I took a totally impromptu trip to the New York Salsa Congress on Saturday night (more on that later).

I had a really great time, but the night got off to a bad start. One of the very first people I danced with got hit in the face with my ponytail while putting me through a fast spin. Clutching his face as if his eyes had just been gauged out, he yelled at me at how much I had hurt him and stormed away. I apologized, but honestly, these things happen all the time. If you do the math, you can see I have a ponytail, you can see its length, and if you put me through a fast spin and the distance between your face and my head is smaller than the length of my ponytail, it’s probably going to hit you in the face.

I have many bruises all over my body from heels crunching down on my feet, elbows and shoulders crashing into me during spins, and inattentive floorcraft. I call them my “battle wounds” and don’t think anyone is to blame. It’s par for the course of salsa dancing on a crowded floor. It wasn’t very polite of this guy to storm off in the middle of a song as if I had intentionally injured him. The experience made me feel so bad, it took several good dances to get me back on track.

Would you believe it, about an hour later, the same guy came over and asked me to dance again? I rarely say no, but ungentlemanly behavior tends to get you on my blacklist. I responded, “No, I wouldn’t want to hit you in the face with my ponytail again.”

Here’s a sidebar on some other choice anecdotes on ungentlemanly ways to treat a potential partner:

Saturday’s incident reminds me of an unpleasant experience I had a few months ago at CG, where a woman whose arm had made contact with my elbow at some point during the song (quick apology was made at the time) tried to start an argument with me afterwards because she felt that she had been gravely injured and didn’t feel my apology had been sincere enough. All I can think is that she must have been new to dancing in a club environment and didn’t realize that what happened was pretty common.

At some point Saturday night, among other minor injuries, an unknown woman managed to unsnap my shoe from my foot while gauging her heel into my ankle, removing some skin in the process. It did hurt, but I wasn’t about to hunt her down and go off on her for doing something that was an accident and could have happened to anyone.

How can you assign blame when there are so many factors at play? In salsa, people dance on different beats according to their preferences, so if you have three couples in the same vicinity, one dancing on 1, another dancing on 2, and another dancing on 3, plus another couple that are inexperienced and dancing off beat, you have a lot of opportunities for collision. Add to that all the fast movements, the speed of multiple spins, the fancy footwork, and high heels flying every which way. Finally, let’s pretend that not every follower is a perfect follower, and even if they are, that each leader is not well-versed in floorcraft and is not paying attending to every single thing that is going on within a 360 degree radius at all times. At some point, a collision, stepping on someone’s foot, or, god forbid, a flying ponytail, is going to happen.

In fact, it’s a miracle that with all that kinetic energy flying around in every possible direction, that more accidents don’t happen.

We go to the dancefloor to escape the negativity of our lives, to make pure connections with others that are solely based on the music and the dance. It’s a shame when others bring negativity, lack of respect, or hostility into that sacred space.

I’m not saying that all dancefloor injuries are no-fault incidents. When injury occurs due to rough leading, drunken stumbling, or intentional violence, the perpetrator should take full responsibility. Whether the injury is accidental or not, all involved should ensure to the extent possible that the injury has not adversely affected the victim’s ability to dance. However, minor bumps, scrapes and bruises should be expected from time to time and dealt with in a mature and respectful way.

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