Uncomfortable Connections on the Dance Floor
I’m fairly certain that we’ve all experienced that moment where a lead or follow connects to us in an uncomfortable way. Maybe it is uncomfortable because it is physically painful, or maybe it’s uncomfortable because it’s an intimate place on my body — it happens.
How do you manage it? If you are a mature adult who uses your words, you might say “I tell them to move their hand.”
That’s fine and dandy if you’re comfortable with being direct — but I have always struggled with that level of directness. The thought of telling someone that they are causing me physical discomfort in an intimate or painful way makes me even more anxious on top of the unwanted physical contact. I would much rather fix the problem in a way that spares everyone’s feelings and allows me to get to the part where we have fun dancing.
It’s emotionally easier for me to forgive their ignorance than to start that difficult conversation.
In the past, I’ve always used an excuse. My most common ones reference either exercising or injury (“I’m sore / hurt there”) and request a connection in a different place. These excuses accomplish the goal with moderate success, and — importantly — they spare the feelings of the person I’m dancing with.
Unfortunately, I feel like this does a disservice to leads I dance with. In my white lies, I have forgone the opportunity to improve our dance partnership, and potentially the dance partnership we have with others. Isn’t honest communication a better option, when possible?
And Then I had a Breakthrough
A few weeks ago, I was dancing with an acquaintance. He and I have danced in the past, but not particularly often. Occasionally, his hands have ventured into places that make me uncomfortable without being technically inappropriate — not my breasts, for example, but immediately next to my breasts. I don’t think this has ever been because he’s maliciously seeking out those places on my body — rather, I think he’s just unaware.
As soon as we connected, I could feel it happening. His arm reached around my back so that it rested on the side of my ribcage. It was right behind my breasts, and I was hyper-aware of its placement. I started with the standard excuse — “I’ve been doing pushups, and my ribcage is sore; could you move your hand?”
And then I paused. When I continued, I said, “Actually, that feels like an intimate place on my body. Could you hold me on my back instead?”
The lead immediately moved his hand, and he nodded and said “Sure.” I have no idea how to gauge his reaction — I was honestly too shocked at my own courage to notice, which I regret. Either way, he was mindful of his connection to my back for the rest of the song.
I am proud of myself for using my words to respectfully ask a lead to move his hand. I’m sure I could have worked on the phrasing, but it felt so good and powerful to be honest about my discomfort, rather than avoiding it altogether. It’s an empowering feeling.
This experience makes me feel more comfortable with the idea of bringing up the difficult conversation again. It might not happen every time, and the comment might not always be so well-received… but I’m excited to celebrate this success, and I am excited about the control it gives me over future dance partnerships.
And maybe — just maybe — my honesty will influence his future dances so he is more aware of how his body connects to another person’s.