Dance Therapy:
Rated M for Mature

by Samantha Bryan

Whenever I have to check off my native language on a form, I always shrug my shoulders and say “English”. I always wish there was another option though, because honestly, it’s not my strongest method of communication. I believe I speak most fluently in dance. It is far more than just an aerobic activity; it tells stories, portrays emotion and serves as prayer. It inspires and cleanses, and comes in so many sizes, styles and accents. It is wanting and connection; an outward expression of desires and the inner divine.

When asked to contribute a piece to Wild Woman Rising, I had the option of submitting either a dance or written piece. I chose written, but wanted to find some way to merge the two. While rehearsing for an upcoming show called “The Slutcracker”, I whined and moaned to my friend that I just couldn’t decide where to even begin. She looked around and simply said… “sexuality in dance”.

Oh, duh. Why didn’t I think of that? Well, for starters – because it is my entire life. Trying to write an article on the core of my existence is, personally, comparable to attempting to explain in limited human tongue the meaning of life, or the great universal power(s) that be. The more and more I dug and researched, I began collecting stories and information that somewhat flipped my brain around. Realizing how innate both sexuality and dance are, that I cannot easily separate them as black and white components of one another, and that I really need to sit with this broad and complicated topic much longer before sharing my take on it, here is the journey of my own personal experience…

Sexuality is a dance. It is a dance of life, passion, fertility, celebration of the self and connection. Pay attention to yourself or others in the face of attraction. We tend to walk to the rhythms of our heartbeat, our inner drum. As our pulse quickens, our pace quickens, or we slow down to half time in a rhythmic strut or slink to catch the object of our lover-in-question’s attention. In wanting to be noticed and impressive, we engage our power center, and our posture changes. Our heart space engages, shoulders drop, and the chest expands. Our sexual centers engage, and we may add a little hip swivel to our steps. I find that I have different kinds of dance depending on which energetic center in my body I am expressing. Though as a very sexual creature, I often default my dance to the second chakra. Not only is this the center for sexuality and connection, but it is also referred to as the “seat of emotions”, responsible for joy, passion, self love and creativity. It joins DNA with dharma, creating our personal blueprint for relationship with self and the world. And, as most of us experience, maturation in this arena is not always in “standard”, sequential order.

My sexual journey began with loss. Through heavy discipline at home, school and in ballet, I developed a story that I was only worth as much as another person needed me for. I was a bleeding heart, as is every innocent and child, trying to find her home in the world of ego. My mantra was essentially conditioned into “who can I be for you?” In an effort to find validation while having no sense of morals, standards or self, I continuously put myself into situations where I was molested, taken advantage of, and raped. I would fall in one-sided love with men who were significantly older than me, who condemned me for my lack of experience, confidence, or pornstar abilities. When I was shamed or criticized, I would completely ingest this negativity and let it fester in forms of self-hatred, isolation, and diet and substance abuse. Little did I know at the time that the two parts of myself that caused me the most pain – my body and intense sexuality – would become my greatest attributes and inspiration towards part of my life’s work.

I remember being a young kid and sneaking Madonna videos on MTV, and thinking “Yup. I want to be that. Exactly.” Years down the road, I was still able to break into and embrace that empowering, sexual strength through my own dance with my own developed style. Anyone who knows me chuckles and rolls their eyes at the fact that I have a tendency of going from zero to sixty in under three seconds. Yet through that I am currently learning the difference between being a truly wild woman who is in touch with herself, versus one who is feral, breaking out of torturous convention and repression by acting out and recklessly diving into the dark, murky waters of life in an attempt to make up for lost time and satisfy the the soul’s starvation. I spent my entire upbringing as a shy little girl, afraid to speak out, never having a romantic partner for more than a couple weeks at a time. Misguided, and unsure of where else to start my Madonnabilities, I became a stripper.

For years I hid that fact out of conditioned shame and fear of others’ perceptions or misunderstandings of me. However, in the last few months I’ve only now begun to open up about this part of my life, and proudly embrace it as a crucial turning point of discovering the beauty of my body and establishing my first sexual boundaries and self worth. Often we think that the way to live life and experience the world is by saying a big yes to everything. I’ve actually found that my most valuable lessons in strength and love have come from rejection and the ability to assert healthy no’s. Now, I’m not going to sit here and encourage anyone to get into the exotic entertainment business, let’s be very clear. I will say, to anyone who either is or ever has considered this, if you do not have a strong and healthy ability to say no or brush ignorant criticism off, this industry will take a significant toll, and a good amount of time to get back on the path to rejoining your wild self. While I could write an entire book on this stage of my life, I will condense it to what is relevant to this piece. The first gift I received from working in gentlemen’s clubs was finding my body. For years I didn’t think of my body as anything but a tool, often a defective one at that, as I was always picked apart by my ballet instructors for either being out of alignment somehow or not being the right shape for their vision. I was a chunk of clay that was there to bend, mold and harden to their will. While working my new sexyjobparty, the first thing I noticed was how these women moved like water, or the smoke from the end of an incense stick. They strutted, rolled and writhed as if they were in the throws of passion. We all know it’s a show, but still – I don’t even think I looked like that in real sex at the time. **Note: most women don’t. If they do, they are either: a) faking. b) strippers. c) mermaidcatcrobats, which is not an actual term, hence further evidence why this is, in fact, not real.** These women were in their bodies, they knew where every bone and muscle lay, and left no curve unnoticed. They made curves that I didn’t even know existed! I would look at different parts of myself and think “what can that do?” It was an adventure in shapes, learning where my hips, breasts and butt were, casting them off balance and seeing how many letters of the alphabet I could form and flow through besides the letters “I” or “K”. My limbs were no longer chopsticks, they were beta fish fins and serpents. It was healing and refreshing, like taking your bulky snow pants and leggings off after going skiing all day and sitting by the fire. Rolling through my back and circling my hips, I could feel this new desire awakening inside me, and it was the first time I embraced myself as a sensual woman, rather than a bumbling girl. But I still wasn’t fooling anybody. Multiple times a day, fellow dancers and customers would come up to me and ask “do you still do ballet” or “are you a real dancer?” To which I would respond “no, I’m not sure why” or “well, I was”. After answering these questions enough times and starting to get what-am-I-doing-with-my-life-induced depression, I decided it was time to take the lessons I learned and return to the theater world. I would continue to weave in and out of the exotic entertainment industry for the next few years, but that first experience will always go down in my personal history as Baby’s First Booty Bounce.

Because of my alternative look, I often attracted customers with heavy interest in kink, particularly in the realm of S&M. It was terrifying and amusing for me, because I had not a damn clue what any of that was, and it was certainly a test of confidence and strength to avoid letting on that I was learning everything as I went along. In an effort to not become branded as Dopey the Dominatrix, I went to a local sex shop and picked up my first kink book called “Fetish and the Art of the Teese” by Dita Von Teese. Upon completion, I graduated with a love of corsetry and tight lacing, and an insatiable appetite for goth clubs. The idea of restraint was fascinating to me, as at that time in my life I was in a place of feeling like a wild animal on fire, and nobody could tell me what to do. Coming from a place in my earlier years of consistently being held down and degraded, I felt fed up with being a victim, and dared anyone to try and do that again. The game was thrilling, yet came with the cost of resurfaced trauma, dissociative emotional outbursts, and violent tantrums if anyone succeeded. And my greatest apologies to the poor ol’ chaps who wouldn’t play along, as I would quickly grow bored and turn my flame elsewhere. Perhaps I needed a more rounded approach to my sexuality at the time. Oh, what ho – turns out that what I thought was just a fetish book was actually a two-parter. Flipping it over was “Burlesque and the Art of the Teese”. Qu’est-ce que c’est? That same little voice inside of me that hearts Madonna squeaked and said “Yes! This! You!” I thought then that burlesque was basically everything I was doing at the club, just less nudity, more creativity, cooler costumes and music, and you don’t have to give lap dances. Cool, where do I purchase my one-way ticket to Sexylvania? I had no idea what rabbit hole I was about to jump down.

I found a burlesque troupe in Boston that advertised themselves as the #1 classic burlesque gig in town. That seemed like a great place to start, so I showed up with my Walmart bra, petticoat, feather boa and Michael Buble cd, ready to blow their socks off in a private audition. I’m pretty sure it was all they could do to not burst out laughing. I got a verbal pat on the head, and was encouraged to come back for a technique 101 class. Basically what they did was take me and my mermaid tail of the dock where I was flopping around gasping for air, and tossed me back in the water to swim with grace and ease. This time it was someone else giving me a healthy no, teaching me to pull it together and add self control to the fire within. I advanced from honking the obvious naughty bit horns in my audience’s faces, to learning the sensual delight one can take in something as simple as skin, a hand, a wink. Sexuality is more than fit plug A into outlet B. It is the dance of the siren’s song, the waltz of the senses, the Argentine tango of breathe. I worked with that troupe for a couple of months and then decided to leave for various reasons. They were interesting, as the director had a tendency to treat his dancers as if they were working for his imaginary brothel. To this day I question that man’s logic around providing an environment where women learn the intricacies of their bodies, personalities and sexual empowerment, thinking that at some point they won’t recognize when they are being disrespected and degraded. Consider your home for a moment. Our homes are there to provide not only shelter, but sanctuary. When a house is messy or is a center for chaos and conflict, you don’t want to be there. The cycle of being unsettled is perpetuated, creating a domino effect of stress, detachment from the world, and eventually illness. Alternatively, if you cast your roots down and put some love into your space, you’ll want to come home. You will begin to develop personal living standards, and want to fill your space with light and healthy friends to share it with. You will find yourself taking the time to cook dinner, do your laundry and generally take care of you. Your body is the home for your soul. It is not until you tend to your sanctuary that your spirit will have a place to come in, kick off her shoes and lay her head down to dream. When you take care of this vessel, you begin to develop the confidence and courage to decide how you should be treated and, inversely, how you will treat others. Despite my personal and political experiences with that troupe, I will forever be grateful to them for providing the launch pad for my burlesque and performance art life in Boston, as it is because of my exodus from them that I was welcomed into the burlesque community that I now call home and consider family, learning from and growing with them every day.

Since joining the burlesque community, I have been on a neverending path of sensual, spiritual, and sexual self discovery. I have met temple dancers and belly dancers, and they continue to expand my mind and technique every day. I am currently investing my time into the archetypal lessons of the Sumerian goddess Inanna, in her humbling shedding and descent into the underworld. I am exploring the world of sacred sexuality, incorporating the union of divine feminine and masculine into my dance as a form of gratitude for my practice, worship, soulful expression, and personal growth. It is always important to maintain a sense of self love, education and introspection. But a big part of sexuality is connection with others. At a certain point, baby has to leave the nest.

I have dipped my toes into the pool of edgeplay – dancing the line between comfort and danger in forms of bondage, knife and fireplay, in which you place massive trust (and occasionally your life) in your partner’s hands, reading and syncing up with one another’s energy, breath and movement. Coming from a place of abuse and trauma, this is a constant test of where I am within myself, as I am forced open, all of my senses are heightened and my body on guard to pull the plug at the first sign of genuine threat. When I feel that I can trust my partner, I am able to stay open and push boundaries. When I can’t, I go into lockdown, sometimes to the point where I won’t get my period for a while. Oh that sneaky sacral chakra keeping me in check! Despite a lifetime of performance, I still get nearly debilitating stage fright. Relationship with the world and your approach to establishing connection will teach you a lot about what is the most precious to you. Somehow I can offer up anything that falls under basic survival needs – food, money, flesh and blood; however, I have never been able to share my dance with a partner. At least, not until very recently.

I’ve met someone (ho ho!). I don’t know what our relationship is or where it is going, and there is a bit of me that doesn’t care. Perhaps it is an intuitive knowing I can’t put my finger on that this angel is in my life for a very important reason, and whatever course this relationship runs will be perfect for whatever that is. Your body does a funny thing when your spirit is at ease. Suddenly you catch a glimpse of your ego, and it is unarmored, naked and lounging by the ocean with one of those fancy drinks in a coconut with a tiny umbrella. Don’t worry, if you’re creative like me, you’ll still find places to stash the switchblade, just in case. So, about a month back I ran into the aforementioned angelboy at a regular gothkitty/bouncysparkle raver/can’twaitforburningmanyouguys club night downtown. It was a pleasant no-so-surprise, and we engaged in delightful conversation over overpriced bourbon garnished with fist-fulls of maraschino cherries. Club nights are a lot of fun for me, because the pressure of the stage is off, and I can just let my hair down and shake all the sillies/stress/sexy out. Luckily, he also loves to dance. Suddenly a song comes on, and a mutual look comes across both of our faces of “yeah, what you’re saying is cool and all, but shhhhh, I gotta go bust a move.” We both make our way to the dance floor, and it’s as if everything else melts away. We spun and dipped around each other, each of our limbs extending where the other’s ended. I would drop onto him, and he effortlessly caught me, though not before I was mere inches from the floor, for shock’s sake. He twirled me, picked me up, fell to my feet, and consumed every part of me, all the while never skipping a beat or tripping up where my body wanted to flow. It was the most intense, erotic foreplay I have ever experienced; and all of our clothes were still on. Eventually the spell broke, or we just ran out of breath, so we sat down to rest. Little did we notice that the much of the room had stopped to watch, and people ran over to compliment us, asking had we choreographed that. We both giggled, then he mentioned what an intuitive dancer I was, and how thankful he was that I took the lead because he was so intimidated. I raised an eyebrow, and curiously responded that I thought he was the intuitive one who had taken the lead. What a minute, did I actually just dance with someone, not just at or under them? It was a level of intimacy I had never experienced before, as my dance is the most precious treasure in my life, and he held it with the utmost grace, care, and awareness. Our connection always had me slightly baffled – he is a very sparkly, gentle, pragmatic, engineer type, and I am a surly, fiery, right-brained artist type. But underneath the surface of personality and occupational tendencies, we share a language, an expression of soul. Needless to say, I find myself as of late walking around with no sense of time more than usual from the toll of late night, two person dance parties.

I have traveled through this sexual journey with what I thought was the intention of experience, expansion, slaying my fears, and mastery of the almighty orgasm. My focus was so narrowed in on the new, that I had almost forgotten what was already mine that needed nurturing. This journey has, in actuality, been a reclamation. After years of giving my power over to others, I am slowly taking it back. I am taking back my self worth, I am taking back all the shards of my heart that I embedded in unworthy partners. I am whispering down to my spirit and telling her that it’s okay now, she ran rise up and peer through my eyes again and use my voice for her song, because I promise I will do everything I can to keep safe. Despite conventional belief around the subject, pure sexuality is not dirty. It is a basic human function, right, miracle and blessing. Our guilt, shame, power games, comparisons, insecurities, ignorance, and our abuse memories and narratives we bury in our cells creates a muddy film around an otherwise radiant light. The breakthrough in my journey is that it has been a reclamation of innocence, as once I began to untangle from the chains and nets of my past, I was open and free to experience myself and others in a full, healthy way that ignites not only my ladyparts, but equally my heart and mind.

My prior misconceptions are getting a makeover. I engage in art and communities wherein I am appreciated for my hard work and talent first, and in which individual, unique beauty is witnessed, accepted and celebrated for exactly what it is, not its potential to fit into someone or something else. I take time to check in with what I feel, not what someone else told me to. I do not stick around in situations where I am being used or taken advantage of, and am mindful to engage sexually with only worthy partners, who are of sound intention. I have learned that porn is fake, and only about 1% of women actually have sex like that, so I drop the comparisons and focus on what my own body needs and says. I have learned that for all parties to feel safe, accepted and fulfilled, it is important to ask questions, not condemn or make assumptions. Finding the unique needs of your partner, and in turn yourself, is the most fun! Forming a bond without exploration and expecting things to just work a certain way is about as fun as assembling Ikea furniture. The world and all of its creatures were formed organically. The earth never had a manual or Cosmopolitan guide to tell her how it’s done, therefore I don’t understand why we slaughter our critical thought and dampen our inner beauty and intuition to work against our very nature in this way.

My mantra is evolving out of “who can I be for you?” and into “I am love. Wanna go on an adventure with me?” I had a dream a couple of weeks back that my body was filled to the brim with the ghosts and grudges of my past, so much so that I was unable to fit inside myself anymore. So I torched them all, and they fell to a pile of ash and bone. I strung the bones together into beautiful jewelry, with the understanding that these are the stories that I carry with me, which have given me wisdom and brought me that much closer to my sovereignty. But they are no longer animated and have no more power over my life. I am certainly no perfect or enlightened being, and the greatest lesson I’ve learned is that healing and growth take patience, daily hard work, reflection, and maintenance. I am an eager student of life, am proud of my progress, and will continue to advance to as many degrees and certifications as are offered. So don’t sit there wasting time, baffled and depleted, trying to uncrumple a map someone else drew of your life. Just get up, grab a hairbrush/dildo to sing into, and start dancing.

That being said, please pardon me while I go rummage through my delicates drawer. I have a date tonight.

Journal, Volume 1 Issue 1