Advice 4
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Rule Four : Don‘t Criticize until you have walked in their shoes

Men have no business telling a woman how to dance until they have danced the woman's part and demonstrated beyond a doubt they are masters. Then they should put on high heels and try it again !  My guess is you will quickly learn to bite your tongue.

A good woman dancer is the equivalent of a skilled athlete. It is no accident that Dance Sport is being added as an Olympic event. Nor is it an accident that graceful athletes are compared to dancers. A woman needs to have good balance, she needs to have fast reflexes, she needs to be able to think quickly on her feet, and believe it or not, she has to be brave.

Just for starters, I have seen women hurt doing acrobatics. Sharon Crawford, the SSQQ instructor, broke a rib on the Death Drop. I ought to know. I was the idiot who dropped her too hard. Tresia Reasor broke her foot coming down out of the sky on a Flip. Judy Price sprained an ankle sliding into the wall on a move called the Slingshot. Amelia Cate had blood dripping from the top of her head from a guy who dropped her head-first on the floor.

Michelle Collins was on crutches for a month coming out of the sky on Chattanooga Choo Choo. Aimee Atkinson got a broken nose. That's what I mean about the "brave" part.  And guess how many men have been badly hurt that I know of ?  Zero. That's right. Zero. A few guys have caught an elbow in the face, but that's about it.

Having danced the woman's part enough at least to know what I am talking about, I can safely say you guys have no idea how hard the woman's part can be !  Sometimes for example your elbows come within a fraction of rearranging a woman’s facial structures. Women do not get hit very often, but it is only because she is able to flinch, duck, or hesitate at the last second.

Furthermore you guys have no clue what it is like to be spun so fast that you have gut-wrenching nausea from dizziness. You guys have not an inkling what it is like to be turned five times in a row, then have someone immediately lead yet another double turn series without a breather. You guys would be shocked at how hard some men jerk women’s arms or how bad it hurts to be stepped on by a two-ton gorilla who accidentally took two steps in a row with the same foot. Or how bad it hurts to have a man’s thumb doing a root canal into a woman’s hand. Women put up with these things because they know you don’t mean to hurt them and they sense you are trying to improve.

Here is some Good Advice : Stop Teaching the Ladies How to Dance !

Women wonder all the time why men think they know so much about Dancing. Take for example the words of yet another lady willing to share her point of view. This August, 99, note from a lady student speaks for itself :

I love my classes at SSQQ, but I wonder if you could give me some advice about something that has bothered me for awhile. I just read your Advice article about men who want to instruct their partners. As the woman in that situation, what would you advise me to do?

I am asking because the problem seems to be growing in the more advanced classes. Ironically, the guys giving the advice are the worst dancers in class, and sometimes their instructions are just plain wrong! I don’t mind friendly suggestions from a fellow student as we learn the patterns together, and on the dance floor I can always refuse a dance. In class, however, I have to dance with these guys many times, so I don’t want to create ill will, I just want them to stop acting like boorish dance teacher wannabes. So far I have said nothing (but tried to look appropriately irritated) as I ignored the free "lessons", but as the moves get more complex, it’s getting dangerous in addition to being annoying. Do you have any advice?

The main reason men take dance lessons is to meet women. It stands to reason when a man is attracted to a woman, he wants to talk to her. Since all he knows she and he have in common is dance, that seems like a reasonable place to start the conversation. Furthermore, men like to be in control. Teaching women is a way of being in control.

Q : Is coaching women an effective technique for getting to know them ?  
A : Sometimes yes, most of the time no.

I have found most women receptive to an occasional suggestion, especially when it is sugar-coated with smiles and many protestations that you could be wrong. However, this leaves you open to having them make suggestions to you as well. Will you be as open-minded when that time comes ?

Coaching women to dance is usually a bad idea. For the most part, women bristle when men try to teach them. For one thing, it is a violation of their peer status. Most women remember how feeble the various men were in Beginner class. Now two or three months, the man suddenly thinks he is so good he not only know the boy's part, he now magically knows the girl's part better than she does. Bad move. This phenomenon is exactly what the lady in the letter above was referring to. To a woman it seems like the less a man knows, the more he thinks he knows.

As you might gather from the letter, women strongly resent men who tell them how to dance. A common point of view is that you the man haven't danced the girl's part, so what makes you such an expert ?  So how good do you double turn, buddy ? You men bristle when women tell you how to lead, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that sometimes women get their feelings hurt too.

The Worst Mistake of all : Blaming a Woman for a dance mistake!

Have you ever heard the saying, "It's always the man's fault!"?  When it comes to dancing, whenever there is a problem, it almost always turns out the man somehow contributed to the problem.  Although I suppose I have trouble accepting that it is "ALWAYS" the man's fault, I will admit it is "USUALLY" the man's fault.  Take my word for it, guys, I am telling the truth.

Furthermore, let me assure you that if you try to blame the problem on the woman, you are making one hell of a big mistake.

Let's say the woman loses her balance.  You may or may not be at fault.  But based on my experience, 9 times out of 10, you probably are.

Let's say you blame the mistake on the woman.  The woman is shocked!   She
cannot imagine where you get the nerve to blame them for a mistake that you likely caused or help cause in the first place!  Of course women make mistakes in dancing.  No one will ever deny that.  Unfortunately, their success is so closely linked to your skill level, many times you contribute much more to their mistake than you realize.

When you have given an ambiguous lead or a weak lead, when you have led a move a split second early or late, when it is dark and they have just an instant to guess what to do, when you have led a move they have never seen in their life…mistakes are going to happen!   Even the best women dancers will make the occasional mistake.  I don't care if it is Ginger Rogers, I promise you any man can make her fall!  If you help Ginger off the floor, apologize, and show regret, chances are she will forgive you.

if you start to fuss at the woman be she a beginner or an expert,...well, frankly speaking, you have crossed a line: the woman feels betrayed!  

Why make a big deal out of it?  Social Dancing is not about perfection; it is about fun!  Shrug it off and move on.

Let's say you are convinced it wasn't your fault.  Fine.  But it does you no good to pin the blame on Mame.  Do it this way: for your own good, pretend it was your fault and accept the blame anyway.  It is the smart move, guys, trust me on this one.  Even if you are right that it was her fault, you aren't going to win any points by revealing your true feelings.

Unfortunately, men love to tell women what they do wrong.  Yes, it is in our nature.  One thing men think is more fun than winning the lottery is to find some defenseless woman from a Beginner class, then spend the rest of the evening telling her all the things she is doing wrong!  Whoa Boy!  Too much fun! 

My personal favorite is watching men trying to teach women the hip motion from Whip. Most men are totally clueless when it comes to moving their hips, but then they find some struggling little Beginner Whip girl. Most guys try the Hokey-Pokey approach : put your left hip here, put your right knee there, stick your backside out and shake it all about... what a Hoot!  I wish I could capture that one on video. That could make us some real money.

Over the years, I have noticed several men who use the 'dance teacher act' as a way to get closer to women.  As long as you stick to total beginners and you know what you are doing, I suppose there is no harm in it.  But I wouldn't go correcting a woman with any experience.  They get so mad at you for telling them what to do!

I would caution you men to drop the "dance teacher" act.  Even though I have little doubt you could do a woman's Baby Twostep or Baby Swing better than some Beginner woman, you might think twice about correcting the lady if you knew how angry it makes them.  You would be stunned at the bitterness some women express to me about men doing this exact thing.  You may think that you are helping, but you are actually losing points.  They would rather you just dance with them.  Now that they enjoy!

It is okay to offer friendly advice, but keep it down to one pearl of wisdom per customer. 

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Rule Five : If the Lady messes up, be a Charmer.

Being a gentleman includes allowing a woman to save face if she makes a mistake. For one thing, you might have been partially responsible. Second, following is difficult. When it's dark and people are moving fast, many moves look like other moves and a woman has only an instant to react. Even with good leads, there's still an element of doubt; the woman can easily guess wrong. Your lead might have been slightly off to boot. What is the point of making her feel bad even if she did goof ?

Be a nice guy and lighten things up, "here, let's try again" or "oops, bad lead" or "that's a real tough step" or "cheer up, that move hasn't worked with the last 7 ladies I've danced with." It doesn't even matter whether they believe you as long as they feel you're trying to be nice. Ladies always appreciate a good sport.


Rule Six : If you mess up big time, Apologize.

I dance for a living, yet I still make mistakes when I dance. In fact I make them all the time. When I do, I apologize. In my position as a dance teacher, I could easily bully the woman into thinking it was her mistake. Why do that ? Don't let her go thinking it was her fault. She will respect you more for your honesty.


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Rule Seven : Don’t be a Hot Dog !

Obviously men like to show off. One of the reasons men learn to dance is to get noticed. It is fun having people watch. Women like to show off too. The problem comes from the fact that men have more control because they lead. Sometimes guys lead moves that embarrass their partner.

For example, an experienced woman dancer can generally make a beginner guy look a little better, but an experienced man can take a Beginner lady through moves way past what her class has taught her. This is good, but sometimes this is bad. Men get carried away seeing how many moves he can lead that the woman barely knows. As a result he often takes the lady way past her skill level and she gets out of control. In his mind, he is trying to impress the woman, but the reality is that no woman enjoys being out of control. Bad move.  I call this being a Hot Dog.

Another thing guys like to do is dance sexy. I suppose with the right lady, sexy moves on the floor have their place, especially in exhibitions and performances. In general though, for social dancing, dancing sexy is a turn-off for many women. They don’t appreciate men they barely know trying to do moves that embarrass them in front of other people or touching them in ways that could best be described as inappropriate to the situation.

Another thing men sometimes do is put on an impromptu dance performance. He notices people watching and decide to show off. Instead of just dancing for the fun of it, he starts to lead one difficult move after another trying to be flashy. Many of these moves are too complicated for the lady to remember her footwork on the spur of the moment, so she loses control. It is almost always the woman who stumbles and looks bad in these situations.

Another thing guys like to do is try out new moves they learned earlier in class. Unfortunately, they will try them with anyone, even if it is the woman's first dance class in her entire life. Obviously this isn’t fair to a woman who has never seen the move before. Her chances of success are pretty small. If you are going to try something new or tricky, my suggestion is warn her in advance. That's right : just tell her. Ask permission. Say to her, "Do you mind if I try this new move with you ?" Then if the move works, she'll know you have accomplished something and she'll appreciate being able to help. If it doesn't work, she won't mind because you were considerate and that alone puts you ahead of many other guys.

A man should never forget that dancing is a team sport. Don’t be a Hot Dog.


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Rule Eight : Get Some Rhythm !

Of all the things women complain about in dancing, what irks them the most is men who cannot keep the beat of the music. Now Men, don't get confused : what women "hate" the most is guys who hurt them, but what "bugs" them the most is guys who dance off the beat. Actually dancing off the beat doesn’t just bug them, it drives women Crazy !

People may not realize dancing on the beat is usually an "acquired" skill for men. Personally speaking, I know I couldn't hear the beat when I started. I had to constantly "count" the beat in my head as I danced for several years. I would say to myself "123,123, back step" or "slow slow quick quick" because it was the only way a mechanical dancer like myself could keep the rhythm.

So if you have trouble keeping time to music, at least you have lots of company. However, if you want to make a GOOD impression on a lady, you must learn how to dance in time to the music. You might be surprised to know that only about half the men at the studio keep the beat on a regular basis. Simply keeping the beat as you dance would move you to the front of the pack very quickly !

Women "feel" the music more than men do. A woman often relies on the beat to know how fast to move her feet. When she realizes the man is not moving his feet at the same speed she is, she has a very hard time following him. Many toes have been stepped on simply because the man had not a clue at what speed to take his steps.

Many women are surprised when I tell them Beginner men do not hear the rhythm at all. Women hear the beat so clearly it seems outrageous to them that the guy barely even know a song is playing. As a man learns to dance, he tends to "dance in his head". He concentrates on his steps, on his leads, tries to remember what comes next, and is busy counting the song. It never occurs to him that his count and the beat may be not be the same !  Quite often the song in his head is nowhere near what's on the floor simply because he is too busy thinking to be able to listen.

His lack of tempo causes big problems because the easiest way for a woman to follow is to move to the beat. Even more problematic is the man who slows down and speeds up periodically. Personally speaking, when I do the lady’s part and I dance with a guy who speeds up/slows down, it drives me crazy too !

The truth is most women find dancing with guys who have no rhythm kind of unpleasant. They may give you a sympathy dance once in a while, but it is tough for them to enjoy it as they do the Mexican Hat Dance (many steps and quick hopping feet)  while trying to guess when and where you will step next. The lady will never be able to relax and enjoy dancing with you if she has to use all her wits just to avoid getting stepped on.

One way to improve your rhythm is learn how to count your dance. Before you even get on the floor, listen to the beat and count it carefully, then continue the count as you dance. After a few months, the numbers or phrases in your head will no longer be necessary because you will feel the beat just like the ladies do. Second, when you are driving, listen to songs on the radio and practice counting the beat. This is a very effective use of your time. However remember not to use the accelerator foot or the brake foot to tap the beat. Just kidding.

Finally, if you are really having trouble, at practice night find a lady whom you consider to be a decent human being and ask her to tell you when you are dancing too fast or too slow. You would be surprised at how much women appreciate being included in a project like this. Most women I have talked to say they wish more men would try to keep the beat. One lady I asked laughed out loud. She said she had volunteered to help a guy in her class with the beat and his response was, "How did you know I was having trouble with the beat ?"  Believe me, women know !  It isn't something you can hide. Rather than lose respect for a guy if asks for help, these women say they would actually respect him more for trying. Women do not mind helping at all.

You guys probably have only the barest clue how frustrating this is for the women you dance with. If you have any desire at all to use Dance as a way of drawing a lady’s smile, you absolutely must make an effort to learn how to dance on the beat. Otherwise you are wasting your time and should switch to another hobby. This is one hill you have to climb in order to be any fun to dance with at all.


On the next page of Advice the Men, we discuss Puppy Dog behavior.
Click here for Page 5.


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