How to Dance

Sally Chambers

Dancing Couple FTR TSP 87164516Recently, I have been learning to swing dance. I have found that to dance well with a partner takes a lot more than knowing the steps.


1. Don’t Anticipate

When I anticipated the next steps, most of the time I stepped on my partner’s toes, got ahead of the beat, and messed up the dance. The only expectation necessary is to know that my partner will lead me into the next step. To dance well means being present to the step at hand and not guessing what comes next.


2. Follow

I’m used to doing my own thing, in my own time and in my own way. Following on the dance floor is a challenge. My dance instructor says, “On the dance floor, the leader is always right.” Dancing doesn’t work with two leaders. To dance well, one person must lead and the other must follow so that the two become one as they move around the floor.


3. Trust

Dance Lunge2 TSP 144721151I have a tendency to look at my feet, which is a hazard when moving around the dance floor. To solve the problem, my instructor told me to dance with my eyes closed. Closing my eyes required that I trust my partner and feel the movement of the dance. To dance well with another takes trust and looking up.


4. Keep the Tension

I’m laid back; I’m not a fan of stress or tension. But in dancing, tension is necessary to be able to relax and to move with a partner. Tension in the frame, the points of contact of the arms and hands, lets me know what direction we’re about to go and when I’m about to be turned. Tension allows one person to lead and one to follow without a word being spoken. To dance well with another requires a frame, a defined space, tension, and a way of being together.


5. Take Small Steps

I have long legs. When I dance, I tend to take big steps, long strides—and before I know it, I’m completely out of sync. Small steps are best in dancing. They keep me in time, but they also slow me down. I relax, enjoy the dance, move more fluidly, and rest into the lead of my partner. To dance well with a partner is easier with smaller steps.


6. Be Ready

Toward the end of one class, my partner said to me, “Always keep your arms up, so you’re ready for the next move.” Of course, my tendency is to drop my arms as soon as one of them is released. But if I drop my arms, I’m not ready to follow whatever comes next. I’m not ready to be twirled, rocked, pulled, or pushed because my hands aren’t available. To dance well with another is to be available and ready for the next move.


My dance lessons are teaching me how to move in relationships as well as on the dance floor. What would change if you practiced these dance lessons with your parents and your friends? How would learning to dance help your relationship with God?



Let’s take dancing a step further. As Jesus began to head toward Jerusalem for the last time, he told his disciples, “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how” (Matthew 16:24–25, The Message).

How well do you let God lead? In what ways is following difficult for you? Dancing is much easier when you have someone to show you how. In what ways does God show you how to dance with other people and with God?

Sally Chambers — Many an afternoon, were you to spy into the window of her condo, you might find Sally "dancing it out"—dancing out the stress, the frustrations, the to-do lists and practicing the rhythms, steps, and turns.

—from devozine (March/April 2013). Copyright © 2013 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.
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