Thursday, September 29, 2011

Men who don't dance and the women who love them

A friend, here under the protection of the name "Moira", sent an e-mail recently, describing a party at which her sixtyish husband, whom I'll call "Jack" danced.

This was a remarkable event; in their long marriage he neither danced nor expressed any desire to do so. But for some reason, at this party, he shed his inhibitions and shook his groove thang. He had a terrific time, though the future is still unclear.

If you love to dance and if your partner does not, you spend a life dancing with your girlfriends, their brothers or just yourself. I can relate: Le Duc will dance at a party or wedding, but the term "go dancing" is as attractive to him as "skin endangered Himalayan snow leopards".

I asked him why so many men do not like to dance. His answer was immediate: "They fear losing their dignity and looking incompetent."

Some persons have an innate musicality that they enjoy expressing through movement, and others do not. Just like athletic skill, movement is a talent; everyone has some, but great dancers have an easy grace. Men do not seem to realize they don't have to be great, we just wanna dance.

Alcohol played a part in Jack's deliverance unto the beat. A few belts does loosen up a wallflower, but is not essential. What the male needs is the required mental shift, the moment where he decides, Hey, this might be fun.

Jack, a dear and deep uber-WASP, seemed to think dancing is not quite manly. I reminded Moira that, in many cultures and religious traditions, males dance with pride and virility. But once frat days are over, this is not the case for WASP guys. You find a few men who cannot wait for the music to start, but the majority head for the patio, hoping someone else, anyone else, will ask their partners to dance.

Le Duc had his own deliverance at a salsa club. He watched men of all ages and abilities deeply enjoying themselves. He noticed a young buck of twenty-two come into the club with a backpack, set it carefully at the edge of the floor, seize a partner and execute a joyful mambo with that At Last! look on his face. He caught the endorphin-lit bliss of a rotund, suave 60-year-old in a guyabera.

And lo, Le Duc said, "I want to take salsa lessons." 

When men (or women, but I don't know any) refuse to dance, they miss out on a joyful, community-building, sensual, playful and stress-reducing activity.

Let's encourage boys and young men to dance! Square dances, raves, drum circles, ballroom competitions, jumping around the kitchen to Odd Future: whatever works. We can stress the athletic element, if they prefer that. But if boys don't move rhythmically, men don't dance.

We won't scare them with codified rituals and formality unless they seek that level of refinement. But let's not let them sit this one out. 

Life is to short not to dance through it, even if you're a guy.

33 comments:

Vivienne said...

bless you for writing this - I have one of these men, and some day, we're taking ballroom dancing lessons! Some day...
big hug,
Vivienne

coffeeaddict said...

A few years ago a friend of mine went to Cuba. Once back from her travel she hosted a Cuban night at her house. During the course of the evening she had an idea to held an impromptu salsa lesson. Mr C was one of the first to join in eager to try a new dance. I stayed behind. In our case I'm usually the one to pass dancing because I fear how klutzy and graceless I might look.

Bourbon&Pearls said...

I never dance, I utterly loathe it and just the thought of it stresses me out. Even at balls or galas, I leave after dinner rather than go through the whole "come and dance tussle"

Pam @ over50feeling40 said...

I feel convicted...I and my children have made so much fun of my husband that I do not know if he would take a class. But I think I will encourage him to...i would love to learn ballroom dancing.

kathy peck said...

A timely post. Last night my husband and I were having dinner with very good friends, and the other woman and I were trying to convince our husbands to take dancing lessons. Not interested - at all!!!
Going to keep trying.

déjà pseu said...

Le monsieur is not a dancer by nature, but he will go along if we're at a function and I really want to dance. We've talked about taking some salsa or swing lessons sometime, think I need to elevate the priority on this. I LOVE to dance and so rarely have the opportunity anymore.

Anonymous said...

I am exactly the same as Bourbon&amp, I hate dancing and avoid weddings wherever possible because of it. There are plenty of women that don't like it either. I have zero coordination and don't find it enjoyable in the least.

Mardel said...

I am not very coordinated, but love to dance anyway. I always felt very fortunate in having a husband who loved to dance, although that wasn't really the case when I first met him. We took a few lessons, he gave it a try and eventually became a convert. I miss those days.

materfamilias said...

Paul has always been a good sport and will dance if I'm itching to, but has been known to fight the rhythm and, to be honest, neither of us have moves much beyond 60s/70s anything-goes swaying with a few inspirations from my years of Dynafit classes (not good, right?) We've been talking for years about taking dance classes, except the living in different cities didn't work. But now he's retired and I saw a sign at the community centre about classes the other day -- and now you post this. The one big push we need --- thanks!

hostess of the humble bungalow said...

My husband will dance but it is not high on his list of things to do..I have a girlfriend whose husband NEVER dances and so we gals usually dance together.
I would rather not make anyone feel uncomfortable so I do not put any pressure on those reluctant to shake a leg.
It is lovely to watch a couple who really can dance, they have obviously taken lessons for all the fancy footwork.

Artful Lawyer said...

Ah yes, I am not a good dancer, but Detroit/R&B/funk raised I have no problem moving, and moving with rhythm. Poor dear husband, of Canadian High Anglican stock, remains rooted to the ground, terrified of the unfamiliar tribal beat. Then again, perhaps it's just his engineering training that makes him beat averse...

Duchesse said...

Vivienne: Maybe that's generational; my sons dance without them but do not perform the formal dances. If lessons lead a man to lose his fear of looking silly, lessons it is.

Bourbon&Pearls: I feel that way about golf!

Pam: Some me are happier with just "pub dancing", you know, like you do at a blues bar. Others will only ever dance once equipped with lessons. And others will not, period.

kathy peck: To salsa you need some instruction, but our local salsa clubs do that informally. You just show up at 8pm for a free 45 min lesson b/f the band plays. That's what we did, it was low key and fun.

pseu: I could not get into the world of long-term lessons and levels but know some couples who have and they adore it. They say great exercise and de-stressing.

Anonymous: If a person can walk, he or she can dance- *if* the person is interested. (I have even attended wheelchair dances.) Some dance forms require less coordination than driving. And no one *has* to dance, especially if they don't enjoy anything about it.

Mardel: Same here, and it's puzzling to me that so many people think they have to be good at something in order to enjoy it.

ma: Here's that dance-killer thought again, We have to be good at something to enjoy it. So what if we look like Richard Simmons in a skirt, if it's fun? On the other hand, I can see how satisfying it would be to step on the floor and execute a cool mambo!

hostess: I don't put pressure on people either. Much as I admire a graceful gliding couple, I'm pretty happy with just jumping around to "Mustang Sally".

Artful: Have same background as you. Some men do love to dance, (even engineers); as I say, they don't have to be good to have fun.

rb said...

I have always told my college aged nephew that if he really wants to be popular with the girls, he should dance with them. Girls all want to dance. But, no, he is too cool and stands on the sidelines with the rest of the dudes.

My husband loves to dance and I am grateful for it.

Me, I'm a dancing fool and will dance anywhere, anytime.

There is more dignity in a "real" style of dancing like swing or salsa, so I think your husband is on to something.

JJP said...

Je pense que la dance est une affaire de famille. On both side grand-fathers were dancers and they would dance at all family parties. So I guess it seemed normal for men to follow suit! These uncles are now in their 60-70-80 and still dancing! My father, until he passed away, was such a happy dancer – he would like nothing more than invite us, his beautiful girls, to twirl on the dance floor or the kitchen floor! Ah, souvenirs…

Duchesse said...

JJP: Lovely memoir of a culture of dance, thank you! Those dances sound so warm and happy.

Duchesse said...

rb: What one of my (professional) dancer friends calls "fancy dance" is impressive, but there is so much more!

I've had a blast trying out Swedish folk dances, line dances and dances one teacher called "Dances of Peace", done in a circle.

In many cultures there are levels of dance: a casual, free-form style and then the formal dances which take months, sometimes years, to learn to do well.

Nancy said...

I danced for many years--ballet, modern, folk, swing, ballroom--until foot injuries sidelined me. (I still hold out hope, however.) At one point I dated a fellow dancer, but I usually showed up alone. I really prefer to dance with a variety of partners rather than the one I happen to be in a relationship with.

By the way, men (and women) with pronounced left-brainism often experience a transformation when they learn Argentine Tango, of all things. Despite its reputation as an uninhibited, passionate dance, tango is actually very analytical and meditative. It's 80% about listening and nonverbal communication and only 20%, if that, about self-expression. I know many engineers and computer programmers who excel at tango for those reasons.

(By the way, these observations do not apply to American Tango or International Tango--the varieties you see on "Dancing with the Stars" and other competitions. Totally different dances.)

Duchesse said...

Nancy: You have armed some readers with very persuasive points. There is an Argentine Tango club who practice in a gazebo directly across from my bldg. What a pleasure to watch! Now I will look with new eyes.

Tango seems to me like learning bridge: once you have learned the moves and built a bit of confidence, it's enjoyable, before then, nerve-wracking.

Susan Tiner said...

I love this post. Martin and I dance like Mater and Paul, 60s/70s anything goes, preferably at home by ourselves :).

Like others, we've talked about taking dancing lessons but it never seems to happen, probably because our choir commitment is all consuming, and anyway singing is music too!

Duchesse said...

Susan Tiner: Many couples enjoy dancing to the music of their youth, above any other era. I was at a 60th birthday party when the guests told the twentyish dj to please play some oldies so they could dance.

Rubi said...

I also wish that men at social events still felt some responsibility to dance with a representational sample of the women present, not just with "the one that brung 'em." At the last three weddings I attended (solo) I danced only with my step-dad and my very young nephews.

Or is that just a U.S. thing?

Duchesse said...

Rubi: That was the etiquette my mother imparted, but given how few men dance socially anymore (will it become a lost art?) that means some men would be dancing nonstop. omg, I actually remember when a man would cut in.

I know an 50ish single man who loves to dance and plans a p/t retirement career on a cruise ship, Apparently men who can dance (and are well-mannered) are hired as dance partners, with very specific orders to ask all the women in turn for a dance.

Tiffany said...

I'm a woman who doesn't dance. I have no natural musicality or rhythm and like B&P and Anonymous, going to any event where I might be expected to dance fills me with horror. Oddly, I loved dancing as a kid. I don't know what happened.

Duchesse said...

Tiffany: Do not know any women like you three so really appreciate hearing from you. Guess you might feel relief and ease being around partner or friends who do not like to dance.

Jane M said...

DH and I have taken basic ballroom, Latin and swing lessons and I love that we go dancing about a dozen times or more a year. But he's too anxious to dance with anyone else but me. I must say that it's been wonderful for our marriage and has been the basis for some of my fondest memories together. Thanks for reminding me how fortunate I am.

Terri said...

Oh, I heartily approve of this post. And it has given me pause. My husband is so reluctant to dance, but my grandson will try anything on the dance floor. At our recent family wedding, DH dutifully danced with me and then each of the three daughters. And called that good. We need to discuss...

Duchesse said...

Jane M: If a woman enjoys dancing and has a willing partner, that's certainly an occasion for gratitude.

Terri: If DH does not enjoy dancing, he may never change- or he may prefer an informal setting. (Le Duc likes salsa clubs but fades at a wedding or in a ballroom.) Hope your grandson keeps dancing!

Marie-Christine said...

Interesting. I had great fun at salsa class all last year myself, after something like 20 years of non-dancing. Some of what unblocked me was a talk with a friend who spent time at the same large-university-which-will-remain-unnamed and where dancing was considered a competitive event. I'm perfectly willing to make a fool of myself, and had on many occasions before, but I'm not willing to be judged solely on that basis. I think what tipped me over the edge was the imitations of stupid dancing styles of other academic spouses..

I'm actually convinced that it's perfectly OK to do stuff badly. I swim badly, ski badly, canoe badly, and enjoy them all tremendously, perhaps even better because I don't feel any urge to do them well. Dancing ought to be the same.

Duchesse said...

Marie-Christine: I've seen people make fun of other people's dancing (and singing, and cooking and on and on). It's mean-spirited, and a behaviour that we might strive to drop once past high school. You have captured the essence of how I feel now: do whatever activity draws you, badly or not, without competition.

An insistence on for excellence is a real joy-killer.

And "badly" is relative. When my friend Jeanne, a North-American ranked bridge player, "plays badly" it is quite different from my "playing badly".

Anonymous said...

Help - I just bought my first, of what I thought might be many, Eric Bompard cashmere sweaters this summer in Paris. It's light, it's pink, it was to be the start of a more classic wardrobe. Unfortunately, the first day I wore it last week, the temperature rose to 29 degrees in the sun and the chemical fumes coming off the sweater were horrible. And no, it wasn't me.
I had forgotten why I don't wear cashmere, but I never expected this from a quality product. Any ideas how I can get that smell out?

Duchesse said...

Anonymous: Wash it! Directions for washing cashmere, here:
http://www.realsimple.com/beauty-fashion/clothing-care/how-to-wash-cashmere-00000000031600/index.html

(I wash mine in a mesh bag on the delicate cycle/cold water in the machine, with baby shampoo, and dry flat.)

Dry cleaning puts more chemicals on the sweater. Washing is better for cashmere than d/c unless there is are multiple colours and you are not sure of colour fastness.

I've never had the issue myself with Bompard (or other brands) but if the odor is not out after washing, I'd return the sweater, noting the problem, with your request for exchange, credit or refund.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the suggestions. I've done one wash & a slow dry flat in the shade of the Gatineau Hills. It's much better, but I will give it another try following their instructions. Thanks again for your help

sallymandy said...

I've always been happy that my otherwise quite introverted and reserved hubby doesn't mind shaking it a bit on a dance floor. He has rhythm and he's coordinated. He doesn't embarrass easily.

We have enjoyed "contra" dancing put on every winter by a local folk music group.