Standing before me is a dark haired, green-eyed man who is at least six inches taller than me, and a complete stranger. We’re dead center in a line of paired couples taking a Salsa lesson. Listening to the nervous chatter, I’m guessing most of the people around me are new to dancing. Up on stage, a dance teacher directs us to greet one another and join hands.

My partner offers me his hands, and I place mine in his. I can’t help but smile. I’ve felt these kinds of hands before.

“You’re a good dancer, aren’t you? You’ve been dancing for a while, huh?” I blurt out. The words slip out of my mouth before I can catch them and shove them back in. I see his eyes widen. I feel my cheeks flush. I’ve embarrassed myself again.

“How can you tell? Was it the way I walked over here or how I stand?” He laughs, but I can see I’ve caught his interest. How the hell did I know?

Sometimes, I wish I could control my thoughts before they jump out of my mouth. Okay, I think, I’ll have to tell him

“Actually, I could tell the minute you took my hands. I can’t really explain it, but I’ve found that when a guy holds my hands like this he’s always a good dancer.”

I’ve been dancing Salsa for almost a decade. I know these hands. His hands speak to me of confidence. They tell me that he will give a clear lead and yet be light enough where I can spin easily. But there is an extra element to it that is beyond my ability to describe, all I can say is that it’s obvious to me when I feel it. From my experience, men with this type of touch are the most creative. I know he will bring out the best in me and that I will learn something from him. At some point tonight, when the lesson is over and the real dancing starts, I will experience “The Mystery Dance.”

What is the Mystery Dance? It’s when everything in the universe comes together perfectly, the stars align, heaven touches earth, and for one magical song I am partnered with a stranger who takes me to another level in my dancing. I’ll follow effortlessly and borrow something from him for a single dance. It could be his grace, speed, creativity, lightheartedness, or something I never knew existed. Afterwards, a new idea will spark in my head, and I’ll grow from the experience.

Why do I call it a mystery? I coined the phrase, because I can never predict when or with whom it will happen. I can dance for months (or years) without a Mystery Dance, and then one night a stranger will grab my hands and there it is. Sometimes, he’s short, tall, young, old, geeky, suave, hairy, bald or more likely a mix of several of these. It can be in an LA club or in a dance class in a sea of beginners. But one thing is always true, I know it the moment I feel his hands, and I am never wrong.

I think life gives us Mystery Dances outside the Salsa Club too. We try something or meet someone, and it just clicks. Our mind is open to a new idea of ourselves, another direction to go in, and creativity flows. Whatever it is, we are drawn to it.

How can you recognize it in real life? Never forget. You’ll know it’s a Mystery Dance by the way it feels.

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