When they hear I dance, so many people say to me ‘oh I’d love to be able to dance’ or ‘wow that’s brave/good’ or ‘I’m jealous’ or ‘I’d never dance in public’ or ‘dancing’s for girls’ plus a lot of other variations. It seems there are a lot of myths around dancing and I want to set them straight.
Research has shown that dancing is one of the best exercises to do for mind and body, so more people should be trying it, whether they’ve ever danced or not.
Dance myths debunked
1. You need to be fit – FALSE
Of course it helps if you’re fit and slim because it is easier to dance. However it’s not essential. You just need to choose the most suitable dance for you, and gradually work towards building your fitness and ability, exactly the same as you would with any activity you take on.
Take myself. I’m not the fittest at the moment. Although I’ve lost 4 stone in weight, I’ve still a couple more to go, but even when I started back dancing again I was at my heaviest weight ever (even heavier than when I was 9 months pregnant) but I could still dance. Unless you’re in a dance troupe or in serious dance classes where you need to keep up with others, you can usually go to dance classes and taken things at your pace. For social dancing like I do, it’s rare to spend all night dancing (I like to think I spend 3 hours dancing, but my Fitbit tells me differently). You’ll do a class or 2, but there’ll be lots of standing around, listening, or just walking. And once it’s a freestyle session, you can dance 1 or 2 tracks then sit out for a rest if needed.
There’s also people of all different sizes who dance. Size doesn’t make you a good or bad dancer. For instance, there’s a lot of really terrible skinny dancers, but at the opposite end there’s also some amazing dancers who’re really excellent. Yes, compare my dancing when I’m larger vs when I’m slimmer, and it’ll look better when I’m slimmer and be easier to dance, but the quality of my dancing isn’t going to change a massive amount apart from maybe in the show off aspect – I’m certainly going to be more confident of how I look when I’m at a weight I’m happy with.
2. It’ll get you fit – MAYBE
A lot of beginners start dancing hoping that learning to dance would help them lose weight and get fit. Yes dancing is brilliant for helping maintain tone, stamina and strength. But going to a class once a week isn’t going to do it without changing diet and doing other exercise alongside.
I used to wear a heart rate monitor when I danced – it was great to see my heart rate get pumping, see how many calories I burnt and it was certainly a good work out if there’s a lot of fast music (I could burn from 400 to 800 calories dependent on the evening). It also used to make me stay on the dance floor for longer rather than chit chatting with friends at the side. But to really have dancing make an impact on weight loss or fitness, you need to go a few times a week, and really dance as much as possible while you’re there.
For me dancing doesn’t make me fit going twice a week. But the more I dance, the longer I can dance without breaking a sweat. It’s more likely to help me maintain my weight and improve strength through learning different moves and using different muscles.
Obviously, different dance styles will help different parts of the body. The mind will always benefit from improving memory and the socialising aspect. Ballet will help with toning, lengthening limbs and posture, street dance will improve movement and muscles in different areas of the body through body isolations and thighs from getting ‘down’ into the floor rather than ‘up’ like ballet does. Ballroom will be a mix if you do ballroom and the faster latin, and modern jive will improve your sociability, confidence and get you started in dance easily, if you’ve never danced before building up the pace from gentle stepping to faster music and ability.
3. Dancers are all flexible – FALSE
I remember when I did ballet (to a high grade) as a child and teen and someone said to me ‘you can only be a dancer if you can do the splits’. I practised for ages, and I could just about do them one way. But it didn’t improve my dancing.
Now I’m nowhere near doing the splits, but I’m definitely a dancer. Yes being flexible is going to help with lines and look of your dancing, and you’ll be able to do a lot of ‘wow’ moves. Obviously some dancer styles need more flexibility than others especially if you’re a pro. But as an amateur dancer, you don’t need to be able to bend over backwards or do the splits. It’s more about knowing your body, pushing it when you can, and working with what you have.
4. You have to be in a couple to go to dance class – IT DEPENDS
I’d love the OH to dance (well, maybe not because I don’t think he’d be that great, but it would be nice to be able to dance with him), but he won’t give it a go so I go dancing on my own. I started out going to salsa classes, then moved to ceroc , modern jive and west coast swing. Not one of those dance classes needed you to be in a couple (although obviously some did go as partners). In most social dance styles, the class rotates round either the men or women, so you get to dance with everyone. As a woman, you may have to stand out every so often if there’s not enough men to go round (sometimes there’s more men than women though), but there’s no need to go with a partner.
Some couples go together and only want to dance together. To me, there’s no point social dancing if you’re doing that because the whole point is to mix up, plus you learn more from dancing with lots of different people.
However, in my experience, if you don’t have a partner and go to ballroom classes especially as a female, you’re either going to be dancing on your own or have to dance as a leader because they tend to stick with the same partner.
5. No-one will ask me to dance – IT DEPENDS
Many dance classes, have freestyle dance sessions whether that is at the end of the class like at ceroc, or a standalone event. For these everyone just turns up and dances, with whoever they want to dance with.
As a beginner these can be a little daunting, but if you want to dance (unless you’re a man and there’s about 5 women to every man), then you may have to ask other people to dance. If you’re a stunning young woman, then you might be inundated with requests to dance, but even very good dancers have to ask people to dance.
I had a couple of recent conversations with people about me having to do all the asking. The other people were surprised because I’m an ok dancer, I’m seen to be willing to dance with everyone, and I’m nice to dance with (ie not hard to lead). We decided there’s reasons why you might not be asked to dance:
- You’re seen as too good – so scary, unapproachable, out of their league
- You’ve got a reputation for refusing dances – most social dancing if you’re asked to dance, it’s expected to accept
- You’ve got a reputation for having a bad habit – you hurt people while dancing, you’re hard to lead or follow, you look like you don’t enjoy dancing with people, you smell
Obviously many of these may be based on perception rather than truth (I’d hope I don’t fit into any of these categories but I want to dance and I want to dance with people who’re going to give me a great dance and make me look good on the dance floor so I’m happy to ask men to dance – both those I dream of dancing with, the best in the room, and any other men who look like they’ll be fun to dance with whatever their ability.
People go to freestyles to dance, so if you’re standing or sitting looking ready to dance, smiling and looking interested in the dance floor, then you will get asked to dance whether you’re a beginner or not.
6. It’s expensive – FALSE
Expense is obviously relative. But a single dance class is not expensive.
If you go to dance classes, it’s rare you’ll only have one class to attend. For ceroc/modern jive, salsa, sometimes ballroom/latin, you might pay a set amount, but that is likely to include at least a couple of hours of dancing, maybe 2 classes followed by practice or freestyle time. For anything from £7 to £9 I will get the opportunity to dance for 3 hours. That’s a bargain. Similarly for a freestyle event I might pay £10-12 and get 4 hours of dancing. I also rarely drink anything other than water when I’m dancing, so apart from petrol getting to a venue, it’s a cheap night out.
Before I got married I used to pay monthly for a sports card in Oxford which gave me access to all the sports centres and swimming pools. I would break even within 2 weeks with the number of times I went – 6 times a week, often swimming after doing a class or playing squash. If you pay for the gym and use it religiously every day to make the most of the money you pay, then dancing will seem expensive.
If you get hooked and want to dance 3 or 4 times a week, and go with your partner, then it can add up if you take it in isolation. But for classes, there’s often discount cards for multiple sessions or dancing in different venues. If you get involved as a crew member you might get in free. And if you end up with dancing replacing meals out, nights in the pub or at the cinema, then it’ll likely work out cheaper.
7. Dancing means exercise and sweat so everyone’s smelly – FALSE
We all know body odour isn’t the most pleasant but in all the years I’ve been dancing I’ve only danced with one person I recall being a bit smelly. Most dancers are aware of when it gets unpleasant for them to be dancing, when’s the time to have a breather, towel down and change of top. And I think if you dance you’re a bit more aware of your body being in close proximity to others and therefore will keep an eye on whether you might be getting a bit niffy.
I have to admit even when I’m fit and slim, I’m still one of the people who starts the night looking immaculate, but by a few dances in, my hair’s looking wild, my make up’s probably sliding (even if it’s waterproof and layered on to try and make it stick), and I feel hot and end up wanting to dance near the fans. But everyone’s in the same boat at a freestyle night, or when the weather’s hot and sticky at a class night in the summer, so there’s no point worrying about the state you get into.
Dance well, change your top and have a wash if you’re getting too sweaty, and enjoy it, and no-one will care. Oh and invest in an old fashioned fan if you’re a woman – look alluring and feel cool while you’re having a break!
8. Dance classes are full of desperate men – FALSE
I won’t deny that most dance classes I’ve been to have had more men than women. There are a few that have more men, but that’s unusual in my area. But have I felt letched over in the 7 years I’ve been dancing as an adult? Rarely. There was one man at a class night who a few of the women complained about, and a word was said. And yes, I’m sure there are some men (and women) who go to a partner/social dancing class to try and meet other people and prospective partners. There are also a lot of relationships that do start with the people having met at dance classes. But there’s less leering going on than you’d get on a night out or even probably just walking down the street.
You also meet a whole range of demographics depending on the style of dance you choose. Salsa is likely to be a bit younger and cooler, ceroc and modern jive will be a mix from 18 to 60+ depending on location. If you’re young, try a busy town centre or university town class, if you’re older try a village class or one on the outskirts of a town. But once you’re dancing everyone just joins in and that’s one of the nice things about it.
9. I’d have to wear a skimpy outfit – FALSE
Obviously if you’re doing ballet classes, you’re going to need to wear leotard or similar….one of the reasons I’ll never be taking up ballet again. But most dancing classes don’t require specific clothing unless you start doing it seriously and entering competitions.
Salsa, ballroom, modern jive. None of these require anything other than you turning up with suitable (ie smooth soled) shoes and comfortable clothing.
I mostly (ok, always unless it’s a posh ball) dance in jeans with a normal top for most nights, and maybe a bit dressier top (a bit of sparkle is always a good thing) for a freestyle night. It helps standing out in some way if you want people to spot and remember you, but I’m often in black and I’ve never felt the need to dress up in fancy gear. Some people do really dress up but it’s definitely not expected. Mostly you want to be comfortable, cool and relaxed – although you might want to leave your joggers and too tight revealing top at home.
So that’s my 9 dancing myths debunked. Have I converted you to try a dance class? Or are you already a fan? What myths do you want debunking?
Linking up to PoCoLo