Dancers work in an environment where feedback is delivered in one of two ways: oral or tactile. I feel like it’s assumed that I’ll be touched at some point when I take a technique class, but after engaging in several conversations over the past few weeks, it’s been brought to my attention that not everyone wants to, or is okay with physical contact. Further, I feel like because we are so open in the studio, interpersonal conversations also tend to be full-disclosure; to some degree, I feel like any creative process begs for not only a certain level of vulnerability, but also a willingness to openly discuss it, regardless of how personal it may have been at the time.
But wait, you mean that dancers are entitled to personal boundaries?
I find that when you encounter someone who doesn’t necessarily wear their heart on their sleeve in general conversation or even in technique class, that you’re instantly confronted with your own tendencies. I’ve started to become extremely self-aware as a student, and even more so as a teacher. How much of myself am I willing to share with the room, and then from there, how is my experience effected by my level of engagement? Do I apologize if I’m not feeling especially open to discussion or touch, or just pretend that I’m not feeling sort of stand off’ish that day—is that actually me being stand-off’ish? I’ve had to reassess my personal values and general attitudes regarding how much of myself needs to be made public so that I can still feel connected–what’s absolutely necessary?
What do you mean you don’t want to tell me what you ate for dinner last night?—and why don’t you want to hug me for five minutes before class starts???
Real-life application: I’ve been seeing a neuromuscular therapist for the past few months, where basically I lay on a table under a sheet wearing only my undies; doctor then comes in and moves the sheet around based on where he needs to work on my body. I’m totally exposed and almost totally indifferent to that stranger’s hands; I’ve become almost completely desensitized to human touch. After x amount of somatic classes, touch has become just, well…normal. Is that normal? I’m now used to being handled by others, and am also totally fine with following someone else’s touch without imposing any of my own impulses. This would probably be really weird for normal people, and even new dancers; so I guess yeah, maybe it should be addressed a little more often.
Now it’s your turn to reflect: Should it be assumed that we’ve all left our boundaries at the door? How do you communicate that it’s a no-touch day? How does that then translate to a face-to-face meeting? Does it mean we’re automatically besties sharing our deepest and darkest just because I rotated your femur in your hip socket (in either direction) for 20 minutes?
Well first I should ask, can I rotate your femur, or what?