One Two Three One Three...damnit
May 11, 2005 2:36 PM   Subscribe

I can't dance.

I've had this problem for awhile and I can't seem to shake it. I have the whole "stand in one spot and bop" thing down pat but would like to see if I could actually get my feet to do something rather than root themselves to whatever surface I'm on. I'm the guy at the party or club who either doesn't dance or just stands there and bops around. I'd like to no longer be this guy. How can I figure out how to dance?
posted by Stynxno to Human Relations (18 answers total)
Just watch "D-Qwon's Dance Grooves."!
posted by rez at 2:43 PM on May 11, 2005

I was vaguely thinking about this exact issue the other night at the gym -- I was on the cross-trainer, listening to my iPod, and noticed that my speed and heart rate went up or down correlating to the beat of the particular song that was on. In other words, I starting moving instinctively to the beat, even though I was actually trying to stay at a steady pace to keep my heart rate in one spot.

On the face of it, this seemed like a sort of "well, duh, of course that's what I do" thought -- but then I started thinking of an ex, who was (like you) That Guy Who Stands and Bops, and of another ex, who was (not like you) That Guy Who Flails Around And Thinks He's Got the Beat But Doesn't. And so I thought that maybe what seemed so instinctive to me might not necessarily be the same for either of them.

All of which leads me to ask: can you move to the beat when you listen to music in a non-dancing setting? Maybe that's the place to start practicing -- not just to give your sense of rhythm a little practice, but also to give yourself the confidence of feeling your whole body move in time to music -- even if you're just moving in time by jogging in place to "Rock the Casbah" or something.
posted by scody at 2:52 PM on May 11, 2005

I used to be quite 'stationary' too while going to parties and the like, and if you're anything like me it probably won't be the actual act of shaking your bootie that's the problem, but the fact that you're somehow afraid to look like an idiot in front of your friends.

Try going to a few parties on your own, and have a drink: free your mind and your ass will follow, as they say ;) It may feel a bit awkward at first, but if you really dig the music you should be able to pick up the groove after a while. Just do what feels natural without worrying a lot about it. You can also try looking at other people to extend your repertoire of moves. Good luck!
posted by koenie at 3:32 PM on May 11, 2005

This thread, while not quite the same question you're asking, seems to contain some useful information.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 3:32 PM on May 11, 2005

You just need to practice some, like with any other kind of movement. Dance by yourself in front of a mirror a couple of times. And then do it some more if you like it.

Seriously. I'll bet you're surprised at how much you can improve how you feel about dancing by just practicing a little.
posted by mediareport at 4:08 PM on May 11, 2005

It also a problem you can fix by throwing large sums of money at it for dance instruction. If you're like me, who stupidly over-intellectualises the whole thing, I found partnership dancing (ballroom and latin) to be a good gateway to dance, since it's a highly structured and logical system that results in great dancing. It has to be logical and systematic, as the follow doesn't know what the lead will be doing next. Once you can dance despite being all Mr Spock about it, and come to realise that you're not being foolish, then you can open up and dance from the heart.

But if you can skip those stages and go directly to dancing, then you'll save some money :)
posted by -harlequin- at 4:21 PM on May 11, 2005

find a course in African or Afro-Cuban dance. Should be one near you. (Usually offers amazing amounts of enjoyable social connections as a side benefit.) Very soon, once you know which parts of your body to move when - usually three weeks - you are OK. You will move much better and fifteen years later you will attribute ito these lessons . Enjoy.
posted by zaelic at 5:08 PM on May 11, 2005

Find a partner who can dance well, then just bask in her glory. That's what I did. She taught me one dance move, and I use it in pretty much every situation, especially in swing dancing. I wish I could describe it properly. But mostly, I move around a little and look cool and let her do most of the work.

In the process, though, I figured out a few things. One is to do something with your hands; usually, I hold hers. Another is to NOT do the infamous white man's overbite. Don't air drum or sing along.

Basically, swivel your hips and shuffle your feet. The swiveling is important. Free up your hips, shake your butt. It'll make you seem like a good dancer, and that's half the battle.
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:34 PM on May 11, 2005

I second the recommendation to take a few classes, I've dragged several guys to dance classes and they all felt much better about getting out on the dance floor once they'd mastered at least one simple step.

And the women of the world will thank you for trying. There are far too few men who are willing to even make the effort, making us grateful for the ones who do. Seriously.
posted by cali at 7:29 PM on May 11, 2005

It's ok. Very few people can dance. But due to the immense popularity of hip-hop it's now perfectly ok for people who have no business dancing to make dance-like movements while music is playing.

If you've got the head-bop thing down you're well on your way. The trick is, you have to bop with your whole body. First, do something with your arms and hands. Pretend you're a DJ, or a boxer, but have them up and about. Now bring your legs in on the action. Bend those knees, tap those feet. The next major step is your hips. This is where most people falter: you have to move your hips. Rock them forwards and backwards, side to side--don't be afraid to shake that ass. Now, move your location. Don't stand in one place. Move in a circle or--my favorite--spin (slowly or quickly) in place! (Spinning around in place is as much fun as it looks.) Don't be stiff! Don't jerk around! Be loose and let the music move you. Always keep moving!

Dancing is a group experience. Watch those around you, particularly the more livelier ones, and shamelessly copy their moves. (Maybe put a little spin on it if you're feeling courageous). Freely give and take. This is why people dance.

You've now reached an acceptable level of dance-like movements.

And mediareport's right: practice. Do this on your own, by yourself for an hour or so. Last key point: you bbetter be having fun. If your eyes aren't lit up and you're not smiling while dancing then you may need to seek professional help.
posted by nixerman at 7:54 PM on May 11, 2005

Very few people can dance.

While I'm glad to get confirmation from nixerman about practicing, I couldn't disagree more with the above statement. It cannot be stated strongly enough: EVERYBODY can dance. The only question is the degree to which you care what other people think about the *way* you dance. Lessons and practice can help with that. A lot. But for god's sake, never allow anyone to convince you that you "can't dance." Including yourself.

Dancing is a group experience.

As a veteran of many, many electronic dance parties, I can assure you that some of the most beautiful dancing I've seen came from folks completely oblivious to the rest of the group. In fact, sometimes the anonymity of a large crowd can be just the thing to get your dance on by yourself. And solo dancing to your favorite music in your bedroom is just as much "dance" as any "group experience."
posted by mediareport at 8:38 PM on May 11, 2005

mediareport, I won't go into the who can and who can't dance argument since it's been done to death and these days it's meant as a joke. (Though I'm tempted to respond that while everybody can dance not everybody should.) As for losing yourself in a group, becoming completely lost in a sea of movement and music--that happens to me all the time and I'd definitely call it a group experience.
posted by nixerman at 8:46 PM on May 11, 2005

Dancing is about letting go my friend. Aren't you tired of holding on so tight?
posted by superposition at 1:31 AM on May 12, 2005

Pay for some lessons. You could get a friend who is a good dancer to teach you a few moves or try and pick up some ideas from videos. But in the long run, tuition will be faster and you'll feel more comfortable knowing that the way you move looks good and feels great.

Not everybody is a natural dancer but anybody can be taught and the confidence you'll gain will pay dividends. If you feel shy about taking a class, you could try private lessons, they are more expensive and definitely not as much fun. Girls love guys who can dance and there are far too few men in dance classes but the ones who are brave enough are always popular.

I own a Dance Studio but obviously I've nothing to gain here unless of course you are willing to travel a long way? In which case Stynxno, I'll arrange for a gorgeous girl to teach you free, how's that?
posted by Tarrama at 1:54 AM on May 12, 2005

I'd like to give you a simple variation of the white man bop. Stick your knees and thighs together tight, no cheating. It'll make your lower legs splay out. Bop. Work up to swinging arms around occasionally, and switching the way you are facing. You'll look interesting and retro new wavey.

I'm thinking lessons may be frustrating, so find one thing that works for you, then work on the loosing oneself aspect mentioned above. Have fun.
posted by rainbaby at 6:13 AM on May 12, 2005

Music + Booze = Dancing!
posted by raster at 8:58 AM on May 12, 2005

Dance by yourself in front of a mirror a couple of times.
I assume your nailed-to-the-floor bop is steeped in insecurity, so you're probably not going to like what you see in the mirror. I'd leave the mirrors out of it for now. It's not about that anyway. Just feel it. Maybe even turn the lights out or close your eyes. Don't be afraid to look stupid or gay, and use your hips. Pretend you're a girl. At first you'll react to the music, but then you'll gel with it, and, ahem, be one with it. Turn off your mind.
If you have friends that dance, dance with them. Make stupid inside dancing jokes with them to loosen things up. Talk to them while you're dancing. There are no rules.
Dancing is for everyone, so don't try too hard, just have fun, dammit. And use your hips.
posted by hellbient at 9:37 AM on May 12, 2005

I'm thinking lessons may be frustrating

Why is that rainbaby?
posted by Tarrama at 7:00 PM on May 12, 2005

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