How Do You Show Up?

Allison Johnson
4 min readSep 20, 2021


As a parent? As a partner? On the dance floor? In life?

Photo by Olivia Bauso on Unsplash

It really boils down to: How do you want to show up? Regardless of what life throws at you. We all have our sob stories. We’ve all suffered injustices. We’ve also all experienced joy and hopefully love in some form. What do we choose to bring to the table?

By now, you hopefully realize Life’s a Dance. For me, that saying takes on a more literal meaning than for most since I’ve devoted my life to dancing. I’ve danced with all levels, from first day to Oh-My-Gosh-he’s-a-world-champion, and I must confess: I don’t care what you know. I care how it feels to dance with you.

Maya Angelou was right: “…people will forget what you said, people will forget what (dance moves;) you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

In 2006, a world class Argentine tango dancer changed my life because he led me soooo well. He (very sexily) refused to let me take even one step he didn’t invite me to take. It took me a hot minute to silence my own emotions (fear, excitement, longing to prove myself) enough to hear him, but to say, “I’m glad I did” is the understatement of my life. I hadn’t truly followed until that moment.

And ladies, once I realized how sexy following truly is, I never looked back.

Like many of you might be, I was operating under the misunderstanding: following is a submissive role. I am good enough to do things my way — I’m not just going to do what he wants. Let me tell you, that is not what following is. If you feel this way, please come see me for a private lesson. I’ll open up your world!

On that note, let me take a moment to apologize to all the leads I danced with those first few years. I was young and dumb. Angelou’s right again: “…when you know better, do better.”

I’ve danced with some Salsa dancers women wait in line to dance with…and I’ll never dance with them again. Completely self-absorbed (and somewhat dangerous). Whereas there are some beginners who are so adorable I don’t wait for them to ask me a second time — I ask them:)

So how do you want to show up? Do you want to flaunt what you know in people’s faces? Not when I put it like that you don’t;) Do you want to be so shy/humble your forehead scrapes the floor when you enter the room? I should hope not. Or do you want to do your best to bring out the best in everyone you interact with? Winner, winner.

The Tango fun I had recently (read more about it in my previous article: really spotlighted this question. The first guy I danced with, who had such a nice smile he could make a girl nervous, was a more seasoned Tango dancer than I. But he was so…very…kind. And warm. And generous with his compliments.

Most importantly: he created a safe space for me. To mess up. To play. To laugh. But not to apologize. He told me to stop doing that — and as a dancer, I know better. So I did, better.

Now, he didn’t know it was my third milonga over the span of ten years. He doesn’t know what insecurities/baggage I bring to the floor. (We never do, after all — even with those partners we know really well.) Nor should we bring our baggage to the floor. I tell my students to leave it where they change their shoes. If they like it so much, they can pick it back up on the way out.

He chose to create with me. Smile at me. Encourage me.

And in doing so, he gave me a gift.

He lifted me, instead of lording over me.

Unfortunately, this was not the case with all the men I danced with that weekend. I had one terrible experience which took all my self-esteem (and calming strategies) to overcome. Now, my goal here is not to shame, but enlighten. In the man’s defense, he came to me the next day and apologized, confessing, “his energy was not in the right place.” (See? Baggage.) Then he asked me if I would dance with him again that night. I said, “I’d love to.” We never actually danced again, it was a very full event, but the gesture of him apologizing changed how I will remember the entire encounter.

What a (hu)man.

Full confession: I find showing up as a bright light much easier to do on the dance floor than in everyday life. Especially when it comes to parenting. Often, I have the best intentions, I just get derailed by having to repeat myself one too many (thousand) times. If I could learn to exercise the patience I have with my students (which comes easily because I know how challenging dancing is…as if life itself is any easier;p) with my kids — I’d be well on my way.

So how will you show up today? A Lord? Or a Lifter? How will you create safe space for the people in your life? For your “dance” partners?

I’m with my teacher, Ms. Angelou, “Try to be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud.”

❤See you on the hardwood.❤



Allison Johnson

Dancer, writer, mother, watcher of too many movies:)