The Relationship Dance: Are You The Leader Or Follower?

credit: Marisa DeMarco
credit: Marisa DeMarco

There is nothing more liberating than dancing a vivacious salsa or a slow bachata in an open air discotheque near the sea on a warm Saturday night. Sensuous rhythms are continuous as men and women alike take pride in their turns and figures while radiating an openness of warmth with each pass. Salsa dancing, as its name suggests, is a hot and spicy mix of influences including Afro-Caribbean drum beats blended with Spanish guitar music. The origins of the dance comes from various Cuban and Puerto Rican styles that were merged together in the mid 1970s in NYC. The dance craze took root and has expanded globally ever since.

Salsa requires both participants to respect the structure of the dance; moving together while flexibly determining their passes—even if it’s the first time that they are meeting. There are certain signals that are given and received which results in coordinated figures by both partners. When a couple agrees to enter the dance floor, both can’t initiate at the same time, nor can they both comply. Therefore one partner commands and the other follows. Traditionally, men lead and women follow, yet gender roles have refined this principle within various societies. Simply stated, one partner is dominant and the other submissive—as far as the dance is concerned.

The leader can control the passes based upon his/her change in body position and contact of pressure placed on the partner. The follower is challenged to comply with the signal yet is encouraged to choose ways of self-expression within the confines of the dance. Ultimately, salsa demands that both parties accept the natural flow of leading and following in order to be positively executed.

On a deeper level, salsa can be reflective in the world of dating—and furthermore the formation of relationships. Not only am I learning the dance form itself for personal enjoyment, but it also teaches me a great deal of how to approach interpersonal connections in general. It’s about the give and take, the value of finding balance, yet the importance of expressing personal needs and concerns in a way that is complimentary to whomever is being addressed and also listening to them as well.

Whether it be a first date, two months of courtship, or years together as a couple, there tends to be one person who generally takes the lead where the other follows. Depending on talents, abilities, intelligences, and personality types, usually one role is more predominant within a person’s being. However, overlap occurs and responsibilities are shared based upon each partner’s strengths and weaknesses. This helps to determine the direction of time spent together—in the dance of the relationship.

Based upon the couple’s dynamic, if both parties want to lead or both want to follow, there will be an imbalance with a lot of missteps, broken turns, indecision, and disharmony. This is not to say that two Alpha types and two Beta types are doomed together instead of one being matched with the opposite. But rather it’s making the conscious choice to decide who is generally going to lead, who is generally going to follow. Who will step forward? Who will lean back? The when and how are also important. It’s about finding an overall comprise along with making re-adjustments as the “dance” progresses. There are going to be times when things speed up and other times when they slow down. Sometimes the dynamics can bring about lots of new turns and directions for the couple to engage whereas other times the steadiness and repetition of the passes can provide comfort, too. Depending on what life presents on the dance floor of daily living, it’s up to the two people to take the opportunity to explore themselves and each other—one pass at a time (if they so choose). TC mark

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