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.