It’s Only A Dance

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So I was trying to figure out how to describe last night at the studio and suddenly it hit me.  Somewhere in the back of my mind in a dusty mental closet, I remembered a tag line from some cheesy horror film.  Something about the movie being so intense that the only way you could get through it was by repeating over and over “It’s Only a Movie”.  After last night, I realize I’m going to have to employ the same technique to get through certain new things.  So, repeat after me, “It’s Only a Dance”.  How’s that for an opening paragraph?

By nature, I’m not a “toucher”.  It is not that I’m repulsed or fearful of contact with another human being.  It just isn’t something I do unless it is required or if I perceive the other person needs it.  Ballroom dancing is a contact sport.  You must touch your partner.

But there are zones where touch is always appropriate.  Having a hand hold is no problem.  Hand holding can certainly be a gesture of affection but it is clear that is not what is going on with a dance frame.  And having your other hand near the shoulder is no problem at all.  Arms and upper back are generally safe zones.  But there are other places that just seem invasive to me and can give me some discomfort.  Too much fear of accidental inappropriate touching I guess.  Yes, sometimes I do wonder if I’ve just time shifted from the Victorian age.  After all, it is only a dance.

To me, it would seem like this is a place where a female instructor has to have a lot of trust.  I know they are professionals and dancing requires it but still, you’ve got a man you may not know that well with his hands all over you.

But, it isn’t just the hands.  I’ve gotten used to the pivots where instructors seem to prefer thigh to thigh contact.  I don’t know if that is strictly necessary but it does make the step feel more connected.  In my normal office setting, that kind of thing would be a one way ticket to HR but, it is only a dance and so it is acceptable.

I’ve done dances in more closed positions before but it ends up feeling super awkward and I last a step or two before I just have to break free.  I guess it hasn’t helped matters that Z used to have a field day with my discomfort which has just made it all the more difficult.

Well, last night, we were working on Tango and the frame and dance position is the most glaring need in my Tango.  It is super weird when you have to be in this slightly twisted position – center towards the lady but head over the right heel and knees bent a bit.  And, there’s a woman plastered to your right hip.

And, when I say “woman”, I really mean Kid T who, to me, is really a kid.  I don’t have kids but she is certainly young enough to be my daughter.  Plus, I remember her from when she was a pre-teen.  At that point, dancing in a tango frame like that would be really questionable.  But, there she was, attached to my right hip.  I kept thinking that if we separated and got back together wrong, it could get really embarrassing and uncomfortable.

Needless to say, all of the steps felt weird.  We had to start with a basic just to get me used to the whole thing.  It almost felt like those three legged races where you are tied to another person – except that she’s facing me and moving in the opposite direction.

Logically, I accept that being in this position will allow her to feel the lead better and will eventually cause the Tango to move better and it will look more like a Tango.  But there’s a very young lady glued to my hip!  Relax, it is only a dance.   Well, this is my next hurdle and it is what must be done to improve the dancing, so I must do it.

Things were only slightly better in my lesson with OwnerGuy and Hilde.  I had already accepted the dip he put in where she’s got a leg between mines and bending while I’m lowering her through the dip.  And then we end up in very close contact with her head on my shoulder.  But there are several other places where I’m supposed to get my are around her waist to lead her.  Fortunately for me, she told me on one of the first lessons to just go for it and that she didn’t care.  It is only a dance.  Again, there’s nothing really wrong with it but I’m just not the kind of guy who normally grabs female friends around the waist.  Well, I’m not really grabbing her but you might get the picture.

OwnerGuy added on to our routine after the dip.  There is one step where I’ve turned her and we are in shadow position, but I’m not supposed to be touching her.  Then, on the first step of the next move, I sweep her up with my right hand around her waist and we execute the next move.  When OwnerGuy did it, it was smooth and seamless.  With me, not so much.  I do know better than to compare myself to OwnerGuy but I just hate it when smooth dances aren’t smooth.  Hilde did finally understand how you could spend five months on a routine and she seems more into it now.  OwnerGuy explained that they intentionally go beyond your current level so that you can grow into it.  Which means going through a lot of Stage II where moves feel awkward and herky-jerky with the hopes that it comes together in time for Showcase.

I did finally get the video of our performance at Showstoppers.  For five lessons, it wasn’t bad.  I need to do more with my arms to take up more space and I can see all the little bobbles and issues but that gives me things to work on.  The other challenge for me is going to be capturing the feel and emotional nature of the dance and music.  As I’ve said before, I’m a comedic actor and this is a dramatic role.  But, it does have a chance to be something special.  We finished our lesson by filming us doing the routine.  There was another couple watching us and waiting to take their lesson with OwnerGuy and she jumped out of her chair to hug both of us when we finished.  There could be other reasons for that but she did seem to enjoy it.

So tonight is Fox Trot and Bolero.  Ugh.  A love scene.  I’ve got to admit that I struggle with the more romantic dances because I’m trying to channel the feeling behind the dance.  But it is difficult when you are dancing with someone so young.  I hope she doesn’t need to be in a very close position for Bolero.  If so, it is only a dance.




  1. You had me in stitches with this one. Brought back some memories, though. Wish someone had taken a picture of my face when I heard my first instructor telling me that our next lesson would involve body contact. It was hard not to break and make a run for the hills. Even to this day I find it difficult establishing and maintaining body contact. [sigh]

  2. Au contraire! I dig body contact! The closer, the better. Thought that’s what I was paying the big F.F. bucks for 😎

  3. I thought I was cool with body contact, because whatever, it’s just a dance. But then ALL my trust issues starting coming out and Teacher catches me every time I subconsciously pull away from him, or collapse my frame so I’m not pressed up against him. It screws with your head! But it is just a dance. And the contact with body parts you normally wouldn’t contact just happens. That, I am getting used to. You think it’s awkward having a girl attached to your hip, imagine the male teachers taking coaching from another male so they can learn the follow role! It’s just a dance.

  4. I’m sorry, but I laughed at your pain. Yes, your thighs are supposed to touch there. I asked Teach once. I have so many things I could say about all this and not enough time. Just know, I started like this and now I dance in full on body contact with other lady teachers. I have no shame anymore since I accidentally grabbed Teach’s butt.

    1. You mock my pain? Life is pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something. Sorry, just went Princess Bride on you. But I kind of laugh at my own pain as well. It is one of those absurdities of dancing. Looks like you’ve been catching up with your reading today.

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