For guys Only . . .
(Actually, this is for everyone . . .)
Grace and I are working on a lesson plan that will focus on teaching dance to the uncomfortable guy that has never danced or is new to social dance. Our goal is to teach a “guys only” series of beginning lessons (initially in Ft Collins). The lessons will begin with only guys in the class to better learn beginning blues social dance.
We will bring volunteer follows in during the latter weeks to complete the lead-follow lessons. In this series, the guy will learn rhythm, connections, turns, adornments, song-ending pauses and dips. In addition, we will teach social dance psychology, floor-craft, and etiquette. At this time, the series is not for women that desire to lead.
We’re still in the planning stages of this concept, but your feedback and comments on this subject would be helpful to organize this lesson plan. If you are a lead that fits this profile or a follow that wishes to help us get more guys into social dance, please share within your peeps. I’m sure you all know a guy that won’t/can’t dance. This series is for him. Who knows, it may be life changing.
And here is why I am thinking about a men-only class:
Having social danced for the last ten years; been an instructor for blues dance with my life partner and leading lady, Grace, for three years; and hosting and volunteering at various blues and social dance events throughout Colorado; I often hear the comments and ongoing discussions about why our dance communities rarely have enough leads in attendance.
These discussions mostly originate from the follows who are quite frustrated that they don’t get the number of dances they’d like. This has been a concern of mine since I started dancing.
Old school dance etiquette says that leads (men) ask follows (ladies) to dance. So, as a social dance lead, an overabundance of follows can mean that we leads have, when compared to the follows’ options, more choice in who we dance with and how often we dance.
Because of this, leads rarely get turned down when they ask a follow to dance. And my nature to serve others and help connect people often leads to me to feel as though I am expected to dance often and with each follow. Any other leads out there feel this way too?
But physically, I can’t dance with every follow (even though I often try anyway). After years of dancing, I know my limits. But I feel terrible knowing the follows’ side of things (this is a discussion Grace and I often have): Ladies get dressed up and drive – sometimes great distances – and arrive at social dances only to wait and wait and wait to be asked to dance.
Grace has told me how depressing it can be when you are a follow sitting out the song while noticing that all the leads are on the floor, but that there are dozens of follows sitting waiting. The thought that goes through follows’ minds? With this many follows waiting, what chance do I have of getting asked to dance?
Often follows get discouraged and will leave the dance early – or perhaps drive to another social dance hoping to get more dances. I asked Grace how many dances a follow has to have to feel like it was a “successful” dance for her. She said it would be great to actually lose count, but that that rarely happens. I feel uncomfortable that leads are so fulfilled at dances and that follows are not.
Perhaps the follows should initiate and ask the leads to dance? In most of our social dance circles the leads, as tradition indicates, are expected to invite the follows to the dance floor. But given the informal state of most social dance, follows do ask the leads for dances – and rightly so.
When it comes to the reasons there are so few men (lead) dancers, let’s keep in mind that social dance is awkward for the newer dancer – especially for men. He feels like a fish out of water or a child just learning to walk. Even with lots of encouragement from instructors and the follows, there is so much fear and insecurity that he usually just wants to find a wall to hide behind.
Why is it so awkward for guys? I recently conducted a search online to ask this question. Here are a few of the guys’ comments:
Because I suck at it.
Yeah, I can already imagine my 6"1 frame stumbling through the dance floor, legs everywhere, making a fool out of myself.
It doesn't come naturally, and usually results in just a lot of uncoordinated flailing around.
I'm told I dance good when I'm drunk. If I'm not drunk I'm all tense and look robotic. I'm rarely drunk hence I rarely dance.
They do it cuz they're afraid to look lame. It's all about being cool with men. Ditch their friend for a cooler friend, leave their girlfriend to hang out with the guys, swearing, acting cool, etc. That's all it is, looking cool. Society and the media always show dancing as a lame thing for guys to do.
I don't dance because I suck at it and I also just don't like it, though I don't think it is silly. This brings back painful memories of when I was forced to square dance at my elementary school for music class, and news people were there to broadcast it, ugh.
Ugh! Every year from grade 3-8 we had to do square dancing in gym class. I wonder who thinks that's a good idea?
It's a cultural thing. For some reason, Middle America (or what you would deem as White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) does not emphasize it with cultural significance. In other places they do, like the Caribbean with Salsa, Reggae; Italians with Tarantellas, Germans, Greeks, and so on. It is very important to be able to dance. If you can't, or refuse to, then you look like you are turning your back on your heritage/nationality. Middle Americans don't have that kind of social expectations. I remember when my sister had her 10th Birthday party at my grandparents' house in Peru. She invited her entire 5th grade class, and all of them were out on the floor dancing salsa.
There you have it. Dancing for us guys is uncomfortable, awkward, full of social pressure, and rife with fear of looking bad.
It’s just so uncomfortable – especially when starting out.
To give you hope, here’s a list by James Joseph, author of Every Man's Survival Guide to Ballroom Dancing, about why men should learn to dance:
Partner dancing is a skill (it’s better than no skill)
Dance vets man as social, sophisticated and presentable
Dance tells you a lot about a guy (in three minutes of dancing)
Brings out the macho in a guy (machismo by permission)
Fuels a Cinderella story (culturally girls are raised on the image of a princess… ballroom dancing with Prince Charming)
Dance is safe sex (gives women permission to get up close, physical and personal with a stranger, without commitment)
Dance puts her on a pedestal (ahem, many women like attention)
Fun (partner dancing plays to a woman’s strength: it’s emotional, artistic and collaborative)
Let me know if you - or someone you know - would be interested in my guys-only class,