How can I learn to like dancing?
March 27, 2011 3:38 PM   Subscribe

I'm a guy. I'm 31. I live in San Francisco. I've never really liked dancing in any sense of the word--how can I change this?

I've never been one for syllabus-free dance, largely because I really disliked the idea of not knowing what I should do next--I abhorred working without a net, if you will. I've come to be able to do it, as people at events that included syllabus-free dancing said I was feeling it. This is ok, but the whole thing feels like a chore. To be honest, I was just doing it to see if I could attract anyone, and all that happened was that I first created a zone around me where people didn't approach (perhaps I was being too vigorous--I asked for feedback on this but didn't get any, although I'm happy to attribute that to reticence--or maybe I'm just repellent), and then that, well, nothing happened with anyone I approached.

I bathe, brush, and use deodorant, and my hair is very short and neat. These are not the problem.

My problem (or one of my problems), I think, is that I don't really like to dance. I did some ballroom dancing in college, but I didn't like it for what it was--I just liked it because it put me in contact with various cute people. (None of whom went to bed with me, by the way, which was why I stopped.)

So: How can I learn to like dancing? How can I like it for what it is, and not see it as a means to get with one of my dance partners? How can I learn how to get with my dance partners, and make this happen as soon as possible? How can I be less of the complete jerk I describe above?

Throwaway email:
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (21 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Go dancing with someone you're already sleeping with. Or, failing that, with someone you like to be around but don't particularly want to sleep with— you should be able to find a female counterpart in a situation similar to yours, or go with a fellow guy, for that matter. Eventually you'll get over the initial ugh and start to find dancing itself to be fun— but that probably won't happen until after you're no longer having to concentrate on other things like "what am I supposed to be doing with my feet now?" or "are there any cute people here I should be trying to impress?". Dance for yourself first.

(Or perhaps you simply don't like dancing, of course. Always a possibility.)
posted by hattifattener at 3:52 PM on March 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

It sounds as though you're only interested in dancing as a chance to get sleep with someone. Which may be why it's not working for you. Not because you obviously don't know what you're doing, but more likely because you're obviously only doing it to get in someone's pants. Which is fine enough, some people can pull it off, but apparently you can't.

So why bother? Do something you actually enjoy and there will be chances to meet--and possibly sleep with--people in situations where you don't have to pretend to do something you dislike or be someone you're not.
posted by sambosambo at 3:52 PM on March 27, 2011 [7 favorites]

You're not obligated to like dance. You just aren't.

If you don't like it, don't do it. The End.
posted by tel3path at 3:56 PM on March 27, 2011 [5 favorites]

You're asking several different questions here:

How can I learn to like dancing?
You might not be able to. You may simply not enjoy dancing, just as some people don't enjoy tennis or cooking or S&M or the novels of John Steinbeck. It's okay to have preferences, and it's okay if those preferences are different from other people's.

How can I like it for what it is, and not see it as a means to get with one of my dance partners?
I would say that the most likely way to make this happen, if it's ever going to happen, is to dance by yourself. Put on some danceable music you like in your own home when you're alone, and go to town. See how it makes you feel. "Practice" putting together movements that feel pleasurable and interesting to you. Get comfortable with the movement of your body. Then, see if you like it. If you do, you may then be ready to take it out into the world.

How can I learn how to get with my dance partners, and make this happen as soon as possible?
You probably can't. The overwhelming majority of people are not going to have sex with someone they don't know based on dancing skills. They're just not. This is especially true if your desired partners are female, but even if they're male, it's usually going to take more than dancing to create a relationship, sexual or otherwise. If you're pursuing dancing solely as a means to sex, stop.

How can I be less of the complete jerk I describe above?
If you're pursuing dancing solely as a means to sex, stop. If you're pursuing other people solely as a means to sex, stop. If you're pursuing anything in your life solely as a means to sex, stop. First of all, it's unlikely to work. People can tell when you're desperate for sex, and it's unattractive. But secondly, because as you note, when you view other people as nothing more than a means to your own end, it makes you a jerk. Other people have their own thoughts and feelings and desires and likes and dislikes. The way to not be a jerk is to care about what those are and find people whose personalities are compatible with yours to hang out with and have sex with.
posted by decathecting at 4:21 PM on March 27, 2011 [5 favorites]

I only ever danced in university, and only then because the dance floor was where the girls were. And if you wanted to meet girls back then you had to get in the game. So I sucked it up and danced, but I never enjoyed it. Now I'm 32 and I still don't like dancing and I've accepted that I never will.

What's the point? I don't like it. I feel self-conscious and just don't find it fun. So I don't do it. Maybe if I'm at a wedding and every single other person is doing it I'll bite the bullet and join in just to look like I'm not a stick in the mud, but other than that I'm fine with not enjoying it. Like tel3path said, if you don't like it you don't like it and that's that.
posted by fso at 4:25 PM on March 27, 2011

To me the social issues vs. dancing are a separate issue, and presumably you're just wanting to be more comfortable with dancing. I've struggled with dancing, too (and got tons of advice from my wife, who used to do tons of clubbing in NYC back in her day). I figured out that it basically comes down to learning to be natural and carefree about it while having your mind immersed in the music or elsewhere, rather than on your body or what it's doing. I think the best way to learn to get there is to put on the closest kind of music you can think of that makes you want to move, turn the lights out so you can get into your own headspace, get on your feet, and just go with it. If you do this often enough you'll eventually get to a point where it will all come naturally at the clubs. Alcohol has a questionable rep, of course, but in moderation it's gonna help a lot here.

I'm a little older than you guys and used to shun dancing myself, but have backpedalled on this a bit. You may have a SO who likes dancing, and there's always those obligatory weddings and such that you'll go to over the years where you'll have a speck of life skill where you can get up and enjoy yourself a bit instead of worrying about what others think being off in the shadows nursing a beer.
posted by crapmatic at 4:34 PM on March 27, 2011

instead of worrying about what others think or being off in the shadows nursing a beer.
posted by crapmatic at 4:35 PM on March 27, 2011

I never used to like dancing much, until I met my wife. Because she is such a delightful person I felt that I wanted to please her, so I decided that since she loved dancing so much, it would be a good idea for us to share the fun -- plus I'd get to be with her more.

After a very short time, we were having fun and she was happy that I had gone out of my comfort zone just to please her. That made me feel better, and gave me more appreciation for dancing and how to lead my partner and so on. It's a complicated thing, dancing. If you approach it from the standpoint of learning a new skill, or a new sport, it might help.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 4:45 PM on March 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

I think the best way to learn to get there is to put on the closest kind of music you can think of that makes you want to move, turn the lights out so you can get into your own headspace, get on your feet, and just go with it.

A full length mirror could help too. You can see what looks corny and what looks good, and self edit. That's how dancers do it.
posted by StickyCarpet at 5:05 PM on March 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

How can I learn to like dancing?

Learn some patterns and practice them, doesn't have to be elaborate, a side to side step touch, step touch. And a couple arm movements. Practice by yourself until you can hit the beat on different songs/tempos you really like. Practice a bunch alone.

Then forget it. Forget it all, find some venue where you're not totally uncomfortable that plays music you *like* and just let it go.

Patterns and rhythm is pretty integral, if you relax, enjoy the music, it will grow on you.
posted by sammyo at 5:21 PM on March 27, 2011

You probably can't. The overwhelming majority of people are not going to have sex with someone they don't know based on dancing skills.

Well, yes. But you can meet people dancing, and I have friends who have met their current/former significant others social dancing. Going into it expecting this is indeed probably a recipe for it not happening.

Anyway, there are other styles of dance. I like swing, it's more freeform than ballroom but there are lots of specific moves you can do. I have a relative who does contra dance, which is very structured (and doesn't seem to be getting him anywhere women-wise FWIW).
posted by BungaDunga at 5:25 PM on March 27, 2011

This video might be worth watching. It is someone who candidly and frankly explores his relationship with "not liking dance". Doesn't sound like much, but it is.
posted by milestogo at 5:31 PM on March 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't see why you have to like dancing.

* As one person pointed out, ladies dancing with a strange dude probably will not immediately sleep with them.
* While yes, you will meet more women if you like to go dancing, if you end up with one, she will probably want to go dancing on a regular basis. Which you still don't like. How's about you end up with a non-dancer and let the dancing girls find dancing guys?
* The only reason I can come up with you forcing yourself to like dancing is if you were already dating a girl who dances. Which you're not, so don't worry about it.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:31 PM on March 27, 2011

Hi. Your question made me cry. You shouldn't have to learn to like. It's not vegetables. You and the music should unite in a throbbing wave of ecstatic kinetics, burning off this social awkwardness of which you speak.

So maybe it's 1) the kind of music. I understand you are indicating that you need to be where the warm receptive bodies are, and that's fine, but if it's boogie you are after, it's going to be elusive. Enlist that above mentioned counterpart and explore some music situations beyond your current boundries. It's a big beautiful city you live in with lots of crazy everything to offer, musically. My favorite dance sound is some bottom heavy, funky soul, think james brown or dc go-go, so I would look for a dj who spins that or when certain bands are gigging. YMMV. Love that club/night/dj while you can, going every chance, because its so common for the good stuff to go away once you start coming around.

Counterpart is important, because once you find a sound that moves you, you may have to face the fact that you are straight-jacketed in a sea of cardboard immobility and 2) create your own dance party! So, easier if you have a pal. I know of whence I speak. Mine is the tragic tale of an adult in formerly in San Francisco who loves passionately physical self-expression of that throb of sound-body unity, only to feel the freak because none of my contemporaries could break out of the bio-armour holding back this particular expression of life. DJ at the house party ripping some awesome tunes where everyone is standing around? Find a corner of the room and make a dance party! Crazy japanese experimental psychedelic noise band playing a great jam to an audience that can muster no more than a head bob? Find a spot by the back door and have a crazy psychedelic freestyle dance party!

Yes, this going against the grain is rough. But people will look at you with envy, and desire, and sometimes the verymost beautiful ones, the ones you'd like to get to know, join in, attracted like moths to your playful, sparkling energy.

Or 3) accept that it's not for you! You can still go where the cute people are that has sounds you like. Brush up on your meaningful glances and explicit hand gestures. Buy drinks. Script for yourself what the next (polite, gentlemanly) steps/things to say would be to get the cute person you like into the scenario you would like to see them in. Because there is nothing wrong with non-creepy upfrontness, and maybe the nothing is happening because somehow the cuties you pick are waiting on you to keep things moving along. So, not dancing that's giving you grief, but the dance.

Best of luck to you in turning this around.
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 7:00 PM on March 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Even among people who hook up on the dance floor, very few do it because they're impressed by the other person's dancing. It's more about being able to successfully flirt, especially using non-verbal cues. And, I hate to say it, but it involves things like "swagger" and "game" and being conventionally attractive. These things aren't necessary to find a good relationship or even a casual sex partner (which one of these are you looking for, by the way?), so if that's your primary focus I'd recommend you change your strategy and look for partners in arenas that feel more comfortable to you. There are many, many other ways to find dates, and you never have to dance if you don't feel like it.

If you truly want to enjoy dancing qua dancing, take the partner-seeking completely out of it. Dance like no one's watching, as the cliché goes. Dance by yourself and don't give a shit if anyone comes up to you. Dance at home in your underwear. Take a non-partner dance class where you can get into the movement for its own sake.

Whether it's dancing or any other activity, do it because you enjoy it and not because you're hoping to find dates that way. Your ideal partner would like you for who you are and not because you were the first person s/he found who happened to say yes, right?

On the dancing question: if you don't like it, don't bother with it. On the dating question: it's difficult for a lot of people; don't lose heart and don't lose sight of who you are.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:00 PM on March 27, 2011

I've never cared for dancing either, and I second the advice to just get over this, accept it, and move on. I actually feel physically embarrassed for some people I see dancing, and it's just too distracting to assume I probably look just as idiotic. It's not fun, it offers me nothing, and I'm okay with that. It's infinitely more awesome, in my book, to swim or hike.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 7:34 PM on March 27, 2011

Forget about learning how to dance.

Go to a club that plays music you like.

Get intoxicated on your chemical of choice. (some people need more of this than others)

Find a spot on the dance floor.


That's all there is to it. Don't look for a dance partner. Just pretend there is no one else in the room.

If you want my advice on where to go, go to an EDM club that's playing house music, not a 'hook up' club. Most people there dance by themselves. You want a club where you can be by yourself in a room full of people.
posted by empath at 8:32 PM on March 27, 2011

Also, don't go to a dance club to hook up. Just don't. Nobody likes that guy. Even people that that guy picks up don't really like him. Don't be that guy. Talk to people, sure, make friends, sure. But don't try to pick up someone. I think generally if you're friendly and go to the same club enough, you'll eventually pick up someone else without really trying. Just keep going to the same club and meet as many people as possible without trying to 'pick up' anybody.
posted by empath at 8:37 PM on March 27, 2011

Meh. If you don't like dancing, don't go dancing. This being San Francisco, you can do whatever it is that you like to do and people will be fine with it. I can't see why anyone would find it attractive to see you doing something you obviously hate.
posted by foodgeek at 8:37 PM on March 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

There are some places in the mission that teach salsa on friday nights. That might entice you because you get to dance with twenty or thirty women in a night so it's an excellent way to meet chicks
posted by bananafish at 8:57 PM on March 27, 2011

Buy some '70s funk and let loose at home. I would dance like mad by myself even when I had social issues in high school.

I absolutely love dancing. And I must admit the compliments are great.

Part of the problem with being a straight male in the USis that we are taught to live in social fear of standing out. Realize this and it will help.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:41 AM on March 28, 2011

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