listened a little more closely and cared a little bit more. (Hey presto! We were lighter still.)

And I thought, “Is this what leaders go through? This must be what leaders go through!”

I’m still a beginner leader, but that long-ago Student Supporter workshop opened up a whole new dance-life perspective.

Do I like leading? I should have told my dancer-follower, “I like the dance partnership.”
I should have said, “It’s the most beautiful thing in the world.”


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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