Why are Rumba and Tango considered to have the strongest erotic charge out of all competitive ballroom dancing? Is it because of the magic touch or the degree of intimacy that you allow yourself to taste?
It seems to me that all dances can trigger our sensuality in their unique way and allow us to experience eroticism through our aliveness, vibrancy and vitality.
I became more conscious of eroticism in dance during my first visit to Havana in 1985. The major shift in perspective was that I could feel myself alive and all what beforehand existed on the level of doing started to grow into inner sensing. I was scared and confused at first, but over the years new horizons opened as the feeling was too powerful to resist.
I'm more aware now of the value of curiosity, desire and imagination - things that are often obscured by fear, shame and ambition in competitive dancing. Allowing myself to be liberated from these constraints made space for entering the world of eroticism, the world which offers renewal and recharge that we all need.
In this article we will address how to integrate this force in your daily practice and performances, the difference between eroticism and sexuality, how the mechanics of dance layered with erotic charge transform into art, how to develop erotic intelligence, but most of all, what is erotic for you and how shame prevents you from entering the most mystic experiences in life.
Mystic dance rituals
Way back in human history eroticism was a part of rituals that still today celebrate and mark life cycle transitions - birth, death and life stages in between. Let's take Cuban Rumba as an example. Guaguanco is the most popular style of authentic Cuban Rumba, a dance that celebrates fertility.
In Guaguanco the "vacunao" (English "vaccination" – a symbolic gesture of fertilization) is the goal. In Africa, fertility is not only erotic, but also means life and survival. Vacunao is one of the oldest symbols that came out of the jungle that is still alive among the urban population. The man executes a vacunao with various gestures - his hand, foot or, most frequently, with a pelvic push towards the woman.
A woman seems uninterested at first, tries to avoid him, but, eventually attracted to him, allows him to dance near her. She dances with grace and seductiveness, but always tries to avoid the vacunao. She escapes the vacunao by protecting her front pelvic area with a covering gesture, while sustaining the rhythm and maintaining a seductive movement attitude.
According to popular belief, hers is the "show of love" and his is the "love of show", the root of Latin macho stereotype, his bravado and her skill to seduce. It's a ritual in which desire is the driving force. The confidence with which both partners communicate is the biggest turn on. Seeing the partner confident, totally involved in the task, makes you want the partner. And the desire results out of owning that wanting.
It seems to me that Cubans have an "erotic mind" and understand the erotic language differently than Western people. They cherish their religious and secular rituals which are always connected with dancing and this way integrate eroticism as a life force into daily life. It starts in early childhood experiences of touch and play. I wish that more of our children would be brought up that way - free, loved as they are, spontaneous, with no shame.
The difference between eroticism and sexuality
A lot of Western people watching Cuban Rumba would give the eroticism a very sexual meaning. Sexuality can be seen as a collection of urges and acts, but eroticism is much broader than that as it holds your hopes and expectations. It is an art of being connected to your imagination and vital energy, way beyond the mere sexual realm.
The central agent of the erotic act is the imagination. Dancing, music, painting or some movies are all teaching us about erotic, about anticipation, imagination, seduction... You don’t need to do it, but you can live it, hint and imagine it. Eroticism is not only what you do, but the place where you go.
Eroticism is your capacity to sustain desire, it is about cultivating pleasure for its own sake. Be aware of your own capacity to maintain the connection with your erotic self as it is your compass of aliveness. Apart from that your curiosity and urge for the forbidden will make you start breaking some rules that you put on yourself. Allowing yourself to have pleasure also takes courage.
Dancing with Cuban men and women taught me a lot about eroticism. Not only is Cuban music full of powerful rhythms, sound colours, magic of the drums, excitement is in the air... but people also sing while dancing, touch sensually, improvise to the degree that you can't predict anything. Surprise after surprise shifted me into a world that I didn't know existed. Erotic blast that may lead into further adventures, but not necessarily as it is a completion on its own.
Think of what was an erotic experience you had that was not sexual.
How to develop erotic intelligence
After many years of dancing together, have you experienced an occasional breakdown of desire? How to stay curious with someone you know for a long time? No worries, there are many ways out of boredom, dullness, habit and the feeling that something is missing, in dancing and private life.
For the start, it is good to go beyond your so far lived experience. Novelty is the key. Try something new and I don't mean new choreography, partner or costume. I'm talking about seeing old things in a new way. Find out how to give new life to your connection.
Talk with your partner. Be brave to bring up new ideas, speak about your vision, secret wishes, needs and hopes. Often our partners have no clue what turns us on or off. There are rituals you may include in your attempt to evoke your senses more regularly. Set your own little theatre wherever you are, play a role, use your partner's favourite scent, discover new ways of touching, taste new food or drinks with delight and curiosity. Your senses can become servants to your imagination, letting you see the invisible, hear the inaudible, feel the yet unfelt.
Fantasise with your eyes open. Fantasy is an opportunity to break routines and enhance excitement. You can step into a different body or role inside your own mind, you can imagine yourself exactly as you want and feel free to fantasize when you’re with your partner. Your fantasies will reveal your deepest emotional needs. And then share your fantasies with your partner to discover new possibilities together.
Every practice or performance is about creating an energetic field that vibrates with the playful energy of possibility. Allow yourself to be spontaneous and start mastering the anticipation. Go to "the" place, where you feel safe, ready, but at the same time excited, full of anticipation that something special is going to happen. And most importantly, make your partner feel wanted!
If it will not work, don't give up, but rather ask yourself what is holding you back.
What are you ashamed of?
Eroticism is not comfortable because it uncovers your emotional tensions and inner struggles. It is a mixture of attraction and fear at the same time, a temptation with "what if".
What if I get aroused while dancing and my partner will notice that?
What if I'm not good enough?
What if I don't look good enough?
What if I’m ashamed of something that I secretly enjoy?
How do you deal with shame which normally comes along? Do you know how to balance it with your feeling of self-worth? My first experiences in Cuba were full of self-doubt and insecurity. I couldn't even clap along to clave rhythm and I didn't understand their body language, the intensity of their aliveness was too much to bare. I was asking myself what kind of wild animal lives inside them and why I'm such a pussycat. Then I realised that my wild animal was just sleeping, waiting to be liberated from the cage.
When you are critical towards your body, you turn yourself off. That's why dancing is so transformative and therapeutic. When you dance, you can turn yourself on and give yourself permission to feel good, to forget about all worries, prejudice, judgement and accept yourself as you are.
Shame takes away so much power to connect with yourself and others. Each of us was at one time looked at, spoken to or touched inappropriately - all those experiences made us feel doubt, unworthy, powerless, ashamed... Then we start hiding, pleasing or going against it with anger and aggression. We close in instead of opening up.
Dancing is an exquisite erotic shop with unique erotic toys - sound, touch, smell, movement intimacy, illusion...
By playing with all these toys intentionally you'll radiate life itself.
Source of inspitation
Esther Perel - "Mating in captivity: In search of erotic intelligence"