By Ketevan Zazanashvili
If we talk about competitive dance sport, especially Latin discipline (mainly I will refer to it) we often hear when a trainer asks a couple to show more feelings, more sensuality, emotions. But have we asked ourselves what actually is sensuality? How do we feel and sense anything? How do we produce emotions? Is it a process or a momentum? How long it lasts? How it is interconnected with our mind? I discovered that personally for me there are at least two explanations of sensuality: scientific (rational) and transcendental (empirical).
There are a lot of scientific explanations of human sensual systems and sense organs, such as smell, sight, taste, touch, and hearing. However in this article I would like to express my own understanding of sensuality and emotions in dance and as such. If talking scientifically there is a difference between sensuality and sensitivity.
Sensitivity is the quality or state of being sensitive; the ability to respond to physical stimuli or to register small physical amounts or differences; the ability to respond to affective changes in your interpersonal environment
Sensuality: [ CF. French sensualité , Latin sensualitas sensibility, capacity for sensation.] desire for sensual pleasures; the quality or state of being sensual; devotedness to the gratification of the bodily appetites.
Sensual: Pertaining to, consisting in, or affecting, the sense, or bodily organs of perception; relating to, or concerning, the body, in distinction from the spirit. Not spiritual or intellectual; carnal; fleshly; pertaining to, or consisting in, the gratification of the senses, or the indulgence of appetites; a desire for the pleasures of the senses.
Sense: the faculty through which the external world is apprehended; a general conscious awareness.
Sensuality = Sensitivity?
We can see that in scientific explanation sensuality is strictly connected to body. However, I feel that it is not so and it has other – spiritual side as well, which is more important to me. So you may ask, what is this sensuality all about? I would not like to answer in ‘scientific frames’. I would rather give my personal, subjective insights about the meaning of the sensuality.
I believe that sensitivity and sensuality are closely tied together. One can not exist without another.
I am sure that there are clear explanation of differences between sensuality and sensitivity that you can find in encyclopedia, but personally I feel very thin line between these two notions.
Our sensitivity has different sides…We sense the light breeze coming from the sea, or harsh cold autumn wind with the taste of approaching winter. We feel cold from the snow that we hold in our bare hands or we sense the warmth of the loving hands. All these physical feelings are interwoven with our inner intimate world; it is connected to the spiritual side of our everyday life. All these feelings and senses has the power to awake strong associations in our minds, like those of a days spent with the beloved one, or the joyful childhood when playing snowballs.
And you know, our mind has a magical ability to recreate these feelings and make them real even without having actual physical contact with the subject. We need just to close our eyes and remember this feeling of cold or warmth, or smell of the spring flowers in the field, or ripple of the river in the village.
We need just to close our eyes and imagine what we really want and the answers will follow. Moreover your aims will materialize, but only with your faith in the reality of these visualizations. What can be more sensual than these memories and associations, or visualizations if you wish? The same is in dance.
My heart is truly aching when I see the whole farce that is happening on the dance floor. False faces and emotions; inadequate reactions to the movement or feelings; men touching women without the real touch; cold eyes; no eye contact or any energy between the couple; men forgetting about their ladies and trying to ‘show off’ their masked personality.
How can one show emotion or a feeling, may it be sensual or aggressive or any other, without even understanding what this emotion truly means for him/her? Yes, it is possible, but the emotion produced would be so false…
Sensuality and emotions
I strongly believe that before showing an emotion we have to observe them in us. What do we look like when we are angry, what we feel when we miss someone, what are our gestures when we are sorry for something.
One of the methods to find the way of the expression of particular emotion or a feeling is just imagining the feeling you want to express and improvise movement that seems to express that feeling. Ask yourself to express emotions in different body parts. For instance, how would your arms move when you want to express love to your beloved person, or how your head would move when you are angry? Experimenting with own body and feelings is the best way to know the movement which is more suitable for the particular feeling.
Another point is that emotions should change and shift logically. This means that the interpretation of the music should be so logical that the audience could be able to trace the story line behind the composition or range of movements (the ‘idea’ behind the movement, which will be presented in more details in future articles). The ones who have hard times to express their inner feelings through improvisation to music can use the method mentioned above. However, I really don’t like strictly set movements, and dancing same choreography to different musical pieces. In my understanding this is a significant link between music and sensuality.
Music and sensuality
I believe sensuality in dance is also closely tied to music. Isn’t it the music which should shape your movement? Of course it is hard to improvise when you have dancing ‘framework’, but there are the parts when a dancer stays alone and ‘improvises’ its part to the music. And I always wondered how dancers when performing solo part can dance so called ‘preset improvisations’ (when talking about actual competition)? This means that they don’t hear THE music, but they hear just musical beat and dance piece of choreography to it. And where is the sensuality then? I feel that the problem of improvisation is really topical in today’s dance sport.
To sum up…
Let’s just close our eyes for a minute and observe, what really is going on inside. What do we feel or sense, is there anything that bothers us or makes us happy. Observe the feelings, what it is like when you are happy or sad, angry or calm, anxious or serious? I believe that the first step to sensuality in dance is becoming sensual to our inner self . Do NOT be afraid…open up… and you will find the way to sensuality.
What is sensuality? Sensuality is when your dance makes people, watching you, cry.
1) Diana F.Green, Quality of Movement – Emotions, Choreography from Within, 2010, ISBN-13: 9780736076197
2) Definitions of sensuality, sensitivity, sense, online encyclopedias:
3) Music and emotions online articles:
4) Brent Dean Robbins, Emotion, Movement and Psychological Space, Duq.University
5) Dance and Acting skills, online article:
6) Problems of the Modern Ballroom Dance, online article: