Friday, June 10, 2016


Dance has become one of my greatest loves.  It got me through some very dark times  - when I am poor, lonely, and depressed, I can always find solace in the arms of a young woman - even if it was only a "one night dance" so to speak.

(Note, Dance is more of a category than just one thing to do, so this first post is going to be a bit longer and different from future posts.)

Most dances and dances classes are surprisingly gender equal.  Just as likely to have more men than women as more women than men dancing.  But a few tend to be off balance - and men tend to get there early, while women tend to get there late (particularly in bad weather).  In NYC, you should be able to find LBGT friendly dances, but that may be a problem in smaller metropolitan areas.   Lots of dance styles have straight women dancing with each other and a few have straight men dancing with each other (Blues for example, sometimes does this.).  

When I was younger, I did not want to learn to dance.  I thought dance was for the popular people, those naturally good at it and old people taking boring classes.  I was wrong.   There are a lot of different kinds of dance, some look like that others don't.  Yes, if you take a class on the Fox Trot, you will be dancing with old people.  But you can also take a class on how to do hip hop moves and it will be full of young people.

I have tried a lot of different kinds and this post is going to talk about style have which advantages.  But dance is different in different parts of the country.  You will find a lot more country western dancing in Texas than in New York.  What I describe is what I have found in New York City, but you can expect similar events in other places - but some more crowded than less.

In general dance tends to be cheap, but does requires some work and some physical capabilities.  You don't have to be in fantastic shape, but if you have mobility issues, it's not going to be easy.

You do not have to spend big bucks on private lessons - some people get by by just going out dancing and learning on the dance floor.  But most people find that group lessons are money well spent, particularly for some dances.    I dislike chain schools (Fred Astaire, etc).  It's a little bit like going to a fast food place.  They tend to focus more on what they can automate and push out to the various schools than on finding good teachers and letting the teacher teach what they know best.  Look for a place that has a non-franchised name.

In general I advise taking group lessons - at least for the first month or so.  A single one hour private tends to cost as much as a whole month (1 hour class a week for four weeks) of group lessons.   Also, group lessons are more social, you meet new friends.

 A good way to find a dance school is to look for dances.  You don't want to learn tango from a place that doesn't offer a weekly tango dance.   At the very least it gives you a place to show off what you learned.

Another good idea is to find someplace CLOSE to where you work.  That way you can go there directly from work, before you get home.   If you try to do it on the weekend or far from where you work, there will come a day when you are just too busy/tired and miss a class.   Then next week you are lost, so you are more likely to give up.   Make it easy to go to class to help you do it consistently.

Dancing also tends to be a late night activity.   Some people get home at 3 AM after going dancing.  Obviously you don't want your teenager doing that.  That is not a necessity, one can arrange your schedule to be home by 9 PM, but that does requires some effort.

In New York City, the three big dances are Tango, Swing, and Salsa.   There are enough places offering those dance styles to go to a different place every day of the week.   I will also discuss less well known dances, such as Contra, Hip Hop and Blues.  Let's begin with the easier dances.

Don't try dancing with flipflops or any other shoe that comes off easily.

Contra Dancing:  $ 🎓 💪💪.
One of the easiest dances to do.  No lessons required, so it is very cheap.  If you can walk without pain, you can do this dance. Contra dancing is similar to English Country Dances seen in period movies.  They also look like a less western version of square dancing.  The key point is they have a "caller" yelling out what dance move to do, so you just have to do what he/she says.  They don't care about footwork or the 'count' that much. Sneakers are fine. 

Contra dances are often filled with lots of young people. Particularly near a college town, their average age can be 20's.  If you want to meet young people, this is a good choice.  Contra dancing is not a big dance, it can be harder to find.  Women may ask men to dance.

Look here for information about Contra dancing in Manhattan.

Blues Dancing:  $ 🎓 💪💪.
Another easy dance.  Most people can pick it up in one or two lessons, so it is very cheap.  Basically this dance was created in the past 20 years by swing dancers that wanted something simpler and easier to do.  If you want to have fun and learn a couple of moves to not embarrass yourself, this is a great choice.  You can easily use what you learn at a club, wedding, or similar event.  In addition, learning this gives you good prep work for other dances.   This dance is slight bit more physical than Contra Dancing, as well mainly because you might get a good partner who could do a dip or similar harder steps.  Foot work is a bit more important here, but not a lot.  People usually don't track the 'count'.  Sneakers are fine. 

Like Contra dances Blues events trend young.    Average age is 20's.  If you want to meet young people, this is a good choice.   Blues dancing is not a a big dance and can be hard to find.  Women sometimes ask men to dance.

Look here for information about Blues dancing in Manhattan.


Salsa Swing and Tango are big dances and need more instructions.  I would check out the larger schools, which include DanceSport, Stepping Out, and You Should be Dancing.

Swing and Salsa Dancing:  $$ 🎓🎓 💪💪💪 
Swing and Salsa are similar.  Salsa is the most popular dance in New York - we have a significant hispanic population, Swing is about the third most popular.   The main difference is 'feel' plus a few traditional moves - if you are good at one, you can probably become good at the other.  They both are much more energetic, and generally require taking weekly classes.  You need to be on the right foot and getting off the count (beat) is much disastrous than with contra or blues. You need to learn patterns so that you will complete each six or eight count together.   Group lessons becomes essential - unless you were raised dancing.   Privates are NOT necessary unless you become addicted.  If you want to become really good, I suggest taking multiple group lessons a week.  You will sweat a lot dancing swing or salsa.  Some men bring extra shirts, particularly in hot locales.  Swing dancers tend use sneakers, salsa dancers tend to prefer fancier dance shoes. For Salsa, you can easily use what you learn at a club dancing, less so for swing.

Salsa and Swing dances trends towards 30 year olds.  You need enough time and money to learn to dance, but have to be young enough to take the lessons.  Salsa and Swing are popular dances and you should be able to find them in any large city.

Look here for information about Salsa dancing in Manhattan.

Tango Dancing:  $$ 🎓🎓 💪
Tango is probably the second most popular dance in NYC (circa 2016), after Salsa.    It is usually less energetic than other dances, but can be danced with extreme vigor.  I have seen people dance it with a cast on their leg.  (Total addicts won't stop even after they are hurt), but I would not recommend it.  Like Swing and Salsa you need a lot of group classes (you do not need privates) - and once again I suggest multiple group lessons a week to become good.    But unlike swing and salsa, the groups teach you how to lead and follow non-verbally, rather than concentrating on teaching you a set of moves.  That is, you do not have to learn a six or eight count step (even though some of the moves are taught that way).  Tango dancers are use dance shoes.   Unlike all the other dances I mentioned above, you usually dance with someone for at least 3 songs.

Tango is the most sensual of the dances.   In all dances there is a bit of sensuality, but tango really likes it, in part because you do less with the arms, so you spend more time in close embrace.    While you don't have to dance close embrace, many want to.  You are in effect hugging your partner.  This is why it was the original dirty dancing that mothers did not want their daughters doing.  It's also why some people do it - it can be a 10 minute love affair.

But Tango trends older.   40 and 50's are more common than 20's or 30s.  Many salsa and swing dancers switch to Tango as they get older because their body can't handle the more energetic dancing.   Note, you can still dance tango energetically, you just don't have to.

Look here for information about Tango dancing in Manhattan.

Hip Hop/Club Dancing:  $$ 🎓🎓 💪💪
You can get lessons from people that are really good at club dancing. But Club/Hip Hop dancing does not have an established teaching method - no declared 'basic' moves.   So if you take a group class you tend to learn a set routine of whatever the teacher likes is good at.  Here I would consider getting private lessons.  They cost about 4x as much as a group class but you can concentrate on learning a set of moves really well, focusing on your strengths and overcoming your weaknesses.  Generally energetic, but not you don't have to be as energetic as swing or salsa (no dips for example).  Dress shoes are worn to ensure that you get into the clubs (bouncers check your feet - and won't bother to tell you why they don't let you in.)

Hip Hop/Club dancing tends younger - 20 year olds.   A lot of people are looking to hook up.  If you already know another dace style, Hip Hop is easier to learn.  Some people just use Salsa or Blues stuff at a Club and they get along fine for some songs, but they will not look like the best dancer in the house.

Other types of dancing. 
 There are a lot of other types of dancing - Hustle (Disco), variations on Swing (East Coast, Shag, etc.)   Country Western, Line Dancing, Fox Trot, Samba, variations on Salsa (Mambo, etc.).  Cost, physicality and difficulty will vary.  If something is popular in your area it can be a good choice, but if you don't have a choice of at LEAST two places to dance every week, there will be issues.     Even if you only want to go once a week, you want a choice of places to go.

Then there are the non-partner dances - things like Flamenco, ballet, pole dancing, belly dancing.  Those tend to be dominated by women, but some men (straight as well as gay) do take some classes.

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