9 Reasons to Take Ballroom Dancing Seriously

jamesjosephThe Game21 Comments




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.

21 Comments on “9 Reasons to Take Ballroom Dancing Seriously”

  1. Great advice on an essential skill, James! In many cultures, the word for dance and sing are one in the same, to them it is unthinkable that a person can do neither. It is the original form of peacocking in that someone who could afford to spend time on a nonessential skill must have everything else taken care of and therefore ideal mating material. Music is a natural progression from there and explains the band groupie phenomenon!

    If dancing isn’t manly enough, I’ve found that martial arts training lends itself very well to the dancefloor. Timing and balance are very important to both, if you don’t know how to dance but you can match your partners’ rhythm and movement, you’ll have held your own and scored high marks!

    1. Flyboy, I like your peacocking theory. And, as I argue in this piece, even just a modest amount of ability can attract attention. That’s because most guys won’t dance and most guys who do dance, can’t dance.

      I found that the martial arts also helped with discipline, movement technique, creating nice lines with my body and visual smarts (like the ability to observe others and replicate what they’re doing). While it will not help someone to hear the beat, it may help in stepping on the beat (timing), which is an issue of coordination (i.e., it’s possible to hear the beat but still be off time because of awkwardness).

      Good suggestion on mirroring your partner’s rhythm and movement (albeit, more applicable to freestyle dancing than partner dancing). Mirroring is a body language technique for building rapport with anyone.

      Really, what guy doesn’t like music? What HB doesn’t like a guy who’s into music? What guy hasn’t tapped his foot to music? Moving to music, like tapping your foot or dancing, is a natural extension of liking music. I wonder, do guys take themselves too seriously with their hang-ups about dance?

  2. Great article! I’ve been considering taking dance lessons for a while now. This gives me all the more reason to do it.

  3. I have a good IOI for dancing. While abroad in Germany, I have been going to dance clubs quite a bit. This IOI is for dancing atmospheres where it can get close (grinding) and is a good nonverbal IOI because it is usually too loud to hear any conversation

    -Spin the girl away from you and then spin her back close to you (allows you to get closer in a respectable manner)
    -dance closely with her for a few minutes
    -separate yourself, a couple feet away (a good time to bust out your specialty move)
    -It is an IOI if she comes back to you and dances close again

    In the same situation, if a girl is dancing with you and her back is to you use the spin move so you are face to face. I did this with a girl a couple times and after a minute she would turn around again. I usually kiss the girl in this position. So if she stays front to front it is an IOI.

    1. Dewey, while I believe you’re talking about freestyle dancing, you make a couple of good points that apply to partner dancing. First, when you’re in the common ballroom hold (aka closed position) and are separated by, say, 3 or 4 inches, it can be awkward to quickly close the gap. As you suggest, giver her a spin or an underarm turn and when you come back together you can position yourself in a more natural way to be closer. The other point you make is that sometimes she helps to close the gap. This, of course, is ideal.

  4. Thanks a lot! Seriously, thanks man! I’m even presently considering dance and voice lessons. I guess the quest for self improvement is never ending.

  5. My game has completely changed after I started attending classes in ballroom dancing. Not to mention that my social circle has dramatically increased!

  6. This article inspired me to take dance lessons this summer to both add a new skill to my personal toolbox and to level up my game when confronted with a dance floor. I’ve only had one lesson, and I am 100% convinced that it was an excellent decision. As luck would have it, the primary instructor I’ll be working with is pretty attractive too so the lessons will be a chance to both work on learning dance as well as run through some routines – particularly work on my hired gun game.

  7. I was inspired to continue my dancing lessons when my husband (my fiance back then) enrolled to a dance class in preparation for our wedding. We became closer to each other, and my self-esteem has improved since then.

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