When I was in 7th grade, tradition required that I take ballroom dancing lessons with all my less than enthusiastic classmates. It was part of our preparation for adulthood and possible participation in the cotillion – aka the débutante ball. Our parents took us to the TAC House, a two-story Teen Age Club built by the WPA. The entire 2nd floor was a huge ballroom, and classes were held every Tuesday night for two months. Graduation consisted of dancing in semi-formal attire as our parents first watched and then joined us.

It was demoralizing, in the beginning, as we all tried to sort out our two left feet and get over being required to dance with a new partner during each segment of every lesson. Eventually, we realized we were all in the same boat, and just got on with it. The more we let go of resistance, fear, and pride, the easier it was to learn the dance steps. By graduation night, we no longer embarrassed ourselves on the dance floor. However, Cissy King and Bobby Burgess were not in danger of losing their jobs on the Lawrence Welk Show, either.

More importantly, though, I learned some essential lessons from those dance classes that have given me insight to other situations throughout my life. When dancing with a partner, someone has to lead and someone has to follow. In some dances the partners stay close together throughout the piece. In others the partners separate from one another, come back together, trust each other for support during a lift, twirl or dip, and even communicate without words. Although some of the dance steps move forward, some move sideways, and some move backwards; together, they propel the dancers across the room.

In today's fast paced world, focused on winning and losing, many of us would prefer a solitary sprint across the room. However, in my experience, most of life is more like a dance. Perhaps it is time once again to realize that we are all in the same boat and just get on with choosing a partner and learning the steps.

  • How do you approach life – as a sprinter or a dancer?
  • Have you ever been forced to dance without knowing the steps?
  • Are you able to lead, follow, and trust different partners?
  • What steps do you still need to learn?

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About David Bentley

Avatar_DavidBentleyDavid Bentley, M.Ed., is an avid observer of people, places and events. He uses his storytelling and questioning skills to help himself and others think outside the box in an ever-changing world.

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© 2014 David Bentley