the dance

Something unusual happened at the barn dance the other night, though I guess it's not unusual for me. I just didn't expect it there. Somehow the situation seems symbolic or worth remembering.

The dance was going well, and even though it's not my favorite activity I was enjoying myself and was glad to be there with Heather. The the caller for the dance announced that someone else wanted to lead a dance. One of the more senior dancers there, I think. But after a few minutes it became clear that he was trying to teach a pretty complicated dance (where couples wove over and under the other couples from square to square across the whole room) and that he wasn't a very good teacher. Most people were confused and had to be shown what to do. Other dancers who had done it before began trying to tell the new dancers what to do (since the leader was not explaining it well). I joked, "When the music starts, it's going to be chaos."

It wasn't exactly chaos. But there were many mistakes, and our group repeatedly didn't know what to do next. I kept looking to the more experienced dancers and they just shrugged, not knowing either. The caller made a few comments about us not paying attention, which didn't help. And the more mistakes people made, the more it messed up others and everyone was getting frustrated.

I tried to hang in there though I could tell Heather was getting irritated by the caller. And people kept just shrugging and trying to muddle through. Then the caller gave another direction and we didn't know what to do and were looking for help, and then another dancer hits me in the back.

I guess he was just impatient and wanting me to move, maybe frustrated with the whole thing. It was a pretty rude thing to do in any case. And that was the last straw for me. I just walked off the dance floor.

Heather followed, not too disappointed to be out of that dance. But then the caller ran after me, urging us to come back. "I'm through!" was all I said. I guess by the tone of my voice he could tell I was angry and really wasn't coming back. Then I could hear him frantically trying to find someone to take our place (in the middle of the dance!). I didn't think this through before I walked off, but that must have thrown a big monkey wrench in the works because with a complex, interconnected dance like that one every couple needs to be in their place for it to work right. I can see why he ran after us.

Then there was a break, and after that we went back and danced the rest of the dances (with the original caller, who was quite good). We enjoyed ourselves, and so did a number of other people from the farm here. We sang songs in the van on the way home.

But I thought about that experience, about how I've done it in many other situations in my life. With the Navy, for example. Most recently with the church decision-making thing. I'm not sure if it's always the best response, but it does make quite an impression sometimes. And I do think it's better than everyone shrugging and continuing to muddle along because it would be too disruptive to just stop.

I know it's important not to leave completely. But refusal to participate in certain things does make a sharp statement, without attempting to force others to do what I want. Our participation is a choice, and an expression of who we are, so we should be careful and intentional with it.