When Danielle was 22, she wanted to go to an erotic dance club. She did not want to go alone, however, and instead, she thought it was a good idea for me to take her.
The first time she brought it up with me, I was skeptical.
Erotic dance in this town is very much hit or miss. You are lucky to find a dancer who can express her sexuality through dance. I feared Danielle would encounter some poor dancers and consequently be hard pressed to understand what good erotic dance is all about.
The second time she brought it up with me, I was reluctant.
I was only a little younger than Danielle the first time I saw an erotic dance, and the dancer was so numbingly awful, I didn’t go back for 27 years.
In hindsight, I understand what that dancer’s problem was: She wasn’t dancing her own sexuality. Instead she was going through a series of motions someone perhaps had mistakenly told her were sexy. Most likely, she was pandering to the crowd for tips. Witnessing that ugly farce was enough to put me off erotic dance for almost 30 years. I certainly didn’t want Danielle’s first experience to be anything like mine.
Danielle is the oldest daughter of a San Francisco police officer and an art teacher. When she was about 20, she decided to explore the world a bit, and her wanderlust eventually brought her to Colorado, and to the coffee shop were we met.
She’s full of life, Danielle. She loves to grin and you can’t help but grin back. She has a playfulness and a ready sense of humor. And her mind is clear as a mountain stream.
Her degree is in anthropology and she has a taste for African designs. Mostly, she expresses herself not through writing, nor through the clothing she wears, nor through any classical art, but through how she decorates her living spaces. Interior design is her art. She’s very good at it.
The third time Danielle brought up my taking her to an erotic dance club, she mischievously played “the former boyfriend card”.
She told me how she’d always wanted to see erotic dancers; had even begged her former boyfriend to take her; how he’d refused on the grounds “erotic dance wasn’t right for a girl to see.” What made his rejection biting, she said, was that he himself frequented dance clubs — yet he wouldn’t take her.
That did it for me. I wasn’t going to let Danielle’s former boyfriend get away with patronizing her. I agreed to take her. But only if she would consent to go to the clubs as many times as it took before I was satisfied that she’d seen at least one decent erotic dancer. Danielle readily agreed to that, and so we set Thursday for going.
When Thursday came, I was far more nervous than Danielle. Even though I was taking her to the club with the best dancers in town, I wasn’t sure who was dancing that night, and even the best club in this town has its share of poor dancers. But as it turned out, we got lucky.
Good erotic dancers dance their sexuality. I cannot begin to describe in mere words how they do that, but if you get yourself to a few clubs and then compare and contrast dancers, you will sooner or later notice the differences yourself. Some dancers dance their sexuality. Some dancers dance what they perhaps merely imagine is their sexuality. And some dancers dance anything but their sexuality. The latter two are just going through the motions.
As we watched the dancers, I would ask Danielle what she thought of them. It was encouraging to hear her say things like “She’s for real”, or, “I thought she was faking it”. Danielle and I seemed to be on the same page.
Picasso once said something roughly along the lines of, “Art is sex and sex is Picasso.” Whether it is true or not that art is sex, it is certainly true that one’s sexuality can be expressed in any art form — in painting, in sculpture, in poetry and, of course, in dance.
There are several things that make erotic dance interesting, but perhaps one of the most intriguing things is the way you can recognize the dancer in her dance. A dancer who genuinely expresses her sexuality is quite beautiful to witness, even if she herself is not the prettiest woman to ever take the stage.
The beauty does not come from her physical beauty, but from her authenticity in expressing her sexuality. And that’s the very same beauty you have always found, and always will find, in any authentic self-expression. When a person is being true to themselves, they are in some special way beautiful.
Honesty, integrity, authenticity — these are all terms than can be applied to any art, including erotic dance.
So much of it is in what we look for. If we go to a dance club only because we want to see nude or near nude women bounce around, then that’s all we will see. Then it doesn’t matter to us whether those women are dancing their sexuality or pandering to ours. In fact, we will probably prefer them to pander. Yet, if we go to a dance club with eyes for how someone transforms their authentic sexuality into an honest dance, then we might discover something deeply beautiful.
A problem many men face when watching a dancer is wanting to possess her. If we really want to be moved by the beauty of erotic dance, we must avoid that trap. That trap makes the dance all about us. It leaves no room for the dancer and her self expression. Just as you watch a beautiful sunrise without wanting to own it, the best way to watch an erotic dancer is without wanting to possess her.
That night with Danielle, the two of us got very lucky because at least four of the dancers were alive to their sexuality. They were expressing it honestly, and one even came over to our table and sat with us for 45 minutes. She and Danielle immediately hit it off and were soon sharing secrets like sisters.
On the ride home, I asked Danielle what she thought of the night. “That was so liberating!”, she said with unusual force: “I never imagined it could be anything like that.”
“Liberating” was precisely the right word. It was the word I’d hoped for.
To see someone dance a lie about their sexuality is not liberating. To see someone dance a truth about their sexuality is liberating. Isn’t that intuitively true?
You’ve noticed how you feel more alive when you are with someone who is authentically themselves, someone who is true to themselves. Well, it is the same with erotic dancers. A woman who dances authentically makes you feel alive.
On the whole, erotic dance in America might never become as much of an art form as it could be. But here and there you can find a decent dancer, an artist in her own right. And if you approach her performance appropriately, then you can find her dance just as inspiring as any good art.
Writing this tonight has made me realize how much I miss Danielle. She left about a year after this for Portland, Oregon. Perhaps it is impossible not to miss a person who shares the same eyes as you when watching dancers. There is kinship in that.
(Photo copyright Bill Dobbins)