“Dancing: the vertical expression of a horizontal desire legalized by music.”
-George Bernard Shaw
Here’s the love advice you’ve already heard: women like men who can dance. But here’s what you may not know: dancing is not actually about dancing.
Revisit Romeo and Juliet, Pride and Prejudice, or Anna Karenina, and you’ll find that dancing is but a means to illustrate unspoken sexual politics. Well, art reflects life; in the real world, dancing is essentially courtship. The better your etiquette—independent of any killer dance moves—the more attractive you are.
The Dance Trance
According to Joseph Jordinia, dance evolved from natural selection—dancing allowed us to intimidate other humans and scare off lions. Dance moves, music, and face paint were all used to create a battle-appropriate trance—what Jordinia calls an “altered state of consciousness.”
While we may not use dance to scare off lions anymore (although that might be the unintended consequence), the term “altered state” is still appropriate. But instead of relating to war, it now relates to love.
An intimate connection between dance and courtship developed over the last thousand years. Check out traditional African courtship dances, or the wildly scandalous 19th-century waltz. Dance has become as much about the idea of romance as romance itself. If you can tap into its romantic promise, you’ll reap all the benefits of being a great dancer without ever having to learn any moves.
Boost Your Gentleman Quotient
The most attractive dancers from fiction and film all have certain characteristics in common. They are focused, sensitive, and intensely devoted to the moment. Here’s what you should know:
- Project confidence. People who are confident in their comfort zone are attractive; people confident outside their comfort zone are irresistible. Stand up straight. Trip all you want. Just have a sense of humor about it.
- Be a team. If you go one way and your partner spins off into the buffet table, you’ve missed some pretty critical non-verbal signals. Good dancers move as one unit. In many ways, it is excellent preparation for a relationship. Remember what Christopher Morley said in Kitty Foyle: “Dancing is wonderful training for girls, it’s the first way you learn to guess what a man is going to do before he does it.” The less guesswork, the better the team.
- Dance like you’re having a conversation. Dancing is an overt demonstration of your personality. Forcing the dance is never a good idea. Neither is boasting. Or being a tool.
- Go at the right pace. If you hold her too tight, breathe down her neck, and stare into her eyes until she starts muttering escape plans, you’ve been too physical, too fast. Mauling is a poor first date plan.
- Pay attention. Dancing requires – here’s a thinker – two people. Great dancers (and romantic partners) are exceptionally aware of how the other person is reacting.
So, don’t shy away from the dance floor. It was learning to be a gentleman, not learning how to dance, that the Beast won over Belle. What we remember is the romance, not the footwork.
If you’re worried about the way you look, just remember the Japanese proverb: We’re fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance. And besides, there are other benefits to dance that you might not be expecting. (Did you know dancing can burn up to 450 calories an hour?)
Who knows—maybe you’ll end up surprising yourself. You may end up looking like this.