Advice 6
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Rule Ten: The Dark Side of Dancing

Don’t be a creep. If you are mean to women, Dancing is not going to do you much good. All Dancing will do anyway is get you noticed. If you expect to go any further than that, you have to be a decent human being.

I suppose now we are talking about swagger, Machismo, and being cocky. Yes, of course women are attracted to confidence, but when confidence is mixed with attitude, it turns into arrogance.

Women do not appreciate arrogance. Your attitude is a lot more important to them than your skill level. A guy who looks out for his partner is more valuable than the showoff who needlessly risks a woman’s safety by trying moves either he can't lead or she can't follow. Women get hit in the face with elbows. They get stepped on all the time. Men run them into other couples. Women get their arms jerked and their hands squeezed too tight. They lose their balance horribly on double turns they don’t know how to do. Even if they don’t get hurt, they still get scared. And women do not like it. 

Some men like to blame the woman when a dance move doesn’t work. I have heard men make fun of a woman’s dance skill by comparing her to other women who dance better. Men can say some pretty mean things to women if he is in the mood to do some hurting.

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Let’s face it, guys, many of us take classes following the breakup of a relationship or a marriage.  We may not always be in the best of moods towards women for a while. It isn’t easy to pick up the pieces. There may be nights when some anger gets directed at the wrong woman. I can honestly say I have had a few nights like that myself.

I call times like these my "Dark Nights of the Soul". I am reminded of the old Doors song "People are Strange" :

People are Strange when you’re a Stranger,
Faces look Ugly when you’re Alone,
Women seem Wicked when you’re Unwanted,
Streets are Uneven when you’re Down.

At times when you are not feeling too friendly towards the human race and perhaps specifically towards the ladies, before you say something stupid,  maybe it’s better if you call it a night, pack it in, then try to do better the next time. I might add if you are on the mend from a breakup, our dance studio is one of the safest places on earth to hang out. Dancing has a nice way of cheering people up. As I have said earlier, Dancing has been instrumental in helping me heal on more than one occasion.

Things will get better. Just remember when you come to dance class, leave your Dark Side in the car.


Rule Eleven: Hygiene

This is an area I prefer not to discuss, but several women from the studio are holding a gun to my head as I type this very minute. They say they will hurt me if I don’t repeat what they say word for word.

Women will forgive you if you step on them, especially if you say you are sorry. Women will understand if you say it is hard for you to hear the beat. Women will put up with a lot of things if they sense you are trying to improve. However, the one thing women will not put up with is poor hygiene. This is where they draw the line.

If you sweat or smell or if you have bad breath, women will do anything to get away from you.

Nor will anyone tell you. They will simply stop breathing for a moment and go elsewhere. Anywhere.

Sweat.  Ohmigosh, this is a killer.  Women go nuts when the guy is wet.  It makes them physically nauseous for a Sweaty Man to touch them. 

Dancing can work up a sweat and sometimes this has unpleasant consequences.

One of the problems is that perspiration invariably brings bad odor with it.  So bring an extra clean shirt or bring a towel, but don't come near a woman if you are dripping wet.   Sit a song out, go to the restroom and clean up, and wait till you are dry before making your next move.

Smell Bad.  Sometimes men come into the studio with an odor.  Not everyone has the luxury of taking a shower before dance class, especially if you work downtown and live in the outskirts. After a hard day’s work and a walk to the car in Texas heat, sometimes you should assume that a little cleanup is in order. After Shave Lotion and Deodorants can work wonders. Men who know they sweat a lot might want to keep a fresh shirt in the car or a towel handy. It never hurts to freshen up at work before driving to class.

Bad Breath.  Don’t even bother asking someone if you have bad breath. Just assume you have it. Our wonderful SSQQ instructor Daryl Armstrong has a habit of distributing Altoids at the start of each class. Maybe it is just a coincidence, but his classes are fabulously popular. One night I took his cue and now I am addicted to the things. Keep mouthwash or breath mints in your car and use them right before class. It takes 5 seconds to chew on a mint, but you might throw six months of dance lessons down the drain if you don’t take the hint. While you are at it, chew on an extra one for good measure.

I might suggest that you eat food spiced with garlic only when you do not expect to be around the studio for a week. Apparently garlic leaves such a powerful odor that it repels vampires and women with equal force. The thinking is mere mouthwash and breath mints together are not enough to quell this h

Sneezing.  I am the world's worst sneezer so I should know. If you sneeze, cover your mouth out of courtesy to others (or try sneezing into your shirt at the elbow area.  After a sneeze or two, then your next move is to report to the restroom IMMEDIATELY and wash your hands. People are watching. I guarantee it.

With SARS and Swine Flu and all other kinds of dread diseases out there, people are simply not willing to accept any risk.

No one wants to touch your hands. The smart move during sneezing times is to be sure to carry tissues.

Here is a letter to help emphasize the point. This is from a lady named Adriana: 

I wonder if you could say something on the personal hygiene factor!!! 

I was dancing with a guy on Wednesday and he had a runny nose and would wipe his hands over his nose and then he would just take the dance position. It was disgusting!! 

It happened each time I got him. I am sure we all "got it". It took every ounce of self-control to avoid running to the bathroom to wash my hands every time he touched me.  I was incredibly conscious of my hands till Break and dashed for the bathroom.

I am also dancing with impossibly drenched guys sometimes. They are dripping wet and I wonder why they can't bring a second shirt or go and towel off instead of running their hands thru their wet hair and wipe it off their pants

Will you please tell these guys to wash their hands and bring clean shirts for crying out loud!

Adriana B.
August, 2000

Unfortunately the women are right. Although I feel awkward discussing this subject, there are a few men who come to class that need to take this advice seriously. I will add this doesn’t happen very often, but there is usually one man in each class who needs to improve in this area. And unfortunately, no one will tell you. You definitely do not want to be Him... they will avoid you like the Plague.

Now girls, will you stop pointing that gun at me?  I said what you asked to say. You are making me nervous…


Rule Twelve: Breasts and Dancing

We will start this section with a simple joke about Women's Breasts.

10 Things Men Know About Women

10. They have Breasts

Women have Breasts and Men want to touch them. This undeniable fact serves as the starting point for my latest rant.

When it comes to dancing and men, women are pretty good sports by and large. They put up with having their arms jerked, having their feet stepped on, being forced to dance totally off the beat, and seeing men lead moves they have no business leading ON A REGULAR BASIS.

Because women love to dance, as long as they sense the man is trying to improve, women develop a patience of sorts that is commendable.

There are two places women completely draw the line.

The first is personal hygiene. Women frown at men who smell. Women are disgusted by men who sweat and don't change shirts or towel off. Women can't stand bad breath either. All three problems are huge turn-offs for women. Any man learning to dance would be well-advised to examine his own hygiene carefully before coming to dance class. Otherwise all the great moves in the world won't be of any use.

You have already guessed the second place. Women don't like having their breasts touched on the dance floor. Since women prefer not to create a scene, they rarely speak up. That leads men to think they got away with something, so they try it again.

Don't deny it, guys. Some of those 'mistakes' may have crossed the line. If it happens more than once, the women are on to you. Women actually talk about what various men do behind their backs. Women love to compare notes. They literally compile dossiers on men's behavior. I kid you not.

Women know many men are smart enough to only touch their breasts once a night "by accident".

Curious to know whether it was really an accident or not, they begin to talk to other women in the class or at Practice Night.

No matter how clever the man is, if two women in the same class discover both experienced the same accident one time, the man is judged guilty. In the court of public opinion, you don't get three chances. A strong "coincidence" is proof enough.

Women like to talk to me about the awful things men do to them. Since they know I never touch breasts, I have earned a boy scout merit badge of sorts. Thanks to my good behavior, this entitles me to be included on Girl Talk even when I'm not really sure I want to hear what I am hearing. Some of what I hear makes me shake my head.

When it comes to dancing, there's a right way and there's a wrong way. Any man who dances well and treats women with respect gets lucky a lot more often than vice versa. So here is a hint to all men: Play the game the right way, be a nice guy and the time will come when you will be rewarded.

I think any man who gets caught touching a woman's breasts on the dance floor is making a huge mistake. Social Dancing is a powerful tool for men. Over the years, I watched the nerdiest of men become transformed into credible "Ladies Men" simply by learning to lead, keep the beat, and be gentle on the dance floor. Once the man finds himself in demand on the dance floor, he often magically begins to develop more social graces as well. He literally develops enough self-esteem to wish to take the next step and learn how to become a Gentleman. Geeks and Slobs become sleek and graceful. Thanks to dance skills and a new-found respect for women, these guys will never be lonely again as long as they live. This kind of transformation is a miracle. And I am here to say I have seen it happen.

So when I see a guy develop a bad reputation over touching a breast in dance class, I can tell he is wasting his time from here on out. He's a marked man. Sure, he may still get women to dance with him, but he is always at risk that the word will get out and cost him a chance down the road. He will probably never know 'why' a particular woman he was interested in has suddenly shown him the cold shoulder.

Recently in one of my classes, at Break, a lady came over to me to complain that a man had touched her breasts not just once, but twice during the first hour. Immediately a second woman overheard the conversation and chimed in this same guy had once done the same thing to her. The two women were up in arms in disgust. They immediately began to beseech me to confront the guy and do something about it.

I told them it was very difficult to me to confront someone on an issue I had not witnessed myself. I was not the aggrieved party. Besides, any confrontation on my part would probably cost me a customer (this is a very embarrassing subject to be confronted on). Besides, 99% of men who would touch a woman would probably also deny it happened or chalk it up to a simple accident.

So I told the women I would watch during the second hour. Here is what happened. I was so busy watching this guy that I lost my concentration several times. I was so preoccupied with catching him in the act, the class lost its rhythm. Furthermore, I was so busy watching him when I danced, I almost touched a breast here and there myself because my focus was no longer on my partner. Let me add not once did I see the accused party do anything wrong.

That doesn't mean I don't believe the women. Of course I do. I don't hear this complaint very often, but when I do, it is surprising how frequently it turns out to be someone I have heard a previous complaint on or someone who doesn't seem to be with the program from the start.

So here is what I told the two women to do. There is an effective way for a woman to clear up the problem directly. The next time it happens, INSTANTLY smile at the man and say, "please be more careful with the breasts." Don't be hostile and try to give the guy the benefit of the doubt.

My guess is once a man hears this directly from a woman, he is going to be a lot more careful, especially if it is clear to him that the women are aware of what just happened. And if he does it again, say the same thing again, but also report it to me. I will put the incident in my mental file cabinet for future reference. If he is already on record for a previous problem, then it might be time for "the email" or even a direct talk.

One reason I believe women are reluctant to say something to men is they aren't sure how difficult it is for a man's hands to avoid what are affectionately known as "the speed bumps". I think women would be surprised to learn it is extremely easy to avoid the speed bumps.

Speaking for myself, after thirty some years of teaching dance, I only remember clearly touching a woman's breast with my hand one time. The lady was an experienced dancer. She did a bullet-speed turn to Swing music. As she finished her lightning spin, she was supposed to put her hand out chest-high to press against my hand so I could spin her back the other way. You guessed it… she didn't put her hand up at all. I was certain she was going to put her hand out. Her gaffe took me by surprise. So, embarrassing as it was, the momentum of my hand carried it right to the target.

So what did I do? I apologized! Then I apologized again! The woman smiled and let it go. She knew by my expression it was an accident. She never said another word about it.

Considering how many women I have danced with, I think one accident in thirty years is a pretty good record.

Mind you, my hands have barely 'grazed' a woman's breast on a few occasions. The contact is always so incidental that I am given the benefit of the doubt, especially if there is an existing rapport. Women seem to 'know' when it is not deliberate. However a few weeks ago I did accidentally graze the very tip of a new student's breast with the back of my hand. It was nothing, but since I did not know her, I felt the need to reassure her that I was a gentleman. I made eye contact and said "I'm sorry" in a very soft, unembarrassed tone. The woman smiled back at me, a gesture I appreciated. Just the fact that I had shown respect was enough to defuse her doubt. She now knew I meant no harm. And since it hasn't happened again, this woman's decision to give me the benefit of the doubt has been rewarded.

On the one hand, women know mistakes happen on the dance floor. However, when someone like me says I have made one serious mistake in thirty years, a woman has the right to conclude this behavior simply doesn't happen if the man is being careful.

So here is my suggestion to the guys. Be careful. And if an accident does happen, apologize on the spot like I did. Reassure her that you meant no harm.
And for you ladies, speak up the moment it happens. Say "please be more careful" or "please be more careful with the breasts".

One word of caution. Unless it has happened before, ladies, try not to be hostile when you speak up.

For example, one woman told me to "watch it". Although it is true I had come close, my hands were clearly on her rib cage as I caught her after a spin. I did not touch anything I wasn't supposed to. So I resented her tone and her words. There is an old saying, "consider the source." If you knew this woman, you would understand that her style is basically hostile anyway. Nevertheless, she over-reacted and it hurt my feelings.

I have never asked her to dance since. No one likes getting chewed out for something they don't do.

So ladies, it is far better to say "please be careful", especially if it is a first-time occurrence.


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Rule Thirteen: First Learn to Lead. Then Learn to Lead Well!

The man‘s part in dancing is harder to learn than the lady’s part. It takes a lot of work to master the art of leading. If you are going to be a good social dancer, you must learn to lead.

Women know which men lead well. They flock to them. When a man leads well, the lady just can just turn her mind off and glide to the beat of the music. One lady always calls it the closest thing to a Magic Carpet Ride.

Women will purr like a kitten if the dancing is fun. I might add that kittens who are happy like to rub up against you and sit in your lap. Dancing does have its rewards.

Some men practice the Dance Studio Peter Principle: going from one level to the next without taking the time to practice. I of course was guilty of this when I took six months of Whip without ever practicing. If a man never masters one level before moving to the next, he will constantly be struggling to keep up. Personally speaking, if I didn't have the chance to practice, I would consider retaking a class. It is better to repeat and be seen as one of the best in a class than move up and be seen as one of the worst. 

At SSQQ, we move our classes at a brisk clip. The process is basically a compromise. The ladies could move much faster, but the men would be overwhelmed trying to learn at the lady's pace. Fortunately ladies are good sports about allowing the classes to move at a speed the men are more comfortable with.

However the ladies will get bored unless we keep things moving at least a little bit. Out of respect to the ladies, our pace is set right at the edge of what we feel the guys can handle. This means you men need to make a concerted effort to keep up. First, you need to practice what you have learned an average of once a week. Second, if you are falling behind, consider taking a private lesson or repeating the class. Some men repeat a class on one night and take the next level on another. Often it is the second time around when the subtle tricks of leading a move really sink in.

Most of all, stay for Practice Night at SSQQ. Last time I checked it costs $2 to get in. What is the point of spending $40 for a class, giving up 8 hours of your time, driving all the way across town fighting traffic in rush hour, then not stay for Practice ?   People tell me they can’t stay for the whole evening. So What ? Then stay for 15 minutes. You have invested over $40 and now you are balking at spending $2 more ?   This attitude saves cents, but makes no sense. 

Let me explain something about learning. Every expert says practicing dance for 15 minutes 4 different times is more valuable than practicing one time for 60 minutes. Personally, I say practice as much as you possibly can. Practice Night is where you develop muscle memory. Practice Night is where moves that make you feel clumsy and mechanical have a way of becoming fluid. Practice Night is where you get a chance to put your arms around a woman in particular or lots of women in general !  Practice Night is where you get to make friends.  Practice Night is the reason you can become an excellent dancer in one year while it took me twelve years.

You need to make a habit of staying for Practice Night !


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Okay, Let’s Huddle Up, Guys, Time for the Pep Talk !

At one level dancing is fun and games, but don't kid yourself, women are also quietly making assumptions about you as a person based on your approach to dancing. They appreciate a man who is considerate. They appreciate a man who concentrates and tries hard. They certainly don't appreciate arrogance and they can sense it quickly. Your attitude is far more important to them than your skill level at dancing. And who you are is the most important thing of all.

Women will marry a man who is a mediocre dancer if they are somehow able to discover he is a fabulous human being. You might be the best dancer on the floor, but if you are perceived as a jerk the only women you will have much of a chance with are the ones with low self-esteem.

As I have said repeatedly, good dancing will only get you noticed. Good dancing means you can ask any lady in the room to dance knowing that your achievement has improved your chances of a warm reception. She may still say no when you ask, but your excellence has made that response much less likely. After all, she is there to dance, isn't she ? And you are a Dancer. My hunch is your chances are pretty good.

When the Music's Over, however, Who You Are begins to count a heck of lot more than How Well You Dance.

Perhaps if she had fun during the dance, she might be more receptive to a conversation. If she had a good time dancing with you, maybe she likes you a little now. As they say, maybe you warmed her up. It's that kitten thing I talked about.

Maybe she will want to sit down and talk with you for a while. Although your leading ability will no longer be of service in this situation, at least you have her attention. She will want to find out if you are funny. She might be curious to know what you do for living. She will of course be checking you out to sense if you are an axe murderer or a decent human being. She might ask all sorts of questions !  She might even want to see you again… but the only thing Dancing will do is make it easier to get your foot in the door and her foot on the floor.

However that is all you ever asked for in the first place ! 

At one point in the evening, you notice a lovely woman. You watch her dance and see that she handles herself well. Boy, can she move !  Now you watch her sit down. You look closely.  She is not with any guy. As you study her for a while, you realize she doesn't dance with everyone who asks her. She is certainly attractive enough to pick and choose. Her girl friends are out on the floor at the moment and she is sitting alone. You think it over one last time...

The place is crowded. There are more than 100 men at the club tonight. Some of these guys are better looking, some are taller, some appear to be more athletic, some are clearly better dressers. Maybe some of these guys have better jobs and some may have a lot more money. That wouldn’t be difficult, you admit with a wry smile. Maybe they have better personalities… but then it occurs to you this particular lady you are interested in may not have given all these other guys as much notice because tonight, in this special situation, you are the Star !

You have been seen making ladies laugh and smile all night long. You have swept one lady after another off her feet while these same women have been seen looking pretty ordinary dancing with the other guys. This is no surprise. After all, You are on your Turf… For this night in this situation, you stand taller than the other guys. You show the most poise because this is where you belong. When it comes to dancing, all those lessons and all those many nights of practice have given you the confidence to make your move. You approach her table. You ask her to dance.

And when she smiles back and says yes, she would love to dance with you… When she stands up and offers you her hand... When she waits for you lead her to the dance floor… When she allows you to wrap your arms around her for the first time… and When her eyes grow wide as she wonders what it will be like to dance with you… yes, this is it. For this one glorious Magic Moment in Time, all your work will have all been worth it !

You are the Waltz King.

I hoped you have enjoyed this article.

If you have any comments you would like to share with me, send to Rick Archer, email address  

Please write!  And Thanks for reading.

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