Leadership and Contra Dance

I've been thinking for a while about the connections between good dancing and good leadership.  I am a fan of Contra Dancing, so my thoughts have proceeded along those lines.  For those of you unfamiliar with contra dance, check out <www.sbcds.org/contradance/whatis/>.  It utilizes many of the moves of square dancing, but in parallel lines rather than squares.

A good leader is one who enables others to realize their full potential and, at the same time, moves the whole group towards a common goal.  In contra dancing, every person has the potential for being a leaderr and is, infact, called upon to lead at various times in the dance.  To observe the behavior of an individual in the dance is to see how they behave as leaders and, I theorize, would say a lot about how they act as leaders in their family, community and business. 

There are dancers who think they are far superior to anyone else in the group and they are going to show that.  They are annoyed at the mistakes of others, sometimes going so far as to refuse to dance with those people in the line!  They are arrogant and fussy over details and make those with lesser experience feel foolish and awkward in the dance.  This is not good leadership.  This is self-centered and sellf-serving.  They deny others the fun of dancing and often will cause more chaos, especially amongst the inexperienced.

There are dancers who are good, but don''t want to take charge.  They hold back, hoping that others will somehow follow along.  They simply ignore the misteps and remain detached from the group.  They often feel that mistakes should simply be expected and accepted.  This also is not good leadership.  There is a rythm and flow in dance.  There are specific steps at specific times which,, if executed properly, keep the whole dance moving along, much to everyone's enjoyment.  Good leaders will take the time and make the effort to make sure that everyone is "on board" with the movement and dynamics of the dance.  Folks will make mistakes, and a good leaders knows this.  He/she is willing to gracefully fllow over the mistake, but also is willing to help the person do better next time. 

With each new person one encounters in the dance a new leadership style must be used.  Some people need a strong hand to guide them through, some people need verbal instruction as the dance progresses, some people need an equal force through swings, circles and promenades.  A good leader is able to make those judgments quickly and provide exactly the level of authority necessary for each dancer.  This is true in any organization.  Different people need a different style of leadership in order to help them do the best they can.

A good leader knows the vision.  In a contradance, there is an expected outcome, probably several.  Dances are community builders.  That is the larger purpose.  There is also the more technical purpose which the caller has envisioned - the completion of each round.  A good leader keeps both those things in mind as he//she moves through the dance.  How do we build the community through our leadership?  Are we helping others have fun?  Are we teaching others the joy of the dance?

More on this later!

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