How Sexy Can Look Stupid On The Social Dance Floor

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Anyone who knows me could tell you that I’m no expert on “sexiness.” I prefer jeans and dance sneakers to fancy dresses and spike heels, and I’m often more Beast than Beauty by the end of a hot night of dancing. However, I know a truly sexy dance when I see one. No matter the particular style, it’s impossible not to feel the heat generated by two people genuinely connected to the music, to each other, and to their shared moment on the dance floor. These are the dances that are watched, admired, and talked about by fellow dancers in the room for the rest of the night.

Unfortunately, genuinely sultry social dances are becoming harder and harder to find these days. The subtle partner-work sensuality that used to be in abundance on the dance floor seems to have given way to an awkward brand of fake hyper-sexuality. While we all have our own opinions about what is or is not alluring, I think that most people would agree that there is nothing less attractive than someone trying to be sexy. If the following scenarios seem familiar to you, you might be trying a little bit too hard:

IF YOU FEEL THE NEED TO ELEVATE EVERY SOCIAL DANCE INTO A PBS THEATRICAL PRESENTATION:

It absolutely pains me to say this, but I no longer feel comfortable accepting invitations to dance Bachata with people I don’t know. While I have always viewed dancing Bachata as harmlessly flirty fun, until fairly recently I had not considered it to be an especially dramatic or theatrical social dance. However, within the past year, I have had to completely change my perspective on Bachata. After experiencing some of the most painfully artificial and awkward social dances of my “dance life,” I am going to temporarily opt out when it comes to dancing Bachata with strangers.
Several months ago I visited a new social dancing venue in a nearby suburb. Mid-way through the evening, a young man whom I’d never met before tapped me on the shoulder and asked me if I’d like to dance. I accepted his invitation and took his hand as he politely led me to the dance floor. As we walked to take our spot on the floor the music changed from a lively salsa song to a mid-tempo Bachata. Uh-oh.
This is when the script totally flipped and I was transported into the Twilight Zone. My formerly mild mannered dance partner dropped my hand and began dramatically walking around me, while staring intently into my eyes. He abruptly pulled me close to him and began caressing and stroking the side of my face. YIKES.

Little did I know that this was just a warm-up for the main event. Over the next few minutes this young man led me into strange dips, random body rolls, and at some point lifted me into the air. None of this made any sense musically, and the total lack of any real chemistry between us made this the most awkward thing ever. I kept thinking –are we acting? Are we pretending to be in love? Is this being filmed? What the hell is going on??
Thankfully, the song was not a long one, and I scurried away from the dance floor as soon as the song was over. Most of my friends had been too busy doing their own thing to notice my ride on the fake sexy struggle bus, but a few of the people in the room were looking at me with a bemused look on their faces.

As I made my way back to my table I noticed that Mr. Mild Mannered had now gotten hold of my dance teacher as another Bachata song began to play. I did not see their dance, but when my very traditional dance teacher later described having a “weird” Bachata with a man “who wanted her to dance like a worm,” I kind of had a pretty good idea of about whom she might have been talking.

IF YOU LIKE TO INFLICT “SEXY” MOVES YOU “LEARNED” FROM WATCHING PROFESSIONAL DANCERS ON YOUTUBE ON UNSUSPECTING SOCIAL DANCERS:

I know that many people are excited and inspired by the videos they watch of professional dancers on the Internet. I am definitely one of these people, so I’m not knocking the important role that the Internet plays in some social dancers’ lives. However, when watching these videos it’s crucial to realize the difference between amateur social dancing versus artistic entertainment performed by dance professionals.

For example, the professional pair of Daniel and Desiree is one admired by many for their dramatic, sensual Bachata performances featured heavily on YouTube. Through a combination of excellent technique, super-tight clothing, hair flipping, and body rolls galore, Daniel and Desiree have used their genuine hotness and superior dance skills to inspire a legion of followers. However, to be totally honest, I’m not sure that the desire to imitate this professional duo has been a good thing for the social dance floor. In fact – I would say that the imitation of their style of dance has, for some, been an absolute disaster.

In my opinion, this style of dance requires training from a professional Bachata instructor in order to be well executed. Unlike footwork based Bachata, this more dramatic style infuses elements of modern dance and ballet into traditional Bachata and cannot be perfected solely by trying to imitate professional dancers from the Internet.

Beyond learning proper technique, it is also important to pay attention to your partner and to your surroundings when you are dancing this style of
Bachata. When dancing with someone new, it’s always smart to take some time to assess your partner’s skill level and style preference. While most of us can manage a basic social Bachata, it is quite a different matter to be able to successfully execute the moves required of a more dramatic and athletic style of Bachata. If you sense that your new dance partner is uncomfortable with back-bends, lifts, and tricky turns, throw your bag of tricks temporarily out the window and just focus on having a solid connection with your partner.

Similarly, pay attention to your surroundings. If you are attending a dancers’ Social at a local dance studio, you will probably have more success with dancing this style of Bachata than at a casual neighborhood bar. Not only will you be more likely to find other dancers trained in this style, but you won’t find everyone staring at you, (including your unwitting partner), as you whip, flip, and dip him/her across the floor.

IF YOU ARE DANCING KIZOMBA WITHOUT ANY REGARD FOR PROPER TECHNIQUE:

By means of full disclosure, I am not a Kizomba dancer and any opinion I offer on it is only that of an observer. To be honest, while I love watching people dancing Semba, I have mixed feelings about Kizomba.

For me, watching people dance Kizomba is similar to the experience I have when I am eating sushi. When I am eating good sushi, there is simply nothing better, and I literally feel like I could eat it every day for the rest of my life. However, when I bite into a bad piece of sushi, it not only makes me want to retch, but it makes me not want to eat anything for a very long time. This is exactly how I feel about watching people dance Kizomba; when it’s good, it’s amazing, and when it’s bad, there is almost nothing worse.

Whenever I am watching a couple dancing Kizomba with great technique and a genuine connection I feel like I could watch them all night long. I especially appreciate the dances in which the dancers are so in tune with each other that the follow can close his/her eyes while being led around the dance floor. In a word – this is awesome. Unfortunately, most of the Kizomba dances I happen to watch, either in person or on YouTube, seem to have more to do with random booty pops and pelvic grinding than with genuine dance connection and technique.

From my limited point of view, I think that the antidote to bad Kizomba can be found in lessons in technique, musicality, connection, and restraint. My friends that are really into Kizomba are always taking lessons, attending workshops, and going to Kizomba social events. I think this kind of dedication is necessary in order to look polished when executing such an explicitly sensual dance.

A FEW FINAL THOUGHTS:

If you want to look sexy rather than senile on the social dance floor, here are a few more suggestions:

“SEXY” STYLING: Styling, especially for the ladies, is always something that can add a bit of much needed spice to any dance, including Bachata. However, as we all know, too much spice can be as bad no spice at all. For my ladies – please stop with all of the needless and distracting HAIR FLIPPING during Bachata dances. Once or twice, (max), during the course of one song is plenty. Believe me – I know that when Desiree, (the professional dancer/entertainer) flips her hair during a performance with Daniel, the effect is an incredibly sexy one. But – when you, (a regular person), continually flip your hair while social dancing on your local dance floor, it is irritating to everyone dancing in your vicinity, including your partner.

BODY ROLL ADDICTION: For my gentlemen – please moderate the times you want to lead us ladies into a body roll. A couple of these, (in time with the music), are OK, but after that – PLEASE THINK OF SOMETHING ELSE TO DO. Gentlemen, this is especially true if you aren’t really that good at doing a body roll. For some people, body rolls are second nature, and for others they take some practice. If you look like you are being tickled by a giant imaginary feather or like you are being electrocuted, I would strongly suggest that you put the body roll on hold until you can really work it out.

UNFRIENDLY DANCE GEAR: This is for everyone – I know that looking cute is important, but if what you are wearing makes it nearly impossible for you to dance, it’s time to reassess your “sexy” look. For my ladies – I know how fun it is to buy gorgeous dance shoes.
However, if you’re like me, and super high heels make you wobbly – forget them! There’s nothing sexy about watching a woman about to fall on her face because she can’t dance in her high heels. And for my gentlemen – do not feel pressured to wear the super tight pants worn by some male dance professionals. I’m not really sure that this is a good look for most people and there’s nothing sexy about a man who can’t move freely because he’s worried about a wardrobe malfunction.

TOUCHING ABOVE THE NECK: Gentlemen – if you are dancing with a complete stranger, DO NOT start the dance by touching the lady above the neck. It is very strange and off-putting to have a complete stranger stroking your face, or “passionately” grabbing the back of your head. It goes without saying that you should also refrain from touching the usual “naughty bits” if you wish to make it to the end of the dance alive.

In summary, there’s nothing wrong with a little sexiness on the social dance floor, but it should never be forced or fake. Sexiness is an attitude that comes from within; it is not a product of manufactured moves copied from a YouTube video.

5 Comments

  • Jeane says:

    “Most of my friends had been too busy doing their own thing to notice my ride on the fake sexy struggle bus”

    Gold.

    “sensual bachata” is a polarizing thing. I don’t think it’s a good idea to jump right into it when you don’t know your partner and to have it look good requires so much technique. it requires both sides to be on the same wavelength. The video you posted is a good example. Aesthetically very pleasing, but that’s because they are Daniel y Desiree. You can’t just lead those moves and those rolls with any partner. Not everyone is used to getting their body shaped and molded like so.

  • Remy dancedevil says:

    Many of the moves you describe are “borrowed” from Brwziljan Zouk, where it usually makes musical or chemical sense. We noticed Bachata sensual and Kizomba teachers and dancers attending Zouk workshops at zouk congresses, assuming that what takes 2 years to master would be able to grasp in 1 hour. When experienced zoukers see bachata and Kizomba dancers try to imitate the typical head and hair movements and we see how badly it is executed our hair raises (not mine). Techniques like these should be taught and trained by professionals even if you are already experienced Kizomba or bachata dancer/teacher. It is unhealthy, even by the couple you just mentioned. If you want to learn the techniques and musicality behind 3D body and chest isolations, body waves, body snakes, cambrés, balaos, bonecas, head movements, hair movements and flicks, learn Brazilian Zouk, and not from Yourube or an occasional zouk workshop, but really learn it. Cheers to dance!

  • Melissa West-Koistila says:

    Thanks for reading my article and for your insightful comments!

  • David Sander says:

    The original idea of social dance is communication and basically these situations are about problems of how communication is being forgotten. In trying to replicate professional dancing, people forget that these movements take months of dance practice and have a carefully made choreography. This is the antithesis of social dancing where you have to discover your new partners limits of knowledge, stay within those bounds and improvise a dance by communicating the known movements between partners. So social dancing is distinct from performance dancing and frequently people don’t understand the difference.

    Your social dance should have have well practiced moves that have been groomed by a knowledgeable instructor if there is to be a happy collaboration on the dance floor. Movements should feel good to your partner, leave the movements that look good to the performance dancing couples! This point needs to be made to newbies that social dance is for the pleasure of the two individuals and that a good social dance requires execution and confidence, not fancy moves seen in performances.

  • Sarah Liz Vuong says:

    Oh man…this is a very entertaining article and I truly enjoyed reading it! It’s unfortunate that so many people feel the need to “perform” on the social dance floor. I’m terribly sorry to hear Mr. Mild Mannered stroked your face. Yikes indeed!!!

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