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adult dance classes

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It's Raining Men! Gentleman taking over Salsa and Bachata Classes

Image from CreativeCommons.Org   

Image from CreativeCommons.Org

 

For the last month or two at Holy City Salsa, there’s been an interesting phenomena in several of the group classes—more guys than girls.

            It’s surprising...how many times have you been at some sort of group dance class or event that’s been overflowing with women and only a handful of men? So what’s the deal? Why are men taking over the dance class game? And what are women missing out on by not taking classes?

            Here are a few theories and observations from personal experiences—comment below if you agree or disagree and let’s have a dialogue about this.

            The Learning Curve is Imbalanced

            Women/follows can go on the social dance floor, be led through moves and achieve a certain degree of competency without necessarily knowing much more than a few basics.  Though classes and lessons are important to learning finesse, style, and technique, most ladies can at least learn enough on the social dance floor to have a decent time at a dance event.  

            Men/leads can’t really learn by doing on the social dance floor. Or if they try, women/follows may start avoiding them because they will get tired of being improperly led through moves. For a man/lead to have a good time at a social dance event, he needs to be somewhat competent, and at least have a few moves he can lead in his arsenal.

           A lead said his enjoyment of dance events exponentially increased the more he learned. The more moves he knew, the more technique he had, the more fun dancing became for him. Follows are not expecting leads to come out of the gate being excellent dancers—there is definitely a learning curve on both ends, but follows often advance faster than leads, at least in the beginning.

            This makes women/follows feel like they don’t need to take dance classes on a regular basis—however, once women/follows plateau from just learning by social dancing, they tend to stay in a plateau, whereas leads who take classes regularly tend to advance past their plateaus. Think the tortoise and the hare.

            The Social Structure is Imbalanced

            Women may opt out of taking dance classes because they statistically spend more time on housework and childcare than men.  If a woman has to get dinner on the table, make sure the kids are taken care of, and get those extra loads of laundry in, she’s probably not going to spend her spare time taking dance classes. Women with kids, especially single moms, often have to arrange childcare when they are taking dance classes, so a one-hour dance class turns into an expensive and time-consuming process after setting up and paying for childcare.

        Men are also more likely than women to spend time on any given day participating in a leisure activity, such as dancing.

            The time of year may also affect whether or not women can attend classes—those with kids find more responsibilities heaped on them at the beginning and ending of the school year and around the holidays.

            Women also may have less disposable income than men. Women still earn 80 cents to every dollar that a man earns, and so it’s possible that women have less discretionary funds to spend on dance classes as well as less time. 

            The Dance Class Model is Imbalanced

             Social dance classes for partner work, like Salsa and Bachata, tend to focus on learning steps, patterns, and combos. Since the onus is on the lead to lead these combos, more attention is usually given to teach the lead’s technique and footwork. Though principles of following and styling are also taught, the elements of a class that would appeal to a lady are not necessarily the focus.

            Though it is always beneficial to practice a step over and over again, ladies/follows may grow bored with the repetitions needed for a lead to master a step. It’s up to the instructor to make sure that the ladies/follows always have something to work on and refine.

            Women may start out taking dance classes, but stop because they feel like they get the same experience from just social dancing if the instructor doesn’t take the time to work with the follows.

 

So what do you think? Do you think these observations and ideas are valid, or totally off the mark? What have you noticed happen in dance classes? Does it vary from community to community? Are you in a scene that’s overflowing with women? 

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Learn to Dance: Trust the Process

Fred Astaire said, “Some people seem to think that good dancers are born, but all the good dancers I have known are taught or trained.”

            Nobody comes out of the womb dancing. Or if they do, they’re not dancing like professionals. Learning to dance is a process, and sometimes, it’s not a comfortable one.

            People have a perception that since dance is fun, it should be easy. That because it’s something that people do for entertainment, there isn’t any work involved. They think dancing is like being able to roll your tongue—you can either do it, or you can’t.

           This perception holds so many people back from stepping onto the dance floor or into a studio to learn to dance. They never even give themselves the opportunity to try, or if they do try, they are constantly second-guessing themselves and holding themselves back from really learning.        

            Dancing is like learning another language. It takes time. It takes practice. It takes some method of instruction.  It takes all of these elements working together to succeed. Like learning another language, there are awkward phases. There are lots of mistakes. There are potential times to inadvertently offend another person. But like learning another language, learning to dance gives you the ability to connect with more people. To connect with more cultures. To express yourself more fully.

            You just have to trust the process. You have to trust that some days, it will feel like two steps forward and one step back. That some days, your body and brain will rebel. That some days, you’ll feel like a pubescent teenager, all elbows and angles.

          Yes, you’re aiming to come out on the other side as a better dancer, but the whole fun of learning to dance is the process. Along the way, you learn so much about yourself and other people.

           You learn that even if you don’t master something at once, with time and practice, it becomes fluid. You learn that every mistake is a chance to improve. You learn that every single time you dance, you get better. There is no going back. There is no regression. Once you learn something, you’ve learned it. It’s like riding a bicycle— you’ll never forget. Sure, you may get a little bit rusty, but if you stick with it, you will never become a worse dancer.

          So beginner dancers and would-be beginner dancers—trust the process. Overcome your fears and take the first step to learn to dance. Experienced dancers…remember that there is never really a stopping point. There is always something to learn. Always something to master. Always a new way to look at the same step. Wherever you are, keep dancing, and keep enjoying the process along the way.

What do you think? How have you trusted the dance process? How have you not? What limitation do you need to overcome to get to the next level? 

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When Does It Stop Hurting?

After a Salsa class one night, one of my students who was wearing high-heeled dance shoes for the first time came up to me and asked “When does it stop hurting? The balls of my feet are killing me!”

    I answered quite truthfully with the first answer that came to my head.

    “Never.”

    Dance is physically demanding. Whether you are doing it recreationally or professionally, it’s a sport. And like all sports, it’s going to take some kind of toll on your body, no matter the level at which you perform. 

    I am reminded of a line from The Princess Bride: “Life is pain [Highness] and anyone who says otherwise is selling something.”

    That sounds harsh, but it’s the reality. When you’re dancing, you’re using almost all of the muscles in your body. You’re twisting, turning, moving your arms, moving your legs, and engaging muscles that stay stagnant during your normal routines. So yeah, it’s going to hurt.

    But, let’s examine the flip side of that pain.

    You’re having the time of your life.

    Some of the moments I’ve felt most alive, most elated, most joyful, are on the dance floor. It’s 3 AM, my feet are killing me, my back is feeling it, I’m sweaty, I’m tired, I’m hungry, but the music and the dancers and the energy are all swirling around me and I cannot stop. People who run long distances talk about a Runner’s High…people who dance for long periods of time experience a similar Dancer’s High. The adrenaline and endorphins and sense of vitality far, far outweigh the aches and pains. 

    You’re getting in shape.

    Barre fitness classes tout getting a “dancer’s body,” but let’s not forget the *original* way to get that body: by actually dancing. I wore a pedometer out dancing for a full weekend and danced about 10 miles over the course of 3 or 4 days. I always joke after dancing a particularly long and energetic song that I just danced a mile…but there is some truth to that! One of my students told me she lost weight without even trying just by coming to class once or twice a week for about two months. Besides building stamina and endurance, dancing develops muscles that you may not necessarily spend time developing elsewhere. Where else do you get such killer calves? 

    Your pain threshold goes up.

    No, the pain never really goes away. But you learn how to deal with it. Where dancing in heels for one hour was painful, as you get used to it, you can go for two or three and not notice the pain. Where one night of social dancing left your back tight and sore, as you get used to it, you can dance multiple nights in a row and are still able to walk the next day. Where you had one terrible blister that made you ever despair of wearing shoes again, you develop callouses and never, ever scrape them off. 

    Since dance is usually seen as a happy, feel-good activity, people are surprised when it hurts. But the key is to not run from the pain. You have to embrace it, work through, and recognize that it’s temporary. Keep dancing and the things that used to hurt won’t bother you anymore. You’ll develop strategies to deal with the pain— stretching out after a long night of dancing, soaking your feet in epsom salts, adding anti-inflammatories into your diet— and then you’ll enjoy dancing even more

    What do you think? Am I crazy masochist, or have you experienced the same things? What’s the most painful part of dancing for you? Comment below! 

 

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