In every dance style there is a mythical dance that occurs rarely and seems to be on another plane entirely. Some dances spend their whole career chasing after this feeling and there is no difference in Blues. In our community I’ve heard them called blackout dances. Blackout dances are when the world seems to melt away. It’s the two of you melted together while the world slows down and it feels like a moment of pure mutual understanding. These dances happen most often when you are first starting out (everything is magic) and when you are tired. I believe it has to deal with your willingness to be vulnerable. To be open to a real and raw emotional connection.
All of us have wounds and walls. We all have things we are attempting to work through and honestly that’s what drew many of us to social dancing. The idea of connection. The idea that you aren’t alone, you are seen, someone cares and acknowledges you. In blues dancing this is even more evident. It’s a style of dance that mostly takes place very close and intimate, the music is expressing the parts of the human experience we all know and the suffering we all partake in at points. To have black out dances I think you must really be comfortable with a few things:
1 Empathizing or sympathizing with the music
2 Allowing yourself to feel
3 Trust in your partner
4 Seeing and being seen by another
I’m always deeply saddened by those who don’t listen to the lyrics of blues music. There is always so much being said about the human condition, asking hard questions about what it means to be alive, to love and to suffer. It explore hope in the face of great adversity and acceptance of the powers against you and yet still finding the joys of life. To me these lyrics really highlight the ups and downs of what it means to be alive and I find myself on an emotional journey when I focus on it. It’s one of the things I love about dancing to blues music allowing myself to hear and be moved.
Many dancers I know either don’t allow themselves to be moved by the music of they keep huge emotional walls up while they dance. I get it people go out dancing to get away from your problems and to have fun but there is also a time and a place to be vulnerable. I don’t always go dancing when I’m happy and when i do so I know there is a choice I must make. I can either be open to exploring my own feelings or stuff them down. I have never had a blackout dance while faking my own emotions. Sure, I’ve had fun dances but I’m still tethered to this world due to part of me being focused on hiding my own emotions. Instead I’m arguing to allow yourself to be exactly where you are and find humor in the harder parts of life. Find the joy in the misfortune. By allowing yourself to feel, you do make yourself vulnerable but also allow the dance to become enriched. When your own struggles mix with the song you stop feeling a boundary between yourself and the music. You become a part of the music and move in it instead of over top of it.
But, I can almost hear some folks saying, I don’t want to show the other person my emotions. Or I’m feeling too raw they don’t want to see that. Or I don’t feel like it’s safe. Don’t get me wrong I think it’s up to you but I find it’s way harder if not impossible to get black out dances without trusting your partner. I know that not everyone can be trusted but that doesn’t mean that no one can be trusted. As a whole dancers and kind people who frankly are likely to be able to relate to you in some way. You don’t even need to use words and tell them what’s happening just lean into your own feeling and believe that they will either join you there or hold you up. You have to believe in your partnership. Believe in the fact that for these short minuets this person has decided to share in a vulnerable moment with you. Lean into them for comfort. Laugh your joy with them. Sink into the raw emotions together and believe they not only won’t judge you but will be there with you.
The last bit is to see your partner and be seen. I’ve talked a lot about being open and typically this will encourage your partner to open up emotionally. (there has been studies on this) That’s great but it only works if you acknowledge and see where your partner is emotionally. Do you have the emotional capacity to be the rock for this partner, or are they holding you up and your role is to be gracious? Are yall being in the same emotion? Are you expanding joy together in the face of suffering? Are you exploring your own sensuality together? Rage? Betrayal? What is your partner needing? Can you give that? Do you trust them enough to do the same for you?
It’s in this space that real emotional connection can form. It’s here you can let go enough to allow the music and the connection in. It’s here that the world can melt away and you can feel truly alive, no matter what that looks like.