What Partner Dancing & Massage Have in Common

One evening this spring, after a night of ballroom dancing, I peeked in on a West Coast Swing event that was being held in Medford. I was completely awed and inspired by the energetic, creative, and playful way I saw people dancing. Even though I knew nothing about West Coast Swing, I was so inspired that I spent the entire next day at the conference, learning and soaking up as much as I could by watching.

There was an amazing couple that presented a class on the art of leading. The husband spoke of how he related to dancing, of how he saw it as an exploration. He would start off with simpler moves and discover what the follower did naturally well. He’d notice what came easily for her, and then, little by little, he would build on her strengths. Unlike many leaders, he didn’t want to force his moves on his follower, especially if she was having challenges. He supported his follower’s strengths and added his leading creativity to make an amazing dance experience for both people.

I loved the way he related to dancing. It reminded me a lot of the way that I relate to massage. When I begin to explore a client’s body, I am looking for the ways that their body can release with ease. On the outside, it seems like I am leading the massage, but just like a skillful dancing partner, inside I am listening to the underlying guidance for the way the body wants to be moved. Just like in dancing, great bodywork is a continuous dialogue. I make suggestions with touch and their body responds. If a part of the body responds well to a certain style of touch, I can build on that style to explore other areas. If a person’s system does not respond immediately to a technique, I don’t just keep trying the technique just because it has worked with other people. I honor that each body is different and has its own unique way of releasing tension. It is my job as the massage ‘leader’ to find how to ‘dance’ with everybody I touch with ease.

Just like the wonderful dance instructor from this class, I also find my massage sessions to be more rewarding when I am listening to and building on the strengths of my clients. From my experience, it is also more enjoyable for my clients. So I invite you, care to ‘dance’?