Slaves to the Rhythm of the Dance Back
Apr 29, 2014
By Tracey Bivens
It’s not very often that I get to write about some of the unwritten rules, violations and best practices in the dance world. However, when I do get that chance...I seize the opportunity.
I think we women get the short end of the stick when it comes to men and dancing (no other puns intended). I mean…we learn how to follow, we buy nice clothes to wear, we get our hair, nails and makeup done only to get to the steppers sets and wait…AND WAIT…AND WAIT for the men to come over to us, reach for our hand and ask us to the dance floor. It’s a reality that we have to accept and it should be understood by both women and men alike. Right? Not by a long shot! What’s the solution… stop coming out? Nope…we are slaves to the rhythm of the steppers sets.
I am going to begin this commentary with the comments of five men who wanted to share these thoughts about their adventures at the sets.
Man A-"I go to the sets to have fun but because I’m instructor…all my students expect me to dance with just them when I come out. Why do I have to do that? Why can’t they dance with the male students in the class?”
Man B-"If one more woman tackles me when I’m trying to walk off the dance floor, grabs my hand and pulls me back on the dance floor after 10 songs…I’m going off on her!”
Man C-"When I don’t feel like dancing for a few songs because I just danced 8 songs in a row and I see "so and so” coming to get me, I dance by the men’s restroom (at Firewater) so when the song goes off, I can go in there and hide out for a minute. I’ll even act like my cell phone is ringing and I have to take the call and then I’ll go outside. These women are too much sometimes.”
Man D-"It’s not that I don’t like dancing…these women are too damn aggressive and jealous! How you gonna be counting the number of times I danced with somebody else? Then, if I come out with my lady, which I have to do to keep the peace at home sometimes, these disrespectful women come to our table and won’t even acknowledge her but expect me to dance with them. Do you know how much "ish” I gotta hear when I go home after that?”
Man E-"I don’t come out as much anymore. That’s how I handle it!”
Okay…and now for the ladies’ responses.
Woman A-"If it wasn’t for me…that instructor wouldn’t be getting my $20.00 a week to begin with. I support him so he should support me by giving me dances ALL THE TIME! RESPECT WHAT I DO FOR YOU! I don’t come to the sets to watch you dance with the advance people all the time. Besides…the men in the class aren’t going to make me look good!”
Woman B-"If I paid $20.00 to get into a set and I have been sitting for five songs in a row, I’ma get my money’s worth and go right up to that man on the dance floor and get mine before some other woman does. That’s just the way it is.”
Woman C-"See…men want to stand around talking about the younger women’s butts and breasts. If you come to a set…expect to dance with women. Don’t complain about women coming up to you all the time.”
Woman D-"If I don’t ask…I don’t dance. At least I’m being courteous enough to ask. That’s going outside my role as a woman all day long! Each lady should get one song… not two or three in a row. Why do men do that? Also, what’s up with men holding on to that cold, sweat towel and making me hold it with them on the dance floor? Yuck!”
Woman E-"Sometimes…I don’t go to the mega sets because the women outnumber the men 8 to 1 and these men bring their significant others with them sometimes. Why would you bring sand to the beach? The smaller the set…the better my chances are of having fun on the dance floor.”
Well…two valid sides expressed and no easy solutions…or maybe there are. Let me try and help put some things into perspective. Maybe then there can be levels of understanding on both sides. Now remember…as a member of the media I don’t have to sugar coat anything. I’m serving this dish hot.
First of all…to the ladies that take dance classes from the instructors…let me ask you this. Since when did paying someone $10.00 for two hours of instruction make that instructor become your personal dance valet at a set? If that instructor wants to extend a professional courtesy to you as one of his dance partners for a song or two, consider it to be just that…a onetime professional courtesy…not a consistent courtesy. If a male instructor has 35 female students, 65 women that he may have dance floor "friendships” with and 10 extremely sexy women that he’s absolutely salivating at the mouth to dance with and goes to a four hour set…how is he going to please EACH OF THOSE women with one dance…much less two? See ladies…it doesn’t quite calculate the way we want it to. Men are going to always have the upper hand in the dance world because they hold all the cards…especially if he’s really talented and popular. Your $20.00 will not make or break his organization. Instructors are not instructors when they go to a set…they are men who are out to have a good time. So when you see your instructor dancing with his "favorites”, please recognize that he is a man dancing with who he wants to dance with. He was your instructor two days ago and provided you with services rendered at that time.
Why wouldn’t women want to dance with the men in their classes? How is he going to learn if he doesn’t get the floor time and the support? Ladies…you know we have to help these guys develop their dance. How many of you sit with your male student counterparts and watch videos of your favorite steppers or plan to meet up somewhere other than the main sets and practice? All of us who have been steppin for years have had to go through a "struggle” to become our personal bests and if we didn’t have that "help”…you wouldn’t see evidence of the fruits of our labor.
I have come to the conclusion that if I go to a mega set, I am probably going to get a handful of dances because the amount of the ladies in the room has multiplied times eight! Going to the mega sets is like gambling. You do not hit all of the time. The sooner ladies accept that, the better off they’ll be. And while I’m on the subject ladies…when visiting women come from out of town, why do you think the "home team” guys should only dance with you and not dance with the visiting ladies? Men and women from the home team should be asking all of the out of towners for dances so that they feel "more” welcomed.
To the overly aggressive women that like to "tackle men”… let me just say this. Once a man finds that you become a "tackler”…he runs from you and he tells his male friends how aggressive you are. Additionally, trying to execute footwork when you don’t have a good grasp of your basics along with the timing of the dance can make for an unenjoyable experience. Men are complaining about this left and right. "I keep trying to lead her but she keeps trying to do what she sees the advanced women do and she keeps messin me up.” Ladies…is this you? Remember, simplicity will prevail when all else fails.
To the men…I can’t let you guys off the hook because some of you have become slaves to some very bad habits that women have gotten from you all.
If women are being overly aggressive in asking you to dance…they probably learned it from the guys who walk up to a woman, pull on her arm and walk towards the dance floor with her while not even waiting on a response. What is that caveman mentality about? Now I respect the process of asking a woman to dance and I understand how delicate that can be at times but to just walk up to someone and pull on her arm without asking? Some women say that it makes them feel less cherished in regards to the upcoming dance. Additionally, guys, when you do ask a woman to dance and she tells you "No, thank you” and then you ask the woman sitting next to her for a dance…how do you think that makes her feel? Sure, she appreciates you asking her…just not at that moment. What the second woman really hears from you is…”Well…I guess you’ll do since the one I REALLY WANTED TO DANCE WITH won’t dance with me.” It’s a little thing but a big thing. Come back and ask that other woman a song or two later.
To the male instructors…here is a sure fire guaranteed way to get women to NOT ask you for dances all the time. Start teaching them on the floor in front of everybody every time they mess up. I guarantee you will not have to worry about that woman chasing you down for another dance because you will have pissed her off to no end. There are a couple of men in our community that currently use this as their mode of operandi and they ALWAYS have to beg women to dance with them and they wonder why. Also as a bonus, men, hold that cold, sweat rag in your hand too for good measure (Laughing).
Well Tracey…anything else?
Yeah…to the guys…when you are at a mega set or one in general, I advocate telling women that you have a "mental dance card” with a list of names on it that you are keeping your promises to dance with and IF you can get through the names on your "dance card” then you will give THEM your undivided attention before the end of the night. Or, "So and so…I ain’t even gonna lie…I didn’t dance with 10 women here that said they are gonna cuss me out if I don’t dance with them TONIGHT. Can I dance with you when I see you at Firewater or at The 50 Yard Line next time I see you?” Then kiss her on the cheek or hug her for that extra reassurance. This takes the sting out of you not dancing with her at that moment (wink).
Men…ask some of those ladies to be a part of a trio dance. A lot of women who have been sitting a while will gladly be a part of a threesome. (Laughing)
Also…let me tell you men what the dance represents mentally for some women. There are a large group of single women or women in jacked up relationships with men who use the dance floor as their "Fantasy Station.” There are not too many places where a woman can find herself in the arms of a man, with no strings attached in an intimate position, except on the dance floor. Those 3 or 4 minute dances allow women the freedom to interact with men and to escape the built up stress from a hard day at work, the nagging kids at home, mounting bills, etc. Because men don’t think like women, they wouldn’t understand a concept like this but I’m just asking men to try and understand that for some women…the dance floor is more than a piece of wood.
Ladies…I’m all for you learning how to lead. And I know I’m going to get yelled at for saying it but when has that stopped me before? I advocate that women learn to lead the dance. When ladies are at a set and the women outnumber the men 30 to 1and no line dance songs are being played, and no one is available to dance with… not even the guy who normally stands around on "dog row” picking his nose and adjusting himself, you will have fun and continue to learn more about the dance if you can "twirl a girl.” But be forewarned…some guys get very intimidated by this and may go out there to break it up by joining in. Go figure.
How hard are women trying to expose this dance to men who don’t know it? If each woman brought a "newbie” to the set every week…we wouldn’t have men outnumbering women AS MUCH. I know…it sounds easier than it really is but the last top steppin males in Detroit were introduced to the dance by women who brought them to a set. If you don’t believe me…ask them.
Also ladies…you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Why not offer to buy a guy who you observe dancing a lot, bottled water, French fries or a non lethal beverage that won’t mess up his dance steps? That will come off as very sweet. Now if your pride is such that you would never entertain doing that…oh well. The wheel that squeaks the loudest gets oiled first.
We steppers are slaves to the rhythm of the dance world whether we want to admit it or not. However, let’s break the current chains of restriction. The dance world can be a free flowing rhythmic
nation as long as there are limited interruptions in the process. This depends on us and our behaviors. When you know better…you do better. We cannot expect the dance world to operate with a reasonable amount of uniformity and respect if we don’t each treat it and each other like we are in a relationship. When you are in a relationship…you should be protective of it, nurturing of it, invest in it and love on it every opportunity you get.
"Educate your steppin!”