I love to dance and am currently helping to teach a Latin dance class at the Community Center in Sitka, where I live. Yesterday I was thinking about how ballroom dancing, basically any style, is the perfect portrayal of an idea I believe so strongly in--the different, but equal roles of men and women. To watch partners dance who fluidly work together as a team is a beautiful thing. With the slight, gentle, but steady motions of the man's hand, or arm or positioning of the body the woman takes cue and, following his lead, moves in confidence and grace so the two seem to move as one.
Now, many would have a negative emotional response toward my suggestion that the woman should follow the man's lead. Let's be logical for a moment--anyone who has worked on a team or been in any kind of partnership knows that one must lead for the team to be successful. Decisions can/should be made together--with equal weight in it, but there still must be a spokesperson of sorts. People who take issue with this notion probably haven't been part of very many successful teams. In a dance partnership, when both partners attempt to be the leader the result is painful to watch.
Does it work just as well when the woman leads and the man follows? Not so much. Not only in Western cultures, but in cultures around the world, the men are the protectors. They are physically built to be able to defend and provide physical sustenance for a family. For this reason, males of species wild and domesticated :) exude strength to catch the eye of a potential mate. Woman are not hardwired to be attracted a man twirling around and acting too soft and... dainty. Females, in most cultural dances around the globe, dance to exude grace and fluidity, confidence and poise to attract a mate, not control of the other and strength over him. In other words, it is less appealing to watch. Though physically and mentally capable of leading, a female attempting to lead in dance makes the man appear and feel weak--not a good mental state for a protector.
In ballroom dance, almost all movements are designed to display the female--the male shows off his partner to the onlookers. In the most successful marriages I have witnessed, it seems this arrangement is present. The husband, proud of his wife, treats her with gentleness and respect. He finds opportunity to give her a highlighted position--"put her on a pedestal." So sweet are those moments when you see a man quietly give his wife the best seat and pull it out for her, ask and acknowledge her desires, sometimes, when appropriate, publicly honor her. In the best marriages, I believe, the wife treats her husband with dignity, she "takes his arm"--literally and figuratively--she lets him guide her.
This, however, only stands so far as he treats her with meekness and love. Any man who is using harsh movements and "jerking" the female partner around is not a good dancer. I avoid that type of partner as soon as they are identified, often through an unpleasant dance experience. Onlookers can see this, even if unfamiliar with dance--something isn't right. Only a man who leads with respect and in a loving way is suitable. Any woman, or man, in an abusive relationship should find a new partner. A dancer who acts timid and with low self-esteem does not draw a
crowd. A poised, confident dancer with head held high and smile bright
makes those around fall in love with them. Dancers be ware, if respect is not shown the partnership will never be
successful or beautiful and your partner may just opt out of dancing
Because of women's experiences, perhaps, dancing with the wrong kind of partner or being the wrong kind of partner, it has become quite common for the idea to be rejected that men and woman have different roles, roles best suited to the gender of each. As I follow one who leads with respect and honor for me, his partner, in dance and in marriage, I feel like the best version of myself--confident, graceful, beautiful, valued by him. I am happy to be that flower on the branch he extends and I cherish my role as a woman. The feeling of moving as one--and others can see it too--brings a joy beyond my ability to describe. In my mind, this is the goal of marriage. And no one, watching a successful dance partnership or successful marriage--think back to the times you have--would feel that the woman's role is any less or lower than the man's; if anything--it is the focus.
A female's flourishes and twirls in dance--really the point of it all--would, in this analogy, be a woman's noble and important actions as a mother and the things she does to hold the family and household together. In dance and in marriage, the man creates the frame wherein this is possible. He holds her up and steadies her; he leads with a gentle touch.