Dance dance (in real life) revolution!
Dancing: it's a great way to get exercise, socialize, and meet people! Plus, it's basically a real-time strategy game with a rhythm component.
I didn't want to muck up the Internet dating thread nor any of the let's-get-fit threads nor hobbies threads, even though dancing kind of has a bit of all three aspects, in varying degrees for different people.
It's been a long time since I've been dancing. But last week, an unlikely new friend took me Salsa dancing. I hate Salsa dancing, but I had such a blast that it rekindled the old dancing spark for me, and I'm trying to ride the momentum as much as possible.
It occurred to me when I went to Lindy in the Park last weekend, when someone asked me how long I'd been dancing, that it's been about 13 years, on and off. That is a dang long time! I remember how excited I used to be about going out dancing when I had just graduated, and sometimes I wonder how I could have let something that was so meaningful to me slip away.
A while back, Rimbo and I were talking to someone about whether dancing is inherently intimate. You know, because of the touching, and the music. In the conversation, I said that no, it isn't -- especially not in a class setting where you are learning a step along with a dozen other people, and especially not when the follows rotate around a circle of leads so you are only really spending a few minutes with any particular person. Social dancing is a little different because you spend a whole song with the same person (depending on local social norms, you could be spending a couple songs). You may be touching, but -- and I generalize here from my own experiences -- that's not the point: the point is the real-time strategy rhythm game. The point is to see what cool and pretty things you can do with your body, and how your body works together with your partner's body and with the music. I took a class as a lead the other day (I am a gal and I typically follow) to see if the social dynamic was any different, and found that indeed it wasn't.* In my experience there is startlingly little flirtation or attraction during lessons and social dancing. I guess because your mind is occupied. All that said, I suppose it depends on the dance: I have heard some terrible things about the gentlemen at certain Salsa clubs that have less than wholesome designs on their follows. But who knows? maybe it's mutual.**
I'd like to meet other dancers here. I'd like to motivate, and be motivated, by dance stories. So, let me have 'em! Who here dances?
* Except that I don't know what to say to girls or how to act around girls, but I guess that's common and comes with practice.
** That isn't to say that dancing is always platonic. It doesn't have to be.
Lol really? I'm starting to think all you bastards have me on ignore.
I think the only dancing here people care about is battle dancing.
I fucking love dancing, but not the pre-planned, pre-arranged, rehearsed official-steps-to it dancing. I just like being in a pub and club, surrounded by people, getting sweaty (oh oh?) and letting my body go free with the music. I totally imagine myself as a 1968 hippie chick, with floaty arms making floaty motions all around me. The thing is I don't really move my legs. They always seem so heavy and immobile that I'm really not sure what to do with them. I'd imagine a class for a formal type of dancing would help with that, but for me dancing is really about freedom and movement and that's east for my arms/torso/hips/knees to do but not so much my feet.
Also, on the whole platonic/flirtatious dancing aspect I would definitely think there's something deeper to dancing than just two people playing an RTS. Like I said, I mainly dance informally in clubs and pubs, but there are definite times when I'm dancing, and make eye contact with someone else having an equally good time and we just seem to sync up with each other. We feed off each other and gain confidence and play with each other (or at least that's what's going through my head, I have no idea what the other person is thinking.) There's just definitely a kind of shared feeling, or empathy between me and the people I dance with. And when the song ends, and you're both sweating and you look at each other and smile, it's a really, really amazing feeling.
I've gone to salsa for about a year, and I love it. It has a shitton of moves at various difficulty levels, and as a guy it forces you to create combos very quickly, while maintaining solid fundamentals. It's easy to get nerdy about. You're also learning moves that are applicable to many other dances you might run into on a Friday night, which is great.
I always leave class with a smile on my face.
I <3 Mrenda and all wannabe hippie chick dancers.
I've only danced a few times in my life and while it can be really fun, I'm way too self-conscious to ever take it up as a regular activity. I do play drums, though, and there are some similarities there. Except the social part - nobody cares about the drummer. :-)
I have a complex about dancing... I've always wished I would do it, but am too self-conscious and afraid of looking like a douchebag. I have to be really drunk before I'll dare.
I've often wanted to take dance lessons/classes, but also felt that would be best in the context of a couple. And I haven't lately been in a couple for long enough that it became possible.
I might have to confront my fears of The Dance. I have weird ideas about age appropriateness. At the ripe age of 37 I feel I would be more suited to ballroom, which takes some training. Or maybe the waltz. Minuet. That thing in Jane Austen movies where people line up and trade places.
I envy those who can go clubbing on a Friday night and just wig out on the dance floor, but honestly I feel too old for that, and in any case my self-consciousness kinda kills the whole thing.
It's frustrating though and surely doesn't help my dating. One thing I have observed is that most women really enjoy dancing.
I love the idea of dance, though. I could watch Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers all day long.
As a person with no rhythm and bad knees dancing intimidates me. So I ignore it. And/or go out of my way to avoid it.
Gordon, it's not too late to take a class, and having no partner isn't a bad thing at all. I mentioned upthread that in classes folks change places all the time so you can get a good feeling of other dancers and practice keeping an independent variable (the new step you're learning) constant while changing a single variable (the partner). I've taken classes both with and without a partner. When I go with a partner, we still make sure to rotate. There's always the couple that will only dance with each other, but they're annoying and the rest of the class tends to ignore them.
If you haven't danced before, I'd recommend starting with a music genre that you like and going from there. Salsa is a pretty easy, versatile, and common dance, but if you hate latin music you may not enjoy salsa.
I'd also recommend going with a University dance club and lesson. The girls are much less jaded and everyone is equally clueless.
World's End Supernova
The last dance thing I did was when I was dating someone who was really into something called blues dancing. She and a handful of other people in LA seemed to think it's really a thing. Yeah, blues dancing.
So I gamely accompanied her to some blues dancing things, including taking a blues dancing lesson. And, uh, it turns out that blues dancing isn't terribly unlike two people just standing in front of each other and swaying. There you go. Blues dancing. Suggestive grappling and writhing is optional. And if you happen to know some swing stuff, you can throw that in there if you feel like it. Blues dancing.
Prior to that, my previous experience with dancing was when a drunk chick abruptly decided that I was going to dip her and -- no joke -- I threw my back out. I actually turned around to see who had punched me in the back. I had to hobble out to the car like the old man that I am and spend the next week walking around doubled over in pain.
Gordo, let's you and me take fire's advice and do dancing lessons at a university. Not together, you know, but you and me. I vote for something without sudden unexpected lurching.
I was a "featured dancer" in my High School's production of the Music Man. Our choreographer was a lady named Dee and she was a brutal task master, draining any of the potential sensuality out of dancing with and lifting of the cute girl I had been paired up with for the Marion Librarian number. 'Course, we used to waltz behind the cutain during intermission and the teenage hormones were in full effect there...
I also can't resist dancing whenever I go see a band I like live. I have a bad back, though, so I usually pay for that for about a week afterward. I've never been able to understand the people who can go to a show and just stand there. How can you not be literally moved by great music?
Originally Posted by fire
Gordon, I used to have the same insecurities, but with some effort you can get rid of them for the rest of your life. As for me I started going to standard / latin classes a few years ago. At this point I was completely clueless, so if anything it taught me proper positioning in relation to the girl, basic rhythm, and so on. It was useful, but not enormously so, so I quit after a couple of months. The same thing might to happen if you enroll in a ballroom class, unless of course you have the opportunity to dance ballroom dances on a regular basis.
I've already talked about salsa, which I consider the most useful, but I also got value out of watching http://www.youtube.com/user/pickupdance and http://www.youtube.com/user/ClubDanceLessons
They both have good material that you can buy, for accelerated learning. It's important to remember though that most people at clubs can't REALLY dance. Most people are doing very similar things. Getting to that point is very easy if you have a tiny sense of rhythm. The confidence boost of being the best dancer in the club, knowing that you've got the attention of most girls? Totally awesome, yet at a salsa club I'm only an intermediate dancer.
The age issue - if you go to a place mostly frequented by people in their early twenties then sure, you're going to stand out, but you know what? As soon as girls can see how much fun whoever you're dancing with is having then somehow magically they don't care. What guys think is inconsequential.
I'm going to assume that you, like me, also have insecurities about going to a club where you don't know many people, or even anyone. There's no other way to get rid of this than by doing it a whole lot, and/or alcohol, and/or going as a group.
To the people saying you're too old, well that's rubbish. Last week I spent the night dancing with some women in their late fifties and early sixties, in a late bar mostly frequented by people in their twenties and early thirties. They gave no fucks, and we spent the night boogying on down and had a blast.
If you can get one other person to dance around, everything becomes a lot easier. And you don't even have to be of the opposite sex. Two guys dancing next to each other and pulling crappy moves is always fun.
And if you are on your own, then just go into the middle of the crowd and elbow a little space and start going at it. I can guarantee you if you let go a little (booze helps here) you will end up dancing with someone for at least a few minutes. And it could be someone way "out of your league" or it could be someone you were eying up a few minutes ago, or it could be the big burly biker dude, or it could be anyone. But start easing yourself into it and people will be attracted to seeing someone giving it a go, and they will give you kudos for it.
Obviously you need the right club or bar though. I was in a place last Friday that was a complete meat market, and it was blatantly obvious the guys were just dancing towards girls they wanted to hook up with and vice versa. Don't do that, don't even dance in a place like that, it won't be fun. It's kind of sad and desperate. I might be being a big old romantic, but dancing is all about the connections you make with someone that might only ever exist on that dance floor for a few minutes. It could be the woman who grabs your hand and does a twirl under it, it could be a high five from someone digging your vibe, it could be swaying along with someone else, or it could be my favourite: when you look up and catch someones eye and exchange an all knowing beaming smile about how much fun your having.
Ok, Tom, let's do it. If nothing else, I could use the experience to write a Vince Vaughan screenplay called 'The Dance Class Crashers.'
Agreed. There's something ageless about dancing.
Originally Posted by Mrenda
When I was younger, my High School was going to put on one of my favorite shows. West Side Story. So of course I signed up. Imagine my surprise when the tryout was all about DANCING. We were in the dance studio in the school. I was fucking TERRIFIED.
Previously I had spent a lot of time with my best friend Jay learning how to sing. And that part i was pretty good at. But the dancing part just pulled the rug right out from under me.
I have and had no rhythm. EVER.
So they made us go through various dance steps. Each was just a bit more complicated. In lines. And as they got more complicated, I fucked up more. Until I finally just gave up.
I was embarrassed, fucking mortified. I wanted to curl up and die. I ended up just walking out of the room crying.
So fix your shitty sense of rhythm?
I have a sad little anecdote here.
I suck at dancing. Back in highschool when we were organising and putting together the matric farewell (Prom to you Americans.) And when we were finished we had a little party and I asked a girl who I'd had a crush on for a dance, thinking that at worst we'd have a laugh at my attempts. Turns out she was a competetive ballroom dancer. It was fucking horrible, humiliating and that 4 minute song lasted about 3 hours.
That pretty much put me off dancing for a few years. The next time I danced was with a woman at a pub who was a friend of a friend. Somehow we just worked together, danced for most of the night and we were both pretty good. It was awesome.
I've tried dancing a few more times since then and I've never found a partner who has recaptured that feeling of connectedness and being in synch on the dancefloor.
RichVR: I don't know if that story is endearing and cute, or heartbreaking. What an awful experience for you! Buuuuuut, that's everyone's experience with high school in some aspect or another -- right? And since then we've all grown up -- right?
I've danced with leads that have, erm, less than a good grasp of the beat. It's a challenge, because as a follow, it's my job to do as they do and not as the music says. I still don't really know how to handle this. If I know the lead or know that s/he is a new dancer, I might try to help get on rhythm. If I don't, then I just follow along as best as I can, and hope it doesn't make me look like I'm off.
Brendan, Mrenda: It's interesting that you both talk about a feeling of connectedness in club/no-steps dancing. I never have this feeling in any ballroom or swing dance, although I have had partners with whom the dancing seems to flow better than others for a variety of reasons (styling? space to do neat backled moves? frame? momentum?) and I find myself returning to them again and again because it's so fun to feel that way.
Tom, Gordon: I would totally dance with you guys next time I'm in LA. But not at the same time, because that would be weird.
I've danced a fair bit. Some competitive ballroom as a student, some salsa, and tango these days. I went over to Cuba to see salsa there and took a couple of months' tango lessons in Buenos Aires. It's probably been my main social thing as an adult - I met my wife on a tango floor.
If I were making recommendations, I'd say do whatever has a real social scene where you live, and an established way of getting men into it. That means classes :) Classes vary hugely in how enjoyable they are - if you can't find a bunch of people you like, try elsewhere. 95% of men feel pretty awkward, but the skills are designed to be learned :) It's unlikely ballroom has a social scene attached wherever you are - it seems to be the domain of students, retirees and professionals now. Tango is of course queen of dances, but it's not super common in the US.
What style of dance interests you, fire? Lindy in the Park sounds like some kind of swing? In NY they have a few regular open air tango events, so we've danced in Central Park and on one of the Piers the last few weeks. Not great 'floors' but a nice atmosphere. This is a friend of mine from the UK demoing a Tango waltz step I like. I don't think I look that good :)
Last edited by Alistair; 06-22-2012 at 11:43 AM.
My favorite is lindy hop (eight-count swing), and variations on it like bal-swing and balboa. I've taken a tango class, but I hated the class (they made us walk backwards for the first two one-hour lessons. Backwards! for two hours! and that's it!) so never picked up on the dance.
You're right about finding what kind of dancing is done locally, and this can take a bit of google-fu, or searching around a bit on Facebook for local dancing groups and events. In my area, there's a decent lindy scene, but you can find just about anything. You can even go out and dance social ballroom several times a week if you feel like it. And there's a waltz-only event that happens at least once a month. Doesn't that sound awesome?
My experience, with one exception (salsa in the park in Boston), has been that anything called "in the park" will have concrete or asphalt floors, but awesome people and a light and inviting vibe.
Yeah the Lindy (Hop) is swing. It's a wonderful style of dance that you can really put your personality into.
I also wanted to echo fire's sentiment about dancing in general. When it really clicked for me was when I was able to think about it in game-ish terms and knew enough to start building 'combos' and the like. It's kind of interesting because in a beginner's Lindy class, they are going to teach you the basic 8-count step, and that's what you can always go back to if you don't know what else to do.
You can then build up one or two simple turns and put those into your basic step at the appropriate time. As you learn new moves, you can begin to imagine how they might pair together and flow with the music in a natural way.
This is all coming from someone who was terrified of dancing (seriously, the first time I went I just sat in the corner). It's always great to go with someone, I'd even recommend a same-sex friend since it's less about some romantic connection and more about having fun. Obviously, I don't mean you dance with each other (though that's cool too, a guy friend of mine would follow me often and it's a weird way to get lots of attention), but going with someone allows you to laugh and joke about stuff and go over what you may have missed.
I used to ask people to dance half way through a piece just so I'd only have to think of stuff to do for 90s. Whatever it takes, man :)
Two hours of walking backward probably isn't the best start to tango. Deary me.
Last edited by Alistair; 06-22-2012 at 12:32 PM.
It wasn't quite no-steps dancing. It wasn't quite nightclub gyrating, it was just dancing to the music, smetimes step dancing slowly, sometimes more of a Samba, Swing or Tango. I don't know enough about dancing to describe it. It was a gumbo of dancing.
Originally Posted by fire
It definitely helps if there is a sexual attraction that builds during the night and as you dance it becomes an extended foreplay session. I'm guessing in a class it's a more sterile experience.
Oh, I missed this! And I completely agree! I can't go watch, e.g., a jazz band at a fancy symphony hall. You want me to just sit there and clap politely when the song is over? I think not! I'm the girl walking up and down the isles, asking random octogenarians to dance with me. Worst date ever? You decide.
Originally Posted by Brad Grenz
I really get this. It's like playing with someone, and sharing with someone, a bit of back and forth of will you do this if I do that, will you mirror me, will you pull away or come closer, will you tease me or tell me what to do? And at the end of it there's a big beautiful smile.
Originally Posted by Brendan
Shuma: A friend of mine did swing classes for quite a while, I guess it was ~normal~ swing. Now he's moved onto lindy but he's having trouble. If there was one tip I could give him (and sound knowledgable in the process) what would it be?
In my experience, lindy -- more than any other dance -- is about exchange of momentum, and so requires a solid frame. Most moves are accomplished by shifting your center of mass, not by moving your arms (as in salsa cubana). The partner needs to also have a solid frame so that s/he can pick up on the subtle changes in center of mass.
Originally Posted by Mrenda
I agree with fire. To add on, for leads a firmly held left arm is very helpful in guiding pretty much all activities and it will make things feel better for both dancers. You don't want spaghetti arms.
Also, get the basic down PAT. Practice that 8-count timing over and over. Know where you are supposed to at the key points in the step (1 t 4 and back). Get the rhythm of the steps down in your head and even out loud. 1 - 2 - 3and4, 5 - 6 7and8. Over and over.
Once you have the basic swing out mastered, you can add in the turns and flourishes you learned for the jitterbug. That's my one (ahem) tip.