Every once in a while, especially on ‘off’ nights, I ask myself why I continue to dance for hours every week, and what Lindy Hop really means to me.
Over the past three years of my dance life, my friends and I have come up with a number of theories:
– It’s the music.
IMHO, not liking swing music is sort of like not liking ice cream. I suppose there are a few weirdos out there that fall into either group, but on the whole, most people I know enjoy a strikingly similar feeling of joy when they listen to the playful energy of swing or indulge in the creamy goodness of ice cream.
– It’s the endorphins.
Lindy Hop is very often exuberant and energetic. It burns calories, it makes you sweat, and — like any exercise — undoubtedly contributes to one’s supply of happy-making endorphins.
– It’s the socializing.
Lindy Hop, more than pretty much any other dance I’ve seen or dabbled in, is a supremely social dance. It’s infused with connection and conversation, on and off the dance floor, and while the scene has a surprising mix of extroverts AND introverts, it’s generally a wonderful hobby to meet and get to know other people.
– It’s the sex.
What happens when you get a bunch of young and young-at-heart energetic, playful people with skillful body movement talents in close proximity? Yep, there’s definitely some horizontal hula’ing going on. And, ahem, I’m not gonna argue with the rightly and widely held belief that dancers make better lovers 😉
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All of that makes enough sense, eh? But there’s something more, something that I didn’t even think about until last night when I was having a delightful and comfortable dance with a warm and talented follow.
I learned that she’s in graduate school, studying psychology, and specifically an area of psychology that involves the science of touch. And we’re not talking sexual touch here, either, but rather the sort of nurturing and essential touching that scientific studies have proven contributes to babies’ well-being… and that common sense suggests provides healing and happiness to the rest of us.
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It was then that I realized how much the whole concept of touch means to me and likely many of my Lindy Hop crazy friends. There’s such a comfort and warmth in — if you’ll forgive the modified Moulin Rouge reference — holding someone and being held in return.
At least in my case (and I suspect, for most others as well), this is all not really about sex or even necessarily flirting. As a heterosexual fella, I still enjoy hugging my friends regardless of their gender, and I likewise appreciate being a follower in Lindy Hop, even with guys.
Sure, there’s sometimes an underlying sensuality in dancing, especially when blues-dancing with someone you are attracted to from the way they look or the way they dance, and so on. But I still think that the overall non-sexual pleasure of touch is one of the leading factors that contributes to folks’ joy in dancing, and this also highlights just how much closeness our American society often lacks.
In much of Europe and Latin America, for instance, there seems to be less perceived overlap between friendly touching and sexual overtures, and I really like and respect that. When I lived in Europe, I found that I was encouraged to give and receive friendly hugs or even snuggle with others without ulterior motives or expectations. In contrast, most of American culture seems to be plagued with an unhealthy puritanical virgin/whore dichotomy, whereby you’re either friends (shaking hands) or you’re sleeping together / wanting to sleep together.
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Lindy Hop, then, serves as a welcome respite… friendly and tactile and accepting, with sex as a possibility but not a given or an endgame. And while I can understand being accused of hyperbole, I honestly believe that if there were more communities like this and more touching in this manner, the world would be a more peaceful and productive place.
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Added on 4/30/2004:
I just realized that my last few entries in the Dancing category of this blog have mentioned sex, which somewhat embarrassingly contrasts with the key point of my entry above. Ahem. Um… perhaps I’m a blog marketing whore? 😉 Or, more seriously, in some cases I have indeed linked dancing to sex metaphorically because there are some similarities… and it also conveys some key ideas in ways non-dancers can understand. I hope you still respect me 😀
Edited on 6/2/2007:
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