In February of this year I gave my husband Michael a special Valentine’s Day gift. I arranged a private salsa lesson with Piotrek, the owner of a local dance studio. A snowstorm canceled our first meeting, so we rescheduled for the middle of March and we’ve been studying with him ever since.
Piotrek is a spiritual teacher disguised as a salsa instructor.
Our new joint venture has not only taught Michael and me about salsa, it’s taught us about presence and partnership, working together, and having compassion for ourselves and each other.
Last week, for the first time, Michael was unable to make the lesson, so I had a chance to practice with Piotrek on my own.
After warming up, Piotrek put on the music, took my hands in his, and stared into my eyes. He then began to lead me through a series of steps and spins and I did my best to keep up.
There were moments of flow and delight when it felt like we were gliding on air and I just loved it. But then I’d mess up, get nervous, and interrupt the trance by trying to take the lead.
Piotrek’s a smart teacher. He’s been down this road with women like me before. He’s watched me repeatedly take the reigns from Michael during our lessons, only to gently remind me to give them back.
But this time I was dancing with him.
At my first attempt to take charge, Piotrek looked me directly in the eyes and said, “I’m the leader and it’s your job to follow. You need to be open and vulnerable so you can become the beautiful centerpiece of this dance.”
Wow. Cue nervous laugh, downward glances, instant shyness.
I immediately flashed back to ninth grade. Dressed in a ruffled, red velvet skirt and a pink, button-down shirt, I did my best to maintain my composure while held in the arms of Byron, a six-foot tall junior who gave me my first dance experience.
I was so nervous I couldn’t speak and eventually Byron stopped in the middle of the gymnasium floor and said, “Lighten up. You dance like a tree.”
Ah, the romance of youth.
Now, years later, here I was in the arms of a master, feeling just as nervous and uptight because I was being asked to do the opposite of what I’ve done all my life: Lighten up and allow someone else to take charge.
So I did.
I let go.
I trusted his lead.
And I followed.
What I got in return was a feeling I still can’t put into words.
Later that night, as I shared the experience with Michael, I felt a deep sadness well up inside me. The feeling I had while dancing with Piotrek was new and beautiful and compelling. Something I rarely experience because I’ve been leading all my life.
I’m comfortable in the role of boss.
I like being in charge.
And I tend to surround myself with people who like to be led.
The hour of dancing with Piotrek was such a gift. I suddenly understood, deep in my bones, the cost of always trying to be the leader.
At the end of our lesson, I told Piotrek I loved it so much I wanted to dance all the time. He smiled as he put on his salsa instructor costume and readied to leave.
Yes, I’m studying new lessons in this next stage of my life...
Relax, release, let go.
Trust others to take charge.
Allow yourself to be held, treasured, danced.
While I’m not sure where salsa will lead us, I do know this...
I want more.
This Week's Video
Now this is an old soul. Check out the video of this bright, young girl, here. Thanks, Susan!