Some dance styles, like Kizomba, Brazilian Zouk, or Bachata, use a very close connection between the partners. These dances are often described as ‘sensual’ dances. For a few, they describe these dances as ‘sexual’.

I understand why some people see it as sexual.

Not too long ago, I was dancing with a lead who had a very intimate-feeling connection. It was intimate enough that I had to take a minute and decide whether or not he was asking for just a dance, or something more. This is after I’ve been dancing ‘sensual’ styles for over 7 years. 

In this situation, the lead wasn’t asking for a sexual relationship. He just was creating a sense of intimacy in the dance itself by using a very deep connection.

Intimacy in sex vs. dance

Whenever we have a connection with someone, we create a level of intimacy. For most people, the ‘highest’ level of intimacy can be found through sex – especially if you have an emotional connection to that person.

But, dance can in many ways approach the level of intimacy many people have in sex. For most dancers, they will tell you that it’s not about sex – and they’re correct; it’s very often not about having sex with their partner.

But, for most non-dancers, that level of intimacy is typically reserved for sex. So, it’s difficult to articulate exactly why it’s sensual and intimate, but not ‘sexual’ in the sense that the two people don’t necessarily want to have sex with each other.

And, for some dancers, the highest levels of intimacy continue to be reserved for sexual relationships throughout their dance life.

A case study: my own relationship with dance intimacy

I enjoy a deep connection. But, there are a limited number of partners that I can be fully ‘intimate’ with on a dance floor.

In order to get that level of intimacy with a partner, a few things have to happen:

  • I need to feel safe
  • I need to know they’re not going to misinterpret the intimacy
  • I need to enjoy the music and the physical connection
  • The other person needs to be open to receive the intimacy

I’d guess that there’s quite a few people who feel similarly. And, these things being present doesn’t necessarily guarantee that I’ll have an ‘intimate’ connection with a person.

This doesn’t mean I can’t ‘connect’ with others. Connection is by degrees; it’s not always 100 or 0. So, there may be someone where I’m very comfortable relaxing into the connection – but where I wouldn’t describe the connection as truly intimate.

The line between intimacy and sexuality

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.

For other people, like myself, an intimate connection isn’t the same as a sexual connection. In fact, I find it easier to have an intimate connection with someone if there’s no pressure for a sexual connection (unless I’m dating them).

There’s also some people who can have an intimate connection with a stranger, but others who need to really know and like a person before an intimate connection is established

None of these are wrong; it just depends on the relationship that person has with intimacy. 

Jealousy and intimacy

Depending on your relationship with intimacy, it can be difficult if you have a partner to see them have an intimate connection with someone else.

For example, most non-dance romantic partners don’t understand how an intimate, connected dance can possibly not be sexual. This is because it’s rare outside of dance circles for intimacy to not be equal to sex.

So, seeing their partner dance intimately (or even just with a close connection) with another person can inspire feelings of jealousy or inadequacy.

If your partner is one of these people, try to be understanding of why they have issues with the concept of dance-intimacy. It can be very difficult to get over. Some people opt not to have ‘intimate’ dances while in a relationship for this reason.

Or, if the person who is in a relationship sees intimacy as sexual, they may choose not to have intimate dances to respect their partner. Some of these people are even OK with their partner having intimate dances, but understand that on a personal level they can’t separate the two concepts.

On the extreme end, some partners downright forbid dancing because any level of connection is intimate to them. Partners of those people are often in the difficult position of having to choose whether to dance at all, or continue their relationship.

Dealing with another person’s relationship with ‘intimacy’

If you’re someone who doesn’t equate intimacy with sexuality, it can feel really difficult to deal with a person who does feel the two concepts are attached.

For example, they may make a proposition for more, and you may turn it down… only to find that now the connection is different, worse, or not present at all.

What we need to understand here is that what you thought the connection was is not what the connection was for the opposite person. We can’t demand a non-sexual intimate connection with someone if they feel an intimate connection is necessarily sexual.

This works in reverse as well. If someone feels the two concepts are entwined and is rejected for more, they have no right to force an intimate connection to become sexual.

Consent and intimacy

Regardless of which way the consent is flowing, we have to respect people’s personal relationships with intimacy – just like we have to respect whether people want to dance in a close or open hold.

So, if a person sees sexuality and intimacy as synonymous, it is ignoring consent to demand an intimate (or any) ‘connection’ with no strings attached. They are simply not comfortable with it – the same way some people don’t cuddle with people unless it’s sexual.

It’s also ignoring consent if someone who views the two concepts as attached forces someone to dance in an intimate and sexual way.

Regardless of whether it’s intimacy, dance moves, post-dance cuddling, or more, the second that someone indicates they’re not ‘into it’,  the other person is obligated to back off.

So basically, just like everything else dance-related: the less comfortable partner sets the rules.

Your experiences

Do you have any experiences with intimacy or dances that you want to share? Are intimacy and sexuality separate or concurrent for you? Share your thoughts in the comments below.