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The answer to this question is totally dependent on your definition of “intimate” and how you choose to interact with your dance partner.
The definition of the word “intimate” and add to the difficulty of answering this question.
According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, the various definitions of intimate are as follows:
Intimate – Adjective
1a: marked by a warm friendship developing through long association intimate friends
b: suggesting informal warmth or privacy
c: engaged in, involving, or marked by sex or sexual relations
2: of a very personal or private nature
3: marked by very close association, contact, or familiarity
intimate knowledge of the law
4a: INTRINSIC, ESSENTIAL
b: belonging to or characterizing one’s deepest nature
Intimate – Noun
: a very close friend or confidant: an intimate friend
Intimate – Verb
1: to communicate delicately and indirectly: HINT
2: to make known especially publicly or formally: ANNOUNCE
So, pick a definition. In general, Salsa dancing is predominantly a couple’s dance that includes close proximity and moves often described as sensual. Oh no, another definition:
Sensual – Adjective
1: relating to or consisting in the gratification of the senses or the indulgence of appetite: FLESHLY
2: SENSORY sense 1
3a: devoted to or preoccupied with the senses or appetites
c: deficient in moral, spiritual, or intellectual interests: WORLDLY
Salsa moves focus on the swaying of the hips, rotations of the upper body, and the shimmering of the shoulders.
It is also an exquisite dance that requires grace and coordination.
As individuals advance in their skills, the complexities of partner work will require a level of intimacy – closer body proximity and increased trust in your partner (for both the lead and the follower.)
Who you choose to dance with may have a direct impact on how you choose to dance.
It is often more comfortable to dance with a partner with whom you are familiar.
The rationale is simple.
With a regular partner, you will be familiar with turn patterns and how your partner moves (style.)
Having a regular partner will probably result in a higher comfort level with the close proximity required with salsa dancing – the more complex the turn patterns, the more probable the physical contact.
The necessity of physical contact is where the question of intimacy can come into place.
When watching couples dance salsa, you will notice varying degrees of physical proximity.
Salsa requires the lead to place his hand on the lower part of the follower’s back.
The couple is holding hands and looking at each other.
This basic stance is necessary, but is it intimate?
That would depend on how close the lead is holding his partner.
Generally, there are 6-12 inches between the two when dancing, but that may vary based on the turn pattern the lead is implementing.
These various positions between partners appear very formal, but the proximity is reduced when implemented with salsa turn patterns, resulting in closer physical contact.
Various turn patterns require the placement of the lead’s hands on the follower’s shoulders and on her hips to prompt a turn.
Is that too intimate? The answer is based on personal interpretation. Salsa requires contact, but the contact does not directly equate to intimacy.
Choreographed Performances Versus Social Dancing
So, the question that may need to be addressed is can one dance salsa sensually without being intimate?
Again, this is a personal interpretation.
What may help is recognizing the difference between choreographed performances and social dancing.
There are few experiences as exhilarating as choreographed performances that are executed with grace and precision.
With salsa dancing, as with any other form of dancing, to achieve this level of showmanship takes months and sometimes years of practice.
The hours that partners spend together result in the appearance of a level of closeness or intimacy while they are dancing – the way they look at each other, the way their bodies move together.
This closeness falls under the definition of intimacy as an adjective – 1a: marked by a warm friendship developing through long association but may fall short of another aspect of the meaning of intimacy – c: engaged in, involving, or marked by sex or sexual relations.
Social dancing is a different challenge.
There is often no relationship between partners.
However, salsa dance still requires close proximity and physical contact between partners.
If the traditional stance between the dancers is maintained, salsa dancing can be enjoyable without a sense of sensual intimacy.
However, if the dancers can connect so that the lead can prompt his partner efficiently, the moves may appear more sensual.
The observer may perceive this interaction as intimate even though the dancers perceive it as more fun and casual.
Intimate and Sensual Versus Fun and Casual
So is salsa dancing intimate and sensual or fun and casual?
The final answer is determined by the relationship between the dancers and the perception others have of the dance.
Suppose you want salsa dancing to be casual and fun.
In that case, it is up to you to maintain a level of distance that dictates limited physical connections while still allowing for efficient turn patterns.
The distance kept between partners may also be altered based on the relationship between dancers – friends versus casual dance partners versus regular dance partners.
In general, the more familiar you are with your dance partner and their level of dancing, the more intimate the dance may feel between the two and the more intimate it may appear to observers.
As always, personal perception is reality.
How you choose to dance with your partner will dictate the perceived level of intimacy.
In the end, the basic definition of dance, the rhythmic movement of the body to music, coupled with the enjoyment of dancing, will help you decide the difference between salsa as an intimate dance or salsa and a casual and fun dance.
Choose a partner, have fun and then decide for yourself!
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