I’ve waxed ecstatic about Swing Dancing, but there are aspects of dancing which I don’t care for. One is the learning part. If I had it to do over again, I would only go to the occasional workshop rather than a full course if I had to. Even if a workshop instructor is obnoxious, at least the event is brief and forgettable. Of course those with ironclad ego strength wouldn’t be bothered and might even enjoy the process.
Frequently, a strange thing happens to people who teach dance classes – and those who attend them. Not all, but enough for it to be a noticeable phenomenon. Something about dance classes brings out what I call their ‘Inner Bitch’.
In the beginner classes, it can be enough to make you feel discouraged, want to give up and leave. It took me a year or so to figure out that much of the bitchiness is actually insecurity and perfectionism. So a person who is impatient with a dance partner, and ‘instructs’ with impatience, is probably insecure, had critical-judgmental parents, and so on. At least that’s how I rationalized it so I could stand it (I was there because Dance Partner had never learned formal ‘social dancing’).
Then just as students all learn in different ways, so do dance instructors teach in different ways. Bluntly, some are better than others; some are impatient, and so on. And some are quite authoritarian. I learn dance steps best by copying while the teacher is demonstrating. But my first ballroom instructor insisted that everyone stay still and watch while she demonstrated, and then try to copy what she had done from memory. My short-term memory is dreadful, so this was not fun.
The underlying idea that we should become skilled dancers in order to go dancing seems sad. It used to be that one went to a dance, and gradually picked up ‘dance steps’ with helpful dance partners or friends. It was a subtle process which also resulted in new friendships as well. The sharing of ‘the dance’ and evolving through levels of learning was an important part of the “social” – as they were often called. Now most people feel they have to qualify to go to a dance, by learning the skill first. Which of course leads to all the aforementioned dance classes.
This perspective adds unnecessary costs, and more structure and organization to today’s over-organized lives. It creates a huge time lag between the first desire to learn to dance, and the time when one can at last hit the dance floor confidently. It reinforces the tendency to prefer dancing with people who are at your own level. And it adds to the already fragmented lives we live, separating those who can from those who can’t.
I would give up dancing in a minute, if it would contribute to eliminating just one activity ghetto! Ah well, just another point of view…..