Category Archives: Dancing

That Guy Who Dances

Image thanks to Bob Mcgahan Photography

That guy who dances, yes that one there, can you see him? He doesn’t hang out with us much anymore; he’s outgrown us you know. He started dancing one night, just up and went to lessons. We didn’t think much of it at first; he started missing the midweek pizza nights. That was OK; we were just hanging around anyway. We called him a few names, a bit of ribbing, laughed at him a little, but he just sort of smiled, that smile you have when you are keeping a big secret from someone, honestly his grin was huge.

What was he doing, he has two left feet

We asked him about this grin, his secret. He showed us a group photo of the people he danced with. Damn, there must have been twenty beautiful women and six guys. We all laughed at him again, what was he doing, he has two left feet, he is as nervous as hell around women, and honestly he wouldn’t stand a chance with women like that. He’d be hitting way above his league.

He started missing guy’s pub night, Friday night. He said he was social dancing now. We joked he must drink a keg or two to venture onto that floor but he replied with the strangest answer. “You can’t really dance when you drink.” It sounded all back to front to me except he never really drank much after that, just in case he had to dance. Who in the world needs to be ready to dance at a moment’s notice?

Before he quit our Saturday night meat market escapades he started doing more things decidedly out of character. He would be the first one on the dance floor and all the girls would follow him. He’s so smooth now, I don’t know how he does it. Every step on time, every sway flowing with the music like he didn’t even have to think about it. 20 women dancing with him and I swear if there had been a minister in the room they would have married him on the spot, yet he looked bored. He seemed to have given up the chase. We asked him why he didn’t ask for any of the girls numbers. He told us “They aren’t dancers, they don’t understand and they’re not …” He shrugged, he couldn’t find the words he wanted. We were all really worried about him now, he’s just our dorky mate. Six months back he would have thrown himself at any one of those girls for a little bit of attention.

But he stopped coming out with us on Saturday nights, Sunday nights too – game night. We hardly see him now. He drops by from time to time, always with stories from dancing. He doesn’t have much time for us anymore he says. We noticed he has 2000 friends on Facebook and we said he couldn’t possibly know all these people. But he does, he can tell us which girls he has danced with, which guys are the good dancers, we haven’t caught him out yet. It’s scary, how does anyone know 2000 people personally?

A couple of hundred of his friends decided to have a day dancing by the beach

I saw him a few months back, well his photo anyway. He was in the paper. A couple of hundred of his friends decided to have a day dancing by the beach and a local journalist snapped it up. It looked like they were all having so much fun. I saw him again a few weeks ago. He had won a local dance competition and he was on the early news. He looked so tall and confident on TV. I guess it’s true what they say that the camera adds ten centimeters. He doesn’t look at all like the guy we used to know.

We get asked about him by strangers sometimes. Women will walk up to us in the pub and ask us where our friend is, “He’s dreamy” they say. “You should dance with him” they tell us. As if! We aren’t gay. “He twirled and twirled us and then we were so close and moving it was like having sex with clothes on” they mention wistfully. We laugh and say they must be talking about someone else. For some reason our laugh always comes out a bit forced though.

That guy who dances, yes that one there, can you see him. He’s a friend of ours, we have known him a long time but we don’t know him anymore. He changed. He isn’t a dork anymore, he hardly drinks, he doesn’t watch footy or do any of the guy stuff anymore. He knows everyone too, whenever we go somewhere there is always someone he greets, a guy he claps on the back, or a beautiful girl he hugs and kisses and says he promised to dance with them later on. When we see him now we all feel like we are at our parents’ house, as if we are children in his presence. He has outgrown us I think, somewhere in the last two years he became a grown up. I think he just keeps in contact hoping one day we will grow up too.

He teaches a class these days, he dragged me along one night. So many beautiful girls in the class and most of the guys, well they are all the boyfriends being dragged along, they didn’t want to be there. All those girls and they all wanted to be held close and just dance, dance with me. I’m wondering why I hadn’t done this before; it’s so much easier to meet girls this way. I warned him I can’t dance at the start of class but he smiled and said I will by the end. And I could, just the basics, but it was so thrilling to dance in time with someone else. There is something … I’m not sure what it is but, well, I think I’ll come back.

Originally published at the Good Men Project


What A Man Wants In A Dance

Image thanks to Getty Images

Authors Note:I asked for input from men, I wanted a more general feel to this article, but we men are a recalcitrant bunch at times so this is from my own perspective combined with some input from a fellow dancer.

What do I want from a dance, it’s not an easy question as a guy, it doesn’t sit forefront in my mind and neither do the descriptions I would use involve words that normally leave my mouth. Think about this I did though and what I want is thus, from least to most. Perfection found in creation, the freedom found in release, connection bound through touch and most importantly, intimacy released through expression. There are other things I want such as friendships, conversations and social interaction but they don’t require a dance and they have in their own rhythm anyway. So the plot of what I want is set and I should guide you through this dance.

There is a drive inside me to perform, to create something on the floor and perfect it over time. It’s my repertoire, the moves that I have learnt; it is the very signature of who I am on the floor. The dance floor is a Lego mat and my moves the bricks. Each dance requires I pull them out and build something unique. I’m still new, still learning so my bricks are big and square, and while I yet want to build castles on the floor, square houses is where I am. This seeking of perfection in the dance that I create scarcely requires a partner but a partner I must include. I think solo dancers understand this oh so well, this is more important to a solo dancer than it is to me, but it is there, this seeking of perfection. I think all dancers have this, especially when new, we see so many castles on the floor, from dancers with decades of experience, how could we resist this wanting to emulate such perfection.

A place where music, feet and mind all meet, a place of meter, beat and rhymes.

There comes a time at the end of beginner’s hell, a time where your first dance has no time at all. A place where music, feet and mind all meet, a place of meter, beat and rhymes. It happens so rarely at first, but more frequently as you improve, as time and place merge where your presence is focused to a point and utter freedom is released. It’s hard to describe what it feels like when you no longer hear the music but your whole body feels the beat, you can’t fall out of sync, the music controls your feet. My mind when this happens, it’s gloriously blank, moves and movement happen and I have no idea where they come from, and for three beautiful minutes there is just me and the person in my arms. I have no idea how to replicate this and it still surprises me when it happens, but every night I head out to dance I hope find this freedom, this release, just one more time.

There is a language in touch, I never knew it was there. I’m faceblind you see and facial expressions are not my strength. I sometimes wish I could remember the color of my friend’s eyes, but with dancing I can remember the connection in our last touch. You see touch is the language of intent, movement and empathy; a connection based on touch runs deeper than one in words. I can feel my partner’s steps; I know when she is on the wrong foot and steady her when she loses her balance. I can guide my partner in this dance simply through intent and if I listen I can hear my partner’s intent too. But mostly I feel my partner’s mood, I can feel when they are relaxed, happy, tense or bored and for good or bad this connection based on touch tells me I am not alone. We spend so much time trying to connect with other people and with dancing that connection, at least for a time, comes true. I wish I had found dancing earlier in life, there is a healing in connection, in hearing it through touch, such a small thing touch but so large when it’s not there.

To all my regular partners I thank you, you make dancing special, and you make it shine.

With every regular partner with which I dance there is an intimacy that we reach. It goes beyond mere connection and goes into a world where a bond is formed. We share a measure of trust, understanding and familiarity. It’s not a relationship bond, but a dancing bond, where over time both my partner and I feel free to express that which we hold dear about dancing to the other. Each partner offers something special, something unique, and with each my dance is different but I can not always say how. Some I will dance closer and slower while some require speed and thrill. Each partner is dear to me as they offer something individual, a part of themselves which they only show to those they trust. It’s an emotional connection, a closeness developed over time. The physical closeness in dancing is considered intimate, but it is nothing compared to the closeness between minds. To all my regular partners I thank you, you make dancing special, and you make it shine.

So that is what I want when I dance, not much to ask for in a mere three minute song. I only seek perfection, freedom, connection and intimacy, no it’s not a lot to ask for, not at all. I can admit I am addicted to dancing, I understand how that works, for these things that I want are very special things. I can’t say all men want these things, I know some are players and some are after even simpler things, but these are the things I search for, the things that make dancing worthwhile.

Originally published at the Good Men Project

The Language of Touch

Often in my writing about dancing I will refer to the language of touch. I’m not using this as a metaphor it is very real and critically important in dancing. Without out it dancing becomes mechanical and relies on the partners having a common background in leading and following. The language of touch adds a certain magic to dancing that turns an OK dance into an otherworldly adventure. You will have a dance every now and again where at the end of the song you feel like the king of the world, an entire dance where even your mistakes looked superb and you’re bewildered as to why you can’t dance like that all the time. This is the language of touch at work.

The English language is a language of things, actions and descriptions. As a writer making an audience “feel” requires that I evoke those feelings and I have to use various literary tricks to do so. “Jane paused, the weight of the world descending into her chest as she spied the ambulance.” In English I can’t just say Jane is scared it has almost no emotional effect. I have to lead the reader into imagining a situation where they have felt the same thing evoking those feelings as they are read. How does this apply to the language of touch?

The language of touch is a language of intention, movement and empathy. There is no defense against hearing these things in touch either, other than pulling away. I’m guessing this is why western culture is almost touch phobic, empathy can be a scary place to be. When you dance the connection you have through touch leaves your every intention wide open, every movement you want to perform can be seen and you will know exactly what your partner is feeling. Men you will have to learn how to talk in the language of touch loudly and clearly and ladies you will need to learn how to listen. It’s not the end of the story either because as you get better you will need to learn the opposite as well, men to listen and ladies to talk.

In English I have to evoke feelings, with touch you have to intend for something to happen and you have to really mean it, you can’t just raise your hand and expect the lady to follow, she will be confused because there is no intention behind the lead. I don’t mean that you just want something to happen either, you have to see it in your head exactly how both you and your partner will be performing the next move. You have to feel how you will move to lead it and feel how your partner will move when she carries out your lead. Men when you have been dancing for 12 months and all your female class mates seem to be outperforming you this is normal. Learning to talk in touch is hard and as men we have the short end of the stick. The learning curve for learning how to talk with touch is much much higher than listening. The ladies understand this and they eagerly await the day you start to understand and catch up. They do really want you to get there, they have danced with you in class for a long time now and they implicitly trust you when you ask them to dance socially.

I’m only just starting to learn how to listen in touch so I’m sorry ladies I can’t do this as much justice as I would like here. When you start to listen with touch you will find there is a specific feeling passed through touch. As a guy I don’t need to look at my partner’s feet to realize she is on the wrong foot I can sense it coming through the connection. It’s likely because her intention is to not collapse on the floor with a broken ankle. When a lady wants to spend a four count doing a bonus (a solo flare or move that makes her look sexy and awesome) or she wants to take her time performing a move slowly I can feel it through touch. I’m still not sure how I know when she wants to do these things but intuitively you can feel her intention and you adjust your leading accordingly. At a guess I can feel when there is a resistance to my intentions, she has her own intentions for a time and as a leader it gives us a small break while she makes herself and us look good.

I said touch is a language of movement and this is the physical aspect of touch. If you push or pull someone they will move. This is the component of touch usually taught in class, it’s the “how to” of leading. When intention meets movement this is when you will start to see things flow. You may push her forward or back with your frame but if you lack intention at the end of the force being applied the lady will stop wondering where you want her to move next. You will find in class the moves you learn seem easy, yet on the social dance floor the same move falls apart. In class the ladies already know your intention in advance so when you move your frame the ladies already know what to do as they have seen it demonstrated. On the social dance floor you have no such guarantee. This can be daunting at first because you think you aren’t leading correctly, sometimes that is true, but sometimes you lack the confidence behind the intention and the movement you impart simply isn’t strong enough for a the lady to hear.

Empathy. You can tell a lot about your partner when you dance with them. You can tell if they are trustworthy, nervous, happy, sad and indifferent or a whole host of things. You won’t always get it right as it comes down to listening again. You can use this as you see fit but for dancing if a lady is excited and happy she will want to dance faster with more spins and turns. If she is mellow and wants to feel the music you will dance closer and slower and the entire mood of your dance will be different. Again this is something I am still learning so use your intuition but knowing how your partner is feeling goes a long way into turning an OK dance into an awesome dance.

If you’re a dancer the language of touch isn’t something that is taught, not in its totality, it’s something you have to pick up by yourself. It takes time and many mistakes, not to mention it’s always different with every partner. It will come eventually if you stick with it though. There is a lot to learn in the first six months of dancing and often on the social floor it is a compromise between feet, moves and leading (pick any two). As you learn you will pick up the language of touch and dancing starts to become much easier.