General Dance Discussion > Help, please! From a dance-loving wife with a dance-phobic spouse. . .

Discussion in 'General Dance Discussion' started by PennyAnnie, Oct 9, 2017.

  1. PennyAnnie

    PennyAnnie New Member

    Hi all you Dancers!

    First - I have already become almost addicted to the forum on this site - what a great community you have!

    Next - I have loved to dance since forever and was considered a pretty good dancer in high school (AGES ago - graduated in 1971, if any of you want to do the math . . . ). My first marriage of 30 years was to a non-dancer, so my dancing opportunities were pretty much zilch. After divorcing, I said that dancers should never marry non-dancers. But I found the most absolutely 99.9% perfect man for me - except that he doesn't dance!

    He is an absolute angel, but was traumatized by a dance class in college. He is uber smart (truly a rocket scientist), an engineer who spent decades in hi-tech, and is waaaay too much in his head, who is also an introvert and very self conscious. But, he loves music, does have a sense of rhythm, and knows how important dancing is to me. He is willing to try to learn, but was again somewhat traumatized by a group class we took when dating. We also tried semi-private lessons with another couple, which went better, but it seemed like there were just too many different types of dances that the instructor was trying to teach us each week.

    I realize that this forum is way more advanced, and many (most?) of you are even into competitive dancing, but I decided you still might be a good community to turn to for help.

    What we would like to do is to just be able to move together on a dance floor - at a club, a party, a wedding, etc. I guess I don't feel like we need to have a whole arsenal of specific dances - we just need a few basic steps and a few basic turns that we can link together to feel as if we're dancing, as opposed to what we do now, which is to just hold unto each other, shuffle our feet and sway a little to the music (ala 7th grade, LOL)! Music styles are basic Top 40/Pop, Oldies (70's - current), love songs, etc.

    Any suggestions for what dance style would be most VERSATILE for us to learn? I have been reading a lot about "easiest dances for beginners", etc - but am still confused. Do we need to learn specific dances, or can we just learn to move with the music together? Any recommentdations?
  2. PaulBunyon

    PaulBunyon Active Member

    I think what you've done so far were good choices with less than ideal results. Sort of like cooking, not every recipe comes together in an ideal way. but if you try it a few times it gets better and better.

    My first recommendation would be to try some more private or semi private lessons. This time be clear about your goals. Say the same things you said here.
    . If you don't give an instructor guidance for what you want, they likely just go with a standard package of instructions of their own choosing. It's a private lesson, most want to deliver what the customer wants and not the cookie cutter package. Bear in mind, you may have landed with an instructor who only knows how to follow a specific recipe and may need to find someone more seasoned. You be the judge if that was the case. One tip I might give is to ask to be treated like a wedding couple. Wedding couples come in to learn one dance, for one performance. It focuses the teaching in a very specific way that may resonate with your engineer.

    As far as needing to learn a specific dance, the most versatile dance useful with "Top 40/Pop, Oldies (70's - current), love songs, etc. " at "a club, a party, a wedding, etc." is probably some sort of Swing. I would recommend East Coast Swing first and grow from there.

    You are correct in thinking you don't need to learn a specific dance, a seasoned pro could teach you to move in partnership. That said, this is really just level 2 of "shuffle our feet and sway a little to the music (ala 7th grade, LOL)!" and you might be frustrated with your result and wishing you invested in a specific dance. Additionally, your "engineer" partner would probably enjoy the structure and history of a syllabused dance. Ask your instructor to share that sort of stuff. That the dance is divided in learning blocks (often described using Olympic medals), each level builds specific skills which establish a foundation and goes from there. It may be helpful if your partner is aware that there is indeed a "formula" for success and this isn't all soft and fluffy art that you have to feel your way through. It's OK and helpful to think of learning dance as a progressive discipline and not just something that requires innate ability, because that really is what dance is, a skill, not a talent.

    Hope that helps.
    PennyAnnie and MaggieMoves like this.
  3. snapdancer

    snapdancer Well-Known Member

    I agree with a lot of these suggestions, but take exception to the learning a wedding dance. The typical wedding couple that I've seen doesn't really learn to dance in the way you want to dance long term (and the way I'd want you to learn), which is he leads & she follows. Rather, the wedding couple fakes their way through a choreographed routine and then immediately forgets it just like you forgot all the dates you learned right after you took the history test you needed to pass but really weren't interested in. That's perfectly acceptable for the typical wedding couple -- while I can tell that they're faking it their guests won't be able to tell the difference and if there happens to be someone like me who can tell what's going on, we won't be telling anyone else.

    As an engineer myself, part of the fun is reverse engineering the reason for the technique. I refer back to my statics and dynamics mechanical engineering courses to help understand (for example) why CBM helps you turn. The dance instructor teaching these techniques probably won't speak engineer and therefore won't be able to explain it in engineer, but that's OK. I recall a few hilarious episodes of this teacher trying to explain anatomy to a group class which had two MDs, who just rolled their eyes and smiled at his attempts to speak medical. But in the end that was OK as long as we could figure out what he was trying to explain technique-wise.

    Another issue I have with learning a wedding dance is that sometimes a wedding couple is handed off to a beginning instructor who has yet to master the technique himself. Which is OK for the average wedding couple who isn't there to learn technique anyway.

    Which leads to the next point which is finding a qualified instructor who knows the technique and can figure out a way to explain it the way the student will understand it. Typically I learn a new figure by learning the steps and then taking another pass at it adding on the technique layer. Unfortunately there are teachers and studios that don't go beyond the first steps layer. You may have to shop around to find a teacher who will teach it properly. Some studios may have the business models that relies on contracts for programs, you need to shop around and ask questions to make sure you don't get trapped in one of those. Look for instructors who will sell you lessons one-at-a-time and try them out for a lesson or two before going further.

    The East Coast swing is good dance to learn for the type of music you like. Another dance to learn is Night Club Two Step, which is _not_ the country two step. It can be danced to some of the slower ballad songs.
    PennyAnnie likes this.
  4. AirColor

    AirColor Member

    Why are y'all suggesting east coast swing to pop songs? East coast swing is almost never danced to modern music (other than with electroswing/new hip hop with charleston). If you wanted to dance to pop songs the easiest style to learn is Blues and Fusion, which would teach you the very basic of partner dancing and is an extremely versatile style. They're mostly danced to slower songs but if you wanted to dance to fast pop then I would suggest west coast swing, though it's much harder than blues/fusion. East coast swing is good for swing songs like Frank Sinatra/christmas songs you hear in the malls along with the traditional big band you'd hear if you go to dance socials.
    j_alexandra and PennyAnnie like this.
  5. Mr 4 styles

    Mr 4 styles Well-Known Member

    I recommend you find an instructor who is skilled in the social dances to get you going at a studio party. Don’t pick by music type. Pick an easy dance to learn first to break the curse for your man
  6. MaggieMoves

    MaggieMoves Well-Known Member

    As others said, find an instructor trained in social dancing. He just needs something to get on the floor and have a great time to break that stigma.

    I've found that a lot of the science types typically love dances under the ballroom umbrella... it's just tough to get them on that floor the first time.
  7. PennyAnnie

    PennyAnnie New Member

    Wow! Did I ever hit the jackpot! I had a feeling I was asking my question in the right place.
    PaulBunyon - thank you for your very thoughtful and in-depth answer! I loved the specific suggestions, and also he way you are able to relate to how my sweetie's engineer/scientific mind works. I especially appreciate how encouraging you are! Now, I just need to figure out how to find that elusive "seasoned pro" who is right for us!
  8. PennyAnnie

    PennyAnnie New Member

    SnapDancer - Thank you, also, for you thoughtful and helpful reply! The extra insight from also being an engineer is helpful - and hopeful! You also offered some valid points about not being treated as a wedding couple - I do want us to be able to dance somewhat "spontaneously" in different situations, not just learn one "canned" routine.

    And again, it seems as if the challenge now is to find that qualified instructor. So no contracts, no cookies cutter programs, no beginning instructors. Any other tips?
  9. PennyAnnie

    PennyAnnie New Member

    AirColor - Thank you for the specific suggestions about dance styles that might be a good place for us to start. I think I will try to find examples on YouTube, to see what the different styles are like, and what styles WE like! Music-wise, Frank Sinatra and big band aren't what we would tend to go out for - although it is fun to watch good dancers dance to it!
  10. PennyAnnie

    PennyAnnie New Member

    Mr 4 Styles - YES, that's what we need - something easy to break the curse! Thank you for your valued input. Interesting that we should't choose by music type - can you elaborate any more?
  11. PennyAnnie

    PennyAnnie New Member

    MaggieMoves - Thank you for chiming in - and for "liking" some of the other answers. What a great community! Hmmmm . . . guess I'll just have to be extra persuasive to get him on the dance floor for the first time! I would really love for him to find the FUN in dance though, and not do it ONLY to please me. Again - it's encouraging to hear that science and engineer types can love dance!
  12. PennyAnnie

    PennyAnnie New Member

    Gee - just had a thought . . . are any of you by any chance instructors in the Portland, Oregon area? Or can recommend someone who might be a good match for us?
  13. IndyLady

    IndyLady Well-Known Member

    I like a lot of popular, mainstream music (including back to the 80's). I find that most of it is EC swing, cha cha, hustle, or salsa. So that's what I would recommend learning.

    As an aside, though it is perfectly fine to go in and indicate what you are interested in learning and start there, don't completely close yourself off to new things outside your initial box.

    Totally agree with this. I have noticed that analytical quantitative types tend to do well in ballroom (I am one of those, I'll let you make the connection, lol). Most of the noticeably good leads at my studio are in some sort of STEM field - engineering, software design, computer programming, etc.
    PennyAnnie and MaggieMoves like this.
  14. PaulBunyon

    PaulBunyon Active Member

    I'm not from Portland, but a very good instructor from my region relocated there a couple years ago.
    She specialized in building social dancers while here. She's fun and good. Check her out.
    PennyAnnie, Borazine and Mr 4 styles like this.
  15. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

    Dear PennyAnnie, I´ll be honest with you: None !
    After dancing my whole life, I know, that it is most unlikely that a dancer and a non-dancer will start learning or practicing together successfully.
    My first suggestion, let him start learning a totally different style or dance (WCS, Lindy, Argentine Tango, Kizomba, Forró, Salsa). Let him gain his own experiences on his own in a state of total quarantine first. Alternative suggestion, dancing also means to be part of a community and to have social bonds. Being a DJ is also an important part of a dance community. If he should be interested in putting records on or to build play lists, you both could share the same crowd without dancing together regularly. Only my 2 cents!
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2017
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  16. Mr 4 styles

    Mr 4 styles Well-Known Member

    I would follow Paul Bunyan’s advice. Sounds like the right type of instructor
    PennyAnnie, Borazine and RiseNFall like this.
  17. cornutt

    cornutt Well-Known Member

    So about 15 years ago, I was in the same place as your husband. My DW (dear wife, an acronym we use a lot here) wanted to start dancing. She'd had dance experience in high school and was a skill disco dancer in the late 1970s. I had no dancing experience other than some club free dancing, which I had been told repeatedly that I was bad at, and that I just "didn't have it" and should stop asking because it was an embarrassment for a girl to have to dance with me.

    What I found was completely different from what I expected. The instructor picked up right away on the fact that I was uncomfortable and she made it her mission to put me at ease. Before she taught us any patterns in anything, she showed us how to connect in a frame and how to move together, and the basics of leading and following. Then she started us up on some dances with easy basic patterns: rumba, foxtrot, and waltz (all in American style). Once we had that, we could dance together a little bit, and getting over that initial hump helped me a lot.

    Expect that when you start taking lessons together, most of the instructor's focus is going to be on him. There are two reasons for this: first, the fact that you have previous experience and he doesn't. But second and more important, because as he's going be dancing the lead role presumably, there is a heck of a lot more he has to learn to get started. You have to learn to connect to the lead and dance your parts. He has to learn to connect to you and dance his parts and indicate leads properly and pay attention to the music and worry about floorcraft, all before he can get on the floor on Friday night the first time. This is called "leader's hell" and it causes a lot of guys to quit a couple of months in, because their spouses/partners seem to be making a lot more progress than they are and it gets discouraging. Which brings up a very important point. You may want to try to help him along the way by teaching or instructing him. Don't do that! I cannot emphasize this enough. Every time you "help" him, no matter how well intentioned, you are just drilling home the point that you are more skilled and making more progress than he is. After a while, you may reach a point where it will benefit you both to take separate lessons for a while. It'll help him to have a pro to dance with who can help him work out issues, and it'll benefit you to be in a lesson situation where you aren't standing around while your husband and instructor are working on things.
  18. cornutt

    cornutt Well-Known Member

    And I meant to add to that (hit post by accident): You might want to point out to him that social dancing in general is a simplified form of social interaction. Everyone there is there for one reason, to dance, and the social rules for asking for dances and politeness are pretty simple compared to an unstructured social situation like a party. I'm an introvert like your husband, and that realization helped me a lot when I started dancing.
    Caroline Skipper and PennyAnnie like this.
  19. PennyAnnie

    PennyAnnie New Member

    IndyLady - thanks for more the great suggestions (be open minded, willing to think outside of the box) and encouragement for my Engineer. And to everyone who has taken time to answer - he wanted me to express his appreciation as well for the great consideration all of you have put into your answers! He's still doubtful, but becoming more hopeful!
  20. PennyAnnie

    PennyAnnie New Member

    Thank you, PaulBunyon! We will definitely check her out! GREAT tip! (note - it wouldn't let me post this reply with the link in it . . . but anyone else interested can read PaulBunyon's original post to find the link)

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