Yesterday, I cut up some charred serrano peppers for a tomatillo salsa and got their juices smeared all over my hands and under my fingernails. Cooking tones down the spice, but my hands still were still afire afterwards. The salsa turned out edible, but wasn't the best I'd made. Tonight, I will doctor it up some more with additional raw onion, cilantro, and lime juice to make it taco-worthy 'cause it's Taco Tuesday. I'm not sure I can make much of a good post from that salsa.
UNLESS WE'RE TALKING DANCE SALSA!? (This was a post in the works -- the above is lead in...get it!?)
I started seriously-ish dancing when I was 16. I'm a decent amateur but nothing more, lacking the creative in-the-moment thought process/receptivity to music and exhibitionist tendencies that help make a great performance artist. I began with ballroom dancing which encompasses waltzes and fox-trots as well as the more passion-forward cha-cha, rumba, tango, etc. One Catholic boy I knew was appalled that I would even consider dancing with non-Catholics and he strongly (but vaguely) hinted that men at these disreputable dance halls would take advantage of me on the dance floor... somehow... because, apparently, only Catholic men act decently towards women. HAAAH! Even then, my experience proved him wrong.
[As an aside, a jarred memory: when I was *18* a Catholic guy-friend tentatively asked me if I *ahem* knew where to kick a man if they tried somfin funny. Should'a feigned ignorance. Missed opportunities.]
Corporeality is hard to deal with, in our fallen world: we're rational desirers dealing with darkened intellects and that little thing called concupiscence thrown into the mix. But, in my experience (purely as an amateur), framing the body as something-good and to-be-admired yields a greater delicacy towards and appreciation for it, not an inflaming of the urge to manipulate or exploit. Intimacy in forms of art can lead to a sort of tamping of the passions rather than acting as an irritant - "can" being an operative word since there are the perverse who don't allow themselves to be affected in this way.
When I began taking figure-drawing classes, I kept pretty quiet so as to not scandalize the homeschooling group. Drawing men and women in the nood? How risqué! At the first class, I braced myself for the shocking reveal of full-frontal nudity which was morally questionable!? The model quietly disrobed behind a screen, came out and did some quick poses on an elevated platform, before adopting some classical poses for longer sketches. It was not provocative. I particularly remember one old plump woman sitting on a stool, her shoulders slumped forward as if she were tired from a long day and her white-grey hair in a messy-stringy-bun. She had rolls of fat on her stomach, her skin in other parts was flabby and wrinkled, yet there was about her a refined dignity and elegance that tugged at the heart. She was a fleshly woman - and that reality was good.
Dancing may provide a similar opportunity for realization of the human-being-ness of your dance-partner. When you social dance in Lindy Hop, you put yourself into an incredibly vulnerable physical position, particularly when you follow, so you must watch out for your partner. This is stressed (not necessarily in those words) in many ways in classes and interactions on the dance floor. Once you move beyond the beginner level (in which you are still fumbling to keep in all in the same head-space the triad of music, partner, and steps), you start to realize that there's another person you hold in your embrace and that this other person has a character of their own and, perhaps (likely), a different interpretation of the music. The dance turns into a conversation, into a crescendo of ideas-tied-to-music made manifest by limbs and lines. The other person is a person you create with, whose ideas you ratify and affirm, whose expression you complement or contrast to create a harmonious whole. You are sensitive to the other person - you attempt not to wound them either physically or creatively. You literally and figuratively should have their back.
Yeah, there are those who view social dancing as a pick-up scene and become proficient in the rudimentaries of dance solely in order to gain close-access -- or professional dancers who use their positions to take advantage of others, and so on. With the former, you can FEEL when the dance has ulterior motives: you know what's up.
With latter - as with any professional artist - it is easy to confuse rectitude of an ars with moral rectitude: because the creation is so beautiful, so likewise the creator. With God this may work as a persuasive argument, but not for man. (And I use the term 'creation' loosely, since only God, strictly speaking, creates.) So, in some ways, I suppose when an artist is acting qua-artist he is in some sense amoral, perhaps (I'm not entirely certain on this point - but an artist and the art-produced are separable)? Artists might have the ability to create beautiful things even with an ugly soul - but if you can't see what is good or even that there is good (I'm not talking about a formal understanding, but more like an idea-of-goodness-as-real), seems like it'd make it more difficult to portray both goodness and the depths of depravity. You might be able to relate instances of virtue and vice in vivid detail but not get at their significance except accidentally. Must examine this line further - it's not a formed opinion, but a hazarded one without the background supportive reading. I think I may have toyed with it before, but never pursued it seriously.
BACK TO SALSA! Catholics needn't be afraid of of closeness/intimacy in art. A repeated exposure to respectful treatment of and care for the bodies of others, a drawing-attention-to-goodness, isn't cause for knicker-knotting. Done properly, these forms of art (participated in as an amateur, at least) can help foster a better view of the corporeality of others as caught up in a whole and wholesome creation with a spark of the divine, worthy of respect and admiration. It makes the opposite less thinkable.
For now, not going to go into how some forms of dance deliberately pursue the body-presented-as-an-object-of-sexual-desire aspect (current burlesque/pole-dancing, for example), or about the more passionate/sensual dance forms (tangooooo!), or individual temperaments and characters which should avoid some things for the sake of their own soul --- 'cause those are separate cans'o'worms. Also, I fully realize that my experience is limited at best and what I've gotten out of my experiences aren't what others get or have gotten. So ymmv as an individual when you go out and draw or dance. But, perhaps not and this has probably already been thoroughly gone over elsewhere.
P.s. This is not another TOB see-people-as-subjects-not-objects-for-use. While that's true, it's also a horse that has been beaten to death and sounds like a nice platitude now. What helps the process of seeing people-as-subjects? It's not enough to simply affirm that we have inherent worth, we must also grow habituated to living that reality and the practice of art can help with that. That's what I'm nudging at.