Thursday, December 8, 2011

Even the dance floor has a glass cieling

Although dancing is a predominantly female hobby, the female part of it has a high turnover rate. A lot of women take up dancing only to give it up a few months later. The reason? Men are at a premium.

Even in social dancing, a man has his pick of any woman he likes. Women don't have exactly the same options. Of course, it is the 21st century, so if women want to dance, they should be able to ask, right? In theory yes, but when the ratio is so imbalanced, there may not even be anyone to ask!

Old fashioned or not, it's extremely demoralizing for a woman if she always has to do the asking. She sees all the "hot" chicks, who may not even be good dancers, get snatched up every song, never waiting even a moment for a guy to ask her to dance. Meanwhile, the observer waits as long as an hour for a guy to ask her to dance. So, she waits, every minute her self esteem plummeting exponentially.

She knows it's not because of the guys' shyness because she sees them asking all those other women. If she's new, she may not be savvy to the unspoken snobbery that sometimes occurs (some people will only dance with people they know). If she's not new, it's all the more demoralizing. Is she too ugly? Is she too fat? Is she too old? Is she unsexy? Is her outfit wrong? Is she a terrible dancer? Is there some awful rumor going around about her? All of these thoughts catapult themselves against her confidence. A gal can only take so much bombardment before she breaks down. 

Argue all you want about how her fate is in her own hands and if she wants to dance, she should ask the guys (though not sure how that works when there aren't any), but everyone knows how hurtful it is to be picked last or to never be picked at all, especially when you're not picked for superficial reasons. Yeah, yeah, it's her fault for not having confidence. Way to blame the victim. Besides, it's tough to have confidence when you're always beaten down. It's funny, combating bullying is all the rage these days because it hurts kids' self esteem so dramatically, but I guess when you grow up, how others treat you doesn't matter.

But I digress.....

Even gorgeous women who do get asked to dance all the time are at a disadvantage. If a woman, skilled or not, hot or not, wants to take her dance skills up a notch she will usually find herself incredibly frustrated at her inability to find a solid dance partner. Men are already at a premium, and men who want to dance in shows and competitions are even higher dollar. There are only a handful of them and most of them have partners already. If they don't, they are extremely picky about whom they'll consider.

She could also consider hiring a male dance instructor for pro-am competitions, but that costs quite a pretty penny. On average, private lessons cost anywhere from $75 up to $300. A pro-am instructor will want to practice at least twice a week, if not more. Unless the instructor owns a studio, then you'll also have to pay for floor fees in order to practice. Next, comes the competition, for which you pay registration. At first glance that one aspect might seem cheap. Some of them are as low as $25, but this is PER DANCE. Just like in other sports, there are "heats." You may have to participate in 10 heats, which means $250 more to cough up. We won't even talk travel costs, hotel stays, shoes, and costumes. 

Maybe she can afford a few private lessons, even if they are between $75 and $300. She'll be happy because she'll have the attention and criticism she needs to become a better dancer, but then what? It's not like her instructor is going to dance with her in shows and competitions. It also doesn't solve the lack of partner problem. At best, she can take her newly found skills out on the social dance floor with her, but she won't be dancing with many people who are at the same level as her instructor. Like any other skill, use it or lose it.

For a much lower price than the two above, she can try a performance team. Lots of dance companies/instructors have performance teams that do a few shows for several local dance studios and socials. Some may travel out of state, some may not. She's still paying for the lessons and the floor fees, but with all the other couples on the team, the cost is significantly reduced. This is probably her best option. She will still learn a lot and will still get to do a few shows, but it still won't be a competition. If it's a competition she wants, then it's going to be a long, arduous journey.

All of these factors combined can leave some women extremely embittered to the point that they give up dancing altogether. Others stick with social dancing, all the while wishing they could do competitions and shows, but knowing the never will. It's a sad state of affairs and there is almost no remedy.  

It's not to say that women get no satisfaction out of simply dancing socially. Most of them do. Shows and competitions aren't even in those women's minds. For the ladies that are looking for these opportunities and started somewhere after age 7, good luck to you!  

Friday, December 2, 2011

Excuses, excuses

So many people sit back and watch dancing shows on TV, all the while lamenting to themselves, "I could never dance like that." You could, actually, but you make excuse upon excuse not to. Here are some of the top excuses and why they're wrong.

I can't afford it. If you want to dress like the folks on Dancing with the Stars, you're right. You probably can't afford that, but neither can anyone that doesn't have Mickey Mouse's budget. In most cities, you can find studios and clubs that offer dance socials for as cheap as $7. The most expensive will be $20 and most of these socials include a basic dance lesson and people usually wear casual clothes. Your one investment is a good pair of dance shoes.

When it comes to any other hobby, people are willing to pay a lot more than it costs to dance. Take tennis for example. First, you have to either pay court fees or join a country club or neighborhood tennis association in order to use the court. Then you have to pay for lessons. Then, if you want to compete, you have to pay to join some organization such as ALTA or USTA. On top of that, you buy a racket, tennis balls, tennis shoes, a bag, a water bottle, appropriate court clothing. Similar expenses are necessary for any sport. All those things are way more expensive than the only real investment you need to make as a dancer: a good pair of dance shoes. In the worst case scenario, there are street shoes for both men and women that will suffice (don't tell Capezio I said that).

I don't have a dance partner and/or my romantic partner won't do it. Leave your romantic partner at home. In fact, go ahead and leave your romantic partner permanently because you don't need to waste your time on anyone who is too scared to try something new or who won't do something nice once in a while just to make you happy. Ladies, how many times have you sat through a three hour movie with a title like, "Explosionville: The Apocalypse," because you loved your man? Or, gentlemen, you know you've done the same thing for your lady only with titles like, "The Girl Who Did Stuff and Then Found Herself." Just sayin'.

If divorce isn't an option or if you're single, never fear. Most people who dance socially don't have dance partners either. Often, if they have romantic partners, they'll usually dance with everyone else anyway. This could be a problem if you want to participate in competitions, but it would be wise to try dancing socially before diving into shows and competitions. Even at that point, Jack 'n' Jill is a very common type of competition. You don't dance with a predetermined partner, you're just set up with another dancer and you may even switch partners.

I'm too old. No you're not. The end.

I'm too.......(complaint). These complaints are usually made by someone who is uncomfortable with her/his looks. Sure, the dancers on So You Think You Can Dance and Dancing with the Stars are all very glamorous, attractive people, but that's TV. Even those folks are severely enhanced with makeup, spray tans, lighting, and high quality camera work. You don't have to look like a TV star to do any of your other hobbies, do you? Dancing is one of the most diverse activities on the planet. People of all shapes, sizes, ages, genders, sexual orientations, belief systems, cultures, colors, etc., participate in dancing.   

It's "gay." No, sports are gay. Guys who dance professionally might wear frilly costumes and heeled shoes, but you know what they don't do? They don't slap each others' asses every time one of them makes a good move and then all get naked together in the shower after a competition. They also usually dance with women, who are often in skimpy clothing, whereas, in sports, there are usually nothing but men in tight pants on both teams. So, you tell me what's gayer. Not to disparage sports, homosexuality, or male-on-man grab-ass, but if you can handle those blatantly homosexual behaviors in sports, why can't you handle any slightly homosexual aspects of dance? Besides, in social dancing, guys usually don't wear all the frills, sparkles, and heels. To your benefit, a lot more women dance than men. No matter what you look like, you will have your pick of any lady you like and won't have to sit down for even a minute if you don't want to.

I'm not coordinated enough. Yes you are, you just have to try, try, try. You don't expect to paint the Mona Lisa the first time you pick up a paint brush, so why do you think the first time you step on the dance floor, you're going to dance like Baryshnikov? You were pretty darn awkward when you learned to walk, but now you do it every day without thinking.

I don't want to look stupid. Well, that's okay because no one is really looking anyway. When you take a class, most of the other people in the class are focused on their own learning process. They're not even really paying attention to you. When it comes to mistakes in dance, most people have a goldfish's memory. They might see you do something silly and laugh at the time, but three seconds later, they've forgotten about it, because they're back to focusing on their own learning.

I won't know anybody there. Grow up. When's the last time you started any activity where you knew the majority of people there? 

I tried a few times but nobody danced with me. This is an unfortunate aspect of the dance world that nobody likes to admit exists. There is a problem with being the new kid. There is no denying it. The only solution is to increase your face time with those folks. Go dancing as much as possible. Even if no one dances with you, people will start to remember your face and you will become familiar to them. You may even want to approach the instructor. Most of them are friendly and are happy to introduce you to other folks. It takes time. In fact, Latin dancers even have a term for this, Salsa Hell. Yes, this can be extremely difficult on the self esteem, but we've all been there. After you survive it and you become an experienced dancer, take it as your personal responsibility to welcome to new dancers.

Go ahead, try to make an excuse not to dance, but you know the only real thing holding you back is you!