Close Moves – to have and to hold to love and to cherish… Hang on we’re not married!
In our western cultures, there is little, if no, socially acceptable level of physical contact between male and female. Dancing is one of the very few arenas in our culture where men and women come into deliberate physical contact with partners who are not their family members or lovers.
This causes no small level of anxiety in many a beginner dancer, and perhaps some not-so-beginners too. When Corina and I started dancing and found ourselves occasionally looking on as our partner danced closely with one of our new friends, we discovered ourselves feeling a whole range of emotions from jealousy, to delight, anger to embarrassment. “Was this normal? Was this right?” Sure we were in a safe and open environment but still we felt as if there was some danger of something inappropriate happening. Was it our religious background that made us paranoid? Perhaps, but we have found many people from different backgrounds expressing similar experiences.
One of our teachers at the time used to tell people just to “get over it” and I’m sure that to some extent, this was what was needed. After all, before our communities lost the ability to dance, there was a lot less paranoia about holding someone in a waltz for an entire song or even two. Frank Sinatra asked his partner to “save the last dance for him” but he really didn’t mind others holding her tight in the meantime.
We now live in a sexually paranoid world where we wonder who is a pedophile and we forbid our teachers to hug our children. The porn industry booms and the conservative majority tend to protest it by making their prohibitions wider and stricter – as if that will work! Sometimes dancing has been the victim in all this. In one church they have even banned sex because it may lead to dancing.
I’m often amazed that amid all this confusion I can step into a dance hall and find people who all seem to refuse to be befuddled and frightened by it. I sincerely enjoy dancing with some of my best lady friends – young ladies, older ladies, ladies of many different shapes. I enjoy interacting with their bodies and they with mine. We use strength and grace and co-ordination to make an art-form with our bodies. Neither of us is threatened that the other enjoys it. How ridiculous that would be.
I have danced with men too – usually after a few drinks and for the comedy of it (which is not to condemn it – but only to state my disposition). I do find it terribly hard to follow, but aside from that, I enjoy dancing with women because they are feminine. Most men are the same. They enjoy taking a masculine role and offering their skills to a feminine partner. Women too, mostly enjoy dancing with men because they are masculine. In that sense dancing, like romance is about sexuality. It isn’t about sexual organs but it is about sexuality. The mutual enjoyment of that sexuality should not be confused with the various abuses and exploitations of it that fill our Newspapers.
Is there room for gender-specific interdependence and the subsequent enjoyment of masculine and feminine physicality on a community level? I think so. It isn’t the norm for our cultures but it is potentially a very good thing for us all. The healthy enjoyment of our bodies without hidden sexual agendas is a wonderful thing indeed. It can help both men and women to feel comfortable in their own skin, to accept their bodies and to find them accepted. For some it is the healing of physical and sexual abuse to have others treat their bodies with respect. For those who have the courage, it is a good step up from a life of defensiveness and physical isolation.
Is there the potential for abuse? I think so here too. There are those who use dance as a predatory scenario. They aren’t really there for the dancing at all, but instead they are enacting a purely sexual fantasy on the dance floor. You can tell these people a mile away – or you can feel their motives. Their dance repertoire seems to be a long sequence of moves that bring high degrees of body contact and little reference to the musical style or energy level. They select a particular type of body shape for partners. The rest of their dance is often unrefined and sloppy.
Can I suggest that those people deserve you to say no to them. “No I do not want to dance with you. Thank you.” It is your right and responsibility to preserve your own enjoyment of dance. You have a right to be comfortable with your partner. These people have a sexual fore-motive in their search for love and acceptance and it is self-sabotaging. They will not find love or friendship this way. They saw other people dancing and misunderstood what was going on. I do not believe that dancing will help these people yet. Perhaps they can come back to it when they are healthier and find an ability to give.
That’s what it’s really all about I think. Are we giving to our partner more than we are taking from them. If you use this as a filter for your selection of moves for each partner (will my partner sincerely enjoy doing this move together with me?), you will win win win! You will always enjoy your dancing, you will often be affirmed as a “great dancer” you will always have plenty of partners wanting to dance a song with you.
A Friendly Romance
It happened by chance that we each began dance
And the dancing has changed us you know
And in truth it is neat, that we here are elite,
And indeed decidedly so.
A dancing man can understand
How to hold to her hand and be calm
He remains well mannered, nay not so enamored
By the beauty that rests on his arm
He is not swept with lust o’r the line of her bust
He admires while he n’er would, use her
Nor besotted with nerves at the feel of her curves.
It’s for dancing that he came to choose her
He would indeed be a liar to deny his desire
But he holds it in check so to serve her
And he frames up a space to encapsulate grace
With a style and a poise that deserve her
Though he may ne’er be at all gentlemanly
If he dances that all will be changed
And his shame turn to joy – now a man not a boy
And the ladies no longer estranged
She only can say that she’s watched and not prey
By the men who are trying to woo her
To those men who by chance show her dignified dance
She feels safe to show them the true her.
She only can know with her grace and her flow
Why the heads ever turn to admire her
But she only will let a true dancing man get
To the place they all want which is nigh her
For in him she can find what has been on her mind
A man who is noble and true
And his humble zeal is a strength she can feel
And so what he may lead she will do.
And so here at the table we find ourselves able
To partner until the song ends
A dance so unique, a romance so-to-speak
Not just between lovers, but friends. (Brent Leggett)
Kind regards… Brent and Corina.