“Woops, my hand slipped” he says with a creepy smile as he attempts to continue the dance, acting like nothing has happened. The follow then spends the final minutes of the song in quiet discomfort, half-fearing another “slip of the hand” from her lead.
As with a lot of my most emotionally charged articles, my motivation for writing this one came from recently observing something that bothered me, a lot.
I recently had the pleasure of attending the 2nd annual “Dublin Fever Fest” Latin dance congress and it was great to be back in Ireland, on “home turf” so to speak, catching up with friends and dancing at an awesome dance event.
As with any congress, I danced a lot myself but I also took time to rest every now and then and observe the other amazing dancers at the event. Unfortunately, those moments of free time allowed me to observe some things that I was not too happy to see and hear about things that were equally unpleasant.
Touching while dancing
Let’s back up a little and just get a few things straight before I start tearing certain people some new A$$holes.
When we dance, we touch. Salsa, bachata, chacha, kizomba, zouk, swing, whatever, all require, to a greater or lesser extent, some degree of intimate physical contact. And with that close, physical contact comes another, very important aspect of social dance: Trust. The follower is trusting the leader to lead her through an enjoyable and just as importantly, safe dance.
That safety comes in the form of making sure your follow doesn’t crash into others on the dance-floor, not using an overly aggressive lead and also respecting her body! Failure on any one of these issues is simply not cool and in some cases is downright low. Of all of these, the greatest betrayal of trust, the lowest of the low in my books, is inappropriately touching a woman during a dance.
Now, a lot happens in a short time while dancing so at one point or another all leads will make a mistake. The good ones (the real men) will apologize and try to make sure it doesn’t happen again. I’ve had a lot of dances since I began dancing and I now I have unintentionally grazed a boob or bottom while trying to execute certain moves… accidents happen. I always apologize and usually my face glows redder than a tomato from the embarrassment.
However, while many cases are accidents, I know from what I’ve seen and heard that there are some men that intentionally try to cop a feel while dancing.
…THIS SIMPLY HAS TO STOP!
Someone can take advantage during any type of dance, the close contact makes it possible but I would be willing to bet that the majority of offences are committed during two types of dance in particular: bachata and kizomba.
DISCLAIMER: I don’t dance Kizomba and I have probably only ever taken 4 classes of it in my life (all with a significant amount of time in between). I have however, danced it on occasion and I’ve seen it danced by others frequently. I have nothing against it and I’m definitely not trying to bad-mouth it here.
Both of these dances have two things in common; they are danced with very close physical contact and often in a sensual manner. While these are often the main attractions of these dances, they also make it easier for people to put hands where they shouldn’t be. Bachata, in particular, because of the varied leads used in the dance.
Unfortunately, some people (the dregs of dance society, in my opinion) interpret the sensuality and closeness of these dances as an invitation to make (unwanted) physical advances. I honestly don’t know what makes some guys think that this is ok. Maybe they’re the kind of people who don’t experience physical intimacy outside of the dance world (that might be why they were originally drawn to dance). Maybe they’re unable to differentiate between the sensuality of dance and genuine physical attraction/desire. Maybe they’re just creeps. None of these are valid excuses.
I have written about such creeps in a more humorous tone in a previous article here on LDC about God Awful Dancers. The archetype was called “Wandering Hands Will” and while I wrote the article to give readers a little chuckle, the truth is that creeps like this could ruin dance for their “victims”. Inappropriate touching simply shouldn’t be accepted.
Case in point
Let’s get back to the original stimulus for writing this article. I was watching some people dancing bachata early in the night and dancing in front of me were a middle-aged man and a young, very, very attractive girl (I later found out that they had never danced before). All seemed fine until the guy turned the girl and started dancing with his front his front to her back. If you know bachata you’ll know that this position is common and it’s normal for the lead to place his right hand on the follows stomach to lead other movements. The problem here was that the guy decided it was perfectly ok to place his hand directly under her breast, so much so that he was pushing into it. The look of discomfort on the follows face was instant. Luckily it’s also common in this position for a woman to place her hand over the man’s and she immediately went about using it to move his hand lower down her stomach to a position where he was no longer copping a feel. She was probably overly gracious by finishing the dance with him although the look of discomfort (along with a look of being truly pissed-off) stayed with her for the rest of the song.
I was pretty pissed off from seeing what I had seen so I can’t even imagine how she must have felt. You can rest assured that the creep didn’t get a second dance.
Another occurrence from that same weekend happened when a male friend told me something that had happened to a mutual female friend. We had been chatting and joking around and he happened to tell me that our friend was “a little ticked off” because she had just been groped. I asked where and he said “In the kizomba room”. My immediate reaction was to jokingly say “Well what do you expect” and I’m honestly ashamed of myself for saying it. Why? Well unfortunately, that’s exactly the attitude that some of these “hands-on” creeps have when they dance. They assume that just because they’re in a dark room, dancing sensually with a beautiful girl, that they can take liberties with her. They assume that the environment gives them permission. THEY HAVE NO SUCH RIGHT!
It ain’t just the guys
It needs to be pointed out that while the majority of these offenders are guys, I have personal experience of women taking such liberties too. While it is different for guys (we’re (usually) bigger and stronger than our partners which gives us a sense of security, so most of us can (nervously) laugh off such advances) it’s still not right for anyone to violate another’s personal space.
What’s to be done?
MEN: This problem starts with offenders. While the majority of leads are perfectly respectful of their follows it is the despicable few creeps that can seriously tarnish our dance scenes. I seriously doubt that any such offenders would even look twice at an article like this but hopefully, for the men who do, it will re-enforce this anti-groping attitude and help it diffuse deeper into their dance scenes. All I have to say is this:
Treat your follow with respect and remember you NEVER have the right to touch her in places or in ways that make her uncomfortable. If there are ways or places that you would only touch your girlfriend/wife, then they’re probably not suitable for the dance-floor.
WOMEN: You do not have to tolerate inappropriate touching when dancing. If you feel like a lead is taking liberties with you on the floor, feel free to end the dance right there and then and don’t feel like you ever have to dance with him again. I know a lot of women may feel obliged to finish a finish a dance once it’s started but if he’s making you uncomfortable, it’s your right to end it.
If women stop dancing with such creeps, hopefully they’ll get the hint and clean up their act (or leave the scene if we’re lucky).
Furthermore, if it ever happens to you in a class I would encourage you to discreetly let the instructor know so that he or she can deal with the offender. In the case that the offender is the instructor (which I know for a fact does happen), then it’s time to find a new class.
However, I do ask that women be sure that someone is taking advantage before they take action. I say this particularly for some women who may be just starting out in the world of dance and aren’t yet completely familiar with the different types of leads and the level of intimacy of some dances. I say this just because I don’t want follows to start accusing leads left, right and center of inappropriate behavior.
But if they genuinely do step out of line, let ‘em have it!
Towards a Better Dance Scene
My intention with this article (apart from blowing off steam after witnessing some truly appalling behavior) is to try and restore the feeling of trust and comfort that is necessary in a dance scene. If we can genuinely trust each other more, we’re all going to enjoy ourselves more. And that’s what dancing is all about :D
I’d love to hear your opinions on the matter in the comments below.
Keep dancing folks.