Luke Davis shares some insights gleaned from his Latin dance classes.
About four weeks ago I joined an introduction to Latin Dancing. Three lessons a week covering three styles—Salsa, Bachata and Zouk. I joined voluntarily because I want to learn to dance and meet new people. I say voluntarily because this appears to set me apart from the other men dragged along by their girlfriends or wives. For some reason wanting to dance rather than being prompted is something women admire.
Attending dance classes has been an eye-opener for me, both in terms of dancing and also in terms of what I am learning about women. While I have been married before and I am not completely ignorant of the fairer sex, in the dance class I have entered a world where the barriers thrown up between genders is much lower, to the point where women are much more open than I find them to be in most of my social situations. I have a suspicion that this is because men dancing have stepped out of the “Man Box”. The ladies know I am far more likely to be receptive to things they have to say, they don’t need to put their guard up precisely because just by being in a dance class I have proved I am not a typical “man”.
To set the scene my first class consisted of 21 ladies and 6 gentlemen—us gentlemen it seems are a rare commodity in the dance hall. From what I have experienced since then a ratio of about 2 ladies for each gentleman is about normal but this can vary drastically depending on the night and location. I am also the only unattached male and I am still trying to work out if that’s a good thing. Some of the ladies I have met since that first class have been carefully encouraging me to keep on dancing, I believe they truly want decent dance partners and don’t want to scare me away. I also sometimes get the vibe of “new blood” at the social events, but I’m hoping that’s just nerves.
After four weeks I have compiled a list of things I have learnt since I started dancing that mostly don’t appear in “How woman think” type articles. These aren’t the typical “how to pick up” ideas or “make her yours forever” tricks but just observations which deserve a mention. I think some of these “How women think” articles focus way to much on needs, wants, relationship advice and so on without stopping to consider simple things which aren’t so different from how us men behave and aren’t that difficult for us to comprehend.
1. Admire, don’t perv.
This one is obvious but needs to be said. Ladies like to be admired for their effort and skill not ogled and judged.
Most of the ladies in dance class dress extremely well and even more so for social events. They are comfortable in their bodies and want to express themselves on the dance floor. They notice when you look at their moves, the way they swing their hips and how they project sexy and seductive in Latin dancing. They want the attention because that’s how they tell they’re winning. Look at their bums, boobs or generally mentally rate their appearance though and they know.
Trust me they know.
You start ogling and you cross that line between captive audience and oaf or worse, creep. I’ll admit to crossing that line on occasion, it takes a stronger man than me to look a little lower or higher during some of the twirls. I was lightly slapped on the leg and laughed at for my sins by one of my classmates so I have learned my lesson (I am far more discreet now).
2. The difference between a gentleman and a creep is 1/8th of an inch.
When you dance you are close, depending on you and your partner’s level of trust and comfort your distance apart is as little as an inch, if not outright touching. Some of my classmates have pointed out creeps to me and as far as I can tell the difference is about 1/8th of an inch. Cross the closeness boundary by that much and you wander into creep territory. There is also an attitude that goes with creeps though so don’t stress about occasionally crossing the boundary because a gentleman naturally re-establishes that distance, creeps on the other hand cross it on purpose. From what I can gather creeps do this because they don’t treat their partner as a partner, more an object to fling around the dance floor and control. I’m still trying to work out the subtleties here but if you get labelled a creep I can guarantee every woman in the room will know within two songs.
3. Every lady likes to be asked to dance—EVERY LADY
You may be turned down because the lady requires a break, I have heard people who know people who have heard stories of this happening but I haven’t witnessed it yet. At my first social dance I watched how this works quite closely. Every lady approached by a man to dance said yes and when they did then without exception you could see their heart quicken and see the sparkle behind their eyes. Alright I couldn’t quite see that but you can see their smile hit their eyes. If you believe chivalry is dead and it’s an equal opportunity world then I thank you in advance for holding her drink while the lady and I dance.
4. Leading and Following
These are skills which need to be learned but they aren’t what you think they are. Forget feminism, chivalry and such, the best way for me to describe these are as Strategy and Tactics. Strategy is what gets you to the battlefield; tactics is what you use once you get there. First, never forget you are partners, dancing is about making each other look good but you have different roles. As a leader your job is to deliver a sequence of steps that allows the follower to make those steps look sexy, seductive and generally awesome. As a follower it’s your job to stop thinking about what comes next and concentrate on expressing the step you’re in to the utmost of your ability. It takes trust to be a good dance partner and leading and following are skills both sexes need to learn to dance well.
There’s a life lesson here and if you haven’t experienced true following and leading I would recommend you do so. It is an important lesson as leading and following are not the same as dominance and submission. Remember in dancing it’s a partnership with one goal – pure seductive awesomeness.
5. Shoes are everything.
Sorry guys I still can’t shed light on this one but if you need some online dance shoe stores ask me in the comments. I have many, many links provided by my classmates.
6. Ladies get just as nervous as we do.
They may look cool calm and collected but they are as nervous as you are and as likely to make as many mistake as you do. Be patient and they will appreciate that as much as you do when they reciprocate that patience.
7. Ladies want gentlemen to make as much effort as they do.
They truly do, they go to the trouble of makeup, fancy clothes and whatever else they do in a bathroom for an hour so respect this and take the time to shave, brush and dress well. Luckily point number 3 will get you past this if you violate it.
8. Hygiene, hygiene, hygiene
If you are having trouble understanding why hygiene is important you probably need more help than I can give you here. Mints, deodorant and possibly some clean shirts coupled with good home hygiene will get you through a night of dancing. No, point number 3 won’t get you past this if you violate it.
9. Thank them.
For four minutes you have established trust and a bond which would take you an hour or two in a nightclub. Thank the ladies for the dance. It takes courage to establish that with a stranger and it should be duly treasured by the both of you.
That’s what I have learned in four weeks and I am presuming there is a heck of a lot more. I don’t believe anyone has ever said women are simple creatures, but if you take the time to watch and listen they aren’t so different from us guys. Except for shoes, I have a feeling that shoes will always boggle my mind.
Photo credit: (altered) Flickr/longislandwins