For many, just physical contact itself may be overwhelming. Not everyone is used to the touch of another person. Some people don’t even seek physical contact in relationships with family or friends, not to mention a dancefloor stranger. This happens to be more true in the era of the digitalized world we are living in with prominent online interactions. Many variables can impact how we perceive the closeness of others: mental and emotional state, age, sex, nationality, religion, traditions, culture, or personal experiences. We are all different and that’s the beauty of it.
Some people choose Salsa as their favourite dance style because of its relatively low amount of connection and closeness to the partner. Other people are so comfortable with being close with others, almost merging into one when dancing, and their forever favourite style would be Brazilian Zouk or Kizomba. Don’t judge yourself if you feel good only in particular embraces. It is a journey and it shouldn’t be forced, rather let it flower in its own time. It is important to remember, that the choice of which hold in dancing is happening, belongs to both and every invitation should feel like an option and not a demand.
There are different kinds of embraces, allowing for different distance and hold which can be used freely, depending on how open both parties are feeling at the moment. Yet, when you are just discovering those embraces for the very first time, you start being aware of another person’s skin, muscle tone, smell, and warmth, and it can be very exciting. There is a whole science behind the human touch and how it affects us.
A dancing embrace is not much different from a hug, which together with other forms of nonsexual touching causes your brain to release oxytocin, known as the “bonding hormone” or the ”love hormone”. The release of oxytocin is part of what makes hugging and cuddling so gratifying. Regularly engaging in physical contact with those you like can help increase oxytocin levels and relax the nervous system. Touch can also make our bodies more resistant to pain, as it increases the production of serotonin, which is our body’s antidepressant and anti-pain chemical.
This hormonal release can make you feel amazing and for dancing beginners, it is sometimes mistaken for ”falling in love” or ”having a crush” with the particular person – who’s most often an amazing dancer, rather than understanding the power of human touch.
In addition to the physical contact itself, especially in Brazilian Zouk, we emphasise the quality of the dance by establishing the dance connection and the exchange of energy. Connection in dancing is bringing awareness into your body, your surrounding, floor, music, space, and most importantly to the person you dance with. It can have different shapes and colours, depending on the non-verbal conversion between the two of you. We can either let someone have control and fully let go, get lost in the story that the leader presents, or we can be the leader, listening carefully to the responses of the follower, paying attention to their body, mobility, energy, or even mixing both, and having more complex dance-floors conversations. It can be playful, it can be soft, dramatic, and many other things in between.
With some people, it’s easier to ”click-in” than with others. Often a high level of connection can be found when dancing with experienced and advanced dancers, who put an effort and intention into connecting with their dance partners. Connection gives us the feeling of trust, and when you trust the person you dance with, some kind of magic just happens so effortlessly.
You are not alone
It does happen when we experience all of the above, especially for the first time, in the right circumstances, for people with the right level of sensitivity, that it leads us to a surprising ”discovery” – ”OMG, I think I am in love with him/her/them! What I feel is so intense, so wonderful, I must trust this feeling”. Don’t get me wrong, many couples met this way, and it is a beautiful thing when both people understand what is going on, feel the same and want the same. However, for many, it brings lots of confusion. They start doubting their long-term relationships. Some feel like going through indulging rollercoaster. Others are simply scared of what their experience or feel ashamed of certain feelings.
1. First of all, if this ever happened to you, know that you are not alone. Many, many, many people (if not everyone) who started the dancing journey fell into a state of confusion or so-called ”dance crush”.
2. It is normal to feel the excitement, butterflies in your stomach or goosebumps when dancing, especially if your partner has a good level, pays attention to your movement, and connects with you on the emotional and physical level. Try to observe it, enjoy it, and most importantly – cherish it! You are so lucky if dancing with someone can bring this level of joy!
3. Don’t panic. If we are single, often there is no drama, but if we are married or in another relationship, we tend to feel bad or guilty. This doesn’t necessarily mean at all that you are falling in love with someone! Do you remember what we just said about hormones and physical touch? There is a whole science explaining what’s going on with your body. Try to acknowledge how the dance in this particular moment or with this particular person makes you feel and be grateful. Moments like this give us the wow effect and deserve appreciation.
4. Don’t try to give it a bigger meaning than just an amazing dance. As humans, we give too much power to our thoughts which come and go as they wish. If you start falling into this rabbit hole and chase your spinning thought, in a second you start to imagine a whole bright future with the person you just had the ”dance of your life”. Yes, the dance can be amazing, but on the other hand, you may not know anything else about this person, share nothing else but passion for dance, and be miles away from each other on every other level. Don’t let the hormones deceive you.
5. The experience will help. With time and practice, you will start to see the difference between great dance and so-called ”falling in love”. You will start to distance yourself from emotions on the dance floor that come and go, you will appreciate them but not mistake them for something else.
6. Those who went through those experiences with an open heart, awareness, acceptance, honesty and understanding of the whole process, usually strengthen their relationships and learned a thing or two about being a human. If you can allow yourself (and others) to feel the joy of connection with others, the love that radiates from us and comes back multiplied, just as we are, without labels, without social stigmas, without overly sexualising human nature, you will see something more than just dancing.
If we would be following these basic instincts and excitements, taking them as ”fall in love”, when being at the dance festival, where you have a multitude of wonderful dancers, we could fall in love every single day! If you feel like this bunch of feelings needs to be labelled, you can think of this as platonic love. Love for joy, for dance, for life, for people which doesn’t need to lead to anything else being materialised but just dance.
Why sometimes is it so difficult?
I believe that the wow-effect that we feel, exciting and enlightening, is something that we should experience in our lives in many different situations, not only on the dance floor. We should feel it not only in connection with others but as well in the connection with nature, science, surrounding, art and mainly with ourselves. If in someone’s life there were not too many wow’s, and then stepping onto the dance floor provides this emotional excitement, it will feel intense in comparison with our not exciting life, and we may give it a bigger meaning than maybe we should.
As I already said, some couples met on the dance floor, and I wish them all the best. It’s a wonderful thing to meet someone to share not only your dancing passion but as well many other different areas of your life! However, I believe we need to start a conversation that caters for everyone and anyone who wants to be a part of the social dance community. We need to think as well about those who want to be a part of this dance world and at the same time stay grounded with their emotional life. This article was inspired by many conversations I had with people who experienced this confusion at some point (including myself), and those who are actually scared to join the dance community because of that aspect.
Thank you for reading and see you on the dance floor!