For many people, dancing in public requires some form of courage, be it liquid courage in the form of alcohol, safety in numbers in the form of a group, a challenge in the form a dare, determination in the form of pure resolve, a strong pull in the form of a determined partner, or practice in the form of lessons.
For others, dancing equals freedom. And courage? Who needs it? Partners aren’t required either. My favorite quote about dancing is from Olivia Pope, “Now, you can dance with me or you can get off my dance floor. I’m fine dancing alone.” Dancing alone can be problematic though, because it is sometimes viewed as an invitation for anyone and everyone to join you—which isn’t always welcomed.
I’ve never been great at saying “No.” I remember going to a single’s dance probably 15 years ago, and having someone I wasn’t remotely attracted to ask me to dance. I danced with him. My friend asked me why I danced with him. My reply, “I felt sorry for him.” That’s not ok. It sent the wrong message to him and put me in an awkward position.
Even a couple years ago, when I was dancing with someone I didn’t want to be dancing with, I asked one of my male friends to “Save me,” from this man who had attached himself to me on the dance floor. Later, I asked myself why I didn’t just walk away, or better yet, ask the wayward dancer to leave me alone. Where was my voice and why the hell wasn’t I using it?
Last August, I experienced an abundance of unsolicited dances at the club I frequent. While dancing partner free, I had several people come up and dance with me. I will generally dance with most anyone for a song. But this night, even after giving several people “The Hand,” turning my back to them and dancing away, I couldn’t get the message across that I did not want to dance with these men.
Again, I wasn’t using my voice. I was waiting for someone to save me instead of standing up for myself and asking them to leave me alone. I was worried about coming across as “Bitchy” if I said no, and yet the fact of the matter was I was uncomfortable. I ended up leaving the bar in a frenzied rush.
Later, when I spoke with a male friend about the situation, his first question was, “What were you wearing?” I don’t think that should have mattered at all. For the record, it was a sundress. And yes, there was cleavage. When I said, “I turned my back to them while dancing,” my friend said, “I hear you saying you turned your ass to them.” Wow. I wasn’t expecting that.
How much easier would things have been if I hadn’t tried to “Be nice,” and just used my voice instead the subtleties of nonverbal cues that weren’t doing the trick. Who cares if they may have thought of me as “Bitchy?”
Last night, while dancing alone, a man came up behind me, put his arms around me and proceeded to grind on me. I turned around, grabbed his hands, removed them from my body, looked him in the eye and said, “No thank you.”
Later, I met eyes with a woman on the dance floor who I could tell was very uncomfortable. There was a man dancing behind her. I asked her if the man was bothering her. She looked me in the eye and mouthed the words, “Save me.” I saw myself in her eyes and quickly pulled her toward me to dance. The man hovered around for a minute or two watching us, and then left. I gave her a quick speech about using her voice and a big hug. She was grateful and thanked me with tears in her eyes.
While processing these situations, I couldn’t help but realize I’ve been guilty of the same behavior. I’ve danced with lone wolves on the dance floor. I’d like to think I’m perceptive in terms of reading body language to determine if my presence is welcome or not. However, I’m much more cautious now and am more likely to ask if it’s ok to dance with someone rather than spontaneously start dancing with them.
It turns out using my voice really does make things easier. It’s funny that it takes far more courage for me to use my voice than it does to dance with reckless abandon alone on the dance floor. Simple is the last thing I claimed to be.
Now, let’s dance!