Ballroom dancing is, by it’s very nature, a contact sport. Naturally, that implies a certain level of trust between partners – trust that each will give the other a good and safe time for the duration of the dance. Unfortunately, there are some individuals who violate that trust, using the close quarters of a dance to touch their partner inappropriately.
Now, we all know that accidents happen, from boob-brushing to bottom-whacking. And decent men and women will immediately apologize, often turning beet-red as they do. This article focuses on the one’s who don’t apologize, and don’t stop. It about the ones who push too close to you, or clamp your leg between their thighs. And it can happen to MEN AND WOMEN: I can say from personal experience that male dancers aren’t the only one’s who behave inappropriately.
A Note About Sexual Harassment
Harassment is generally defined as ‘unwanted or unwelcome behaviour (sexual or otherwise) which makes a person feel offended, humiliated, or intimidated. Think about that: it means that it is ILLEGAL to hold your partner closer then they have given permission to do so.
It would be awkward and embarrassing to verbally request permission every time we want to hold our partner a bit closer, but it’s also unacceptable to shrug and accept uncomfortable touching as part of the dancing – even if it’s bachata or kizomba (I’ve danced both at arms length before, when necessary).
What can I do to protect my body?
1. Scout the area – When entering a social, especially if you’re new, take a moment to get a sense of the people there. Are there some people who seem to watch attractive dancers with unusual intensity? Are they aggressive when asking someone to dance? Do their partners look uncomfortable dancing with them?
2. It’s okay to say NO… To anything – Yes, people are encouraged to never say no to a dance, but set some boundaries. You do NOT have to say yes to someone you saw being inappropriate or disrespectful with another partner. If saying no is difficult for you, feign a headache, or claim you need to rest.
3. Create your own space – Your arms create the space you need to dance in, as well as your personal space. So if your partner starts to invade that space, increasing the pressure of hands on their frame usually gets the message across.
4. Politely explain your preferences – If they are being persistent, explain that you prefer to keep some distance as POLITELY as possible. Remember, it could just be a cultural misunderstanding. Feel free to make a joke about ‘leaving room for the Holy Ghost’, to keep the mood light.
5. Stop the dance! – If they are ignoring your requests, then they are not respecting you or your body. You are well within your rights to end the dance right then and there. In such cases, or if you see someone else acting obviously inappropriate, I also strongly encourage you to report them to the party organizer.
Ballroom dancing is not an excuse for anyone to behave inappropriately with their partner, and they are not a healthy addition to the dancing community if they continue. In a future article, we’ll explore strategies a dancer can use to make sure he does not create an uncomfortable situation with his partner.