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Dear Beginner: This is why I told you 'Yes'

Dear Beginner,

I'm so happy you decided to social dance. I'm so happy that you've decided that this magnificent world has caught your interest - and I hope it holds it. Welcome to our beautiful family, we open our arms to you.

You may have noticed that there is a lot of talk about the right to say "no" to a dance request, and about how this doesn't need to be shameful or difficult for anyone. There has been a distinct trend in these articles recently, if you haven't been around long enough to know such things.

Those articles are completely true and this article is in no way meant to contradict them.

It's very important to realize that everyone has a right to say 'No' to a request to dance and nobody is entitled to a dance. So it's good that such things are being said and taught and strengthened in our culture.

But something hasn't been talked about much lately, because people often like to look at decisions in a very polar way, either A or B, but it turns out in this case we can have our cake and eat it too.

You see, dear beginner, there is something I want you to know about in addition to the right to say 'No' which will always be yours.

It is beautiful to say 'Yes'

It is also terrifying. Saying 'yes' to any dance request may make you feel vulnerable. What if the dancer is much better than you? What if the dancer is much worse? What if they don't like your dancing? What if they make you look bad?

All of these are based on fear.

And this fear is forgetting one basic point. The simple fact that all of us were beginners once. And anyone who sticks around long enough and works hard enough can be great. We're all just people who love a dance.

Some people will forget this.

And these people are likely to say 'No' to a dance, though that's not the only reason people say 'No'. But it takes lots of guts to say yes. And there's something else that isn't explained in class. There's something that happens when you dance with people better than you. And worse than you. And everything in between.

It makes you a better dancer

This is why I have said 'yes' every single time someone has asked me to dance for almost 20 years now. Sometimes that has to wait a song while I am dancing with someone else or getting some water, but I always find them and follow through.

I believe this makes me a better dancer, and I also believe it makes our scene better. And yes, there are rockstars who will go to the dance and only dance with the other rockstars. As far as I'm concerned, they have no place in our family. Not because I believe that they have to dance with other people, but simply because if they don't want to, then they clearly don't need us, and it goes both ways.

Because we are a family.

We are all in this together. We all have a passion for this combined activity - and this is a social dance after all. It's something we do with other people.

To be very clear, I do not expect/require/demand that everyone say yes to all dances. It's just a rule that I hold for myself. At least for now. Maybe when I hit two decades of this dance I'll reconsider. But it's done amazing things for me and for the dancers around me.

So maybe you should try it too! I recognize that there may be issues of safety that should be taken into consideration - always make sure that you are safe, but you might want to check-in with yourself to make sure you aren't just using it as an excuse just because you don't feel like dancing with someone. And I also understand that this may be asking for more from follows than leads. I realize that an experienced lead with a new follow is going to generally work out much better than an experienced follow with a new lead. But in the end, we can only worry about ourselves and the quality of our own dancing. Worrying about the quality of other people's dancing is a fool's errand that will take you to very dark and ugly places.

Besides, the Buddha Lead and the Buddha Follow can have a great dance with any beginner, or even with someone who has never danced before.

What's the Buddha Lead / Buddha Follow? That's a topic for another article sometime. :)

David Ljung Madison, 2016

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Written in response to many things, including:

Dear Beginner: This is why they told you ‘No’ - my narcissistic home page. It don't mean a thing..