Taking my hand, he led me to the middle of the dance floor. He put his arm around me, placing his hand right below my shoulder-blade, pulling me close. He was tall and my head rested on his chest. We started to sway to the music. My body was tense. He bent his head down and whispered in my ear, “Relax”. He pulled me a bit closer, firmly but gently, and took my other hand in his, running his fingers up my arm to my shoulder as we swayed to the music. His foot was between mine and I felt his leg brush up against my thigh. His sways and bends were deep, passionate. I was stiff, offbeat. “Just listen…” he whispered again, his breath making the hairs on my neck stand at attention. “Close your eyes and just listen to the music.” I nodded and closed my eyes. He had both arms around me now, his hands running ever so slightly up and down my back. Our bodies were so close that they were almost one. I started listening to the rhythm, swaying…left, right, up, down. I concentrated on the music, feeling the beats inside of my head until suddenly I could feel them inside of my body. I started to sway in step with him. My head tilted back, my hair brushing my upper back. “Open your eyes and listen to my body now”, he said. I opened my eyes and he tightened his grip around my body, bent his knees and we started dipping towards the floor. I followed his lead. Swaying in step with him. Feeling my body pressed against his. His face nuzzled into my neck. He pulled back and our eyes locked. We didn’t speak. We just kept dancing. The music filling my entire body. The rest of the room disappeared. I could feel and see nothing but him. The rhythm of the music, the intensity of his movements, guiding me. I was totally relaxed. The music ended and he pulled away slowly. “My name is Leon” he said. “Rita,” I whispered. He smiled and walked away and I turned and walked to Emil, my date for the night.
I was Blues Dancing. I won’t go into detail about the history of blues dancing or even the technique. There are plenty of articles out there that can provide that information better than I ever could. I hadn’t even heard of Blues Dancing until Emil suggested it for our date. I will say, it was unlike any dance I have ever experienced. It is sensual. Sexual. Emotionally intense. Expressive. And, surprisingly, structured. Like any social dance, Blues Dancing has its own rules of etiquette. One rule is, as you finish your dance with your partner, you move on to another. Dancing with almost everyone in the room by the end of the evening. That is how I found myself on a date with Emil but dancing with Leon.
When I wasn’t dancing, I was observing. Everyone had the same foundation to their movements but no pair moved the same as any other. Some were dancing in perfect unison. Others weren’t even touching, both dancing to their own beat. Sometimes, you’d see a pair dancing simultaneously when, suddenly, one would pull back and break out in a moment of total individuality, coming back to his/her partner, again in perfect unison.
Emil was a fabulous date, allowing me to observe and absorb all that was going on around me at my own pace. He is a great blues dancer and I enjoyed watching him as he rotated to different partners, always maintaining his own independent style, while tailoring it to the individuality of his different dance partners.
Blues dancing allows you to be who you are and express yourself – even in the context of a partnership. Two people, moving simultaneously but, ultimately, being themselves, even when dancing together. If one embraces the other too intensely, his/her partner will feel stifled or suffocated and not enjoy the dance. Likewise, if one doesn’t follow the lead of the other, by observing non-verbal communication, actively listening to the movements of the other and the music, the dance begins to become chaotic and out of harmony. When discussing this post-date with Emil, he explained it best. “The best blues dances you’ll see, involve those people who move freely but within their dance space. Sometimes, independently when one partner is allowed to shine, sometimes together when the lead decides to do something that enhances what a follower can do.”
That’s what a loving, sharing relationship should be like. Like a Blues Dance. I’m definitely going back.