• Two left feet?

    It happens all the time when I meet new people.  They find out that we are ballroom dancers, and they say something like this: “I would love to dance, but I’ve got two left feet!”  A popular variation is “My wife wants us to learn to dance, but I’ve got two left feet!”

    These people seem to think that the ability to dance comes from innate talent rather than from instruction, practice, and experience.  Yes, at a more advanced level, or in competitive dancing, talent is a factor.  But no one, no matter how talented, walks onto the floor for the first time and walks off the floor a world 10-dance champion.  Everyone had to take that first lesson, go to that first social dance, make those embarrassing mistakes.

    Brand-new ballroom dancers do have to get over an initial “hump.”   To have fun at a ballroom dance one probably needs to know basic steps in at least 3 dances.  I think the learning curve is more significant for men, who have to lead and therefore must think one step ahead.  Getting familiar with music is necessary too.  Daniel used to turn up the car radio and ask, “What can we dance to this?”  Soon I could quickly identify the right dance for any song he played.  Songs at social dances are often short; if you have to ponder too long, you’ll miss the dance entirely. So it’s true that getting started is the hardest part, because there is a lot to learn.

    And yet I don’t want to suggest that learning to dance is hard.  It’s challenging, but in a fun way.  My point is that you do have to learn to dance–and everyone can.  Natural talent helps with, but doesn’t replace, that process.  Even the best dancers still make crazy mistakes.  The fact that Daniel and I have won a few blue ribbons doesn’t make us immune to stepping on each other, losing the count, giving bad leads, failing to follow, doing foxtrot steps to tango music, or crashing into other couples (and some of those things happened on the comp. floor!).

    Our friend & instructor Paula East says that “all you need are two left feet and a good attitude.”  That good attitude is the real determining factor–if you have that, the feet will eventually take care of themselves.

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