Aaahhh - dancing! In the Dressage arena or in the ballroom - it's all lovely. If not reined in (Har!) I could write volumes about dancing in regard to my life. I'll try not to. Right now.
If I had a few hours, I'd write about all the psychological and physical barriers I broke when I made the huge leap, not just outside of my comfort zone but outside of my entire realm of who I thought I was. Since then, I've become a ballroom (and Latin) dance fanatic and have encouraged every person I meet to give it a try. So, to anyone (or maybe the one person) who is reading this, you really ought to have a go at taking a dance class. In my classes I have met people from all walks of life. Couples and single people of all ages (although not enough single men to go around). There have been nurses, mechanics, professors, teachers, lumberjacks, contractors, UPS drivers, pharmacists, waitresses, realtors, and now horse trainers in classes. It's truly universal.
There have been many eye-opening moments during my dancing lessons and most of them were having to do with how similar ballroom dancing is to riding. You have a leader and a follower and there can not be one without the other. In both activities, it is the awareness of the subtle body language of your partner that makes the picture beautiful.
In most of my dance classes, being a partnerless person, I was very fortunate to be able to dance either with the instructor or with her dance partner. Both of them are fabulous dancers and it made my learning tremendously smooth. I wasn't entirely aware of it until I had to dance with someone who did not now how to dance and in particular, to lead. It was very difficult for me to pick up the steps when my partner couldn't lead me through, when I couldn't rely on him to be there for me and suddenly, I had a new found empathy for the green horse with a green rider! "So this is what it's like!", I thought. On the flip side of that, when I did know the steps and my leader didn't, I was able to back-lead, or help my partner through. I became the "schoolmaster".
The ballroom dances (Waltz, Viennese Waltz, Quickstep, Foxtrot, and Tango) are the "Dressage-y dances. The Latin dances (Rumba, Jive, Salsa, Mambo, Meringue, Samba, etc...) are more like showjumping. It has to do with your weight distribution. In ballroom, your posture is up and stretched through your torso with contact at the hips. In Latin, your weight is more forward, over your toes. Both styles of riding and both types of dance are equally rhythmical and equally well balanced, just in different ways.
The give and take and subtlety of communication and connection with your partner in either sport is what intrigues me. Dancing with a leader who is unsure or rough or not considerate of his partner makes it not so much fun. As it must be for a horse with rider of the same persuasion. Dancing with a partner who is balanced, confident, and in control without being aggressive is just dreamy. Dancing, in particular having to follow a lead, has certainly made me a better rider because now I am so much more aware of how everything I do affects my partner. Dancing has improved my posture, my balance, my agility and my body awareness. I love dancing because of what I've learned about myself and how I have found some self-confidence. Plus, I get to wear twirly dresses.