How to be a Student

How to be a Student

I have at various times discussed and offended judges, organizations, teachers, and competitors, and have even discussed the sport; it’s future, and past.  Not having offended enough people, now it is time to discuss the student, being a student, and how to prepare to be a student.  In general, we can accept that most people want to be good at the sports they admire.  The fact that they aren’t is more a testament to advertisers’ ever increasing promise to get things easily and without pain, than it is to the difficulty of accomplishing the desired goal.

Dancing, more than some sports, suffers from the image that this stuff is natural, and need not be taught.  In fact, the mere fact that someone would learn to do this is proof that a person shouldn’t try.  Further more, most people envision the true dancer as someone who effortlessly glides across the floor picking up partners along the way, with a dip and a sway and then romances the night away.  Whereas many guys are now looking at this and saying’ “Yeah, what Happened?” the truth is that there continues to be a difference in perception between “dance” as a pick-up girls activity, “dance” as an art form, such as Ballet, Modern, or Folk, “dance” as a ceremonial event such as for wedding dances that you are supposed to do only once in your entire life, and now dance as a sport.  In fact “dance” as a social activity remains, by far, the most popular type of dance either done, or taught.  Just as with golf, or other sports knowing the right way is worth the effort.  Most, if not all, competitive dancers started as social dancers and then they get involved and take the next step.

Just as for the occasional golfer or other athlete, dancers who know some skills practiced by the pros enjoy their sport more at whatever level they play.  This comes about for two reasons.  One, proper skills enable us to perform better and more easily.  Two, for the same reasons we enjoy the sport, we enjoy seeing, and doing elements that others only dream about.  Golfers think of the birdies, eagles etc. that so often are highlighted on television.  Bowlers look to the three hundred points game, or how close to the perfect 900 points series they can get.  The reality is golfers get better by going to a practice range not playing the game, and bowlers become good practicing spares, not just playing the game.

Getting past the awkward stage is the critical juncture for most men.  Can I become good enough before my neighbors and relatives find out?  Once I can dazzle them on the floor, I’ll have no problem.  Until then remember the Fonz (always look good, and always be cool).  I am not going to spend money to look bad.  If the slightest hint of looking bad develops, let it be known that you didn’t want to do that anyway.  After all, I have relatives, who will remind me of all the bad and stupid things I have done my entire life, and they will do it free.  The wife or significant other means well.  She is so happy that he finally consented to try this out, she immediately tells everybody she knows.  It is kind of like knowing the secret, and not being able to share.  It goes against the grain.  Kind of like scratching the chalkboard, isn’t it?

Another thing, don’t tell a guy about how well the teacher leads, or how wonderful he looks, or how admired he is.  “Can he do what I do for work as well as I do?  Until then, he is supposed to be better at this dancing around stuff.  This is not important stuff in the overall scheme of things, you know.”  In fact, to many ladies, having an activity they can share together, do together, and where the lady feels like a lady in an open carriage, ranks right up there with important stuff.  If you insist on comparing him to the professional teacher, you might as well take up silence, and loneliness as hobbies, because we guys will not hang around any longer than we have to.

Men start to like dancing when it starts to feel like driving.  Going around the curves, fitting in the tight spots, changing gears, quick stops and starts are manly things.  Back seat driving, complaining the car is too small or clunky, telling him the car smells like it did when he still smoked will not get you an afternoon ride in the park.  Yet ladies do that, and more, when they finally get their husband to a studio.  My suggestion is to let the man learn his skills and the lady learn hers.  They are not the same.  Many ladies are quick to point out, that if they have a strong leader, they can do all this stuff.  That really means, if the man is big enough to pick you up and carry you around, you are willing to go.  That does not make it fun.  Don’t help the teacher by pointing out that he is stepping on your feet, is off time, or holds you wrong.  The teacher already knows that.  If you are comfortable with the teacher, stay out of the way, and be impressed with what your mate does.  If not, get another teacher.  In the beginning, the man has more to accomplish and learn to be able to do anything.  Later the onuses are on the lady to look good, and move easily, and these too are skills that need to be developed.  Then the man feels like he is driving a sport’s car, and not a sedan, and he will want to do it often.  Who knows what that will lead to?

Michael S. Reichenbach

Published in:

Dance Week Magazine

2709 Medical Office Place

Goldsboro, NC 27534

Vol. XXVIII No. 14

April 4, 2003

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