Whenever I watch professional dancers together, I'm always amazed by the skill and the ease by which they execute each movement. (Not to mention the beautiful shoes the women manage to glide across the floor in.) I'm also struck by the level of trust they display: they dip on queue without fear of falling, they spin and twirl with the confidence a hand will be there to catch theirs and pull them back in.
Over the course of our lives, odds are we will experience the full gamut of the dancing spectrum. As little girls, we stand on our father's feet in frilly socks and Mary Jane's as he stoops to reach our tiny, outstretched hands. Later, we attend our first dance wearing a pair of awkward, clunky heels (possibly the very first heels we've ever worn) and experience the joy (and relief) when a boy chooses us to no longer stand along the wall. As we grow older, the rigid, three feet apart sway of that first dance dissolves: one day, the right person taps us on the shoulder, guides us to the dance floor. As the distance between us melts away, and we are carried away in the graceful dance of which we've always dreamed. In the end, we come full spectrum as taller, more elegant versions of ourselves wearing white dresses take our father's hand once more as he ultimately gives us away.
Deep down, I suppose this is the dance I dream of: the dance that is shared, the dance of building a life with someone. To be sure, I am blessed beyond measure, and no one loves a "dance party for one" more than I do. I throw them all the time in the comfort of my little Crescent Hill apartment. (This confession may make some readers shake their heads in embarrassment. But my closest friends will shake their heads, then nod and say, "Yeah, that sounds about right. She would.")
The reality is: there have been many dances in my life that did not end the way I thought-or rather hoped-they would. There have been times when there was no arm there to catch me, and other times still when no hand caught me from a violent spin. After you've fallen, so many times, it becomes increasingly harder to get back up, brush off your dress and stand there in those tall shoes with any confidence at all. There are days when it is a little devastating to feel sentenced to a life as a perpetual wallflower. Always waiting. "Will my turn ever come?"
Very recently, I shared a dance I will never forget: not because my dance partner was was ridiculously handsome (he was), not because he intrigued me in a way that I have not been intrigued in a long time (he did), but because of what he said to me before the dance began:
"Rule Number One: Keep your right foot planted between my feet at all times." (In ballroom dancing, they call this aiming.)
I followed his instructions, and he suddenly dipped backward toward the ground. He continued, "As long as that foot is there, you're grounded, and you'll be fine." As he lifted me up, he grinned a little. "There will also be no unnecessary toe-stomping."
"Rule Number Two: If I lift my arm, you're going to spin. And when you do, always keep your hand curved a little, like this. As long as you keep that hand just like that..." His arm went up, I spun, and I kept my hand the way he told me to, "...I can always catch you." I came to the end of the spin, and his hand closed around mine.
I do not know which moment I loved more: the one where my heart skipped a beat and I remembered the joy of possibility, reminded that perhaps, yes, my dance was yet to come. Or perhaps I just loved the fact that, somewhere in the midst of a hazy summer night, in the middle of a lamp-lit yard, he'd said the exact words I needed to hear.
Perhaps we get so caught up in the motion of the dance, or the anticipation thereof, that we forget the basic rules:
Keep one high-heel-clad little foot planted on the faith you've been taught, the love you've been given, and the goals you've built your life upon-even when it feels the world is falling apart around you.
Wait in anticipation, always ready, but still holding on to your identify and the vision of who you are going to be to the world-even when you think you might be spiraling out of reach.
And, finally, be ready for the catch, for the moment the right hand folds around your own, because inevitably, it will come.
"It's the heart afraid of breaking that never learns to dance. It is the dream afraid of waking that never takes the chance. It is the one who won't be taken who cannot seem to give. And the soul afraid of dying that never learns to live." -Better Midler