Question by User messi_818
I dance salsa and bachata casually, I just got an interesting exchange from a follow. “Well you don’t ever want to touch the lady in any parts except for her hands”.
But there are many intricate movements and I’ve learned that you should always be touching to connect unless you want to dance separately. I learned that “feeling out” or just being “touchy” and also watchful of the lady while they do their stuff makes for greater spins and sequences AND dance.
But what that lady just told me messed with my head for quite a time now, and I want to get this straight– Since there’s also some crazy related stories in the mainstream, the whole sexual harassment thing, where should we touch and not touch in this coming new age of salsa? I want to be as respectful as I can just to avoid any issues, and salsa is a touchy dance. There are turns for the hips, I know that touching the shoulder blade is also important, close position you get closer. You feel out when you move away but still connected e.g.: hands to the elbow and slipping out.
What are some good tips for touch? And how can I “rewire” my mentality because my subconscious just tells me to stay away and do an open position at the very least for any stranger-partners. Why did I suddenly get uncomfortable? I don’t know… Where are the borders for us leads? Especially when most followers 80-90% of the time really relies on very physical holds and pushes. Can we get personal experience/answers?
How do I get more comfortable with touching again?
She’s completely wrong. Gain your comfort back by understanding that the only person who you can only touch their hands is her specifically. With everyone else, just be conscious of their reactions and adjust accordingly.
Your concern with being courteous is good, and you should always think about what is proper and what isn’t in all interactions. And what is proper is often determined by the context. Partnered dancing is a social activity that requires touch. However, there is difference between touching someone to lead a move properly, and touching someone inappropriately.
For example, touching someone’s waist may he required to lead a particular pattern. But there are different ways to do this: you could use your palm, the back of your hand, or your forearm. There is also the issue of how low on the waist you touch, and how long you maintain contact.
There are two ways that you can learn how to touch appropriately:
1. Attend classes with reputable and well trained instructors. Good instructors will highlight moves that require care when touching, and they will talk about how to ensure that you touch your partner appropriately while still being clear in your lead.
2. Don’t use YouTube, Instagram and Facebook as a your primary source of instruction. Many videos on social media platforms feature dancers who are not only dance partner but also sexual partners. The way that they dance with each other isn’t the same way that you should dance with a stranger or even a friend. While these videos are great to watch, view them for what they are: entertainment and promotional material (to get social media followers or people into their classes). These videos are not instructional videos.
3. Talk with advanced dancers (especially women) about what they view as appropriate vs. inappropriate touch. Ask them about other factors that make them comfortable or uncomfortable while dancing. I think that your follower is a beginner who has only learned the basic steps and basic turns. If they knew more about the dance they would not have said that. Speak with other followers to get a more rounded perspective.
4. Don’t hit on women while on the dance floor. Sure, many of us go dancing to socialise and hopefully meet someone. But if that’s your primary motivation it will be clear. And when you have a one track mind, all your interactions will come across as shallow. Focus on the dancing. If a connection occurs outside of the dance, then by all mean pursue it. But while dancing, just dance.
5. Learn to relax, connect with your partner and enjoy the dance. If you focus on your partner, and you’re attuned to them, chances are you’ll be able to tell when they are uncomfortable and adjust accordingly.
There are societal norms to be considered too. Things like body rolls might be fine as solo styling but the sensual bachata front to front body roll may be OTT. If you’re with a dancer you don’t know begin with the tamer moves that you might dance with your mother or auntie then take your cues from her. In general touching to lead is fine but stroking or caressing is a big no no outside of a relationship. Personally I hate if my face, hair or belly is touched. Individuals also have their own limits.
Hands, arms, shoulders, mid back, waist are typically places you have to touch to lead certain movements. For fancy moves I personally don’t do, maybe the neck, and there’s this god awful move of squatting down and turn the lady by her legs.
So, as long as the touching has a legitimate use, i.e. for leading a move, then it’s fine. Even if it’s a lame move. I mean the ladies may not want to dance you again if you do too many lame moves, but that’s not sexual harassment.
And I have on many occasions, touched, grabbed, nudged the woman’s boob. I immediately apologize and I really pay attention to not do that again. I have not met one woman that was offended by that.
Women know. They can spot the creep vs the bad dancer vs accident. Just like they can spot the guy that’s dancing because he loves the music vs the guy that’s doing it to hook up with women. Make it all about the music and the dancing, because that’s what it’s supposed to be, then you’re good.
The only thing I can think of is if you may get in trouble if you try to get too sexy with the styling. But for most people, social dancing is not a performance. So unless you’re really good, I would just pass on the showmanship. I reserve that for the “elites”. You don’t need to be an elite, or to dance with one, to have a fun night out. Have a good time, show your dancing locks in with the music, and you’re not just repeating random moves to a metronome, then women will like to dance with you. No need for fancy stuff.
As for bachata, it’s about the same except for the close position, where you’re kind of well, really close. Personally I just ask. Because I cannot even begin to know what women want, dancing, or life in general, so I don’t bother guessing. She says no, then no close position the entire song. If she says yes, I’d alternate. Because close position the whole song is kind of ignoring the music. Bachata typically kicks it up a notch during the chorus, and that’s typically not fitting for the close position. The only thing is make sure you don’t have any objects in your right pocket. Depending on how close she wants to dance, it can get… uncomfortable, for her. And don’t force her. Get in close, lead, but let her decide. I’ve had women that would stop at a certain distance to ones that basically jump on me and ride me the whole time, which turns out to be quite the leg workout.
Anyway, you get the point. Even in my post, I’m all business. It’s about the dance. Keep that principle, and you’ll be fine.
I agree with other commenters. This person steered you wrong – maybe because they have an issue with you or because they have an issue themselves or maybe it was just a misunderstanding. If you stick with what the figures call for you shouldn’t have to worry. That said, you also need to try to pay attention to people’s vibes – I sense that some people are more or less comfortable with the intimacy of dancing and/or if they aren’t familiar with certain styles or figures they may prefer less intimacy, same could be said if they aren’t familiar with you, don’t find you attractive or have misjudged you or have some kind of bias against you. Read the body language when you ask them to dance, while dancing, and after the dance. Don’t be sleazy.
You’ll be fine.
It’s obvious when it’s a lead, and when it’s a feel up. We can tell because it’s obvious when you’re focusing on dancing.
When doing bachata and “down the body” leads, try to just keep your fingers more stiff, so they don’t actually wrap around anything that’s not a hand/wrist lead. It will be good for your lead technique, and it’s the easiest way to make sure you’re not grabbing anything you shouldn’t.
She’s taking things a little too far here. The only things that have ever creeped me out with leads are grabbing purposely low on my waist to touch my ass, holding almost under my arm in closed position to get near my boob, and pushing their pelvis forward in closed position as an attempt to grind. (All from the same guy who got kicked off the dance team for harassing follows repeatedly.) There is a very clear difference between an actual attempt at these things and an accidental touch when dancing. I don’t know any woman who would be bothered by an accidentally “inappropriate” touch unless it kept happening. A “whoops sorry!” should be sufficient. I am totally okay with shoulders, neck, back, arms, and waist. Face can get a little weird, but I’ve seen it.
Not everything, but a couple simple tips:
1. use fingers as little as possible. For example, when in shadow position connect with your palm, don’t press against her stomach with your fingers.
2. firm constant contact us less creepy than light hover hand contact or wavering on and off contact (basically, a hug is less creepy then bumping lightly into her boobs repeatedly). But of course go further apart again when it isn’t necessary for the lead.
3. contact with hard areas is usually fine (hip, shoulder, back) and also is easier to avoid the problem in number two if you’re not as confident
Definitely not only hands.