There are times on a lesson or a group where something just feels different. I don’t know whether there are days when I’m just more in tune to things or whether some kind of barrier has actually been crossed. Sometimes these are physical barriers and sometimes they are mental barriers. But it is another stop in the road along my dance journey so I must share. And you’ll see that this topic would be a little difficult for me to discuss face to face with anyone.
First, you should all know that I have my personal space issues. We introverts tend to have larger personal space bubbles and that is true of me. Yes, that presents a challenge for dancing when closer is usually much better. Since I’ve accepted that closer is better, I’ve been able to accept some intrusion into my bubble. Secondly, there are the lingering body image issues. Fat guys don’t look good dancing with thin, good looking women. Well, I should really just come clean and I say I figured that the thin, good looking instructors wouldn’t want to get close to me at my largest. Those two things were enough to make me pull away.
There’s more though. Guess I have a bit of puritan in me so it’s never felt “right” to get into a serious embrace with a woman who is not my significant other. No, I was not raised in a particularly religious or strict household so I have no idea where this came from but it is there. Anyway, I also know there are plenty of males who seriously enjoy getting close to the young, attractive, female instructors. For some reason, I’ve heard stories from those said instructors about these guys. I’ve even been called the “safe” student probably because I have no intention of trying to cop a feel during a lesson. I keep my junk to myself, thank you very much. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a guy. But I’ve somehow created a partition in my head so that when I’m dancing with them, I’m not dancing with an attractive women, but with a dance instructor so it is all basically on the up and up. (Can you picture the pilgrims doing a Rumba?)
Maybe I exaggerate a bit but it is certainly true that trying to express the feeling of the Rhythm dances is not something I think I do well. I can certainly feel the music in a Rumba or a Bolero but acting like I’m dancing with a love interest and not an instructor is a bridge that mostly remains uncrossed. I’m generally more afraid of accidental inappropriate touching.
Well something a little strange happened last night a couple of times. First, we had a Mambo group class. Mambo is not a dance that many people do although all the instructors just tested out on it and they want to get more people doing it so that’s why there was a group. We were short one lady so the Statue joined the group and since I’m always the solo, she was my main partner for the class. One thing I’ve been working on is true connection with my partner and I’ve gotten to the point where I can recognize when it isn’t there. The best thing about dancing with the instructors is that they will generally give you the connection which triggers me to push back a bit kind of creating that coiled spring so we can bounce off each other when needed. So, we’re waiting while the Body Double is explaining the next step and counting down the music and I suddenly become aware that the Statue is moving her hips to the music. By aware, means that I could feel her response through our connection not that I was staring at her hips!! Come on people, I said I was part Puritan. And the most natural thing for me to do was to mimic what she was doing. So in my head, we were no longer instructor and student (although she’s not my instructor) but two people out on the dance floor feeling the music. I suppose that might have happened before but for some reason, last night it was just more obvious.
Well, that by itself wouldn’t warrant a post but I had a lesson with the Body Double afterward. We did another 30 minutes of Quickstep which involved smoothing out the rough spots and trying to get some parts committed to muscle memory. She warned me she wanted to work on Bachata after the Quickstep and I was again a sweaty mess when she wanted to move on to Bachata. Someday, I’ll convince her to do the close dances before we do Quickstep but maybe this is her master plan. OK, once I’m a mess, the last thing I want to do is dance close to a young, attractive woman. Again, the scene from “Shall We Dance” plays in my head over and over again. So I wasn’t all that fired up about it and my opinion of the Bachata isn’t that high either but I was like “whatever, let’s do it”.
She’s introduced a new pattern which I’ve tried to find a video of but have not succeeded. The basic bachata is three steps and a tap so keep that in mind. She calls this Sexy Elbows which does sound weird but you can see if it fits. On the first move to the left, I take her left hand and put in on my left shoulder and then have my arm on top of hers. On the first move to the right, I do the same thing with her right hand and my right shoulder. Then, coming back to the left, I sweep my arms up and come up between her arms and then bring her arms up over her head. On the last move, I bring her arms back down and we settle back into frame. Yes, it was a little awkward doing it at first and it did bring her farther into my bubble.
As we were doing it, something clicked in my head. The move is definitely intimate but not overtly sexual. I’ve seen Bachata videos and other dancers who get into the grinding that is sometimes a part of Bachata and that does nothing for me. Puritan, remember? Maybe I just prefer to leave something to the imagination but just putting it out there isn’t something I’m a fan of. But this was fine and I found myself working through the pattern to see if I could repeat it – which I could. The longer we practiced, the more natural it felt. I don’t know when my brain shifted, but at some point it felt like I was a guy with a hot girl in a club somewhere and not in a dance studio. I guess I really should be thinking we are the hot couple that everyone wants to be since that’s the attitude I think I really need to attain. In other words, she changed from an instructor to an actual woman. The partitioning did not hold. No, there was nothing really different other than the movement was free and easy and I wasn’t really thinking about it.
I don’t know how we looked to the crowd. At one point, Z made a smart ass remark about me “getting my sexy on” but that’s just what she does. There was another newer lady who was, for some reason, doing a solo lesson with 3 of 3 and they wanted the music but agreed to let us have the Bachata one last time. I know they were watching but I was so in the moment that I didn’t care (normally having an audience while trying to do something like that makes me even more self-conscious). I heard a couple of nice comments. Perhaps I can do sexy. Who knew? But sexy in my own way – for whatever that is. To be clear, the dance ended and we were back to instructor and student so don’t infer that there is anything else going on here because there isn’t. I actually enjoyed the Bachata much more than I thought I would and the move that brought her closer inside my sweaty personal bubble was the key.