One of the best pieces of feedback I ever got was to dance my feelings honestly. If I was feeling nervous, I could use those feelings, rather than trying to ignore them. If I was happy and pumped, those feelings should be inside of my dancing as well. It was part of what most people would probably call a very strange private lesson, because we did very little dancing, and so much talking, but Sara Cherny fundamentally changed my dancing with those words. In a way, she gave me permission to just be myself within the music, and to worry less about creating a dancing persona.
Not too long after that discussion, I found myself dancing to Barbara Morrison's "Don't Touch Me", with a very dear and trusted friend. Morrison's delivery and words got under my skin, hard. I remember looking at my friend, and making a split-second decision to just dance the dance that the song was calling out of me. It was the sort of regretful rage of someone who left a relationship much, much later than they should have done. There were many moments of tension and tone, followed by the defeated release of someone who knows the ending was always going to come in this way. At the end of the song, I felt suddenly vulnerable, something I hadn't had time to feel through the rest of the emotions before it. I remember the hug at the end of that song being long, and compassionate, and only briefly talking anymore about it with that partner.
I hadn't realized how much I had needed to tell that story. To explain who I had been in my past relationship, someone desperately telling someone to not touch them anymore, that, in fact, that past partner could no longer touch or harm me emotionally anymore. At that time, I was still struggling to find the words for that story, for my own story. Dancing through it released some of that tension.
Since then, I've looked for ways to extend the true feelings a song makes me feel to my general partnered dancing, and not just with my nearest and dearest friends. I've found that one of the key parts of this is using gaze and connection deliberately to establish mood. It can be difficult for me to trust my own evaluation of the other person to see if they know I'm not feeling things *at* them, but instead inviting them to feel and dance through those feelings with me. But most of the time, the mask of honesty is a weirdly visible one.
I've come to believe that there is a way of dancing small-talk, pleasantries that are fine and leave everyone happy for the experience. But there is another way of dancing, which is just as scary and vulnerable as telling someone how your day has actually been, that is for me, one of my greatest sources of joy and love. Although living those songs can leave me unprepared for a second dance, they fill up my tank, and give me strength.