No, swing dancing is not what I'm looking for
October 6, 2014 12:10 PM   Subscribe

I don't want to "learn how to dance." I just want to be able to go to dance clubs. Are there classes for this in NYC?

I am physically kinda awkward, and I just am not very confident or good at the whole non-dancing dancing that people do in clubs and at parties these days. But apparently, that is How You Meet People, so I'd like to get at least passably ok at it.

I don't want to do complicated hip-hop routines. I don't want to learn swing or tango or bachata. I just want to sway around in front of a person I think is cute without this happening.

Help? I'm in NYC. There must be a class or something.
posted by showbiz_liz to Grab Bag (27 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Do it at home, alone, concentrating on just feeling comfortable moving your limbs and your joints around in a way that makes you feel groovy. Once you've got a few things going, start doing it in front of a mirror. Adjust accordingly.
posted by carsonb at 12:15 PM on October 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

There are classes in house music dancing, but to be honest, most people at dance clubs just kinda move their feet in some kind of pattern that vaguely approximates the beat.
posted by empath at 12:18 PM on October 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

I know it seems a little like the opposite of what you're asking about but taking something like yoga or pilates can do away with a lot of physical awkwardness. It doesn't do much about social awkwardness but it will help you feel more at home with how your body can move.

also I often suggest that people get tipsy and follow along with youtube dance videos at home alone but apparently sometimes people feel awkward about doing that as well.
posted by poffin boffin at 12:22 PM on October 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

What I would do to get the maximum impact with minimum effort is just learn ONE step and practice it:

Here's a demo of a bunch of different breakdancing steps -- look up tutorials on youtube for one that you think you can do.

Then just put on a mix cd and do it over and over and over again until you stop thinking about how to do it. A lot of it is just muscle memory.

Also, you need to be able to count off beats, if you can't do that (Dance music is almost all 4/4 -- 1, 2, 3, 4)

Break it down into parts, try to just get one part of it right (just the one beat, just your arms, etc), then build on it.

I know some guys that are really good break dancers, and the way the learned is dancing in front of a mirror for hours and hours and hours and hours and hours. Just like any other skill that requires building muscle memory.
posted by empath at 12:24 PM on October 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

Ok, what you need to do is learn how to have rythm.

These are just a few tips:

Listen to lots and lots of music....learn pattern of the music, when beats drops and change, that's usually when you change your step.

Take basic lessons of will help you transfer to bachata, salsa and the others.

Take hip hop beginner classes...just do it for a few weeks....

If you can't do the 1-2 the 1 step twice.
posted by The1andonly at 12:33 PM on October 6, 2014

Record yourself with your laptop/phone propped up or whatever, dancing around for 15-30 minutes to a mix where the tempo and type of music changes a lot. Then go try it out with a friend who knows you are practicing.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:36 PM on October 6, 2014

There are two components you need:

(1) the ability to recognize and follow a rhythm; and
(2) the ability to recognize and control each part of your body individually

If you're lacking #1, I'd suggest taking music lessons (or those hip hop classes you really don't want to take). If you're lacking in area #2, I'd actually suggest taking a ballet class. Not for learning ballet routines to whip out at a party, but for learning how to control each little part of your body -- i.e., bend this without bending that, tilt this without tilting that. Yoga is also good for this, depending on the class and teacher.
posted by melissasaurus at 12:37 PM on October 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Zumba, Jazzercise, any sort of cardio dance class will - as The1andonly said above - help you have more rhythm. You won't want to break into an aerobics routine in the club, but you'll feel more confident, more at home with moving to a beat, and have more stamina (dancing at a club takes a lot of energy!). Bonus is that they're usually cheap and don't have long involved dance routines to learn like a hip-hop or other street dancing class would.
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 12:37 PM on October 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

carsonb has a good advice - to first learn to be comfortable with your body and enjoy moving to the music. How about taking zumba classes or going for aerobics? Bachata is also easy to dance, why not start with it:)
posted by tashkelis at 12:40 PM on October 6, 2014

Repetition. Repetition, somewhere you're relaxed and not self conscious. Alone with headphones in the kitchen. Just listen to the music you'll be dancing to and step on the beat. Just one or two tracks, don't move big, small steps, small arm movements, on the beat. And on the dance floor, no one is watching, if they are, it's not the steps they are thinking about.
posted by sammyo at 12:45 PM on October 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you're concerned about having any sort of rhythm or need a confidence boost, you can take any kind of beginner dance class that has you moving your body to upbeat music. You'd be taking intro classes regardless so you can be reasonably confident that the rest of the people in your Hip-Hop 101 dance class are in roughly the same boat as you.

Also, I used to go clubbing in NYC somewhat frequently and from experience, "looking good" and "being on the dancefloor" is like 90% of the way to having fun and meeting people at a dance club.
posted by griphus at 12:47 PM on October 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

Just Dance got me over my awkwardness about dancing. I'm not a particularly good dancer, but I feel much, much more comfortable getting up there and flailing around now.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:54 PM on October 6, 2014 [5 favorites]

According to some evo-psych research at Northumbria University, all ladies have to do is shake that ass, and move the arms around (but only a little):

"When men and women look at female dancers, they both agree that the best dancers are the ones with the exaggerated hip movements. No upper body at all,” said Neave.

The arm movements of dancers have proved the most puzzling for the scientists. They do not seem to add to the attractiveness of the dancer, but not to move them at all is seen as bizarre.

“Arms seem to be an odd thing: you would think they would be very important, but they can be quite distracting,” said Neave. “People who wave their arms around too much or keep them by their sides are perceived as being very strange dancers.

“There's a very fine line between not using the arms at all and waving them around like a lunatic."

(Good and bad male dancing, fyi, according to the same research group.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 1:44 PM on October 6, 2014 [11 favorites]

(the only problem with Just Dance and similar dance games is that you must always always leave the dancefloor if one of the Just Dance songs comes on or you will do the Just Dance dance and it will be tragilarious)
posted by poffin boffin at 1:45 PM on October 6, 2014 [6 favorites]

Can you invite a couple friends over to have a dance party in your apartment? Have some drinks (perhaps many drinks), put on some music. Have your friends show you how they dance. Dance in front of them ask their honest opinion - do you look fine? Is there something you should do differently?

My guess is that you are a totally fine club-dancer. All you really need to do is move a little bit with the music. As long as you aren't standing there completely still or flailing around madly you wouldn't stand out at most clubs I've been to.
posted by insectosaurus at 2:10 PM on October 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

Surprisingly (or not, I guess), taking one bellydancing class made me go from awkward and uncomfortable to dancing all over the place. I'm probably not that great, but seriously, learning how to move my hips is like some weird siren song to guys, which cotton dress sock's link supports. I'd suggest a belly dancing class.

And then, I know it's supposed to be funny, but you'll be able to do a lot of the moves in this video, which make up about 90% of most dancing for women in clubs.
posted by umwhat at 2:56 PM on October 6, 2014 [4 favorites]

Hula hooping to music! I'm still not much of a dancer, but I've become very good at hula hooping, and it's given me a lot more control of my body, particularly my midsection. I still am not brave enough to actually dance in front of people (although with some alcohol in my system I probably would), but I can definitely feel comfortable dancing around my apartment with no one around. That may sound like a pretty low bar, but I just feel like before I had no idea what to do with my body at all, and now I have a better "natural" sense of movement. And, as was alluded to upthread, as a woman, just being able to move your midsection/butt area can get you pretty far. Also it's fun and a good workout!
posted by litera scripta manet at 3:21 PM on October 6, 2014

Club dancing is mostly to do with confidence. Sure, there's routines you can learn - you can get great at hip hop, or shuffling, or tecktonik (actually, DO NOT get great at tecktonik...), but ultimately what drives all of those is a willingness to be seen to do something physical in public. How do you gain confidence? Practice! I found that it took quite a few years of going out regularly before I completely stopped caring about other people seeing me dance. There's a few things that can definitely help you along though:

1. Be inebriated. (I'm sure some people will frown upon this advice, but the reality is that it's always easier when you've got a drink or several in you).
2. Go to see high energy bands/shows at crowded venues. Live music is ALWAYS easier to dance to, because the energy is incredible and nobody's looking at you. Obviously bands are fairly area dependent, but I'd imagine New York has no shortage of bands which are great live. The bounciest danciest nights I've ever been to have been ska, electroswing and balkan nights - try searching around for something like that.
3. PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE. Seriously. Turn up your speakers when nobody's home and dance around your living room. If that still feels weird, see point 1.

When I dance in clubs, it's for two reasons. The first is because it feels great. When you've stopped caring about people looking at you, you can get lost in the fact that moving repetitively to music is one of the great joys of being human. The second is the social aspect - dancing next to people or actively with people is really enjoyable.

I know you dismiss it, but the thing in my life that most enabled me to dance completely freely in public was regularly going to a swing dancing class. If you're not used to it, dancing in a well lit room in front of lots of people feels incredibly awkward. That very, very quickly goes away though. A few dance classes and you'll have absolutely no qualms about it whatsoever. That confidence (if not the actual dance moves you learn) transfers into other dancing. Also, the swing dancing scene is an amazing way of meeting people. I'd imagine that other dance classes (especially partner dances) are similar.
posted by leo_r at 3:36 PM on October 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

What helped me was taking a variety of different dance classes and picking and choosing moves from each that felt the most natural - swing, samba, belly, salsa, capoeira, modern, etc. I know you said that you don't want to learn swing dancing or tango, etc. but I just wanted to suggest a class because they also helped me meet people who were naturally more comfortable dancing and who took me out "clubbing" so we got to spend time dancing in a less structured setting. Oh and then I spent a lot of time dancing by myself while watching music videos with dancing or just dance videos on Youtube. And re-reading your question, it seems like you aren't trying to do this because you necessarily WANT to, but because you feel like you I would suggest first practicing dancing to whatever your favorite type of music is (even if its not "club" music) so that you can connect with it and have fun.

This might be a stretch, but 5Rhythms classes and workshops really helped me feel less self-conscious about dancing in front of others (From their website: "5Rhythms is a dynamic movement practice—a practice of being in your body—that ignites creativity, connection, and community." ) I found the vibe in the classes to be very free, open and non-judgemental. You won't learn steps but will spend a lot of time dancing near and with others.
posted by Shadow Boxer at 5:07 PM on October 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

The biggest thing for me was just finding the right music. Normally I listen to pretty downbeat, chill music, not the kind that gets you shaking it out and moving. Download some good dance tracks (Saint Pepsi's album "Hit Vibes" is PERFECT for this -- it's a pay-what-you like album of happy, wordless music that just makes you want to dance), wear some tight clothes, plug in your headphones and just dance. It'll be awkward at first of course -- but watch yourself to see what works and what you like, and you won't be able to stop. It's all in the music and how it makes you feel.
posted by krakus at 5:19 PM on October 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Some tips that might help if you were me, which you are not, but hey:

1. You're not looking for partnership dance classes, but... someone giving you structure and telling you to move and showing you how to express the rhythm with your body, etc etc, these things all move you towards your goal and you can get them from dance classes that have nothing to do with what you want to end up doing.

2. It helps to know what you like. Is there a dancer / pop-star whose style you like? Over time, you'll build your own unique style (everyone does, even when trained by the same person in the same dance to competition-level exactness) but the more you know about what you want, the better. If even just to ask this AskMeTa question with less vagueness.

3. Just spending time in clubs will help - you want to feel like you're in your element when going out. If you find a club you particularly like, go regularly. Being familiar with the place, the crowd, the music, the bartenders, etc all makes you feel more in your element.

4. Go to clubs with friends, so you bring a friendly environment with you, you can dance with friends, you're not on show, nothing matters, you can just relax and start figuring out how your body works. Just play around with ways to groove to music that you love, in ways that feel good and fun to you. Do this regularly. Organize a standing night-out if you can.

4. Confidence is key because then you won't feel stressed when you feel under scrutiny, but from spending time in clubs, you'll also gain confidence that no-one really cares how other people dance and you're almost never going to be judged by anyone. People who love dancing tend to like seeing people having fun dancing, no matter what they look like, rather than judge them.

5. In a club with a high meat-market quotient, there will be more people who don't care about dancing and it might seem more judgmental. Maybe that's good for meeting new people. Maybe you find it too aggressive. There are also range of clubs with less of that, places people go because they love to dance. It's up to you what kind of place you want to be, just remember you have choice.

6. Rock out in your bedroom!
posted by anonymisc at 5:51 PM on October 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Inspiring montage of a girl learning to dance over the course of one year.

Then in the description:
"Watch my TEDx talk about how I learned: "
posted by anonymisc at 5:57 PM on October 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

Oh man, I was in the same situation until about a year ago when I realized I really love movin' my body. I'm a guy in my 20s and I remember watching all of my girl friends dancing and thinking "How'd they learn to do that? They look so cool!"

Basically, I learned that most people don't know "how to dance" (i.e., a routine of dance moves), and instead they just sort of move their body to music in a way that pleases them (w/o/ structure).

I believe things occurred in about this order:
First, I found out how to feel the rhythm of a song and sort of sway along with my shoulders, real nice like.
Then I started watching some sweet youtube videos like those mentioned above.
Now I find moves I like online and practice them alone or with a few friends I really enjoy being with.

Don't be afraid to learn things you might be uncomfortable with at first. Personally, I think knowing how to move your hips and get down makes you a hot commodity as a guy.

Essentially, you gotta feel it first. Then it's just practice.

Here are some of my favorite dance videos.
The Company [VIBE Dance Competion]
Breakbeat via The Prodigy
Breakbeat, oldschool
Melbourne Shuffle #3 Compilation
posted by lalunamel at 2:17 AM on October 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Dancing (in a club) is about doing YOU and not giving a fuck. I was told once I dance like Elane in that episode of Seinfeld. Whatever, I'm fabulous having a fabulous time as a flailing homosapien. You can't take that from me with your talk or your fancy moves!

To build up to this I would try just dancing around your place to your favorite music. I find that cats make great partners for slow songs. If you want to build up some basic cordination, try learning some line dances, either of the country variety or the soul train type (many youtube videos, just search line dancing). That will give you a knack for repetitive coordinated movements and also for developing "muscle memory" or memorizing moves. Then you can just freestyle and youll be able to repeat and recall your favorite flails on command when your jam comes on.
posted by WeekendJen at 10:19 AM on October 7, 2014

This may sound like a joke and the video/song are really quite offensive (be warned) but when I dance I kind of try to do what the woman in this Eurovision song (Slavic Girls) is doing, which is kind of like what was mentioned above.

I think what she does that works is that she plants her feet, swings/moves her hips, and does some mildly interesting but not too distracting stuff with her arms. Try that! Plant your feet, sway your hips around in time to the music, and put your hands on your hips or your thighs or just sort of wave them a bit. I'm not great at dancing either but I do enjoy it and I find that having some sort of model like this is actually pretty helpful.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 12:30 PM on October 7, 2014

With the greatest respect, all of this advice to "just do your thing, wave your hands in the air like you just don't care!" is totally useless to those of us who flail like penguins and actually don't want to flail like penguins.

The answer is YouTube videos. Totally YouTube videos.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:34 PM on October 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

For the guys, Hitch Dance Lesson comes to mind
posted by MechEng at 12:46 PM on October 7, 2014

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