It is a well-known fact that there are a lot of people who start dance to meet people – with an eye towards dating.
Does that mean that social dance is all about the sex? Is it all about finding romantic partners, either short or long term? Or is it something else?
There’s no denying that at the intro level of dance there is a component of looking to meet romantic partners – for at least some people. There are lots of guys who end up in my Beginners class to meet a girl (or because they’re dating a girl who likes to dance). There are a lot of people who begin to dance after the end of a romantic relationship, looking to fill a void. There are girls who want to become sexier and learn how to move in a sensual way.
If you go to a nightclub that happens to play Salsa music, you’ll see this. There’s a ton of people who know a few basic steps, spend most of their night chatting, and focus their dancing on people who they’d like to get to know more – off the dance floor. But, these are rarely the serious dancers in the room. Same thing with free intro Kizomba classes and other sensual dances: the intro levels get an influx of people who are there for the jollies instead of the dance.
Despite the fact that many people start dance for these reasons, I don’t think it stays that way if they continue in dance. Dancing well is just too much work.
There’s also the other extreme: pro dancers who spend social dancing romancing newer dancers because social dancing is just the same-old at that point. They love their dance and treat it as an art – but social dancing is probably one of their only chances to actually meet people. Social dance floors are their place of work, their bar, their social hub, and their friendship incubator. It’s an all-in-one – and if you add alcohol, it can sometimes become their pick-up venue.
Dance does make you more appealing to more people. A lot of dancers will only date someone else who dances (which, ironically, narrows the dating pool). You do get to go to sexy events and meet lots of attractive people.
But really, I could go to a bar and get all the sex I want. Yet, I choose to go dancing. In the beginning, part of it was because I could connect with people without the expectation of giving my number or going back to their place at the end of the night. I’m sure there are others who feel similarly.
To me, what is unique about social dance is that it can be like a nightclub that is not all about the sex.
Have you ever tried to explain social dancing to non-dance friends? Especially if you are a Latin dancer, it is hard to describe to non-dance friends that you can take a different partner every song, share 5-10 minutes with each other, and then move on – no romantic feelings involved.
Even harder to describe are platonic ‘dance crushes’: people that make you feel all melty inside when you’re dancing with them, but as soon as you’re off the dance floor? Low to zero attraction (usually).
I have had dance crushes on men who are 65+. I’m certainly not romantically interested in them, but they’re so totally in the category of ‘making me feel all lovely’ when we dance. One in particular is definitely not limited to me; most follows who know him feel like their night out at Tango isn’t complete with at least one dance from him.
I also have a serious partner. He dances with other (sometimes very physically attractive) women, I dance with other (sometimes very physically attractive) men. Plus, Brazilian Zouk is on the sensual end of the dance spectrum. Yet, neither of us – no matter how sensual the dance – end up in a situation where our romantic mind is confused.
There are also children and teens who social dance. Don’t you dare tell me that dancing with them is sexual.
For some, sex and dating was never even a reason to dance in the beginning.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t meet romantic partners while dancing – it means that you’re not dancing for the purpose of finding sex or romance. It means you’re dancing for some other reason:
- A general sense of finding community and friendship
- A love of the actual dance
- Stress relief
- The athleticism, or staying in shape
- The music
- The opportunity to travel
- Just something to do.
This list isn’t exhaustive. I wanted to dance because I love the arts. I love people. Bam. Social dancing = art + people. I did not start social dancing because I wanted more sex or more romantic partners. Most of my friends are in the same boat.
Even for those who did start dancing because of the romantic possibilities, a lot of the ‘sexuality’ dissipates when you get to the intermediate+ level (or sooner, in many cases).
Dancing well takes work. A lot of work. It takes drills, practice, lessons, time, energy, and a level of fitness. That’s a lot of effort to put into finding sexytime partners. If a dancer has made it to at least an intermediate level, there’s probably something else that is keeping them in dance besides sex.
Plus, strong dancers generally love dancing with proficient dancers – regardless of physical appearance. At that point, it’s about the fact that two non-sexually-attracted-to-one-another-people can have an awesome dance – without the desire to go to bed together.
Of course, many good dancers do have a significant sex life – but it’s usually not their reason for dancing. For them, it’s a nice perk that goes along with the energy, fun, passion, socialization, music, and movement that are part of the social dance package. At that point, sex and romance become much the same as they are in the ‘real world’: just a side focus in an otherwise multifaceted life.
For example, some people go to university. At university, you may meet a romantic partner – but it’s not the primary concern. Your degree is the primary concern, but you might meet some great romantic partners during your time there. There may also be a small portion of the university population who decided to attend because they wanted to meet an educated partner.
Sex and romance is part of the social dance world – but it is not the focus. The focus is on the dancing and the people. Social dancing is NOT all about the sex, even though romance and attraction play a role within the scene.
What do you think? Is social dance all about the sex? Leave your comments below.
Well said, Laura. Lots of people who I show Zouk for the first time say: Wow, it’s so sexy and close(sometimes it actually looks like sex on the dancefloor) what does your boyfriend think about that?
I tell them (and my boyfriend too, who is not dancing at all) that dancing is not about the sexual attractiveness. Personally, I can only give my opinion on the sexual component, because I am in a relationship and was never looking for a romantic partner within the dance scene.
What I discovered during social dancing is, that you can feel quite comfortable with another guy, without developing romantic feelings. How the dance feels depends on the person you dance with and how attracted you are to him/her. To most of the people I am not attracted in a particular way. But dances with them can be relaxing, a lot of fun or even awesome!
Physical attractiveness maybe helps in making it a great dance, but definitely cannot outweigh a bad leading or a kind of leading you just don’t like. (as from my follower perspective)
Greetings from Germany!
I started strictly for the dancing & continue strictly for the dancing.
Cannot agree with you more. Me and my wife started taking dance lessons to keep the spark alive between us in a different way. Over time she lost interest and I just could not get enough of it. As of today, I continue to attend classes and enjoy social dancing. I’d call my self a beginner who is just about to be an intermediate. The goal during every dance is to make my partner comfortable and enjoy those 3-4 minutes of the song. A partner that is happy at the end of the dance is the right Happy Ending for me :).
“But really, I could go to a bar and get all the sex I want. Yet, I choose to go dancing. In the beginning, part of it was because I could connect with people without the expectation of giving my number or going back to their place at the end of the night. I’m sure there are others who feel similarly.”
This is a very female-centric pov. I don’t think you could say that if you were a male. Specifically, the first sentence.
The thing is a large portion of the MALE population doesn’t social dance to really dance. They go to try to hook up. They usually want to get good enough to be able to impress enough so that they have a better chance at hooking up.
As the level of the dancer gets better, this changes obviously because, as you said, the
“Dancing well takes work. A lot of work.”
But that assumes that people dance well. Would you say that a majority of male social dancers dance well? Do you include those who just stand still while leading many pattern well as “dancing well?”
If not, then, I would say that although what you stated is correct, it’s not really relevant in the social dancing world, because the majority of dancers aren’t intermediate+.
I’ve seen a lot of male dancers who instead of going to a regular bar, go to a dance club because it’s about the same for them. They can take the lesson, and if they’ve been there enough, they learn enough patterns to get by. And unlike a real bar, they get to actually touch a real woman the whole time without being rejected!
I would say that from the FEMALE perspective, social dance is not all about sex. I would not be so sanguine about it from the MALE perspective.
The level of the leads depends a lot on the scene and the locale. There are many places that are more of a ‘club’ mentality for dance, which is not where the level is int+. However, if you go to a dance SOCIAL in a studio, event or dance hall setting, most of the people are there for the dance and are experienced dancers.
I agree a powerful motivation for men to start dance is the prospect of being around women – but it seems to me that the men who stick around have additional motivations. Among my male friends, any that have danced for any length of time have moved beyond the ‘dance as a form of finding a romantic partner’ motivation.
Laura Riva is right… when I first started dance, the appeal was to be around women. But then the athleticism + coordination aspect hooked me. I consider myself very athletic + coordinated so this was a new challenge. Sure I enjoy a good run, heavy bag work, or a weightlifting session. But dance challenges my physicality in a different way (very “right brain”). In addition, the male competitive drive kicked in: I now continuously push myself because I want to impress my partner as well as those around me.
You mention people who dance well, but I don’t think Laura’s intention was to include dancers who are good, so much as dancers who *want to be* good. That’s a pretty crucial distinction, and is about intent, not skill. Its possible that the social dancing world you find yourself in is less about serious social dancing, and more about dancing in social situations – there’s obviously a place for both, and a little overlap among dancers, but I don’t think the second is so much what this site is about. So community may play the biggest role in this?
For instance, here in Northern Vermont (go try to find it on a map, I’ll wait) believe it or not there’s a very strong, very close-knit community of latin dancers – predominantly salsa and kizomba with some bachata thrown in. We’ve all (“all” being a core of 50-60 people with maybe another 50-100 on the periphery) become if not close friends, at least very supportive, open, and welcoming. The teachers here have worked hard to bake those attitudes into the community from the start. (Versus many communities that are competitive and maybe better described as… narcissistic?) Also, possibly because the area is smaller, there’s not much difference between “club” and “social” – everyone knows when clubs have latin nights, and those become smaller socials. So given this environment, anyone coming in just for the sex would stick out like a sore thumb, and is pushed out in short order. (And frankly, probably quickly leave of their own accord as they realize no one is buying what they’re selling. 😉 So here, the “social dancing world” is made up mostly of people who take their dancing seriously. (And by “serious” I mean “invested in learning and growing as dancers, not the booty.”) The same seems to be true for the national and international congresses for both salsa and kizomba I’ve been to – I’m willing to bet a *very* small percentage of congress attendees are there just for the sex, male or female.
Nature versus nurture?
Either way, dance on!
The common denominator I see here for people saying “people don’t dance for the sex” are people talking about the social dance scene as if it were just elite/specialized dance socials and ballroom style dance connections.
That is NOT what it’s like from where I come from where. There are a LOT of clubs with social dancing (good, in the sense that if you want to dance, you can always find somewhere to dance; bad, in that not everyone is really interested in dance, so it can be painful trying to find good dances amongst the many beginners/creepers out there).
So, sure, if you’re talking about the “social dance” scene and assume that you’re not talking about clubs, then, I’d say it’s more likely that sex is not nearly as big a portion of the scene. But THAT IS NOT THE ONLY SOCIAL DANCE SCENE.
Which is why the generalizations in this article feel naive, and why there seems to be such a disconnect from what I see to what was written.
I will say that the zouk scene in this area doesn’t really have any clubs for it, so it also is a very similar scene to the one the author identified, but that doesn’t mean that every social dance scene is like that.
I also will say that congresses and festivals are so good BECAUSE a lot more of the people are really about the dance and not ulterior motives. Most of my best dance experiences have been the congresses and festivals. And for some reason people are more welcoming to dance with people they don’t know (probably because they recognize how many fewer people are less into ulterior motives and more into the dance).
Most social dance scenes are not built around clubs. Many dancers go to clubs to social dance if it is the only option, but “social dancers” as is commonly defined by partner dancers refer to people who go out to venues that allow them to use their dance skills.
Social dancer in this context is not defined as people who have never learned to dance, but go to venues that happen to have a dance floor – but where dancing is not the ‘focus’ of the evening.
Sorry, if this wasn’t clear, but dancing is the “focus” of the clubs. It just so happens that some of the people who attend aren’t really that interested in dancing except as a means to something else. A “basic dancer” who is much more interested in club like behavior than dancing or even socializing.
I think we’re just going to have to agree to disagree. You think the vast majority of “social dancers” overall aren’t into it for sex; I think it really depends on the environment you are in.
Actually, the article says that there are many. I never said some weren’t, or even that the ‘majority’ aren’t. I said sex is not inherently the first thing on someone’s mind simply because they are dancing!
Exactly! I know men – I am one. We are all dogs to some degree. Some worse than others, but we all are. Any man that claims that sex with at least some if not many or even all of the women they dance with never enters their minds are lying. I’m certain (or at least I hope, because I want to keep my faith in the fairer sex) that most women can say truthfully they aren’t thinking of sex when dancing.
And that brings up the “thinking” part. I think all men are thinking of sex when dancing and I think probably most women are not. But even the women that aren’t *thinking* of sex, subconsciously dance is sexual to them. Dance mimics the sexual act and both men and women love sex. I think dance is sexual for every one – consciously to men and unconsciously for at least most women. I think dance is primal and undeniably sexual. I think the evidence backs me up.
There are folks that partner dance with their family and kids. Additionally, there are rotating group dances. Just putting it out here.
Speaking from the Jung point of view, where; depending on where we live the majority of our lives, if those who are the most artistic are honest and true with themselves above all else, then they can honestly answer that yes, dancing is a sexual and sensual activity,important to their daily creative, thoght provoking, inspiring, nuturing personal growth. This does not mean that the person is on “the hunt” to conquer, or to score,but it is a natural extension of that person’s unconscious reality. It is healthy and important to the very core of the human existence. To be able to fall in love with your dance partner, that you realize you love her or him beyond sexual attraction is to reach a maturity level that takes one to a spiritual place far higher than than most yoga lessons will ever take you. Being a responsible, Master of Your Domain will serve you well on life, but especially on the dance floor.
I don’t agree. I feel like there’s always a unconscious sexual element in a dance like zouk. It is what give the flavour. What is social dancing anyways? To socialize right? There’s so many different ways to socialize why do you prefer and like a way to be so close to someone else doing things u normally wouldn’t do in normal settings? I mean what else u like about the dance? Classy? Elegance? If u want that u would do ballet. There’s partner work in ballet too. And u can start at adult too. I think people can convince themselves they don’t want s relationship whatever, which I don’t think is why they want to dance I could agree, but wanting to be close to the opposite sex during s few minutes is arguably the main reason. Otherwise why don’t u do s group dance with your friends? There are many African dances that have that element of community in it without touching each other. What is connection anyways? Isn’t that the base that starts any reltionship and sexual interactions? If u don’t desire it. Why do you do it?Just my 2cents and trying to be real.
The thing is… I Zouk with all my same-gendered friends too. There’s really no need for sexuality within Zouk for me. I’m attracted to the music, the artistic interpretation, the creativity, and teamwork. My primary motivation to dance has never been to hold another person close.
Add to that the fact that I can go out and hang with people and dance freely all night instead of paying per class, or (if I’m lucky) doing a solo performance.
As for connection: connection doesn’t need to be sexual. It simply needs to be wanting to reach out to other humans. You can connect with family, friends, siblings, romantic partners, and even strangers. Most of the human connections we have are not sexual in nature!
That may be true for you personally, but that doesn’t mean it’s true across the board. It’s the same with anything else–some people are huggers and other people are uncomfortable being touched. In some cultures there is nothing remotely sexual about a woman walking around topless. Different things mean different things to different people. When I first started social dancing I made the same assumption about bachata that you made about zouk. To an outside spectator it had the same appearance as a couple of people grinding on each other at a club. That’s not what I was interested in, but when I finally gave it a try I realized there was so much more to it than that. I can dance with my friend’s boyfriend and no one gets upset or confused because it doesn’t change the relationships of anyone involved since it doesn’t mean the same thing as an actual sexual encounter.
There are a lot of reasons someone might choose a dance style. For me a lot has to do with the music and the way I’m naturally inclined to move my body. I participated in a lot of different dance activities growing up and I have always loved to dance, but it wasn’t until I started social dancing that I felt almost like I had finally found the thing I had been born to do. It adds several elements to the dance that you simply will never have when you are dancing solo. While that may be related to sexuality for some people, for me it absolutely isn’t. That’s not to say I am never attracted to the person I’m dancing with, but if I am it’s because I happen to be attracted to someone I am dancing with, not because that attraction is the default position or the reason I showed up.
I disagree with you. I do love zouk . And so far there have only been two men I could possibly be attracted to but want neither. Three. And I dance with both sees and never have been turned on. For me , especially in zouk, there is noting at all I want but to be carried away by the music. If you set your mind to want more then that’s what you get. My sole soul purpose is just to dance. Nothing more. If he wants more, he’ll have to hit me over th e head with a brick because I truly am not paying attention to that potential part of dance no matter the dance. It’s what You make it.
I have a family member who has flat out told me, “you’re doing it wrong”, and, “you’re wasting your time”, when I go dancing to enjoy dancing, and not going dancing trying to get dates and girls’ phone numbers.
He and I disagree on many things.
If a relationship develops, then that would be pleasant; but it’s not my motivation to dance.
Most men are opportunists with sex. Although the good dancers go for the dancing, I’m sure they wouldn’t turn down a good offer when presented with one, unless they are satisfied with their current partner. If they don’t have a partner, then 99 times out of 100 the man will go for it!
Not turning down sex is a false equivalency with going to the event for the sex.
It’s possible to say ‘yes’ to opportunities for sex 99% of the time, but still have the driving force behind social dancing be the dance time itself.
I admit, this made me feel like a prude. I still find myself surprised by the levels of physical contact and proximity I see in modern jive, and find the levels in Zouk mind boggling.
Nothing prudish about it!
I can’t speak for modern jive, but I do know that Zouk visually looks like a very sensual dance. Depending on personal comfort levels, close-hold Zouk can be a little too much physical contact for people, especially at the beginning.
Believe it or not, once you have actually done the dance, it doesn’t feel ‘that close’. In some ways, Waltz even has more physical contact than Zouk – it’s just no longer thought of as a ‘sensual’ dance. 🙂
I TOTALLY agree with this. SOCIAL dance is NOT about sex. And yes, it’s so hard to explain this to non-dancer friends/family/partner as well as the fact that real dancers hardly drink while dancing thus we do not have and won’t have any drinking problems lol. I also find mature older men better dancers than yonger-date prospect-ones. If you want sex, there are plenty of pubs where you can get drunk and have a fun-sex night. And they do NOT offer NOR advertise “SOCIAL DANCING”. I think the turning point is how much of a real dancer you are. If you call yourself a dancer because of the physical contact involved is appealing to you and you think it will be fun sex, you are not less wrong than someone who has done only a diploma and call themselves ‘Doctor’. And beleive it or not, for intermediate+ level dancers, the PHYSICAL contact is very minimal, however the CONNECTION stronger. A very gentle touch can lead to a body roll, a turn or even a dip. That’s what real dancing is about, about really feeling the music and letting our bodies travel with it together as one, with the music as our blind stick, not your d**ck guys. It’s NOT about rubbing your mainly body on your female dance partner so you can show her that you want to hook up with her later (a simply “you wanna have sex” will do in that case, safe yourselves the trouble ^_^). Guys, for real: if you want to have sex, there is a 99% more chances of finding a sex partner at a pub than at a social dancing club. X
To those responding that for many people social dancing is about looking for a hook-up, I totally respect that for some people this may be the reason they enter social dance. But don’t assume that drives everyone.
As a gay man who dances 95% of the time with women, I guarantee my sex life and my social dance life have nothing to do with each other. The joy, thrill, and human connection I feel in zouk has nothing to do with romantic or sexual interest in my partners. I strongly prefer dancing in casual, event, and studio settings rather than at traditional nightclubs because I feel like the pick-up culture of many of the nightclubs and Latin bars I’ve gone to makes them into spaces where I’m at best an oddity and at worst unwelcome.
Sure, I often see the lines between dance connection and romantic connections become blurred for dancers (for better or for worse). But I’m all for Laura’s central point here. Social dancing is not simply about meeting people for sexytime.
There’s a larger point implied here. Social dance takes place in a world with gendered expectations about consent, the ability of men to “earn” a woman as a prize regardless of her desires, and the rights of women to control their own bodies. Women (and men) should be able to engage in even the most sensual social dances without assumptions made about their sex life or desired sex life. Men (and women) should understand consent to intimacy during dancing expires at the end of the dance. When the song ends, all the normal rules of consent apply and are reset to zero.
On a side note, this goes back to the idea of whether or not it’s appropriate etiquette for people to decline dances without a good excuse. In my experience, the more people associate social dancing with the search for a sexual hook-up, the more likely they are to decline dances with unknown partners. The more they disassociate the two, the more they enjoy accepting dances and the more rejection of dances without good reason is generally frowned on.
Sorry for the long comment- thanks again for a thoughtful article, Laura!
Love it when you comment, Chris!
One of the things I really like about social partner dancing is that if you approach an attractive person and ask them for a dance, that’s all it is. Whereas if you approach someone of the opposite sex outside of partner dancing usually it is assumed that you are making the first moves to asking someone them out/indicating you want want to sleep with them – even if that is not the case.
However, social dancing is by its nature very social and although people may go to dancing because they enjoy the dancing, the fact you may meet someone to fall in love with and live happily ever after is also a big part of what motivates people even if it’s not a conscious thing.
I go dancing because it’s one of the most enjoyable things one can do it and life would be very sad without dance. But I also happen to have met some lovely people as a result and made a lot of very good friends, one of whom I’ve been going out with for 14 years now and we both still love to go out dancing together [and with other people].
Hi. It looks like I am the only one, but I have to say I hate zouk. I really dont get girls who do it. I dont write “dance” on purpose, because I dont think zouk is a dance. For me it is almost like having sex in public, often with a guy who is not your boyfriend. I just cant respect girls who do this. In my opinion, a good girl wouldnt do this with someone she is not dating with and in public. I have danced for a long time, so I think I understand very well that dance partners dont have to fall in love with each other and dont have to expect sex. But zouk is not about showing respect to the opposite sex, it is not about dancing, it is mainly crawling over the zouk partner and doing sexual movements with music in the background. It is so disrespectful to the life partner of your zouk partner. For me, there is absolutely no art in it. I would feel ashamed if my childrens saw me doing that with someone else than their father. Such a physical contact should be only in love partnership.
It sounds like you have had a negative experience with Brazilian Zouk. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on Bachata, Tango, Blues, or Kizomba – many times these dances are danced much more sensually than Zouk.
Zouk has many different flavours. While it can be danced very sensually, it is also extremely musical and playful. It has its roots in several dances – including Lambada, Bolero and Contemporary.
Perhaps watching these videos will educate you on what Zouk can be:
Traditional Zouk (the woman, Renata, is one of the creators): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRdzDevo0xo
LambaZouk – the closest style to the original Lambada: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2i_mvTy56wo
Contemporary/Neo Zouk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ITRCYkFMqfk
It is also important to keep in mind that there is another style of Zouk that originated in the French Caribbean, which is more similar to a folk-dance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OnaCnAS8_Ho
You say you cannot respect girls who do Zouk. This is too bad. As a Zouk teacher, it is also something that is borderline offensive to me. I also have a partner who does Zouk – and the sensuality is a non-issue.
Any dance – including Zouk – draws on what you bring to the table. But, it’s a very unfair thing to say you ‘cannot respect the women’ who do Zouk. It is also unfair to say there is absolutely no ‘art’ in Zouk.
Zouk is not about ‘crawling over the zouk partner and doing sexual movements with music in the background’. If you truly believe this is what it is, then I doubt you have seen Brazilian Zouk done by actual Brazilian Zouk dancers.
If you don’t believe there is any art in the above videos I have sent you, please also take a look at this:
If so, I’m doing it wrong!
Exactly! I’m in high demand as a leader, but after attending literally thousands of dances, I have never hooked up with anyone.
From a non dancer at all.
Unless you are already in a relationship with somone it’s almost impossible to not get wrapped up in a sexual attraction that comes with dancing that close and suggestively. And anyone uneducated (me) looks at that and thinks wow they are humpping. My partner dances many of the above types of dances but personally I’m not comfortable with any of them. I have been told by multiple people that Zouk and kizomba are prime time pick up venues. Teachers sleeping with beginners etc… no I haven experienced this myself but I can see why this would be. In reality you allow someone to be much closer to you that in a night club.
This type of dancing is beautiful but should only be done with your loved partner.
Just my opinion
Especially for close-hold dances, your perspective as a non-dancer is not unusual. But, for those of us who are active in the social dance scene, it is usually far from the truth.
There are people who hook up at events, but it isn’t by necessity intrinsically tied into dancing sexually. There are lots of people who have great dance connections who have no attraction to each other, and people with really bad dance connections that are interested in each other sexually.
Most of the people who view these dances as ‘pick-up venues’ are people who don’t understand the atmosphere. And yes, there are some top dancers with ‘rock star status’ that tend to have easy access to sex – but it’s like saying that popular musicians play because they get sex in return.
In my experience …
While some people, male and female, go to social dances with no intent of meeting someone there are virtually always sexual undercurrents. After all, dance came into being as a way to express sexuality without engaging in the actual act. As “permission” to have (simulated) sex with another, even as your partner watches! (kinky comes in here, hunh?). I do believe dancing to be a “vertical expression of a horizontal desire”. I know there are those that will argue this is not always the case. I agree it’s not always the case. There are “duty” dances (oh, would you dance with my friend Mary? No one is asking her.). That’s a duty dance. Or, a group of couples go out and they dance with each other – that’s also a duty dance – it’s maintaining that social interaction that is the very definition of what it means to be friends. That’s not to say a duty dance can’t be fun – it’s just not predicated on sexual attraction (if it is, you need to find another partner – stop cheating).
The thing I really, really struggle with is – and I don’t know if any other men (or women for that matter) experience this but … if I ask a woman to dance – not a duty dance but an optional, I look around and pick someone, likely someone I don’t know – to dance with then (and OK, go ahead and accuse me of being superficial – I’ll take that criticism) she must be attractive to me. I won’t dance with a woman I find unattractive. When I touch a woman who is attractive, especially one I don’t know, I get that warm feeling – you know what I mean, in the pit of the stomach, the “If I were single, I’d be interested in her) and I’d like to be close to her and touch her and hold her more and more. You may argue that this doesn’t happen all the time – it doesn’t. But it does happen and frequently. I know it’s true because I feel it. I’m human and you’re human and you have felt it too. There are studies, scientific ones, about dancing – the higher the testosterone level in a man, the more a woman’s estrogen affects her and vice versus. I’ve read the studies. Perhaps not consciously, when your wife or girlfriend chooses a man to ask to dance, her estrogen is playing a part whether she knows it or not. Studies prove it. I’ve read them – they study eye movement, hip movement under certain criteria (such as testosterone and estrogen levels) – I won’t go into all the details of what these studies discovered. Dancing (not duty dance) IS about sex. When a man or a woman makes a choice as to who to ask or accept a dance from, attractiveness (the better the dancer, the better in bed) is ALWAYS a factor. I’ll get disagreement – that’s fine. I know it’s true for me and the studies I’ve read seem to prove it’s a factor for everyone. If your wife or girlfriend asks another man to dance, it’s not that she’s conscious of the sexual influence and it’s not that she’s considering cheating if it’s the right dancer. But sex IS there.
My fiancee has been dancing for over 20 years and she’s always danced with other men whether in a relationship or not. I’ve been dancing one and a half years. She wants to dance with other men, she wants me to dance with other women. It makes me uncomfortable (duty dances do not). I know she won’t cheat and its doubtful he will make advances (though it’s happened and when it does, I want to come over the rail at him, but that’s never been necessary because she won’t tolerate it). Anyone who claims dancing does not have an element of sex (true duty dancing the exception and of course gay with hetero of the opposite sex is an exception as well) is lying to themselves. It does.
When we first started dancing socially (I met her the 3rd time I ever went social dancing), she danced with other men and I was able to accept that – after all, we hadn’t yet made a commitment. One night – after we were “official” she asked a man who she knew (and I did not) to dance. I was uncomfortable, but of course said nothing – this is what she was used to – it was innocent in that I know she had no designs on him. When the dance ended, she stayed on the floor and danced a second dance with him. I was more uncomfortable. The second dance ended, and the next song was a Cha-Cha (my favorite dance) and I stood to take her hand to dance when she came back – but she danced another dance with him. At that point I looked around, picked the most attractive female I could see and asked her to dance. It felt good holding this woman and dancing with her. I felt that warm feeling. I felt I was cheating on her. I was. I haven’t done it since and I will not do it again.
I will only duty dance. I wish she would only duty dance. Social dancing, no matter what anyone claims, is ripe for jealousy, cheating, and subconscious wish fulfillment – if your wife or girlfriend is not duty dancing, in a sense, she is having a fling. An apparently socially acceptable one, but a fling nonetheless. I won’t do it and I try to remember that she loves me and I know she’ll never overtly, consciously cheat on me, it still is very bothersome – knowing what I know about dancing, seeing what I see in dancing, reading the scientific studies and understanding it’s origin – no matter what anyone says, non-duty dancing is sexual, conscious or not.
I’d be curious to know what these “studies” are, and whether you think this also applies to competitive dancing, dance teaching, and other professionals.
Does it also apply to me when I dance with a man old enough to be my grandfather, and with whom I have zero sexual intention? What about when I dance with people under the age of 18?
Further, does it depend what kind of dancing? What about Lindy Hop? Waltz? Fox trot? Line dancing? What about solo dance styles?
It sounds to me like sex and dance are intrinsically linked in your mind. This is fine. I explore that concept more here: https://www.danceplace.com/grapevine/why-a-deep-connection-is-sometimes-seen-as-sexual/
But, especially without providing links to these “studies”, it is very tenuous to state that this is how it is for all dancers – or even all straight, male dancers.
Tried to find the specific study I read and couldn’t but I didn’t spend a lot of time. I did find this which I believe references the study (it actually references more than one study):
No, I don’t think it necessarily applies to competitive dancing or dance instructors or other dance professionals, though one can certainly feel that feeling for one’s competitive dance partner or instructor in some circumstances. I don’t think anything is that black and white. But in social dancing, if one chooses to dance with someone by looking around and picking and choosing or is approached and chooses to accept then I think it’s much more likely a factor. If one’s significant other is choosing to asking for or accepting an offer to dance then into that decision making process, conscious or not, the sexual part of dancing I think definitely enters the picture.
I would consider dancing with someone old enough to be your grandfather or under 18 as a form of a “duty” dance. Not sexual.
Yes, I think any type of dancing, but certainly some more than others, brings a definitely element of sexuality. Dancing solo does also but the lack of body contact is more palatable to the significant other that is sidelined while their partner dances.
I read the link you provided. You say this:
“intimate connection is grounded in a sexual attraction to the other person”
Agreed. My fiancee denies this. I know it’s true and that’s really all I was trying to say. I was trying to say when she picks a dance partner because he dances well and dances well with her and with which there is this intimate connection, sex plays a part. I don’t mean he takes her home with him or she consciously thinks of having sex with him. But I do think that hormone driven, primal urge is there.
She has been social dancing for over 20 years. I have been social dancing less than one year. I started taking dance lessons because I suffer social anxiety disorder and I thought it’d help me meet someone outside the typical bar scene. It did, After about 250 lessons, I was able to muster barely enough confidence to show up at a social dance. I met her there. We are now engaged. At first, before we made a commitment, though I didn’t enjoy seeing her ask or accept dances with other men, I got through it. But once we entered a committed relationship, it became clear to me that the intimacies she was sharing with other men should have stopped. I stopped and have no desire to dance with other women. She wants me to dance with other women so she won’t feel guilty dancing with other men. For me, I’d be cheating (other than “duty” dances) and I won’t do it. She tries to change my mind and my mind will not be changed. It’s a real problem. I’m about to develop a bad attitude toward social dancing because of it. I am about to give up social dancing and just go back to the studio. I suppose in a sense, perhaps a strong sense, I only wanted to social dance to meet someone. I did. Now I wish we weren’t in the social dance environment. The one possible “way out” for me is what I mentioned before: if we can get to know some couples and sit with them I would (as I mentioned before) be a bit more comfortable (though not totally) with her dancing the partner in a couple that is friends with us and I know him. It’s more dancing with strangers that is very difficult for me.
I’m really hoping the sexuality in social dance doesn’t destroy this relationship. It’s a real dilemma for me. It is very, very disappointing to me that she wants to dance with other men – I don’t want to dance with other women.
Oh, I also wanted some clarification … you wrote in the other article:
“So basically, just like everything else dance-related: the less comfortable partner sets the rules.”
I’m not totally clear as to the intended scenario you believe this applies to … are you saying when two people dance together, the one less comfortable sets the rules? Is it that narrowly defined? Or do you mean more broadly, if my dance partner (in my case the woman I’m engaged to) wants to dance with other men and she’s comfortable with that but I’m not comfortable, being the less comfortable one – should she defer and abstain, as I do, from dancing with others? I DO believe that should be the case. Just not sure of your position. Clarification?
I am narrowly saying that when two people dance together, the less comfortable one sets the rules. If you want open hold and the other close, they should respect that you would like an open hold.
Your girlfriend is not under any obligation to abstain; just as you are not under any obligation to like the fact that she dances with other men. That is a communications and expectations issue within your relationship. I do know that for both my partner and I, we would not be able to date if the other were jealous or uncomfortable with us social dancing with others.
What you refer to as “duty dances” are for many people the majority of dances they have. The majority of my dances are with people I’m not sexually attracted to (including other women), but I legitimately enjoy the dances to the same extent that I enjoy dancing with people I find attractive.
In regards to the quote you attribute to me, I believe you missed the context:
“For some people, there is no such thing as intimacy unless you have a sexual connection with the person. So, for those people, a dance that is intimate is necessarily also sexual. That doesn’t mean that they can’t have connected dances that aren’t sexual; but it does mean that an intimate connection is grounded in a sexual attraction to the other person.”
This means that for some people (and I suspect this includes you), intimacy is only found in relationship to sexuality or sexual attraction. Therefore, every intimate dance is necessarily sexual *for you*. For most long-time social dancers, this is *not* the case. That article was to help both avid social dancers (like your girlfriend) understand people like you (for whom physical touch and dancing is equated with sex and sexuality); and to help people like you understand why for many social dancers intimacy is *separate from* sexuality.
I honestly believe that your girlfriend is telling you the truth when she says that dance is not sexual for her.
The issue is that both of you have different expectations of behaviour within a relationship. It is rare for a long-term social dancer to settle down with a “non-dancer” (or early stages dancer) permanently when they have the same viewpoints as you. One of you will probably have to give up your position (which will likely lead to strong resentment), or you’ll have to find a compromise, or you will have to split up. Perhaps meeting specific couples could work – but this tends to negate the whole idea of “social dancing”.
Some partnerships where one partner really struggles with feelings of jealousy related to dance send their partner dancing alone – under the expectation that they just don’t want to see it happen. This works for some. In rare cases, the dancing partner will give up social dancing altogether – but this is a *massive* sacrifice for people who have spent so much time and dedication in this sport and art. I hope you can understand this part of her feelings, at a minimum.
I know you say your mind will never change – but is it worth maybe considering, just a little? I have met several newer dancers who dated more experienced dancers, and whose viewpoint changed dramatically after becoming more involved with the social dance world. Travelling to a dance event did that for a lot of them – when they realized the full scope of the world. It can be harder if it’s just a local scene where dances happen in bars, as this does tend to lend more to a pickup-vibe.
By contrast, some events hold socials in community centers, or even in churches. This dramatically changes the vibe of the social dance environment.
I do hope you figure it out – and that even if you don’t agree with your partner, that you can find a way to at least understand her perspective as well.
Thanks for the clarification. I think you’ve helped me see that I need to sever the relationship.
talk all you want. point is my wife does that im packing my baggs and not coming back. ill go live by myself and go fishing. just not going to put up with this
Sounds like you’re not a dancer. That’s fine – but vitriol and abusive language will not be tolerated on this blog. I have edited your post here so that it meets this blog’s standards.
It’s an old blog and apparently I’m late to the party 😉
There is a clear divide in comments written by guys and girls. And I have seen these discussion happen in my local dance scene as well.
Girls : say they come for dance and sex is not primary driver.
Guys : I don’t even know a single guy who isn’t trying his luck on the dance floor.
Anyways, as a guy
– Started dancing at 38 because I wanted to have my dating pool broadened.
– Quickly realized that it’s hard work. Yet still decided to stick it out because it was the only social activity that involved attractive women.
– Started getting more attention and success with girls but the specific dance scene where I live is small and it felt like everyone had slept with everyone which creates a lot of drama. So I decided to go to dance congress and festivals because the that’s where the new, younger and hotter women were.
– Interestingly! most guys who were going to big festival from my city had the same underlying motivation.
– 3 years later at 41, I’ve slept with more women (and by a large mile) than I ever had in my pre-dancing life. Pre-dancing life, albeit was freakin abysmal. haha
The story and motivations are not exceptional or uncommon. You will see this play out with varying degree of success
– From fat, ugly, short guy who is lacking in the style and tact. And comes to dance floor because that is his only option of female proximity.
– To the cool guy who own the dance floor and goes home with new girl every night.
– And special mention guys : who go to the lengths of become dance teachers / organizers / setup dance schools etc etc, to elevate their status and pick up more girls.
So go ahead and tell me it’s not about sex for guys 🙂