UPDATE: I got an email from someone who was there and she told me I shouldn't feel so bad about my leading performance. So, on her suggestion, I upgraded it to "not so great actually" from the previous title.
Last Tuesday, as there was the usual shortage of men in my beginner tango class, I had to (attempt to) lead. I've been (well, you could call it) dancing tango about 2 months. I can barely follow, but it would be good to see a bit of the other side, right? Right.
My partner looked irritated. She seemed irritated that there weren't enough men in the class and she was going to be lead by a woman. She also seemed irritated that we were all (well, mostly all) truly beginners, while she was more intermediate. The class was too slow.
I tried not to be intimidated, thought about how I liked/disliked different aspects of being led, and tried to go forward from there. Well, not so much forward, as shifting weight side to side. Was she with me? uh..no.. hmm.. Maybe she needs more from me - after all, I'm shorter than she is, and she's intermediate and well...
So let's try again. Change weight, one side then the other - I think she's with me - she's swaying with me, step to the side... Nope, she's not with me. I stepped by myself, apologized sheepishly and stepped back.
She rolled her eyes and sighed. "I didn't feel you shift weight at all."
"Oops, okay. Um. Sorry. Let's try again."
Shift right, shift left, oh good - we're swaying a bit together, I think she's with me. We take two steps together and I've lost her again.
"I just don't feel you at all." Another exasperated sigh and more eye rolling.
My god this is painful. I suck at this. How do men even get up the nerve? I feel about 1 inch tall and want to crawl under a rock.
I ask for help from the instructor, which he happily provides. I do exactly what he says. She's feels rooted to the ground. We take another 2 steps and she stops - I've lost her again. Another eye roll as she scans the room for anything more entertaining than being led nowhere by me. I apologize again and wish that lightening would strike.
The song is over. I've never been so thankful for the end of the song. I thank her for her patience to which she casts a sour look in my direction before walking off. She spent much of the rest of the class and practica with that somewhat sour expression on her face.
I dance several dances with various leaders before I start to feel slightly better about myself. One of the other women tells me I look like I've been dancing much longer than a couple of months. She's my new favorite person.
Later during the practica, another woman from class (who is in my estimation an advanced tango dancer, gracing us with her presence) wants to practice leading and, as no one volunteers to be lead by a woman, I offer to let her lead me. We both believe that learning to lead will make us better dancers in the long run. However, I'm 5'4"-ish, she appears almost 5' in her tango heels. I feel like I have 50lbs on her, but she's a great dancer - so I'm confident she knows what she's doing.
It's awkward at first - I recognize the questioning look on her face, the hesitation, then I feel her lead - but I do have to feel for it a bit more - like listening more carefully. I don't wait until I'm sure what she needs, I go with her before I have a chance to hesitate and wonder. Soon, we're going around the floor and she's led three crosses in a row (which I have a hard time with dancing with any leader) and I "heard" all of them. We misstep a couple of times, and she apologizes for stepping on my foot. I tell her she could have stepped with both feet and I probably wouldn't have felt it, she's so tiny. Much giggling ensues. And we get back to dancing.
It takes mutual, concerted effort for us - but we're doing it. When we misstep, we both laugh, shift weight, and keep going.
And I think to myself, she is so brave. I want to be like her when I grow up.