What Dancing Taught Me: 8 Lessons from the Lindy Hop

One of my closest friends recently dragged me off to a Lindy Hop dance lesson. I had a blast, and carried on dancing for years. Here’s what dancing taught me about living.

1. Recognise patterns

The Lindy Hop looked terribly complicated until patterns started emerging. Instead of learning an infinite number of different steps, I just tried to recognised a few basic patterns.ย Recognising patterns in relationships also helped me understand commitment phobia better.

2. Focus on the basic steps

Although the lindy hop looks complex, there’s just one “step, step, triple step” basic move. The rest are variations. My life too has certain rhythms that keep me sane and happy. Waking up at dawn and having a quiet coffee before the day starts is key. The rest of the day can happen any old how, as long as my morning basics have been observed.

3. Keep your form always

All dance teachers stress that you must keep your core strong, but your arms flexible. If you are too stiff, you cannot follow your partner’s lead. But flopping around like a rag doll makes you hard to dance with too. So with life. Have a strong inner core, but be flexible enough to adapt. It’s much harder than it sounds!

4. Know when to turn

When the guy holds out his right arm, he wants you to turn. I kept turning too late and throwing the guy off his rhythm. In life too, I sometimes react too late out of stubbornness, or simply not noticing that a change is required. I learnt to be more aware of cues.

5. Multiple points of contact

The more you are connected to your partner, the better you can sense what his next move is likely to be. This is so true in life. Stay connected to as many anchors as you can. They say never move house and change jobs at the same time. The point is to maintain as much stability as possible, with only one major change at a time.

6. Keep the engine purring

The instructor told the ladies we were Ferrari engines. We should purring silently in the background, ready to move into action at the slightest lead from the guy. This was the best lesson dancing taught me about life. I often get lazy and stop exercising, eating well, or improving my skills. What a good reminder to keep myself tuned, so that when life beckons in any way, I am ready.

7. Trust and follow

This was hard for many ladies in the room. We had to stop trying to execute the perfect step, and just follow his lead. We had to accept not knowing the plan and trust enough to let ourselves be led. Wisdom is about patience, being willing to wait until we feel a tug at our heart. And trusting enough to follow that gentle pull without knowing exactly where we are going.

8. Most of all, dancing taught me to have fun while the music lasts

When I connected well with my partner and was enjoying the dance, I would be disappointed with the song ended. But knowing the dance would eventually end helped me to appreciate it even more. Life is a dance, and one day the music will end. We must enjoy it while it lasts!

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44 replies on “What Dancing Taught Me: 8 Lessons from the Lindy Hop”

It’s amazing how we can break down almost any action and create a life lesson out of it. I’ve been thinking about writing a post about mowing my lawn. I’ll see if I can make it as interesting as your Lindy Hop post.

The last lesson is my favorite. When we can make any action fun then it doesn’t feel like effort it feels flowing and easy.

Karl, isn’t it truly amazing? Nothing is safe from us personal development bloggers! I think we could even take lessons from nothing happening eg “Nothing happened today, I just sat there and you know what? I realise there is so much we can hear in the silence… blah blah”. Mowing the lawn is a big deal in comparison to nothing happening! ๐Ÿ˜‰

I like this way of thinking about it. As a beginner I tend to see the dancing as something to DO, and this is a good reminder that I just have to practise and get comfortable enough to BE. Lovely thought Stacey!

Hi Daphne – “A helter skelter life enjoyed will be worth more to us on our deathbeds than a life lived โ€˜correctlyโ€™ in every way.” I loved this line! Trying to be too perfect simply distracts us from living. Plus, when we start to have fun we actually find ourselves doing things correctly. Interesting paradox ๐Ÿ™‚

Hi Amanda, thanks for liking the line. I kind of like it too! You hit the nail on the hard about doing things more correctly when we’re relaxed and having fun anyway. Life is full of paradoxes like this!

Hi Daphne,
I love that you jumped at the opportunity to dance…and it looks like you took away more than a dancing lessone.
Have a great evening.
Giovanna Garcia
Imperfect Action is better than no Action

Hi Gio, I’m glad I agreed to go too! Though I must confess I tried to back out a few times on the day itself. Thankfully my friend would have none of it! Yes I took away a lot, and decided to write down the lessons before I forget them as usual!

It’s been a while since I did the Lindy Hop. Also did west coast swing and salsa. Lindy is great for just having fun, especially with Aerials! Though I also love salsa for the passion.

The thing about dance is it teaches us to trust our body. There’s so much wisdom we reject when we aren’t one with our bodies.

Matthew, you’re certainly a more accomplished dancer than I am. I’ve just started learning and never ever did any dance seriously, apart from one or two lessons on basic ballroom. The swing and salsa sound like fun, though I’ve no idea what Aerials is!

I like your point about dance teaching us to trust our body. I’m supposed to follow my elbow during a turn, and it’s hard to actually focus on the elbow and just follow instead of trying to predict which way the turn will go! Great point here.

I never thought about regular life cycles. I’ll have to be more aware of this concept as it relates to my life. I know that it seems like I have a period of time before I get burned out, but I never thought of it being a set amount of time.

I know I sometimes take stuff too seriously. It definitely seems like I tend to perform well once relax and get into the flow.

Thanks for the post!

I guess not everyone’s lives moves in cycles. I just happen to notice some patterns in mine. Relaxing is really key to both enjoying what we do and being good at it, after some practice of course! Good to see you around again, Dustin.

Hi Daphne. I love to dance. And, I love how you used this analogy to point out life patterns. One thing’s for sure, if you’re not “present” while you’re dancing, you will probably end up stepping on your partner’s toes… and tripping over your own feet too.

Hi Davina,

Good point about being ‘present’ while dancing. Sometimes I lost my concentration and forget the footwork and then I mess everything up. Thanks for this useful reminder!

Hi Daphne .. really good ideas .. and I loved the video on the lindy-hop .. I thought Tess’ points are really good ..

I hadn’t thought about the patterns of life .. I know we’re meant to move house every 7 years, and there are cycles of 7 years .. that seem to be prevalent or ‘accepted’ ..

Your readers have such good comments too .. really pertinent .. I just need to bide my time quietly at the moment doing what I need to do – that’s more important for me = to help my Ma .. my time will come and I love learning from you and other excellent bloggers: thanks so much.

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters

Hey Hilary,

Tess’ comment was great, wasn’t it? I’m not sure if we’re expected to change drastically every 7 years, just that personally I do go through a relatively major change around that interval.

Yes, I have wonderful readers whose comments are sometimes more worth reading that the posts! You are one of those wonderful people, and I am full of admiration for what you’re doing for your Ma. That’s most important now, as you say, and many people are rooting for both of you!

Paisley, thanks for this post acknowledging patterns and showing that there is beauty in that recognition.


I am continually enlightened when I come to visit! I know I’ve been away for a while but you never cease to spark my mental and spiritual aspects!

I am amazed at the depth of your knowledge and sensibilities…how at the “step” of the Lindy Hop, you would come up with such profound teachings! You have a gift of knowledge and sunshine in your soul and I am blessed and grateful to be a part of your life!:~)

You formulate brilliant analogies and everytime I finish visiting here, I always feel like I could conquer the world with you beside me!

Thank you! Thank you!

I should know better than to stay away for too long! :~)

My dance was ballet until I got too “old and stiff” from years of wear on it. My next pursuit in dance is the Tango! I am completely mesmerized by it…I love how it evokes, provokes and invokes my being! And this sums up the pattern in my life and it’s all good! :~)

Now am off to do the Tango…hope I don’t trip! :~)


Your comment will make me go to sleep a happy girl. Thanks for your faith in me and so many kind words. Yeah, let’s conquer the world together, step by clumsy step! I’m still clumsy anyway, at the Lindy Hop and probably in life too… just fumbling my way through.

The tango is such a sensuous dance… I think people who do it look so sophisticated. Your ballet grounding should enable you to pick up any dance very quickly. And tripping can be carefully planned… into the arms of a partner you happen to like! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Thanks so much for this comment. I’m not half as good as you imagine me to be, but I’ll accept the compliment and let it be my soft, cushy pillow tonight. I’m glad to see you back and active again, Henie. I’ve missed you!

I’ve watched the film “Take The Lead” starring Antonio Banderas as a dance professor who teaches a band of delinquent teenagers. There is really so much that dance can teach us, including TRUST. In the movie, Pierre (Antonio) says that in a ballroom dance, the woman follows the lead of the man, but that doesn’t mean that the woman is lesser than the man. It only means that the woman makes a choice, and that choice is to trust the one who takes the lead. Choosing to trust isn’t a lot easier than taking the lead. Good post!

Jocelyn, TRUST is the hardest thing to learn sometimes, and especially for me. So learning dancing is a good way to learn that on a small scale, then apply it to life at large. Yes the man leads, but the ladies get to choose who they want to dance with, so you’re right, we have the ultimate decision!

I always look for lessons in my activities…it does say a lot. My husband and I have been taking dance lessons for several months. Every Friday we go to a local community center for ballroom dance – salsa, cha cha, fox trot, swing. It is our favorite hour all week and so so so much fun! But at the same time I tend to lead…oops, I have always had trouble with trust and follow… I’m trying. dance helps.

Stacey, it’s so cool when a couple takes dance lessons together. It’s a great way to bond and understand each other better. I think dancing is a little like golf – it can reveal a person’s character when they’re not looking! Trust and follow is my bugbear too…

This was LOA Daphne. ๐Ÿ™‚ Good post. It wonderful how you see the lessons of life everywhere and then share them with us. Great.

Sunny, sometimes I think I overdo the lessons of life thing, yet I can’t help it! By the way, what is LOA? I’ve only ever seen it to mean “Letter of Authority” and I don’t think that’s what you meant!

I really like how you connected lesson in dancing to lessons in life.

I particularly like the “multiple points of contact” … it’s a reminder of focus and having a firm foundation.

Hi JD, a firm foundation is a good phrase for what I was trying to say. It’s so true that we can deal with so much in our lives once that foundation is strong.

LOVE this post! I love when people are able to take an experience and create a list of lessons they learned from it. I really think you do a great job of this in your post and I especially like #8 – Have Fun! ๐Ÿ™‚ This is great advice, and I really enjoyed reading about your experience.

Hey PP,

Your presence here brightens up my day. You truly ARE positively present! Thanks for injecting so much good cheer and positiveness into this post and other posts via your comments. Having fun is certainly something we can all do more of!


What a great set of lessons!

I particularly liked #7:

“We often think we know whatโ€™s best for us. We forget that there is a deeper knowing that will lead us if only we will stop resisting that silent voice”

How true! We always want to be in control, but the control is really an illusion. None of us really know what is going to happen next.

hi Roger,

Lesson #7 is one that I need to remember too. I feel so out of control when I’m out of control! ๐Ÿ™‚ Yet you’re right that it’s an illusion anyway, and realising this can help us relax.

Those are very good lessons that you learned by learning to dance. Thank you for sharing them with us. It was enjoyable to read.
Dan and Deanna “Marketing Unscrambled”

Thanks, Dan and Deanna. You should try dancing sometime. It’s a great couple activity / hobby / past-time!


I think that anyone who can do that can achieve just about anything they want in their lives.

I like the point that you make about focusing on the basics. Dances like that involve a range of complicated steps and it would be virtually impossible for anyone to expect to learn the entire routine all at once.

First, you must learn one basic step, then add to that another basic step, and each time keep adding one more basic step.

There is no point in trying to run until you have learned to crawl.

Hi Andrew,

I was told that the Lindy Hop is actually a difficult dance, and you’ve just confirmed it. Thank goodness I didn’t know this before I signed up! I think even the instructors were surprised that complete beginners like us wanted to learn it.

You’re right that we just have to stick with the basics and learn to crawl before running. In terms of the Lindy Hop, I guess I’m doing a very slow crawl right now!

I have never tried Lindy Hop before. It sure sounds like a great deal of fun! It’s great that there can also be learning lessons from dance classes!

For a period, I took up jazz dance but gave up after realizing that I could not co-ordinate my movements. Still, I must say that I always have a sparkle in my eyes after a class.

Hi Evelyn, I think it becomes fun once I get better at it, and can relax and enjoy the process. Just like any other skill in life, I suppose. Yes it’s great that there can be lessons in more than one way!

I can imagine you having a sparkle in your eyes, and am sure that you have that often, not just after dancing. It’s your love for and enjoyment of life that brings on the sparkle. Thanks for shining some of that sparkle here today!

It’s hard, isn’t it? I find this very difficult too, and because of that it’s probably what I need most to do!

1. I’ve never thought about patterns in my life or cycles. I’m only aware of personal patterns I want to change.

2. My basics are reading, journaling, praying, eating healthy and exercising.

3. They are now. I don’t know why it took me so long. My sons-in-law would always challenge me. Now with acceptance and knowing we’re all right where we’re suppose to be I finally have composure and no judgement. Yeah!

4.I’ve been avoiding obstacles for a while. Don’t like them, don’t need them. Doing well in this area.

5.I did move and gave up my career with the move. However with my husband I always know we can get through anything together. Without him I would really be challenged. Partly because we’ve been together since I was 17.

6.I was born ready. I’m spontaneous and flexible.

7. I have only been good at this for the last 5 years. My gut or inner guidance has never been wrong. Never! So it’s rare that I don’t listen.
Of course because I wrote that I’ll be challenged tomorrow.

8. I think I need to go sign up for dancing or art classes. That’s what my soul needs at this time.

What a great analogy Daphne. You’re the best!

Wow Tess, YOU are the best for answering all 8 questions! I think you answered them better than I would myself too. Thanks for sharing so much of yourself, and showing us by your example what a life well-lived can be like.

I really admire your confidence and how far you’ve come in life. I also love your sense of humour. Yes, it’s exactly when we make a pronouncement like “my gut has never been wrong” that life comes along and decides to throw a spanner in the works to test us! Hope your challenge didn’t materialise though.

Taking art classes is a good idea. I’m not very good at art, and enjoy dancing a lot more, and sports and any kind of movement in general. Hope you enjoy whatever you sign up for!

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