For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.–Romans 8:38-39

Salsa and Submission


I love salsa! No, not the stuff you eat with tortilla chips and tacos! I mean the dance. I love the music, the poise of the dancers, and how easy they make it look! I’ve never had salsa lessons, but Thabiti and I have talked about taking lessons for years.

So, I was in conversation with a friend today, trying to explain biblical submission and contrasting it with the world’s skewed view of what submission really means. We’ve spoken on this topic a couple of times now, and she admitted being helped by the discussion. I was satisfied, so we moved on to lighter conversations regarding life and free time and such. I discovered that she loves to dance salsa! Not only does she love the dance, but she even goes to the salsa conventions and attends workshops on everything from rhythm and technique to ladies styling to various turn patterns, lifts and tricks.

I asked her why she loved salsa so much and she began to describe how beautiful the dance is, especially if you have a good partner who knows how to lead well. As she elaborated, she talked about the importance of the man’s leadership in the dance. She said if the guy does not lead well it’s disastrous. The man is to “show the lady”, meaning he makes her fluorish, he leads with gentleness and he leads smoothly without sudden, strong jerky movements. It also means it’s the man’s job to have the choreography in his head, and to lead in such a way that she anticipates and follows through on the couples next moves. The man is responsible for keeping proper tension in the dance, so that the entire dance is elegant and beautiful. The woman wants her partner to lead well. She doesn’t want to have to work to figure out his next moves; her responses come naturally without even having to think consciously about it. She improvises and adds appropriate fluorishes and motions to keep the dance going and to help with smooth transitions.

As my friend described the role of the male leader in salsa, I said to her, “So you do understand submission!” So much of her description fit the biblical pattern of male leadership and female submission. I tried to do a search to find out what makes a good follower in the salsa dance, and there was nothing! This helped me realize that the man’s leadership is crucial to how well she submits. So, I found this article, and thought it basically highlighted what biblical leadership/and salsa leadership looks like (emphasis mine).

• LEADING VS. MAKING. Most girls will be familiar with guys making you do the turns and combinations. After all, when you go home after a night of salsa dancing, you feel that your whole body is sore as you if were beaten by a gang of wild monkeys. Guys! Lead as if you were showing the way, not as if you were making her play catch up. It’s ok to be toned and firm, guys, but not rough. There is a line between those two concepts and believe me, it’s not a fine one. There is a big difference when it comes down to making versus leading. Want to know what kind of lead you are? Do a survey among the girls you dance with. They’ll be happy to tell you.

• BE SPECIFIC. This one baffles me: the guy places the hand up and somehow, by magic, he expects the girl to turn. What kind of dance instructor teaches this concept to their students? Every move has to be specific guys. If you want to move a chair from point A to B, you have to make it happen right? So lead as if you were making the turn happen. But remember: guide vs. make. Be assertive in your moves as if she were to close her eyes and still be able to follow you.

• PUT YOURSELF IN HER SHOES. Guys, guys, guys!! If she is falling after the same turn patterns, or she feels uncomfortable with some of your moves, then don’t do them. Try combinations and moves that help the girl feel more comfortable, and are at her level of dancing. Always adapt to her, without expecting her to adapt to you. It’s funny to see some guys doing the same endless turns until the girl is falling down. You guys, this is not your signal to stop those turns. If she is loosing her balance, don’t keep going on and on.

• IMPROVE YOUR LEAD VS. SHE DOESN’T KNOW HOW TO FOLLOW. Changing this perspective will help you see opportunities to be better at leading. Often times, I hear guys make comments like: “I don’t like dancing with her, she can’t follow”. Instead why don’t you say to yourself: “What can I do to improve my lead in this particular move, so that she can follow it next time?” After all you want to improve as a lead right? Then start by working on yourself. Thinking this way helps you be the guy who can lead everybody. And ladies will enjoy dancing with you because of that.

• BE CLOSER TO HER. Let me put it in other words: be within reach. Dance at a distance that will make it easy for you as a lead so you don’t have to be running after her. I suggest a one-foot distance between your body and hers as you dance. You will feel more in control and this will help her feel your lead. In addition to this, don’t over extend your arms when you dance, especially in your open breaks. This creates extra distance between you and your partner, making it hard to reach or lead the next move.

• BE IN TUNE WITH THE WAY HER BODY FEELS AS SHE DANCES. Pay attention to how she feels, her movement, her momentum, her resistance, her body language, her distance, and her styling. You will be able to place combinations and moves that flow and fit the moment versus placing moves or combos for the sake of the move.

• PAY ATTENTION TO THE MUSIC. If you don’t, you are just going through the motion – you are not dancing. Remember that we dance to the music, and so does the girl. You will also be able to coordinate your moves better, and trust me, your dancing will improve dramatically.

• LEARN HOW TO BE AN EFICIENT LEAD, AND THEN APPLY STYLING. Many guys out there get so into the moves and styling that they end up forgetting about leading the girl, or end up confusing her. Sometimes styling can interfere with the girl’s following, so be aware of it. Assertive leading helps you be in tune with your dance partner. Do you feel in tune with the people you dance with or are you just dancing with yourself?

• KEEP LEARNING. Learn other dances: It improves your favorite dance. Think you know it all? Then you must be a world champion and everyone enjoys dancing with you! Not your case? Not to worry! We can all improve and learn new things, even as a professional dancer I will always continue learning. Take some private lessons, work on your technique and try learning a new dance.

And the final one:

• LEARN HOW TO FOLLOW. This is the best thing you could do, if you are really serious about dancing. Do you really want to be exceptionally good at leading? Then practice following. Take your dancing to the next level and understand dancing from the follower’s perspective. True leaders know how followers feel. What better way to know than by being one?

All these little tips will help you get there as a great leader. And always remember: when it comes down to being a successful dancer, the stronger the foundations, the better you will be able to build upon them. So get to it!


I would add my own suggestion to this great list–
• ENJOY THE DANCE! A well-placed compliment, smile or encouragement goes a long way towards making the dance fun for all!

As I reflect on this and try to make application to my own life as a wife desiring to submit to my husband as to the Lord, I’ve learned that:

Submission is hard. It’s especially hard when my desire is for my husband’s position as head (Genesis 3:16) and I want to pursue a different route than the one he deems best for our family.

Submission is for my husband. There are few ways to encourage my husband more than to show my respect for him as a man by trusting him enough to follow his lead. Of course, the Lord is at work, causing him to lead our family in an honorable way, or causing him to learn hard lessons that could only be learned through his mistakes in leading our family. But I must respect him enough to know that his intentions for our family are good, even when things don’t turn out as we’d planned or hoped for.

Submission is for God’s glory. He calls me to submit to Him so that the world would have a glimpse of his headship over the church.

Submission is also for my faith. When I would have chosen a different course of action than my husband, I must trust the Lord to work out His good purposes in that situation.

Submission is for my joy. When my husband loves me with a Christ-like love, giving himself for me, taking interest in my spiritual life, showing tender care and love for me, it brings me great joy. Joy in being his wife, and joy in knowing that Christ’s love for me is infinitely greater having demonstrated His great love toward me in that while I was still in my sin, He died for me.

“Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church– for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

Ephesians 5:22-33

Author: Kristie

Kristie is a pastor's wife, mom, Bible teacher, and author of His Testimonies, My Heritage: Women of Color on the Word of God, which will be released in September. She currently serves as the Associate Director of Women's Workshops for the Charles Simeon Trust, helping to equip women Bible teachers. She joyfully supports her husband of almost 28 years, Thabiti, as he pastors Anacostia River Church in Washington, DC. They have 3 children. She has written contributions to the ESV Women's Devotional Bible; Word-Filled Women's Ministry: Loving and Serving the Church; Women on Life: A Call to Love the Unborn, Unloved and Neglected; and Hospitality Matters: Reviving an Ancient Practice for Modern Missions. Her work can also be found at The Front Porch, The Gospel Coalition, Desiring God, Christianity Today, and Revive Our Hearts. You can follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter (@kanyabwile).

12 thoughts on “Salsa and Submission

  1. Pingback: My Wife, Salsa, and Submission – Pure Church by Thabiti Anyabwile

  2. This is really a great article. It helps me to understand how hard and intricate my husband’s role is, and how beautiful our marraige can be when we function better within our God-ordained roles. It makes me think of the freedom we have when we understand and practice leadership and submission. Just as in dancing, when you practice faithfully, you can dance beautifully without thinking about the steps. But you have to listen to the music…

  3. Pingback: Dance Lessons | joannekerr

  4. this is an interesting post. I learned the same lessons while taking a dance class with my husband! We took foxtrot lessons and all you have written here was also true for that dance class. It is up to the man to lead and the woman to follow his lead. She is not to lead, he is. He must plan the route and also lead her in the moves that he wants to make. They must learn to pick up on one another’s body language and cues to work as a team. The man has to plan ahead and watch for openings as the couple moves around the dance floor. He also has to make sure that he doesn’t lead her in such a way that they run into any other couples. I think every couple should take a dance class. It definitely helps both the man and the woman to better understand their biblical roles. I think it is so interesting that we still have this understanding in our culture, if only in dance!

  5. Pingback: Salsa and Submission « anticipating thursday…

  6. Great Analogy! Simplifies things.

  7. Don’t get here as often as I would like, but it was worth the visit. Great post! Will totally refer to the post again. To think, I was thinking salsa and chips when I read the title. One section in particular is really speaking to me. Love ya.

  8. Pingback: My Husband Tattletaled on Me…to the Dance Teacher! « Convinced

  9. Pingback: What I Read Online – 08/20/2011 (a.m.) | Emeth Aletheia

  10. Pingback: Fellas, Take the Ladies Salsa Dancing! – Pure Church by Thabiti Anyabwile

  11. interesting. good article. should a married wife dance salsa with other men in a dance studio? or simply dance with her husband?

    • I would counsel discretion. When my husband and I received dance instruction, we made it clear that we are Christians and want the dance to be respectful, graceful, and fun. We each danced with an instructor of the opposite sex and it was very respectful. In a dance club, however, I’d only dance with another lady friend or my husband. Some dances are more intimate than others, so I’d think carefully about the kind of dance I do with men. In dancing and in all of life, I want to honor God, respect my husband, and have fun (Col 1:10, Eph 5:33, Prov 15:13, Ps 149:3). Happy dancing!

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