This article is for both people who have been following my blog for many years and maybe have taken classes with me in the past. It is also for new friends who have entered this journey with me later on.
I want to talk about the type of movement I used to teach and what I teach now. My hope is that I will be able to find words for this style of movement and explain the difference between what I do now and what I did then, for those of you who are wondering if there is a difference.
Yes, there is.
To start, I’ve had some pretty good adventures in my dancing career.
My first love was salsa. I don’t know if I have ever had a more alive, more drenched in joy and excitement, more sensual dancing time in my life. Six nights a week I went salsa dancing. That sums it all up. From there, I moved into bellydancing. And hip hop. And jazz. And a bit of swing and a bit of ballroom dancing. (I actually danced in two competitions and mostly remember my teacher telling me “tits to the ceiling”.) And all kinds of African dance. I took a private dance class in Nairobi in the part of town my guidebook told me not to go. The teacher Diana’s house was filled with her neighbours. Who sat watching in chairs against the wall. The whole time. In a very small room. I have bubbled in Guyana, line danced, taken a summer course in modern dance and probably some other things I have forgotten.
I started to teach dance classes, combinations of hip hop and African and anything else that I felt like throwing in there. It was exciting, even though paying my bills was nerve-racking. It was me doing what I wanted to be doing.
And then, I picked up Sheila Kelley’s book around 2000 and it blew my mind. I was the first person in Toronto to teach exotic dance. I did striptease workshops, white shirt and tie workshops, lapdance workshops, high heel walking workshops.
(I once did private sessions with a man who wanted to learn how to do a striptease dance like Chippendales. On our final session, he took off his underwear. Enough said.)
I taught at stagette parties and danced at private events. I got paid to lapdance all night at a party. I was fortunate enough to co-create and run a dance troupe called “Las Gatas” (with the incomparable, soulful and forever-sister Nikola Steer) that was hired to dance opening weekend at the new Playboy strip club in Niagara Falls. It was exhausting. It was really fun. It was weird. We met feature stripper acts. I did a pole solo. We were introduced as a group from San Diego. I fell off the stage. (More on that later.)
I could dance sexy. Man o man, could I dance sexy. I could just crawl into that persona and I knew what to do. How to work my curves. How to use my eyes. I could tap into that sexuality easier than anything. The clothes, the make-up, the heels, the moves. It was easy for me. It was fun. It wasn’t real. It was an illusion. It was fake.
I loved those years. I loved that energy. And then, I got married and had a kid. I got older. And all of a sudden, sexy wasn’t like that for me. Sexy got complicated. Sexy got hard. My sexy switch wasn’t clickable anymore.
Shit got real.
And the journey for me though my dancing was where the heat of it was. I didn’t want to teach “sexy” dancing anymore. Because it didn’t seem real to me. I couldn’t fake it. My sexy was now tied up in so many other things about me that I couldn’t cut it out from what was going on with me and serve it up, solo style.
When I was in my “sexy dancing” phase, it meant dancing to songs like this one. (Okay, I have to admit, my ass still loves this song…)
I didn’t really know that dancing could be a way for me to record my story. To release my emotions. To give myself permission to feel whatever I felt and be alive and creative in it. To experience ecstasy in movement. To feel totally right – about my body, about my impulse, about my desire, about who I was.
I didn’t know that this way of moving could be anything other than “sexy dancing”.
And then, at a retreat, I danced to this song. My head dropping back. Arching my back. Swirling my hips. In this slow deep sensuality of aliveness, goose bumps on my skin, lump in my throat, tears running down my face and still, moving in my body as my breasts reached forward, my pelvis circles, my hair flew around my face.
This was the sexiest I had ever felt. This was so fucking me, so fucking real, so fucking sexy because I was moving in the rawest truth of who I was. What I was feeling. No illusion. No faking it.
And that changed the way I moved forever. I don’t do just sexy dancing anymore. I do emotional dancing. I do movement that brims over with the realness of what’s going on inside of me. I teach the deepness of sensuality that isn’t for public consumption. I do this movement, this celebration of the body, this dancing to be as fully and as wide and as deep and as real and as free as I possible can be.
And for those of you who are wondering what I did after I fell off the stage, I promptly jumped back up and shouted “I’m okay!” for no good reason at all. And continued to dance.
If you live in Toronto, my next class is on Monday, November 6th. Come and move with me.