Friday, October 24, 2008

Men's rules for dancing

Women have a lot of rules that they must follow in order to be the best follower. Men do not. I will go into the reasons for this in more detail later but suffice it to say that one person has to know what to expect from the other partner. Since the guy makes the decisions he is the one that has to know what the other person will do. The girl has to be predictable. The less predictable the girl is the harder (forceful) of a lead the guy has to be. He can't trust her to follow him so he has to take away some of her freedom and lead her with more force than finesse. Ironically, it is by following more rules that gives the girl more freedom.

But this isn't about the girls' rules. I want to cover the rules that men have.
Here they are in order of priority:

Keep the girl safe
Make the girl shine
Entertain the girl
Follow the secondary rules of dance.

That's it. Rules 2 and 3 might be interchangeable depending on the girl but rules 1 and 4 are concrete. (Actually, I've since realized that Entertain the girl is number 3. More below...)In essence, a good leader will always put his follower first. And if the girl truly believes that he will follow these rules to the letter then she will follow more easily. She wants to be led by a man who will put her first.

This isn't only true in dance. It's true in life too.

Why is "entertain the girl" less important than "make her shine?" Well, as the leader, you do not know what will entertain her, unless she communicates it to you. Even then, she will keep much of her emotions inside. We all do. So, while it's a mystery if she is being entertained, you can easily see if she looks good dancing. And what's more is that if you satisfy rules 1 and 2, she will be entertained. You don't need to worry about doing a lot of crazy moves to entertain her if she looks good. If you prioritize entertaining her over making her look good, you might lose focus and choose to do moves that are fun for you, but that you don't lead quite well enough. But if instead you focus on moves that make her look good, you have to lead them well. She will by default have a much better time.

About rule 4. This is an overarching rule that encompasses the secondary rules that guide the way a guy dances. Rules like Left, Right, Left, Right, Left, Right. Guys' rules, except for the first 3 are not set in stone. They are flexible and the guy can break them when he needs to. It's kind of like life. A lot of Women just HAVE to wake up in the morning and make the bed. But men? Pfft. They don't have to. Well, if they have a woman (or want one) they do, but if they are on their own it's not important to them. Dancing is even more black and white. Sometimes men HAVE to break their rules to make it possible for the girl to follow hers and for him to follow his top 3.

The beauty of the top 3 rules is that they don't take a long time to learn. It's all attitude. If he believes it he will do it. What's more difficult for the beginning leader is communicating that he will follow the 3 main rules. He communicates this with confidence. A lot of beginning leaders look like they don't know what's going on. They seem hesitant. The beginning girls pick up on this and they naturally start to back lead. They don't believe that the guys will follow the top 3 rules.

Ironically, unless you are naturally confident in everything you do, you have to start to learn rule 4 before you can show confidence in your dance. You don't need to learn all of the secondary rules, but you do need to learn your steps: Basic, Turns, Cross Body Lead, hook turn, etc. And you have to start to train your mind to prepare yourself for the next move. You have to think ahead. Once you start to think ahead, something will click in your brain. A light bulb will illuminate over your head and almost instantly you will start to display confidence. The sooner you get this the better for you and for the girls. Girls back lead and teach the guys to be bad leaders. But at the same time guys teach the girls to be back leaders because they have so much to learn and women learn their parts of the dance quicker. It's easier for girls to just wait for the lead than it is for the guys to learn to lead, but the girls have to shift their mindset and it's difficult for them to shift to letting a guy lead them if they don't have confidence in him.

So how do you obtain confidence? When I teach beginning I see a lot of guys who do the steps properly. They know the steps. They do them, but they have a sort of hesitance about their steps. They don't move with authority. They don't OWN the steps. So whenever you are taught a new move, as immediately as you can, recognize the point at which you understand how the step works. You may not master it, but you know enough to practice it on your own, or better yet with a girl. You might rotate to a girl and she might ask you, "how are you doing with the move?" You should say, "I'm getting it," or "I almost have it." You are telling her that you are only fine tuning. She will relax and if you do it right, she will enjoy being part of the process in your education.

Once you get to this point you don't need to look back. You have it. Own it. Play with it. Experiment with it. Women enjoy being a part of the process. They want to be taken on a journey and if they know that they are instrumental in your success, it gives them a real boost. You don't have to know all of these crazy moves to entertain a girl. Engage her. Include her in your education.

Friday, October 17, 2008


Did you ever feel like you are witnessing life rather than living it? Like you are on the outside looking in, just watching and not participating.

Boy how I wish my brain was wired differently. It seems that the people who are most successful, most happy are those who are naturally outgoing and talkative. Lord, why must I clam up when I am with talkative people? I can contribute too doggonit. I know things. I have opinions. I'm pretty smart. I'm a philosopher by nature. Why must my thoughts and opinions disappear from my mind while I watch others have a conversation? Can't I participate too?

Do all philosophers suffer so? No. I doubt that. Many like to talk. I like others to listen. Maybe that's why I have this blog. I can write whatever I can't say. But is anyone listening?

I don't want to sound so arrogant, but what good is it to know so much if you can't share your wisdom.

Like take salsa. I have spent the last 5 years of my life studying it. Learning its intricacies, examining how it relates to life. Learning about people and relationships through the dance.

My understanding of women has flipped on its head since I took up partner dancing. I used to think that all women want to be in charge. I was ready to submit to a girl. I wanted to be whipped and to be wrapped around a beautiful girl's finger. I was hypnotized by the media into thinking that this was the way things are and should be. I actually wondered if the women I danced with felt oppressed because a man was telling them what to do. I thought I was enlightened. In fact, I was proud of it. I still think I'm enlightened. I don't tell any woman to do anything. But I recognize that many women want a take charge man. And that is what salsa taught me.

I don't just "believe" in equality. I celebrate it. I teach it. Other teachers tell the girls, "You are in charge off the dance floor, but on the dance floor the guy is in charge." Ridiculous and completely outdated. And really, it wasn't even accurate 100 years ago when Men ruled the world, and it sure wasn't accurate 20 or 30 years ago when Women started to put their feet down. Dance partners, like life partners, are truly equal. We have different roles, but we are completely equal. One is a diamond worth a million bucks, and the other is a lump of gold worth a million bucks. They are both different, but equal in value. No one is the boss. It's just that someone has to make the decisions, and only one person can make those decisions on the dance floor. But the person who does make the decisions had better make those decisions for the benefit of the person who does not get to make the decisions.

I think that a lot of women would just rather not bother with leadership. It's just too much hassle. As long as their interest is taken care of, and they have a say, an input. As long as they are not ignored and the task gets done, they are willing to let someone else take the reigns.

This is why beginning followers back lead. They believe that someone has to lead, and the guy's sure not going to do it. Then the guys prove that they aren't going to lead, so they take charge, as they do in life. Because if they are with a guy in life and he doesn't take charge, she takes charge. Maybe she would like for him to take charge, but he is untrustworthy, so she just feels better off if she takes over.

But what if he was trustworthy? What if he could be counted on not to screw things up? What if she knew that his first priority was her and that in the end, the important things got done. Would she be willing to sit back, relax, and let him do his thing?

When these followers don't give the guy a chance to lead, they don't realize the beginning leaders never got the chance to lead because the women were so used to leading in life that they naturally took it up in dance. I don't think this is natural though. I think the men in the class are so used to living under the thumb of the modern woman that they look for permission to take the lead. You can actually see the sheepishness in the faces of the beginning guys. They seem so doubtful. They don't realize that they are meant to lead. Even in life, if they took charge and let their Woman know that they could take care of her, if they really convinced her of that fact, then the Women would follow.

I am all for the goals behind the feminist movement: Sufferage. Equal rights. Equal pay. Equal treatment. But sometimes I think it went too far. Men and Women aren't equal as they should be. Women are in charge. They take care of themselves and they expect their men to take care of them too. Not all women of course. But many Women do. What does that make the Men? Slaves. Really, if the Men don't get to lead, are told what to do, and the Women are supposed to be treated like Princesses or Queens, what is in it for the Men? Sex? Sure, but only on her terms and only when she wants it. That makes him a man-whore, not an equal partner in life.

Men are totally emasculated today. They are wimps. They should all learn to dance. And teachers that tell women that they are in charge off of the dance floor need to shut up. Tell men that they should try to take ownership and lead wherever they are able, even off the dance floor.

I honestly believe that whoever is most capable should lead. If I had a wife who was a good planner and highly organized, maybe she would be better than me at packing for the camping trip. Maybe my knowledge and skills in the outdoors would just be advisory. Or it could be the other way around. Maybe I would be better with the kids, so I might take on the role of the nurturer. Whatever. The point is that whoever is better at the task should take charge. But men are so used to following these days that they let the woman take over everything, even over things that he is expert in, and especially in things that are given to him by "right" or by "tradition" as in dancing, or even in proposing marriage!

But what do I know? I can't even talk to talkative people.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Be a team player.

I helped with some classes last week and came upon a realization. At the end of every movement each dancer needs to be secure, balanced and in control. If a girl is in closed position with a guy and she does not feel that way after a turn and just continues on from an unbalanced state, she will fall into her steps instead of deliberately placing her steps. She will go too fast and end up ahead of the guy's lead and he will be incapable of leading her. A leader who doesn't want to over control his partner will be forced to ignore the music and follow his follower's timing.

To lead means to come before. You cannot lead someone down a trail if they are 100 feet ahead of you. The lady needs to stay behind the guy. The guy needs to stay ahead.

How does she stay balanced then? Use the guy. It's up to the guy to provide what she needs to gain that security. But the girl also needs to recognize the team and use her man. She is not on her own. It's not entirely up to her to find the balance. Ideally she won't need him, but if she does lose her balance, then he is there for her. If she has to choose between falling into her steps and using her leader for support, then she needs to use her leader for support. She has to be willing to look to the guy for help when she needs it.

I know that for today's modern independent woman this might feel like a step backward, but this is a partner dance. We are a team. We help each other. This is especially true for the guy since he is the leader and the dance is literally and figuratively about the girl. (See my past posts for more explanation.)

The first priority for the guy is to help the girl. But he can only be there for her if she uses him.

#1 Guys: Be there for the girl. Be a team player.
#2 Girls: Use the guy. Be a team player.