Recently diagnosed with WDCDS and not sure how to move forward
March 17, 2013 11:23 AM   Subscribe

Through various relationships I've come to realize I do in fact have WDCDS-formally known as White Dude Can't Dance Syndrome.

Symptoms include a lack of rhythm, eventually manifesting in a complete lack of dancing.

I'm a mid 20s guy that hangs out at a lot of bars, and on top of that wedding season is coming up. I've known several woman over the past couple years that want someone they can dance with and have fun. This is not my Modus Operandi. I like to have fun, but when it comes to dancing I lock up and refuse- I assume due to fear of embarrassment. Alcohol does not help; no matter how many drinks I've had I will remain as stubborn as a mule.

Does anyone have any tips and/or resources on how I can put some dance ability in my back pocket? I'm under the impression if I can just figure out how to dance to an upbeat song and a slow song, I'll be set. Not looking for anything too fancy. I think my goal is more to go unnoticed (Ie. Not embarrass myself).

Some potentially pertinent background: I literally have trouble just clapping in beat to a song.
posted by Stan Grossman to Human Relations (10 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I had an answer prepared for the first 3/4 of your question up until the pertinent background info. I find that it's easy to fake 90% of dancing if A. you're having fun/enjoying the music and B. can identify a single beat or aspect of the song to act out with a body part or two.

So, with your background info taken into account, I have to ask, what kind of music are you into/ do they play at the bars where they hang out? There's definitely some music that is easier to dance too without following a beat (metal (you can just thrash about) some techno/trance (just jump around).

That being said, I will give my initial gut advice:

Dancing, to me, has always seemed like fashion in that people seem to have a negative reaction to it only when A. it's out of place for the setting or B. the person with it seems unconvinced about what they're doing themselves and/or are doing it for ulterior reasons (ie to pick up members of the desired sex).

This is to say that I too can't particularly dance in any kind of traditional sense of the concept but if you look like you're having a ball and that "having a ball" doesn't include stepping on and knocking into folks then people might not say "hey that White Dude can dance!" but they might say "Damn, that guy sure is a lot of fun to be with at a party."
posted by sendai sleep master at 11:50 AM on March 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Go to a fairly hardcore ballroom dance studio. Look for little kids in glitter and fake tans, and take the adult Rumba / Cha-Cha I class.

They'll teach you how to isolate your ribs from your hips, and even if you can't feel the beat at the beginning, you'll follow along with everyone else until you do, and then it'll become instinctive. Burlesque classes will do this as well, but the pacing may be faster, the gender ratio more skewed, and the instruction less structured.

Anyway, basic holding-pattern unstructured social dancing is shifting weight from foot to foot with rib / hip isolation.

Also, explore whence you got the self-concept that you "can't dance."
posted by batter_my_heart at 11:55 AM on March 17, 2013 [4 favorites]

You're not going to figure out how to move your feet right. So just concentrate on your shoulders. Alternate bouncing your shoulders, together, as close to the bass drum beat as possible, with waving your hands in the air. Tap your toes a little and move from side to side vaguely. If you do that confidently as part of a white person party circle while smiling and singing any lyrics you might know, you'll be a more fun guy to dance with than you were before.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:16 PM on March 17, 2013

Dance classes. They'll be so glad to have a man show up. In my very limited experience, there were always far more women than men.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:18 PM on March 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

If you take dance classes, I'd recommend swing or hustle, since they're the closest to what kind of beats you would find in a bar or at a wedding. Another approach would be a few private dance lessons to learn the basics of finding the beat and some simple movements. One bit of advice: in a social setting, on a crowded dance floor, go right out to the middle of the dance floor, instead of hanging around the edge. In the middle, no one can see your feet, so you wouldn't be so self-conscious about whether your foot placements are ok.
posted by coldhotel at 1:41 PM on March 17, 2013

Prior to taking social dance lessons, my husband was an enthusiastic but uncoordinated dancer with no rhythm. Social dance lessons taught him to hear the beat and move his body in a more-or-less coordinated manner. It's unlikely you'll be pulling out specific steps on the dance floor but I think a few lessons will go a long way to increase your rhythm and confidence.
posted by muddgirl at 3:58 PM on March 17, 2013

There is no such disease. Dance a lot at home to music you love when no one is looking.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:02 PM on March 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

My gym has a lot of dance-based exercise classes.

Stand in the back. Go regularly.

You'll get there!!

(My gym is Crunch, if you have one near you:)
posted by jbenben at 9:45 PM on March 17, 2013

Obligatory link to Hitch dance lesson. It's hilarious, but also quite helpful I think.

Also, here's a similar previous question.
posted by yawper at 8:16 AM on March 18, 2013

Welcome to the FAMOUS MONSTER dancing crash course for white people. This would be easier if we were in the same room but we're not so this will have to do.

ONE: Gettin' rhythm (a good thing to get, when you get the blues, or so I hear)

Like any course of study, things are going to be tricky to grasp at first and then they will become intuitive over time. So:

I literally have trouble just clapping in beat to a song.

We'll start here. If you are at a dance party and the people are playing good danceable stuff with a beat, then the music you're listening to will be in 4/4 time (see also: more or less every single thing you might hear on the radio). Sure, you could go buy a metronome, but let's start with this song, which you should now listen to. It is in 4/4 time. Here's what you want to do: Listen to it, and count. One, two, three, four. The handclaps are coming in at two and four, so just use those to make sure you don't lose the beat. But don't do anything else yet, just listen to it and count. One, two, three, four. Again and again. You may find you're mouthing the numbers, and that is okay.

Now nod your head to it. Now try snapping your fingers on two and four. Now try it on one and three. Keep nodding your head.

Now do the same with this song (Hotline Miami has a lot of good music for learning to dance). Again, count. Handclaps on two and four. Nod your head. Tap your foot. Once you've got it down, try this: Nod on the beat (one, two, three, four) but tap your foot only on two and four or one and three. Good! Keep that up a while, it's fun. Find other pop songs. Learn to hear the time signature (again, if they're on the radio, they're almost definitely in 4/4).

TWO: Motion, because what matters is the motion in the ocean, and you are the ocean, and there are whales and kelp in you

Put on this video and skip to 1:35, when the music starts. Once the beart starts, once again, handclaps on two and four. So let's move your head a bit. Smoothly from side to side. Move your head to the left and your shoulders to the right, at the same time. Nod to the beat a bit and then reverse - head to the right, shoulders to the left. This will feel awkward at first, but keep it up. It is incredibly easy to get discouraged in the early phases of learning anything because you aren't going to be super great at it. That's what practice is for!

Keep moving. Shoulders back and forth. Here's the thing: Until you can do it intuitively, just be aware that your motions should be in relative sync with the beat: move your head on one and three, your shoulders on two and four, tap your foot only on one, snap your fingers on four. This will be incredibly weird to do at first but you will notice it growing easier very quickly.

THREE: Get out of your chair (get into my car - but then get out of my car because you can't stand up in it and you have to stand for this part)

Get up! Turn your speakers up. Put on this song.

Don't forget to count. When you count, don't be fooled by the kick drum. This song is in 4/4 time. Listen for the snare: it comes in at two and four. You will now learn the skill that so very many white people ignore when it comes to dancing: Bending your knees.

Just dip a little on the beat, like you're doing a half-assed deep knee bend. Start doing it only on the fours. Then try twos and fours. Again, snap your fingers and clap your hands. Mix it up. Keep your head nodding. Don't do the knee dip on every part of the beat, or you will look like a little kid bouncing to music. You don't have to move your feet, and this early on, you probably shouldn't try.

There you go! You're doing it. Put your shoulders into it. Yeah! Awesome. Feel that beat. Stop biting your lip.

FOUR: The wrap-up, where I am sad there are only four stages and not seven so that the subtitle for SEVEN could be: "And The Ragged Tiger"

If there is one secret to going from someone who can't dance at all to someone who can sort of dance a little bit, it is this: There isn't one secret, there are two.

If there are two secrets to going from (etc), the first one is to learn to identify that beat, and (this part is only learned by practice) come up with a stock handful of moves that you can do, rhythmically, with different parts of your body, and then do them with varying rhythms. Nod your head on every beat, knee dip on the fours, clap on the twos and fours, pop your shoulders on the ones and threes. Again, when you just start, this is going to seem completely impossible. Keep at it and don't stop, because I promise that it will gel faster than you think, and once you have a sense of how to dance, it will become intuitive and also incredibly fun and you'll understand why people love to do it. Once you have more of a sense of it, you can mix it up and not be as rigid and it becomes even more fun.

If you're having trouble keeping rhythms with different parts of your body, start by only working one part - the head, the knees, whatever - and then proceed to another when you can maintain the first rhythm without thinking. Expect to still mess up sometimes. When you mess up, don't stop, just keep going.

The other secret is actally the most important, and it is to abandon self-consciousness as early as possible. If you are even trying to dance, and you look like you're having fun, and you're not grinding your junk on all and sundry, you'll do great.

Speaking in very broad generality, when men dance (generally speaking), the social gain for them is not that now everyone thinks they're a skilled dancer; it's that they come off as a fun, confident guy who doesn't care how he looks on the dance floor. So relax and have fun with it and seriously, practice, because that is the only way to pick it up.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 8:50 AM on March 18, 2013 [5 favorites]

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