Posted by Epiphany
Partner dancing can be a tricky world to play in. We are told to have good connection, to be expressive and playful. We get caught up in the moment, the music and in the arms of a person we feel amazing connection with. And yet, there are boundaries. We must not forget common sense and social cues. Yes, the dance floor is our playground, and we still have to play nice.
- During a group class, what is and is not considered appropriate for the dance being taught should be addressed. Expectations need to be set from the start. We need to tell people that the groin is not a connection point and remind them not to breathe heavily in their partner’s ear.
- Tell people how to address inappropriate situations if they occur. Everyone should know how to intensify their frame to create distance and how to break into open position. Provide ideas on how to verbally communicate discomfort to their partner. Ensure people know who to talk to at the venue if they feel weird about something happening on the dance floor.
- If you accidentally do something inappropriate, say something! Acknowledge it and apologize. It happens. We touch things we did not mean to. I’ve done everything from punching a guy in the stomach to cupping a guy’s groin during a sugar push gone wrong. Just own up to it and show the person that it wasn’t intentional.
- Feel free to move someone’s hand to where you want it placed on your body. If their hand is lingering near your butt, take their hand and say, “I need your hand up here”. Some people, especially beginners, may not be aware of what they are doing and will appreciate the correction. Encourage people to take control in these cases and speak up.
- If possible, don’t teach an intimate embrace in a beginning class. Start with open (or practice) embrace. It creates too much opportunity for weird stuff to happen accidentally or intentionally. I personally consider closed embrace to be an intermediate level skill that simply isn’t necessary or appropriate for someone just learning how to dance. Closed embrace requires extra mindfulness, awareness and technique that a total beginner dancer probably isn’t ready for quite yet.
- Post the venue’s code of conduct inside the venue. Cover what is (and is not) considered appropriate and who to talk to if an issue arises. Direct people to talk to the person hosting the room, the instructor or the DJ – one whom should be easily found if needed. These people can also help monitor the room to address situations, so it helps if they can all be briefed on how things should be handled if they witness something needing intervention. (continued below)
Following are a few things that don’t get talked about much, but probably should:
- The way a person dances with one person does not represent how he or she will dance with someone else. If two people are having a deeply intimate, sexy dance, that does not mean that either of them will dance that way with someone else. Let the closeness of the dance develop and unfold organically. Sometimes after a dance, I’ll ask the guy, “Was that too much? Should I dial that back a bit?”. Have open conversations to determine what you are both comfortable with doing during a dance.
- Some people enjoy a kiss on the cheek as a greeting, farewell or thank you. If you are going to do a cheek kiss, keep it sweet and innocent, not lingering and suggestive. Don’t kiss on the mouth unless you are in a relationship with that person. If someone is surprised by a kiss on the mouth (or if they dodge it), you likely creeped them out.
- Unless someone has told you they are okay with caresses on your arm, back or in your hair, just don’t go there. If someone is overly touchy, break into open position. You can also simply say, “That’s more touch than I’m okay with”. If you initiate touch and someone pulls away or blocks it, it’s not welcome.
- What happens on the dance floor does not represent feelings off of the dance floor. Romantic interest should be explored off the floor and not during a dance. The dance itself really needs to be a safe space for both people to play, be expressive and immerse themselves in the energy of the dance – and then walk away 3 minutes later to do the same with someone else.
Part of what makes partner dancing such a tricky world is that we need to listen to our partners body language during a dance as well as their lead or follow. The social cues are always there, and we all need to be listening for them.
Ultimately, I think it comes down to two things: having common sense and honoring social cues.
Lastly, if we can’t have open conversations about what we are doing on and off the floor with someone, then something creepy is probably happening. And no one should ever hesitate to speak up in these cases because a true predator banks everything on the hope that no one ever speaks up.