General Dance Discussion > Learn dancing

Discussion in 'General Dance Discussion' started by Johnny87, Mar 22, 2004.

  1. Johnny87

    Johnny87 New Member


    I'm a 17 year old guy, who has always loved music. I love playing the guitar and I'm always listening to music (even during class :twisted:). The problem is though that I never went to any dancing lessons when I was younger, and right now I'm about as stiff as a pole.

    At parties I usually try staying away from the dance floor, even though I would love being up there, because I know I'll most certainly make a fool out of myself. Thats why I've really decided to learn how to dance at least a little bit. I'm not talking professional dancing, travolta style (even thought that would be cool) but just being able to look good on the dance floor.

    You know the kind of music being played at parties/night clubs... R&B, party remixes of songs with lots of bass pounding all the time, pop music and so on, thats the kind of music I want to be able to dance to. As I'm really awfull now I don't want to take lessons, but was thinking of buying me one of these videos. I've been looking at a few, including :"Anyone can dance, freestyle" "You can dance nightclub"

    I was just wondering if anyone had any tips on which video is best or any other advice that could make this a wee bit easier for me, then that would be great.


  2. DWise1

    DWise1 Well-Known Member

    Johnny, I'm a 52-year-old man who had tried in vain in college to learn to dance and finally had to concluded that it was simply impossible. In the intervening decades, even my wife kept reinforcing the notion that I have absolutely no sense of rhythm and cannot possibly learn to dance.

    Then a few years ago, I started learning by taking classes. Some Salsa at first, then West Coast Swing (and a smattering of other ballroom dances), now finally East Coast Swing and Lindy. Not having a background in playing an instrument, one major hurdle I had was to learn to hear the beat and the rhythm from the music, which I did finally learn half-way through WCS. Even though I have a lot more to learn and I'm constantly aware of how bad I am, I also constantly get compliments from my partners how well I dance and that I am one of the best dancers in the class.

    The moral of the story is that if I can learn to dance, then anybody should be able to. Also that we tend to be our own worst critics and others see us as doing much better than we see ourselves doing.

    The most important factor in how we face challenges is attitude. The most important thing I did at the very start and which has really helped me was to decide to have fun with learning to dance. I knew that I would "make a fool of myself" and just completely screw up the steps. So I decided to not take it too seriously, but rather to laugh at myself and my own mistakes. One of my partners, a friend in Lindy class, commented one day that even while we're learning a complex new step that's getting everybody frustrated, she looks over and always sees me smiling and even laughing. Of course I get frustrated too, but I try to relax and have fun with learning the new step instead of tensing up and fretting over it; I personally feel that it helps me to think my way through the problem.

    Another point that has been brought up many times is that when a beginner is out on the dance floor making mistakes, nobody's watching him. Instead, everybody's watching those great dancers out there with all those great moves. Besides, which, even those great dancers were themselves beginners worried about making fools of themselves on the dance floor. They remember what it was like and are much more likely to help you learn than to ridicule you.

    Another point was brought up by one of the girls in Lindy class. They don't really care how good or how bad you are at dancing. They're just happy to have somebody to dance with. And if you're out there trying, they're going to cheer you on. OK, so maybe there are some girls who are too stuck-up to dance with any but the best, but who needs them anyway?

    I don't know of any videos to recommend because 1) I don't know what dances you want to learn and 2) that is not the route I had taken.

    I'm assuming that you are thinking of a partner dance (ie, where you actually get to hold your dance partner and lead what moves the two of you do), so I immediately see a problem with a purely-video path. Seeing a move done, even seeing it broken down and explained, is a lot different from actually doing it with a partner. It's like a joke I used the other night when having problems with a particular step: "My problem is that my sense of rhythm is too high; I need to have it lowered. -- the other person questions my statement -- Yeah, it's all in my head; I need to lower it to my feet."

    Instead of just seeing the move, you need to do it in order to get it into "muscle memory". Furthermore, because a lot of partnered moves have a particular feel to them, you need to do a partnered move with a partner in order to learn it. I've often had to pantomine my part of a move in class and it's nothing at all like the real thing with a partner.

    So if you do take the video route, you will also need a partner to practice with. This is why I lean more towards group classes, because they provide the dance partners for you -- the other students. If you don't have a partner yet, find one. If your girlfriend or one of your female friends does the kind of dancing you're interested in, ask her to practice with you and/or to help you learn. She might even teach you. It's a case of enlightened self-interest for her, since teaching you would mean one more guy she can dance with at a party.

    If you feel far too shy to do that, let me tell you that I am extremely shy and would be paralyzed trying to think of a "pickup line" with which to approach a strange woman and start a conversation with her. But I have no problem at all doing it in a dance venue, because we already have the dance in common. And I have only been turned down a couple times and only for very practical reasons (eg, she was trying to catch her breath from the last dance, she didn't know the current dance). So even if you are only in the same class with a girl you know dances, asking her to help you learn to dance is a great excuse to approach her and should be well received -- eg, mention having seen her dancing at a party, compliment her on it, mention that you don't know how to dance but really want to learn, ask her if she could help.

    Or if any of your male friends or acquaintences dance, you could ask them for advice on how to learn. They could recommend or even loan you tapes, or teach you the basic steps and the rhythm, or even introduce you to girls you could partner with for practice.

    Finally, check your public library for their dance videos. That way, you can sample some of what's out there to see which ones you might like and which ones you'd want to stay away from.

    Hope some of that helps.
  3. bordertangoman

    bordertangoman Well-Known Member

    I guess you may be feeling a lack of confidence?

    Ok a few tips: you will learn more from a good and sympathetic teacher than any video or book. Take some private lessons if you feel uncomfortable with a crowd, but if your all beginners it shouldn't be a problem.
    To loosen up just put on some music that you like and experiment what your body wants to do. Avoid judging whether its good or bad. if you have negative thoughts like 'I feel embarrassed' or 'this is stupid' laugh them off - its normal to think these things.

    most importantly in my experience:
    I encourage to make mistakes deliberatley so they get used to it and then they relax. Mistakes is just part of learning.

    Regarding rythm. listen to everything and tap your feet or your fingers to anything to where you think the rhythm is. In some music its not obvious and some it is, and people also pick up on different instruments which are playing say, melody and beat as a simple example.

    PS if there's a 5 Rhythms group near you. Try that.
  4. Johnny87

    Johnny87 New Member

    Actually I'm not thinking of a partner dance. I was thinking more of freestyle dancing, or even just a few steps you can do on your own on the dance floor, without a partner.

    I'd like to think that I have some rythm (as I've been playing guitar most of my life) but I'm not quite sure about that :D But I don't think that the rythm is my problem, It's more like I just don't know what to do once on the dance floor, and I'm really stiff (probably from all my years playing football).

    To be honest with you, most guys, at parties around here, can't dance at all... Then you'd probably say that no one would notice me if I was just as good (read: bad) as everyone else.
    But I don't want to stand up there swaying to and fro because I've had to many drinks, I want to be able to really dance.

    I wouldn't mind going to a lesson, but I'd like to have some dancing knowledge before I do.
    I don't know of any classes here in Stockholm, where I live at the moment. Which leads me to my next problem, the language. Sure, everyone here speaks english, but I would'nt think the classes were held in English.
    Thats why I think a video tape could give me some basic steps, which I could then use and start going out dancing and learn lots more.
  5. DancePoet

    DancePoet Well-Known Member

    Hi Johnny87,

    Hope this doesn't disappoint, but partner dancing is the way to go!

    The way I started was by showing up at a local studio where there was a basic lesson before a social dance. I believe the lesson was foxtrot and rumba. I stayed for the social dance where I got to try out the basic stuff learned in the lesson, and also listen to the different types of music to determine what dances I wanted to learn first. I went with a friend who helped me learn what types of dance steps went with what types of music. This wasn't retained and has took a while to really sink in, but it helped me identify what I wanted to focus on for lessons at the time.

    And don't shy away from partner dancing. You will be a hit at the parties when you ask some one to dance, ask them if they know how to do a basic cha-cha or salsa or swing or whatever, and ask them if you can show them if they don't know how. Otherwise, just get out there on the floor and dance anyway!
  6. Johnny87

    Johnny87 New Member

    Hi Dancepoet, thanks for your answer.

    I don't shy away from partner dancing, actually I love it. At the school prom and stuff like that, I don't have any trouble asking girls up or dancing with them.
    In school we learned the basic steps to most dances, like waltz, foxtrot and so on.

    But thats not really the way you dance, when you go out to nightclubs or parties. Sure if you went to a party where people are 50+, then maybe :roll:

    And thats what I can't do. If we say, I'm up alone on the dance floor, I just don't know what to do. So most often I just freeze, and walk off after a wee while.
  7. Sagitta

    Sagitta Well-Known Member

    First of all welcome to df Johnny87. :D

    If you already know some partner dancing then the issue isn't rhythm. And you can take what you have learnt in what you seem to view as dances that older folks do (50+) and incorporate that to the music you describe hearing. I've done a lot of that - taking moves from one dance and using them in another.
  8. Johnny87

    Johnny87 New Member

    Thanks Sagitta! :D

    Well I don't think rythm is my main problem. But just cause I know the very basics of waltz and jitterbugg does NOT mean I dance to the rythm of the music. Or that I can use those steps at parties...

    I mean we had a few lessons waltz and jitterbugg at gym class, and thats it...

    Maybe lessons would be the best way to go, but most people start dancing so much earlier. I'd probably be the oldest one in the group :?
    And then there's the language problem again...

    I'd much rather start off with a video tape, and see how it goes and maybe later take a class or two. Hasn't anyone in here seen any tapes they can recommend, with the type of dancing I'm looking for. Freestyle, nightclub.. I dunno maybe hip-hop or breakdance???
  9. Sagitta

    Sagitta Well-Known Member

    I don't know about starting at an early age. I started in my mid-20's!! Less then a year ago!

    As for using the about turns? If you have done underhand turns that can easily be done with the other music that you hear at the parties you go to.

    Hip-hop is definitely popular nowadays. I wouldn't recommend night-club dancing, though.
  10. Johnny87

    Johnny87 New Member

    Why would'nt you recommend night club dancing.. I mean thats where I would go dancing... at night clubs...
  11. Sagitta

    Sagitta Well-Known Member

    It depends what you mean when you say night club dancing. I was thinking of night club two-step. Based on what you have said so far I wouldn't learn this if I was you... I don't think that this sort of partner dancing is what you are looking for.
  12. Johnny87

    Johnny87 New Member

    Ok, well I don't know the what the different types of dances are called.
    But I meant the way you dance at night clubs to music with lots of bass etc.

    *EDIT* I've been looking at this tape from the "anyone can dance" series, called freestyle dancing.
    It includes

    1) Rhythm in Place
    2) Side Tap
    3) Forward Tap
    4) Rhythm Levels
    5) Forward & Back Tap
    6) Grapevine
    7) Turns Left & Right
    8) Hip Roll
    9) Pelvic Action
    10) Rubber Legs

    do you think this could be anything for me??
  13. huey

    huey New Member

    Hello Johnny87,

    I just spotted this thread, and wanted to comment. I've read your post and the suggestions from others. So you want to look good and have fun dancing in nightclubs?

    I'm 46 and started Lindy Hop partner dancing nearly a year ago. Like you, I trained in music, and dancing usually appealed to me, but the fear of looking and feeling stupid prevented me doing it. Despite my age, I like music like Hip Hop and pop music, and enjoy dancing to it, as well as Lindy Hop (when dancing I do feel more comfortable if there are people there in my age group)

    I have a suggestion for a simple move, and it's STEPS.

    You know the Michael Jackson song "Billie Jean"?

    Play this, and STEP as follows -

    1. Moving to the right - Step with right leg, step with left, step with right, kick with left

    2. Moving to the left - Step with left leg, step with right, step with left, kick with right

    If you stand side by side with the girl (both facing the same way), then she can copy you, and move in the same direction. Alternatively, if you stands opposite facing you, she can 'mirror' you, so that when you move right, she moves to her left, and you are both moving in the same direction.

    If you are opposite facing, when you move to your right, you can hold her right hand in your left hand, and when you move to your left, you can hold her left hand in your right hand. If you do this, it definitely becomes a partner dance. If you are both facing the same way, it can either be a partner dance (you and a partner) or it can be a line dance if more people join.

    So, in conclusion, use steps. If you want some inspiration, try Michael Jackson videos. Once you've tried the above steps, you can work out your own variations. Steps seem to fit a lot of of slow-mid tempo music with a strong beat.
  14. MacMoto

    MacMoto Active Member

    Can I suggest you take some salsa classes?
    Why salsa? Because:
    • Salsa is one of the partner dances that are considered cool for younger people. If you already have some partner dance experience, it shouldn't be too difficult to learn.
    • The key to salsa is latin hip motion, and guys who have a command of this motion look very sexy and smooth, even when they are not dancing salsa but something else.
    • In addition to partnered moves, salsa dancing has what we call shines, which are freestyle solo footworks. These can be used with non-salsa music and are very useful for freestyle nightclub dancing.

    Disclaimer: I'm a salsa dancer and most certainly biased.
  15. foursquare

    foursquare New Member

    Not necessarily true about being the oldest. In my first group class, I was the second youngest at 38. Can't help with the language problem, but a lot of dance class is being shown moves... who cares what it's called!

  16. Sagitta

    Sagitta Well-Known Member

    I'll just second MacMoto. She has explained my position beautifuuly!! :kissme:
  17. streamlinedata

    streamlinedata New Member

    I realize that you have probably learned how to dance by this time (since it is February 2005, now... and you posted a year ago).

    Anyway, IF you still have no idea, I recommend a movie that just came out: Hitch (starring Will Smith)... there's a scene in the movie where Hitch (Will Smith), shows Albert (Kevin James of "King of Queens") how to dance (for clubs and such... no raves, however;) ).
    And no, he doesn't show Albert how to do something like this, fortunately.

    If you don't want to see the movie, or can't afford it, here's the basic jist of it:
    1. Start standing with your feet together
    2. Move your right foot one step sideways, feet together
    3. Move your left foot one step sideways, feet together
    4. -repeat-

    That's all the steps you're going to make.
    - The amount of space that you should only take up would be 3 feet wide.
    - For the beat, as someone else stated, most songs are in 4/4 time. I'm sure that since you know how to play guitar, you can count time. So with that, I can assume that you know that each step is one beat:
    feet together (1...), step right (2...), feet together (3...), step left (4...), feet together (1...), etc.
    - You arms will stay at your sides, bent at the elbows at a 90-degree angle.
    - Your hands could be in a fist, or be snapping to the beat.

    I don't remember any instructions about the head (besides having your eyes kept on the girl, and not biting on your lips), so I suppose you could do whatever you want with it ;)

    I'm sure you can do variations on this move, but nothing to dramatic such as going all crazy, flailing your arms absolutely everywhere.

    (I just saw the movie today, so I have yet to also "master" these new instructions.)

    As for grinding, I'm sure many others have helped already, but if that hasn't worked, you can sometimes rely on the girl you're dancing with to help you out. My first time grinding, I had no idea what to do... but then my girlfriend showed me how.

    Hope I could help!
  18. Sagitta

    Sagitta Well-Known Member

    Thanks for jumping in and welcome to df streamlinedata
  19. DancePoet

    DancePoet Well-Known Member

    I go to studio socials and other dance "parties" almost every week, and I've seen plenty of folks that are under 50.

    However, if it's club dancing you want, I'd like to encourage you to take some Salsa lessons, too! I'm not as much of a Salsa dancer like MacMoto and Sagitta, but I know this is a dance that can be used at the clubs. And ask one of those ladies from school if she'd like to join you, too. :D
  20. boco

    boco New Member


    i read your post, and was too lazy to read the replies, but let me say this.

    you sound just like me.. 20 years old, always listenign to music, plays guitar, and cant dance for crap.

    sure, DDR is fun, but its not real dancing.

    I decided i wanted to learn something, so i googled hip-hop studios in my area.

    well, i found one, and have been atending classes every week for the past month.

    Here's the real kicker: you may think that its weird being the new person... IM THE ONLY GUY IN THE CLASS! It was weird, but I just said 'hey, im a white computer nerd from new york who has never danced before in his life' and everyone seemed nice about it =)

    and DAMN. what a way to meet girls.

    the hardest part is starting, and sticking with it... Where are you from?


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