You don’t have to like to dance. Nor do you have to be good at it or do it very often. But when a dance floor confronts a man, he better have a bit of game.
You could try to deflect and not be bothered by your fear and refusal to dance. It might work. But I found that it was more embarrassing, and it took more effort, to avoid dancing than to man up and lead a lady through a shuffle or sway. I also found that there are things to do to survive even if you can’t dance (the subject of a future post). Think of it this way: the ability to entertain a woman on the dance floor for three minutes is one of those skills that every guy should know, like changing a tire.
For the record, I used to be rhythmically challenged and I used to fear dancing. While I can now hear the beat, I still have zero talent in dance. But I have some ability, probably average ability, and I can do a credible dance. That’s all you need to do to impress. That’s because most guys can’t dance. (Guess what? Most women can’t dance either.)
Consider the following—and reconsider your stance on dance:
1) It’s macho
Even though a lot of American men don’t give it much respect, the ability to dance is considered macho in many cultures around the world. Still, America admires men who dance. From soldiers who swing danced during World War II, to big name athletes who compete and kick butt dancing on TV, to macho characters in film who dance, a man who dances is seen as cultured and suave. Ballroom dancing first caught my eye when I was a kid watching James Bond—who danced and got the girl. Emmitt Smith, NFL’s all-time leading rusher and winner of ABC’s Dancing with the Stars, said it best: “If someone came up to me and said, ‘real men don’t dance,’ I’m gonna tell him real men try to do things that they think they cannot do, and that’s the difference between another man and a real man.” Even if your pot-bellied-beer-buddy thinks it’s not macho, the HB tapping her foot thinks it is. Besides, I bet your buddy secretly wishes he knew how.
2) It’s part of the mating ritual
Dance as a mating ritual goes back for centuries in Western culture. Dance as a mating ritual goes back for eons in the animal kingdom. Some say there’s a correlation between the ability to dance and having good genes. Is it possible that we’re hard-wired to dance to attract a mate?
3) You will come face-to-face with a dance floor many times in life
Whether you’re sarging, on a date, at a concert, on a cruise, at a party, at a formal, or at a wedding reception—egads, how about your own wedding—you’ll face a variety of dance floors as you go through life. How you react reveals character. If you fear dance and show it, it smacks of an AFC. I used to go to great pains to avoid dancing—and I felt like a social misfit. An alpha male confronts a dance floor with aplomb. Be strategic. You’re one cool cat if you think you can handle a dance floor without any practice.
4) It provides social proofing
There are three ways dance can social proof. First, there’s both a tradition and a popular culture of men dancing (see #1). At an event with dancing it’s what men are expected to do. It’s the correct behavior. Second, if women will dance with you, it shows the wisdom of the crowd. You’re vetted. Third, if you can dance well, it demonstrates a skill, which some correlate with being a good mate (see #2). You can DHV yourself.
5) Meet and open women with minimal effort—even if you can’t dance
Partner dancing is the original speed dating. When you’re at a social dance, you’re not only expected to ask women to dance, the proper etiquette is for women to accept (it’s not like a disco or nightclub where they give you attitude or refuse). You don’t even need much rap because dance is nonverbal and the opener is a routine with a mandatory script: “Hi, would you like to dance?” For PUA-wannabes who suffer from nerves, a dance class is a remarkably easy venue to meet women. If the class regularly rotates partners, which most classes do, you’ll have a chance to say hello and dance with many women with no effort and risk free. If it’s a beginners’ class, you don’t even have to know how to dance.
6) Women dig guys who can dance
Women like to dance. At an event with dancing, the ability to dance will make you more popular. Most men can’t dance so just a bit of dance chops will elevate you in the pack. Even if you can’t dance, just the willingness to step onto the floor, to take a risk, will score points.
7) Flirting is mandatory
While this varies from partner to partner and dance to dance, much of the styling is overt flirting. The very nature of dancing requires a lot of touching and body contact, which a guy with game can turn into kino. Come on, with the right partner, it’s foreplay. Even for the timid, it’s a good way to get comfortable touching strange women (I mean strangers, not weirdos). Swing dance instructor Mario Robau said it best (this may sound exaggerated, and it could be abused by a creep, but it’s mostly true): “Dancing is an amazing activity. You can go up to a gorgeous woman that you’ve never met before, spend three minutes touching her virtually anywhere on her body, and she thanks you for it afterwards!”
8) You will become more rhythmic and enjoy listening to all music more
I bet you’re not as rhythmic as you think, if at all. Going through life rhythmically challenged is a drag. The first step in dance is to learn how to hear the beat. You can do this at home, alone, or anywhere there’s music, and you can train yourself to connect to music at a deep, visceral level. It’s fun because you do it by listening—actively listening—to your favorite tunes. If you want to start now, check out the “hear the beat” page in my website.
9) Learn to move your body with confidence, style and grace
A highly evolved man should be aware of his body and in control of his movements. In the beginning, I was a dork. Over time, I learned how to move and how to create nice lines. My body got trained. Ballroom dancing can teach you some of the simplest things, like how to stand taller and walk with confidence.
You don’t need to dance to be a successful PUA, although confidence around a dance floor will embellish your PUA persona. The ability to dance, even just a little, bestows a level of social sophistication that every man should seek. Can you be a Renaissance man if you run when they play a waltz? I think not. And you’re in grave danger if you think you’re going to sneak through life and never have to stare down a dance floor. When I’m dancing and I look out at the crowd, I see the men who refuse to dance. Their arms are folded, their faces are sullen and there is fear in their eyes. I know how it feels because I was there, and it sucks. These men should take dance more seriously.
QUESTION FOR ANY DANCERS IN THE HOUSE: What kind of IOIs have you gotten on the dance floor?
James Joseph is the author of Every Man’s Survival Guide to Ballroom Dancing. He used to be rhythmically challenged. His fear of the dance floor was epic. Inspired by watching James Bond, who could do anything including dance and get the girl, he confronted his fear. He took his first beginners’ class in 1984 and he may hold the record for the most beginners’ classes ever taken. Since 1996 he has trained under Skippy Blair, who is considered by many the teacher of teachers. He’s now a GSDTA certified dance instructor.