What dance classes should a single 35 year old man take?
February 1, 2011 11:18 AM   Subscribe

As a single 35 yr old guy living in Los Angeles, I want to take a dance class to meet people, improve posture, and gain self-confidence. I am totally clueless as to what style to learn. Any ideas?

Latin dances like salsa and tango don't appeal (too stylized). I am looking for something that will give me moves I could use on a dance floor when Billy Jean comes on, without looking totally out of place.
posted by Conductor71 to Grab Bag (17 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Well, just to comment that Salsa is not as stylized as you may think (certainly nowhere near where Tango is), and it has become very popular with the girls. Guys who can dance Salsa can go into a club where that music is playing and have a large selection of willing ladies to dance with.
posted by eas98 at 11:25 AM on February 1, 2011

The dance you would do to Billy Jean without looking out of place wouldn't be one you learned in a class. Take classes in swing or Lindy — which are less rigorously stylized than salsa or tango — and you will meet many women, and gain the rhythm and self-confidence that will also help you free dance to funk and disco.
posted by nicwolff at 12:12 PM on February 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

A friend of mine is a dancer and I was asking her this (the dancefloor bit) a few years ago - she responded by teaching me merengue. It was a pretty good bet, as you're constantly moving your feet and it's a lot about the hips, and that plus confidence is 90% of not looking out of place on a dancefloor, as I've discovered.

Obviously, you won't replicate any dance style exactly without looking like a loon, but learning to be in control of your body and use each bit of it will translate just fine. If I can find a hip-hop/dancehall class when I've next got time, I'm planning on doing that to move on a bit further.
posted by carbide at 12:13 PM on February 1, 2011

Response by poster: It has honestly never occurred to me that any styles of dance can translate to free dance. That's how naive I am when it comes to dancing. Thank you.

Any other perspectives gratefully received.
posted by Conductor71 at 12:21 PM on February 1, 2011

Best answer: Latin dances like salsa and tango don't appeal (too stylized).

No, stylized dances like these is where Billy Jean comes from. You see these dances that you like, and you think "I want to do that, not that stylized stuff"but that stylized stuff is the tools and cloth from which people like MJ created those dances that you like.
And you can do this too.

Your other option is really a bit like being a trained monkey. (It's like learning to use a computer. You can be the person who has a list of the button sequence they need to press in order to accomplish a task (and if anything goes wrong, they flounder), or you can understand how the system works, and not need a list.)

To best improve posture, you'll want to be doing a dance where presentation is taken very very seriously. Anything less and your existing posture will win. Social dancing (Salsa, swing, etc) touch on posture, but not greatly so, you would want to be doing latin/standard/rhythm/smooth with an eye for competition, or ballet or other serious performance dance, to get instructors that will give you dancer posture and movement.

None of these directly give you Billy Jean, but they make you able to do Billy Jean.

Given your location, I'd suggest ballroom rhythm as a common-denominator. It's danced socially in your area. It's danced competitively in your area. It includes mambo, which is basically salsa, so you can learn it with an eye to competition and the emphasis on technique that comes with that, yet still take it to a salsa club. Or a nightclub. The combined dances in that style will give you a style that works with almost every pop song in clubs (Billy Jean is a cha-cha). It includes (east coast) swing, so you're covered for swing clubs too.
Rhythm is a set of five dances: Bolero, Cha Cha, Mambo, Swing, Rumba. You would be hard pressed to hard a ballroom studio that doesn't teach it, so you have plenty of options, but if you want value for money, stay away from franchise studios (like Arthur Murray), and go somewhere with a lot of competitive dance students. Competitive dancers are in it for the long haul and know the dance community. Thus, they know where the prices and instructors are good, and drift towards those, away from places that concentrate on giving you a good time for your money.

Styles like Blues might be of interest to you too, as they are much less stylized, and very social, but the tradeoff is that it won't really affect your posture much (even when danced at competition), and won't get you to Billy Jean the way cha-cha does.

Likewise, for hardcore competitive dance, International Latin/Standard will give you the posture and the moves, but are much less social, and very exacting.

Which tradeoffs to make is a personal choice, but there is also nothing stopping you from trying everything. Dance is like drugs - the first hit is either free, or deeply discounted :-)

You can also use youtube to look for videos from dance competitions to find styles you liked, but you might be like me - I like the kind of the style I do, but a big part of the appeal is not what it looks like on the competition floor, its what it looks like when people who are trained for the competition floor are simply messing around and having fun - with the kind of skills that can be obtained no other way. :-)
posted by -harlequin- at 12:36 PM on February 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

I once met (and later dated) a dude at a party who taught me how to dance to the salsa music that was playing. I'm just saying...

Alternatively, you could look into hip-hop classes.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 12:43 PM on February 1, 2011

(Billy Jean is a cha-cha)

Oops, I need to clarify this. Billy Jean - the music - is a cha-cha, meaning that it's a great song to cha cha to, and probably not accidentally. (You'll notice that muscians who are also dancers make music that works really really well with these dances, because its coming from the same foundations)

Bill Jean - the dancing - is a style that incorporates from like cha cha - and many other things, but you wouldn't call the music video dancing a cha cha. Because it isn't. The music is.
posted by -harlequin- at 12:46 PM on February 1, 2011

posted by the cuban at 1:25 PM on February 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Just my two cents that if you want to enjoy this at all (and I say this as an avid social dancer who has never danced competitively, but dances 1-2 times a week) AVOID competition-oriented clubs. They're focused on finding competition partners, along with tiny details that are more about weird competition rules than any of the things you want (ability to translate to a dance floor, meeting lots of new people, gaining self-confidence).

Personally, I'd suggest East Coast swing, Hustle, or Lindy for you, if you want just one style; or find a local ballroom club (universities sometimes have them, and they're often open to non-students); or even try something like contra dancing, which is a ton of fun, very social, and will teach you if you have any aptitude for dancing :) Whichever you choose, it's not much of an investment to sign up for one set of classes to see if you like it, or go to one event.

It is true that if you hang out in any dance environment you will meet people who know where you "should" go -- and my advice is to go everywhere you've ever heard of once; always go to lessons if they're offered (the social dance org in the Bay Area does at least 2 lessons before every weekly dance, one for beginners and one for more advanced dancers); and ask everyone you meet where they go to dance.
posted by obliquicity at 1:49 PM on February 1, 2011

You already have a number of suggestions, so just a thought: take classes that teach you to dance to music you like. I know a bunch of different dances but I enjoy dancing the blues the most, because that rhythm appeals to me so much. I've heard the similar things from avid tango dancers. When the music speaks to you you might find it easier to move.
posted by Shusha at 2:15 PM on February 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

You might consider West Coast Swing. On the positive side it can be danced to a lot of pop/club type music if that's what you like to listen to. Downsides are that it is one of the more difficult partner dances to learn and I have found the LA WCS crowd to be kind of clique-ish. If you're on the westside take a peek into the Hacienda Hotel bar (near LAX) on a Thursday night to see what the dance looks like. Also check out OCDance for a regularly updated WCS-centric list of dance happenings. I agree with Shusha that it's much easier to stay motivated if you like the music. That's what kept me from doing much Salsa, although there is a great Salsa scene in LA.

If you want better moves on the dance floor for songs like Billy Jean, you could probably get there faster with hip-hop classes than any of the partner dances.
posted by doctord at 3:13 PM on February 1, 2011

Definitely swing. It works with so many different types of music. Maybe not for clubbing, but yes for jazz, country, big band, etc. A man who's truly a good lead can take a woman who doesn't know how to swing and guide her through the whole song and you'd never know she wasn't his regular partner. It's so much fun!
posted by Knowyournuts at 3:14 PM on February 1, 2011

Salsa ... has become very popular with the girls.

This sort of thing is really going to depend on what sort of crowd you run with. Virtually zero opportunities to show off one's salsa skills ever arise amongst my friends (white woman here, non-Latina, with friends across all cultures, in the US northeast). If someone suddenly started throwing out salsa moves to Lady Gaga or whatever at a club/dance party/wedding, I would think they were weird and show-offy. I would also be no more likely to be impressed with the fact that someone could do salsa than any other dance style or interesting hobby.

If you want to impress "girls", learn to cook really well or do half the housework or give really good head.

Honestly, any formal discipline in dance would be an interesting thing to talk about. Just because your typical straight dude won't do that sort of thing. I think I would be most impressed with a dude who studied a performative style of dance like ballet, modern (even better: Butoh!), or tap, followed by the more formal couple/ballroom styles. Just because so few guys ever express an interest in that sort of thing.

If you want to get skills for rocking out on the dance floor at your typical non-Latin-dancing party, hiphop or bhangra/bollywood might be interesting. Or really any kind of dance or movement experience, just to build physical confidence and become more comfortable with your body. That's what keeps most (hetero, white) guys from enjoying themselves on the dance floor in my opinion.
posted by Sara C. at 4:05 PM on February 1, 2011

LA had an active contra-dance community when I was last there (not recently, admittedly, but if you look around I bet you'll find it). You'll be just as welcome there as a beginner as you'll (soon) be as a regular. It's really easy to pick up - just go 10-15 minutes early the first time or two and ask someone to show you the basics. It's easy to meet new friends, and folks there will know where other styles of dancing are happening and which venues are more welcoming to newcomers, singles, beginners, etc.
posted by TruncatedTiller at 5:40 PM on February 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

We still have an active contradance community in LA. There is one or two dances every weekend in Brentwood, Pasadena, Sierra Madre or La Verne. There is also a monthly dance in Anaheim. There is a half hour lesson before each dance and if you go to one of those you will be dancing your first night. A couple more and you will be an expert. People are very willing to help newcomers get a sense for how the dance works. If you did square dance as a kid, a lot of the moves will feel similar to you. You don't need a partner, as we switch off for each dance anyway.
Come out to the Brentwood dance this weekend!
posted by jvilter at 6:58 PM on February 1, 2011

Contra is awesome but not really . . . something you can take to the clubs. You go to contra dance to dance contra, and you have piles of fun, but it's really more like square dancing, and hence not so great for popular dancing. I highly highly recommend trying it out anyway.

For a possibly more friendly WCS group I would suggest looking into the Caltech WCS group. It might run a little young, though. I have not attended this group, but a friend from college teaches classes for them sometimes, and is generally pretty involved otherwise. They're also a lot more likely to have lots of beginners!
posted by that girl at 9:52 PM on February 1, 2011

Best answer: Just wanted to chime in in support of social dances like lindy, blues, argentine tango, west coast swing, salsa, etc. Social dancing is a great way to meet people, get exercise, be expressive and creative, hone a skill, and be part of a community! Plus, the barrier to entry is probably lower than, say, trying to learn ballet at 35. I'd also recommend against taking a purely competitive route, unless competition really inspires you. Good teachers are not just to be found in the world of competitions--there are lots of wonderful, very well-trained teachers of social dances. And especially if you pick a social dance style for which there is a robust scene in your area, you'll have plenty of opportunity to move into competing if/when you want to.

About confidence and choosing a style: Once you get involved in dancing, you can always expand into other styles. I've also found that getting used to moving and dancing, and hanging out with other people who are comfortable moving and dancing helps you feel more at home and confident even when you're out at the clubs. Agreed with others that you should pick a style whose music moves you. Also, if you check out a local dance scene (salsa, say) and find that the culture isn't a great fit for you, don't give up--go check out the west coast swing scene, or the contra dancing scene, or whatever. Different styles will have different kinds of communities and cultures, and you might find that you like some more than others.

Latin dances like salsa and tango don't appeal (too stylized).

Oh, and just wanted to mention in case you didn't know: there are several different kinds of tango out there. Ballroom tango tends to be more "stylized" and flashy. Argentine tango is more improvisational and I think less "stylized."

Yea for getting into dancing! Social dancing has brought a lot of joy into my life (as is maybe apparent from my rambling answer). I wish you the same!
posted by aka burlap at 8:29 PM on February 2, 2011

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