Massage as Dance

I love dancing. I used to figure skate – ice dance, specifically – and since then I’ve dabbled in a variety of other dance styles. Sometimes I’ll go out dancing with friends, although I prefer dancing when there are specific elements and guidelines to follow – not like your typical Friday night club scene. Most of all, though, I like staying in motion.

It’s easy to think of massage as a dance. Each massage type (Swedish, deep tissue, Zen Shiatsu, etc) has a variety of potential elements, a specific catalogue of strokes to choose from. From this, the massage therapist pieces together a routine.

Sometimes the massage is heavily choreographed. Just like a figure skating routine, every move has already been determined; the therapist’s job is to follow the outline. I use this type of massage mostly with clients who have acute injuries or chronic pain. With highly focused and repetitive massages performed over multiple sessions, adhesions can be broken down and trigger points can be released.

Other massages, though, are improvised. The catalogue of strokes is the same as before, but the actual massage routine is unplanned. The dance style that comes to mind here is Argentine tango. In this dance, there are elements and rules that are universally taught, but each dance pattern is created on the spot, on the dance floor.

Both tango and massage are partner dances. The leader and follower in tango have separate roles: the leader leads, the follower, well, follows. But the dance is more than just two individuals going through the motions of a tango; it’s the relationship between the partners that defines the quality of each step and the attitude of each dance.

The therapist and client have a similar give-and-take relationship. The therapist uses his or her body – hands, arms, elbows – to interact with the client’s body – the muscles and skin. Just like in tango, though, the connection between the therapist’s hands and the client’s muscles is what defines the massage: the pressure, direction and type of strokes used, and the attitude or intention that the therapist sets within the session.

Some massages are graceful, like a relaxation massage, while others are utilitarian, like a sports massage. Some have well-defined goals; others rely more on interpretation. But despite these differences (or because of these differences?), every massage is a beautiful and unique dance.

This entry was posted in Metaphors. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Post a comment or leave a trackback.

Leave a Reply