Sexy Dancing: Merging Femininity and Athleticism in Dance

Posted on about 10 years ago

This one is for the ladies. Most of us associate dance-especially Latin dance-with femininity: because dancing can be so sensual, it imitates the mating ritual, highlighting the masculine/feminine duality. Some of this happens naturally, and a lot of it is taught, in the form of movement, posture, footwork and style. It varies from place to place, with some styles emphasizing ultra-feminine hand placement and "daintier" footwork. The differences even carry over to salsa culture, where in some areas it is popular to find make-up, sparkles, fashion, and high heels.

With this traditional element of femininity within modern culture, I wonder: how does it fit in with other aspects of modern culture that are not so feminine? After decades of women's rights and title IX allowing women to have university sports teams, and girls who now grow up playing rough sports, how do we merge the femininity of the old times with the athleticism of today?

Of course, neither the concept of femininity nor that of athleticism is bound by time (though it is certainly bound by culture). I believe that it is a fascinating thing to see the two merge in the physically challenging art of salsa dancing. Dancing is by no means a way to easily sit back and look pretty. It is not posing for a camera, staying still so the hair can remain in tact. It involves running out of breath, smudged makeup, hair messed up by this move or that. It involves swapping sweat with your partner, and many male partners touching your sweaty back, sides, arms, or stomach to execute a move. Sometimes you could even say it borders on "rough sport" when it involves heel-squashed toes or elbows to the face. It involves the nitty gritty...yet women still find a way to be sensual, beautiful, and feminine.

This is no accident, it takes effort. We have to make sure we have enough spray in our hair and safety pins holding our shirts (we don't want things to get THAT feminine ;-). There are trips to the bathroom to wipe off sweat and fix our hair. But there is a point at which we just give up. Surprisingly, this doesn't always result in a negative way. At congresses, after thousands of bodies have been dancing in closed areas (anyone remember last year's West Coast Congress?) it turns into this hot, sweaty, primitive concentration of sensuality. After all, isn't it true that sweat and body heat release pheromones?

An even better contrast is found in performance. When a team is practicing for a routine, the women are red in the face, sweaty, hair messed up, and after running through the routine numerous times, walk away to put their heads on their knees (which I haven't done since running the 800m in track and field). This is such a high level of athleticism that despite being in great shape, the dancers are always winded at the end of a routine. Nonetheless, come performance day, there will be hairspray, make-up, heels and sparkles. When the performance is done, couples will walk off stage poised, men holding their heads high and women looking beautiful and confident in their femininity.

I am happy that femininity is allowed to be athletic, and on the contrary, that athleticism is allowed to be feminine. In light of history, culture, and the combination of the two, it is the merging of femininity and athleticism that contributes to the "art" of dancing Salsa.

What Do You Think?