What type of dance lessons would help my husband?
December 4, 2017 11:46 AM   Subscribe

My husband is not a good dancer. What type of lessons could he take that would help him shake it on the dance floor?

My husband feels very self-conscious on a dance floor, and he doesn't really know how to move comfortably. I *love* to dance and want him to join me! Several times when we've been at company holiday parties, weddings, etc., he's lamented that he wishes he could dance with me but he is not a good dancer so he feels really awkward.

I'm thinking that maybe a few lessons would be a great Christmas gift—possibly for the both of us, so we could learn to dance together. But I'm not sure what *type* of lessons to look for, or what to tell an instructor. We're *not* looking for ballroom, salsa, etc.—just garden-variety "club" dancing. Any ideas, tips, experiences you could share?

(And if you know of an instructor in San Francisco or the Bay Area, let me know!)
posted by radioamy to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (14 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Two suggestions that might miss the mark:

1. Take him to more places where people of all ages dance (I'll let Bay Area folks chime in here, if this sounds positive) -- get him to see people dancing for the fun of dancing, particularly to music he enjoys (Christmas gift idea: weekly/ monthly dates to live music where people just dance and have fun); and/or
2. Take any introductory dancing class, or a range of intro courses in different styles, because part of his discomfort may be due to what he feels is a lack of rhythm, which you can pick up from different dance styles and make your own.

I suggest these things as someone who is an unabashed dancer in general. I was super awkward in high school, but something clicked at a live show (3rd wave ska, FWIW) and I realized I enjoyed music and responding to it, and while I tried to copy what others were doing, I kind of gave up caring what people thought, because no one was really being judged and I wasn't there to woo anyone. I was there for the music and to have fun, and dancing was fun, so why not? (I've had a relative ask me how I dance, and my short answer is "don't care so much.")
posted by filthy light thief at 12:15 PM on December 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

Hmm.. I'm a bad and self conscious dancer. I took a few formal style classes and it was helpful - I still plan to do a lot more. I know your end goal is not for your partner to be able to tango with technical precision, but dance classes teach you to feel rhythm, respond to your partner, etc. I think it would be a fun thing to do together. Honestly, as a bad dancer, it would feel kind of bad to me if my wife bought me dance lessons to do on my own. The message I'd get is, "You're bad at this thing and my 'present' is to make you learn to do it better". But if you got the gift of a couple's ballroom class then you're doing a fun activity together and even if you're a good dancer, you still are a co-learner as you'll have to learn the moves. Also, your partner will have other peers in the class who are bad so it is less shaming. You could take like Western Swing or Salsa together and it would be a fun adventure and your partner would start to get some comfort with the whole concept. Just an idea.
posted by latkes at 12:44 PM on December 4, 2017 [5 favorites]

Another idea is to take Zumba together. Just to get comfortable moving in a dance kinda way.
posted by latkes at 12:45 PM on December 4, 2017 [3 favorites]

What kind of dancing does he want to do? YouTube has great tutorials for learning small sequences of moves - everything from "step back and forth" to "grind in the club" to "salsa pattern!" Maybe he could boost his confidence at home, then take a lesson with you. Motion tracking shows that good dancers of many, many styles move their knees, hips & shoulders more. Go wild!
posted by fritillary at 12:48 PM on December 4, 2017

Zumba is a great idea for a first step, because it is about moving around to a beat and learning to mimic an instructor. But the "point" is exercise, so nobody is going to critique his style, he's not going to get overwhelmed by too much artistic advice too soon. There aren't likely to be classes in club dancing, but it doesn't hurt to look. Also hip-hop. Another alternative might be Afro-Caribbean dance classes with a live drummer - it's not exactly like club dancing, but it's one of the sources that dancers get their moves from, and it's more likely to be the type of class that's being taught as an activity or a point of cultural interest as compared to "lessons in how to look cool at the club" which can feel incredibly uncomfortable.
posted by aimedwander at 1:27 PM on December 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

Um. I was a very reluctant dancer, always felt very ungainly and awkward and self-conscious, and after lots of failed attempts what really helped me overcome it was silly dancing at home with my boyfriend. His ridiculously over the top praise and the comfort of just goofing off in our own house helped build my confidence enough to where I could dance while in the dark hallway of a dive bar, and then in a corner of a dark club. I'm still not at "banquet hall bright lights sparsely populated dance floor" but I'm getting there, and more importantly, I like dancing now! Would something like that work for you two? Keep it purposefully silly and he might stumble on some ways of moving that look smooth and feel good to him.

I think the idea of Zumba is a good idea, too. I will say that I know that dance lessons would have made me more stressed about Getting It Right, which might be what your husband is already stressed about w/r/t dancing (and which, ironically, could be what is making him feel like a bad dancer; the best dancers I know don't give a shit what anyone thinks and are just moving their bodies in ways that feel good to them).
posted by stellaluna at 1:42 PM on December 4, 2017

I am not a good dancer, but the times in my life when I felt most about to just Get Out There And Dance were actually... when I was in a martial arts class. It was something that built up my connection to and awareness of my body, but it didn't make me feel as self-conscious to learn it because it didn't feel like I was trying to learn an ~art,~ it just felt like a workout.
posted by showbiz_liz at 2:00 PM on December 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

Modern Western Square Dancing. It's dancing for math nerds, but after a while even the left footest of us start to learn how to dance for real. (Traditional square dancing is great too, and is more likely to have live music, but it's less attractive to math nerds)

After well over a decade in our relationship of her saying "let's go dancing!" and me making all sorts of excuses, my wife dragged me out to a local barn dance fundraiser, I said "well, that wasn't too bad", she said "great, I've signed us up for lessons". Those started in 2012, and this evening I'm headed out to call my weekly gig (that I've been calling for for two years now). These days I'm the "whatever you want to do tonight, honey, I'm going out dancing" person.

Square dancing can be as mentally challenging as you want to make it (if I'm dancing well below my level I work on making sure I know absolutely where everyone else should be), but doesn't have to be. It's got plenty of room for flourishes, but enough structure that it's not embarrassing if you don't have the rhythm. It's got a strong social structure that makes the mingling easier than places where you just show up with your partner (or solo); you're dancing with 7 other people (in each "tip", that changes regularly through the night).

Your profile doesn't say where you are in San Francisco, but El Camino Reelers has been doing "fun nights" which would be a good place to start if you don't want to commit to the full lessons, Redwood Rainbows traditionally does a newbie party on New Year's Day (I don't see it on their list yet). I don't know when the next classes are starting for the various San Francisco clubs, but if you need help finding a class I can poke around for ya.

And once you learn square dancing, it's a fantastic way to meet folks when you're traveling: we look for clubs when we go somewhere, and poof: instant friendly evening.
posted by straw at 2:14 PM on December 4, 2017

Check the reputation of any teacher. The wrong teacher can cause _more_ self-consciousness.
posted by amtho at 2:17 PM on December 4, 2017 [3 favorites]

As someone who was once a terrible dancer and is now merely bad, there are really two things at work: rhythm and movement. You really need both, since you can't be moving your body to the beat if you can't find it. Luckily the Rock Band / Guitar Hero series of games is great for practicing the former. Nthing to find a good teacher; we tried one through our local park district who couldn't follow the beat and he was awful.
posted by wnissen at 2:37 PM on December 4, 2017

I’m a terrible dancer, I’ve tried several times to do rhythm/dance/exercises and it’s been embarrassing at best. I would be very conflicted and stressed if given dance lessons. I realise you want to share your hobby/interest/fun thing but it might come over as being for your benefit, not his. Cf when Homer “gives” Marge a bowling ball for her birthday.

So please double check that he definitely wants dance lessons! I hope you find a great class that works for you.
posted by NoiselessPenguin at 2:38 PM on December 4, 2017 [3 favorites]

Of all the dance disciplines, I think hip hop most resembles the sort of dancing people strive to do in informal settings. I have really enjoyed my dance classes at Alonzo Lines Dance Center and might suggest the two of you try an introductory hip hop class there. You should be forewarned that Lines dance center tends to attract people who have a dance background and there will likely be some accomplished dancers, even in an intro class. That said, I have found the instruction really good and the atmosphere welcoming (though I don't do hip hop). Their workshops for "absolute beginners" may be a very good option for your husband. The instructor for the weekly, drop-in beginning hip hop classes is also running the absolute beginners workshop, so you could drop in for a class and try him out before committing to the workshop series.
posted by reren at 2:55 PM on December 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'd forget an instructor and do this: together (just you two) listen to a bunch of songs and make a playlist of songs he loves and feels are danceable. Play that playlist in a dark room with just the two of you. Optional: mood enhancers such as alcohol, pot, etc. Also optional: sex afterward.
posted by at at 11:17 PM on December 4, 2017 [3 favorites]

I'm a former terrible dancer who was brutally self-conscious. I tried dance lessons a few times and I still shudder at how awful I felt doing them, just unable to catch the beat or move the way even the other newbies could. A couple of times, I left partway through the class, it was so awful. Dancing with other people instead of randomly flailing about by myself was even harder.

I'm now a currently terrible dancer who is not at all self-conscious. Obviously your husband is a different person from me, but if he is very self-conscious I would suggest, instead of lessons, dancing together at home when you are both happy and relaxed, listening to your favourite music, if necessary slightly lubricated by alcohol. Just prancing around, not actual moves. He has a few things to overcome: self-consciousness, inability to catch a beat, inability to move (linked to the self-consciousness), and finally, difficulty in moving with another person.

For what it's worth, my husband who is a good and enthusiastic dancer also feels that since he started his gymnastics-inspired exercise routine he has become an even better dancer. Guitar Hero also seems like a good idea to me.
posted by tavegyl at 12:20 AM on December 5, 2017

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