Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Hold me close, let me go

Ballroom dancing has a reputation for being stuffy. I think this is because so many people have gone through Cotillion classes, where they learn foxtrot and forks at the same time. Tuxedos and gowns have a bad reputation just because they are formalwear - but ask almost anyone if they had fun at the prom and they'll tell you yes (I think those who wouldn't have fun at the prom don't go).

However, because I'm standing so much closer to someone than I would normally, I find myself being a little more formal than I would otherwise. Partner dancing has forced me to break my socialized response to keeping my personal space. Your and your partner's arms are only so long and usually you're standing twelve inches apart - and sometimes much less, as in tango and waltz.

I am gracious about getting stepped on (and about stepping on someone else) and when it happens I echo something someone said to me once at a PEERS event when I apologized for stepping on his feet: "I only need the bottoms, you can have the tops." I have a sense of humor about dancing off time, about dancing one dance to another dance's rhythm (foxtrot steps to tango music, for example), and when I'm dancing with new dancers I always try to follow our first dance teacher's advice, which was "You can always work on the ONE."

Tonight however I had an experience which totally gave me the willies. I attended a group class and was partnered with someone who didn't hold his hand flat against my back when we were in frame. I could feel him holding my shirt, or, most of the time, he was moving his fingers, as if he were scratching my shoulder blade. He was fidgeting around so much I thought he might be high, which would be so weird for our studio I can't even describe it. I have a good tolerance for weirdness but the teacher didn't have us change partners and after about fifteen minutes I could not stand it anymore. I went upstairs and talked to the studio owner about how this man's backscratching was freaking me out.

Daisey said that she would take care of it, and would talk to his dance teacher about working with him on keeping a flat palm.

So this has me thinking about what's weird when someone in your personal space isn't the thing that feels wrong. It's the way the lead is holding me, too low, too wiggly, too strong, that sets me off. Fortunately it doesn't happen very often.

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