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Beginning Partner Dancing (The Teacher's Always a Learner Remix)

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In 22 years of teaching community college dance class, it's the first time Anne Marie LeClair's arrived on the first day to find more men than women.

In the early days she used to restrict enrollment in Social Dance and Swing Dance so they'd have equal numbers and easy pairing off. But when Dean Pelton took over he said there was no way that kind of discrimination could continue at Greendale, and all Anne Marie's protests, her knowledge of the dance world and her pedagogical experience were useless in the face of his flaming determination. As her classes filled up with two, sometimes three women for every man, she sighed and asked for volunteers to learn the men's parts.

Soon enough, she came to realize that those volunteers ended up being the best dancers in the class, the ones who went on to other classes, the ones she'd see at campus dances and nights out in town. The girls who understand how to lead, it turns out, have a better understanding of what it means to follow than if they'd always depended on the men to show them how it was done. Anne Marie feels like a fool for having insisted on male-female partners for so long. So she gets used to talking in terms of "the leader" and "the follower" instead of "the man" and "the woman" and cuts down on her use of gendered pronouns; she muses that she was doing her part to make Greendale a little more like New York, and that the Dean would be pleased if he were watching. She only wishes she had an excuse to teach the boys how to follow as well.

And now she does, because ever since Troy Barnes took Interpretive Dance two years ago all her classes have seen a steady rise in the enrollment of football players and other big, muscly men. Some say their coaches want them to work on grace and flexibility. Others admit that Troy just looked really awesome in that recital.

"Troy," she says loudly, "I want you to start out dancing with Jason so you can learn how to follow..."

"You mean dance the girl's part?" Troy protests even as she goes on:

"Since you have such a strong talent, I don't want to deny you any opportunity."

She keeps on like that for a while and it works like a charm, with enough boys stepping voluntarily into each other's arms that she's ready to start calling out, "One, two, rock step" when Britta Perry breaks away from the boy she's with and declares that she won't let outdated, patriarchal gender roles decide her life.

Troy sighs audibly while Anne Marie takes a quiet, calming breath. Britta is a terrible dancer, and classes (and recitals) never go smoothly when she's around, but she's not wrong. Anne Marie hasn't let patriarchal gender roles decide her life either. And anyway, it won't be the first time she's changed her way of teaching beginning partner dancing.

"We'll switch off after each number," she announces, "and everyone will dance with everyone else. That way you'll learn both parts and you learn from each other without getting entrenched in one partner's habits." And then, even though she wants to laugh at herself, and even though Dean Pelton isn't there to hear it (and put extra exclamation marks in her observation report), she adds, "At Greendale, we want everyone to have every opportunity to learn."