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Letting go at the Latino Dance Festival

If you were to ask any of my past dance partners, they would tell you the same thing: Emily is a control freak who cannot let another person take the lead. I’m not going to argue with that statement. Sure, I managed to appear like I knew what I was doing in the dance recitals of my youth when I was only responsible for my own movement; but dancing with another person is a completely different story.

Photo by Molly Svendsen | The Broadside.
Photo by Molly Svendsen | The Broadside.

I distinctly remember one specific event when my brother and I were swing dancing in our family’s kitchen. It ended in tears and left my brother with a bruised shin. But that was six years ago, and I was older now: How hard would it be to have someone else take the lead when I went to the Latino Dance Festival this past Saturday in Wille Hall?

The answer: pretty hard.

I kept wanting to take the lead away from my partner, even though half the time I didn’t know what I was doing. I figured I had the dancing down. After all, I make an effort to stay up to date on Dancing With the Stars. If Kirstie Alley can do the salsa, so can I. Yet every time I tried to assert myself as the leader of the pair, I always found myself needing to start over and try again. Two dance partners and forty-five minutes later, I was frustrated to the point that I benched myself from the dancing. I admired the partners that were still dancing on the floor, all swirling around each other like ballerinas in a music box. I couldn’t help but wonder, how could they make it look so easy?

I received my answer after sucking up my pride and leaving it with my rain coat at the side of the room. I walked over to members of the Latino Club and finally admitted I needed help. Amalia Grijalva, president of the Latino Club, smiled and agreed to help me learn how to dance. She took my hands and she broke down the steps.

“Just remember to count to four,” she said.

We danced for a little while before she returned to her dance partner. I walked around the room, trying to find a dance partner when I overheard one of the instructors offering advice to another dancer.

“The trick to dancing is letting go,” he said. “Just let yourself and all your worries go and enjoy the music.”

The advice seemed simple, but for a person with a habit of being in control, it was still difficult for me to apply. I looked around the room and at the clock before coming to the conclusion that I had nothing left to lose, so why not try one last time? This time I would let go of control.
I found a dance partner and we began to dance. For the first time all night, I wasn’t trying to be Kirstie Alley, nor was I trying to take the lead from my partner. I was just letting myself enjoy the music and follow the direction of my partner. Finally, I actually learned how to dance the Latino dance steps. I was actually smiling and dancing; there were no tears, no frustration, and no partners left with a bruised shin.


Emily Kalie
The Broadside



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