An extended arm is an assertive move, an invitation to join in an unending sequence of steps and motions. She gladly accepts, assuming a new position alongside him, and exhales, centring herself. And as if guided by an inherent intuition, a mutual understanding, the dance commences. One will lead, the other will follow – but this exchange will ebb and flow as the motions of the dance push and pull the couple in every direction. Left and right, they gesture towards each other in harmonious grace as though they are one being. Then resistance reminds us of their individuality, a balance that only comes through simultaneous movement, both equal and opposite. As he looks forward, he has eyes on what she cannot see. And she does the same. No matter the direction, there’s vision and an awareness that keeps them dancing in the light. Enveloped by the atmosphere their dance has created, the couple continues to understand where they are and where they are going. With each move they get better, more confident in their ability to lead and be led. And the dance becomes a language that cannot be replicated or precisely taught but rather understood as an unfolding tapestry of side steps, twirls and unassuming turns.
‘And as if guided by an inherent intuition, a mutual understanding, the dance commences.’
The metaphor of a dance is such a beautiful portrayal of marriage and the dynamic between two lovers as they create their lives together. Dance is more than a series of steps and pre-orchestrated movements aligned in a particular order, although it may seem that way from the perspective of another. While there are steps you can learn in an effort to look your best there is always an element of unpredictability. And that’s the beauty of it; the fact that it cannot be perfectly manipulated because it is something that evolves organically. As with any artistic expression, there is an exchange between the artist, their subject and the world that surrounds them. And so in the dance of marriage the lovers are both the artist and the subject, being impressed upon by each other and their mutual surroundings. The artwork is unfolding, becoming more rich and meaningful, with every step they take and each direction they choose to travel. Even if you have mastered the steps and practised them to near perfection, organised movement is only one half of the exchange. The other is communication. As the dance progresses, intentions and expectations must be shared to avoid, well, stepping on each other’s toes.
But practise is also important and this is where the physical essence of the dance metaphor helps to clarify this essential aspect of marriage. It’s no use learning a ‘step’ and having the fulfilment of accomplishing something meaningful without then integrating it into your behaviour. Self growth and learning is essential to an individual’s development regardless of their marital status. But in a dance with another, practise becomes evident as something that must happen both individually and collectively. This is because growth contributes to setting the pace of the dance – the two lovers feed off each other’s movement as a way of simultaneously communicating and responding.
‘As he looks forward, he has eyes on what she cannot see. And she does the same.’
The other contributing factor is leadership. A leader helps to establish a particular dynamic and atmosphere as others follow and mould to this standard. In the dance of marriage, the two lovers will essentially ‘take turns’ leading and guiding the dance. As one leads, the other will follow. As one develops strength in an area or during a particular time, the other assumes a more supportive stance. This cannot happen though without patience. A measure of gentleness, humility and inherent vulnerability is required for this necessary transition of roles to take place. Change does not happen without some level of friction, which can indeed be curbed by developing an aptitude for patience.
Perhaps the most profound insight written into this metaphor is the symbiotic backbone of marriage that allows for such a selfless expression love. Even though the lovers are engaged in one another’s unwavering gaze, they are also prime to face what the other cannot see. They are facing each other and so they are vulnerable, but in this vulnerability they are indeed strong. Their solidarity and connectedness gives protection not only to one another but to themselves as a unit. It is in this symbiotic relationship that the lovers are afforded the space and freedom to embrace the dance wholeheartedly; to become enamoured by the movements, with boundless excitement and anticipation for what’s to come.