If you are married to, the partner of, going out with, or just met… a ‘bloke’, do please read this. And then get your bloke to read it. You may both thank me.
Just over three years ago, in an effort to stay fit, my wife took up line dancing. It didn’t go well. Occasionally she would come home after a session on the dance floor with a smile on her face and a jig in her step, and reach for a glass of ‘sauv’ in celebration. More often than not though she’d arrive home looking crestfallen, muttering something about a car-crash and reach for a glass of ‘sauv’ to lift her spirits. Line dancing didn’t last long.
There is a bloke who lives just up the road; he’s over six foot, an ex-rugby player and built like a brick outhouse. One day the pair of us were doing some forestry work and he suggested that perhaps I should give salsa dancing a go… ‘no chance!’ was my immediate and unequivocal response.
Some weeks later, my mate once again posed the question about me maybe giving salsa a crack… ‘you’ve gotta be kidding me!’ was my terse reply. However, on this occasion, I did mention it to my wife, who, after her recent experiences was even less enthusiastic than I was. Nevertheless, at some point it occurred to me that through our forty odd years together, we had shared our lives, but not much in the way of hobbies, so as time went on I started to view this dancing shenanigans in a different light. Also, I’d read articles about how older people can most effectively stay fit and stave off dementia; dancing was right up there near the top of the list. Maybe I should reconsider?
Another week or so went by and my mate gave it another go. It became clear that he had an ulterior motive for wanting to recruit me; dance classes are always short of blokes. This time I suggested that he should have a go at persuading my ‘better half’, because there was no way I was going on my own. My wife, albeit reluctantly, caved in.
We gave it a go. And we’re still at it. Okay, I’ll never be any good, but it is fun, good exercise and a great way to meet people.
It is not my intention to try and inform anyone about how to dance. However, the experience of learning has given me an insight into the psychology of ‘bloke dancing’ and the enjoyment that an average bloke can derive from it, so this is what I’m going to share.
Will you look daft?
Absolutely not! There is always a shortage of male leads (blokes). I often quip that I have never been so popular with the ladies, but strewth, at times popularity on the dance floor can be exhausting! My point is that from the moment you can manage the most basic of steps, you will literally be welcomed with open arms.
Overcoming an initial lack of self-confidence is a major obstacle for anyone embarking on something like this though; particularly us blokes. I overcame this in part by resorting to the good old standby – Google. Salsa, and from what I can make out, most other dances have a few basic beginner steps. Once you and your partner, or even you on your own have made the decision to give a particular dance style a shot, then check out the basic steps online, listen to some typical music that suits the style you are going for and get an insight; this will help you to relax when the instructor says ‘okay folks, we’re going to do a mambo.’ Oh, and most importantly, don’t take yourself too seriously; it’s fun if it goes right and, with a sense of humour, just as much fun when it goes wrong!
Find a comfortable dance class
I use the word ‘comfortable’ because before setting foot on a dance floor you need to examine your motive. If you want to dance like Fred Astaire and win prizes, then you’ve left it too late mate, you should’ve started years ago. If you just want to have some fun with like-minded people and discover new friends through a shared interest, then you need to find a class that welcomes beginners and places enjoyment ahead of expertise. If you are lucky enough to have a mate living up the road who already dances and can give you an introduction then good for you. If not, then go along to a class, have a chat and see what they are like. The instructors should be welcoming, enjoy what they do and their pupils should clearly be having fun. If not, then find somewhere else.
From my limited experience, dance classes run in cycles, so find out when the next series of beginner classes start and give it a shot. And, this is most important, give it at least a month before deciding if you are going to stick it out. Sometime during that first month you will hopefully experience your ‘eureka moment’.
I can only relate to my own experiences here, but for me there were three.
- All of a sudden, the music took control of me and I no longer needed to try and fit myself into it. I guess this means that I had developed a sense of rhythm. It felt great!
- And then, armed with that newfound sense of rhythm I found myself partnering someone who could really dance; in that moment I realised what it was all about. I was hooked!
- And best of all, while my wife and I were applying our basic steps to an Argentine tango, I realised that she instinctively knew what was coming before I’d even thought of leading it and whoosh, we merged into a single rhythmic entity…magic!
Dance with strangers
The main reason for dancing is to enjoy it with your partner. After all, this is a hobby you can share. However, if you are both beginners, then sticking to each other like a limpet to a rock will hold you both back. You’ll soon understand why…
- It doesn’t matter how loving, considerate and perfect your relationship is, when you first dance together and it goes wrong, you’ll blame each other and a ‘domestic’ will ensue; believe me, it will!
- If you stick with just your partner, you’ll miss the opportunity of learning by example from people who are much better dancers than you.
- If you just stick with your partner, then you’ll miss the benefit of social interaction and the opportunity to make some great mates.
Trust, respect and consideration
When you dance with a stranger you will need all of the above attributes and so will they. This is obvious when you think about it;
- The dance hold is an embrace that you must both feel comfortable and secure in. Be aware of where your hands and feet are AND CONCENTRATE! My problem has been absentmindedly straightening out the odd annoyingly twisted bra strap; fine when I happened to be partnering my wife, but not on when dancing with a stranger. Incidentally, if any of my dance partners are reading this, then please accept my sincere apologies!
- It’s the blokes job to lead. Your dance partner will know that this is not easy and they will cut you slack. If you cock-it-up, then apologise, smile, pick up the rhythm and give it another go. If your partner cocks-it-up then apologise (yes mate, it may not be your fault, but you are leading, so say sorry anyway!), smile, pick up the rhythm and give it another go. After all, it’s our job to make the lady look good; and on that subject…
- Showing off won’t go down too well.
- We have more recently embarked upon learning the Argentine tango. This is a very sensual dance (when done properly, so for us, maybe not-so-much), so remembering the above is very important when dancing with a stranger. And remember, just because a style of dance can be danced in a very close embrace, doesn’t mean that it has to be!
Support and enjoy the novices
Many years ago, I taught people to scuba dive. One of the highlights was escorting a novice on their first open water dive. Before entering the water they were gripped by excitement and fear in equal measure. After the dive they were filled with joy and wonderment. In my experience, dancing is similar.
In the beginning I was very apprehensive, but thanks to some supportive and encouraging dance partners, apprehension soon melted away. Nowadays we always join in with the beginner class; in a way this is one of the most rewarding aspects of going to a dance school. A group of non-dancers come along with their non-dancing partners, they do a couple of steps, and then our instructor calls… ‘leads stay where you are and followers move around one.’ For most people this is a terrifying shock; it certainly was for us when we started. But, as you welcome the novice into hold and try to put them at ease, their look of horror soon turns to a smile. And, once they have completed a couple of circuits, it’s ‘high-fives’ all the way!
Blokes of all ages could benefit from giving dancing a go:
- If you’re a young bloke, then bear in mind that dancing was how your grandparents enjoyed themselves and may well be how they met in the first place. Your mates will probably take the pxxx (so don’t tell them!), but you’ll have the last laugh when the music starts and you demonstrate flair on the dance floor.
- If you are in the ‘middle years’ and the kids have fled, then dancing is a hobby that you and your ‘other half’ can enjoy together.
- I’ve witnessed some good friendships and partnerships develop through dancing. Having a shared interest is a great start, so you never know…?
- Considerable physical and mental health benefits can be derived from dance. Check out… https://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/getting-started-guides/Pages/getting-started-dancing.aspx
- And finally, if you live in the East Devon/West Dorset area, then I can wholeheartedly recommend salsa sabai.