Why Men Don't Dance

By Joe Donato,
all rights reserved © 2007



I remember an episode of the Simpsons where Lisa ends up having a romance with Nelson, the schoolyard bully. They are on a hilltop at night, looking at the stars, and Lisa starts waxing philosophically, as she’s prone to do, until Nelson turns around and kisses her without warning. We hear their thoughts. Lisa thinks “Wow, my first kiss, I always wondered what it would be like” and Nelson thinks “This ought to shut her up”.


This is the view that many men have about dancing. But a wise man knows that simply making an effort in the hopes that she’ll give you a few seconds of quiet will not truly satisfy her in a way she’s never known you could, or deep down always hoped you would. The world-renown tradition of ballroom dancing re-emerges in pop culture every few decades or so, and has recently been sweeping the nation, the television, the movies, and your kitchen floor. And though it may be rare to find a man who does it well, it is a time tested activity that gets burned into all of our psyches with every Disney cartoon we feed our kids. So if it has such a dramatic hold on society, and on our women, why are so few men interested in it?


 I was forced to ponder this question after I chose this as a part-time career just a few years ago. Based on my own experiences, here’s my take on why the number of men embracing this activity is a small fraction of the whole: It is my conviction that the number one reason why more men don't dance is because instinctually, simply because of the way we are wired, we men shy away from anything that has the potential to make us look or feel incompetent in some way in front of their woman. It’s a natural primordial instinct. By simple logic, the only thing worse then not impressing a woman on the dance floor is completely disappointing a woman on the dance floor (especially if you’re planning to spend the rest of your life with that person.) To an inexperienced man, the dance floor is not as much a place of energy, and fun and stimulation on all levels, as much as it is a giant examination table. It can be a great challenge that a man can ultimately face up to. But it can also add up to just one more place for us to fail our woman. And what self-respecting man needs that?


At the same time, the majority of dance instructors and studio owners are female. They may be excellent dancers, and may have excellent people skills, but being a member of the opposite sex, their brains are not wired like a man’s brains. When they teach, they don’t think like a man. By default, they think like a woman, and in their language, they appeal to the feminine nature of the dance. But men are not motivated by “feeling light and free”. We are motivated by achievement and feeling successful. The average man is also not motivated by being able to move his hips like a Cuban. What are selling points and moments of connection for a woman, can easily be major turn-offs for a man.


If there are any women still reading, let me clarify that I’m not writing this article for you. You are free to tag along for the ride, but as a dance instructor, the question I had to come to grips with for the sake of my male students is simply “what is it that motivates a man to embrace this activity as part of a regular lifestyle” Well, it’s not that complicated. While most of us men are not motivated by the promise of feeling “light and free and floating” If a woman wants to feel light and free and floating, and I have that ability to give her what she wants, I’m there. If I don’t have a clue as to how to move my hips like a Cuban, I’m not foolish enough to attempt it in public. But if I can get a woman to move her hips, and put a genuine smile on her face while I’m doing it, sign me up! If I can’t, I’d be wise to find some other way to satisfy her. But deep down, surely I’d rather satisfy her.


So men, if you decide to sign up for dance lessons, I implore you to make sure you have a teacher that addresses your concerns. Ask any questions you have, unapologetically. Let them know what you want from them. Let them know that with each lesson, you want them to bring you to a place of confidence and competence, success and victory. Don’t settle for anything less. Look for specific fruits of less nags and more smiles from your partner; more genuine levels of respect and genuine impressments and less frustration and disappointment. It’s your dollar and it’s your time. It should serve to bring you and your partner closer to each other, instead of further away.


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