Nobody remembers the wallpaper. The best things in life demand participation. Peel yourself from the walls of spectatorship and find out when that thing starts and join in, and how this thing works and try it for yourself. Get involved in something, somehow, some way. Leave the lukewarm beer, the solitary cocktail, the “Oh, no, I can’t dance”, and the “I have two left feet” behind. Nobody was born dancing, everyone had to learn. And it is biologically impossible to have two left feet. Left and then right. One-two-three, five-six-seven—there you go. Dance! Dance!
If you’re leading, lead; if you’re following, then follow. But you cannot do both at the same time—each role has its own set of rules, responsibilities, etiquette, nuances, and rewards. Being good at any of the roles demands time and dedication. Pick a role and stick with it.
If you are going to be a leader (of any sort) make sure you know the direction in which you intend to steer. Prepare. Practice. Plan two, three, and four steps ahead because later has a terrible habit of appearing sooner than one ever intends. Make sure whoever you are leading knows what you want them to do; know their limits and lead accordingly—this prevents frustration and disappointment on the follow’s part. Most of leading, anyway, is service and earning the follow’s trust.
If you are following do not lead, even if you are paired with a weak lead. Leading is all about confidence, if you strip a lead of their responsibility you destroy their confidence and ignore the gifts of your role: grace and flair. Following is not an act of weakness. It is powerful; you can revoke poorly misused trust. The dance needs two to make it work, so pick a role and play it as best as you can.
Timing is everything. Rhythm is the rest. The right thing at the right time in the right place—there is some luck involved in many successes, but there is nothing fortuitous about being prepared when the opportune moment presents itself. Timing is everything. Quick-quick-slow. Quick-quick-slow. No, not now, but now. If the timing is off then pause, stop, or step aside and wait until things feel just right. There is a flow to everything. See where the current is going before you join it—only dead fish go with the flow. But only fools waste time dancing against the rhythm.
Patience. If timing is everything, the only thing that helps to weather the currents of time is patience. Nothing worth doing is ever easy. There is a song for every dancer, and a wave for every surfer. The right moment is never in the past, but always ahead.
Practice makes better. Perfection is an elusive and useless ideal, improvement is the only real talent in life. Better than last year, better than last week, better than yesterday—that is all one can hope to be. Small steps. Tortoises, not hares. Things will fall apart. And then come together at some point. It is the supreme destiny of those who try—and try with humility and dedication—to succeed in some way, small or grand. One-two-three, five-six-seven. Once more. Again. And again. There you go. Dance! Dance!
Look around. Be aware of other dancers, how other people move, and place yourself accordingly. The centre of the dance floor might look like it is where all the fun is, but the edges are equally rewarding. Sometimes more so. Make space for yourself. You are always your own centre.
Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. The fanciest steps and patterns mean nothing when they are done to the wrong timing and rhythm. When in doubt (and even when not), keep it simple. The basics never go out of style. But misguided flamboyance is punished almost instantly.
Smile. Have fun. Whether you are leading or following, smile—even if things are going wrong, it will comfort your partner. You are, after all, in this together. Have fun. Things are going to go wrong anyway. It is the natural order of things to fall apart. So have fun while you can, build together. One-two-three—don’t look down, pay attention to your partner, look around, keep it simple, and smile—five-six-seven.
Listen to the music. It is always trying to tell you something. Bachata says move slowly and sensually. Cha-cha says strut with purpose. Salsa says speed up, separate, join, experiment—this is how the dance was born; this is how it continues to capture the imagination. Every song has a rhythm and tempo. Every song has its own rules—once you find them, you will be a step closer to breaking them with artistic flair.
The sweetest dance is the one that just ended, the best one is always the next. There will be more dances. Always.
Rémy is a Rwandan-born Namibian writer and photographer. He is the founder, chairperson, and artministrator of Doek, an independent arts organisation in Namibia supporting the literary arts. He is also the editor-in-chief of Doek! Literary Magazine.
His debut novel The Eternal Audience Of One was first published in South Africa by Blackbird Books and is available worldwide from Scout Press (S&S). His work has appeared in The Johannesburg Review of Books, Brainwavez, American Chordata, Lolwe, and Granta, among others, with more forthcoming in numerous publications. He won the Africa Regional Prize of the 2021 Commonwealth Short Story Prize. He was shortlisted for the AKO Caine Prize for African Writing in 2020 and 2021 and was also longlisted and shortlisted for the 2020 and 2021 Afritondo Short Story Prizes respectively. In 2019 he was shortlisted for Best Original Fiction by Stack Magazines.