The First Steps

22 Nov 2017 - by Graham

Getting onto the dance floor that first time can be daunting. Whether your friend says "Hey, let's go to a dance class this Thursday. You coming?" and drags you along for the ride, or even if you make the decision all on your own, that first time of walking through the door to give it a go can be a scary experience. You just know that everyone else will be better at it than you, that you have two left feet and no sense of rhythm, that you're too tall / short / fat / thin to look right on a dance floor, and that you're not sure you really see the point of it all anyway. You might glance at the advert for the local dance club every week thinking that it looks fun, but move on because it's "not for you". Or maybe you signed up for a class once because it seemed like a good idea at the time but, when it actually comes to heading out in the evening and trying the class you can't quite make that step. Some people even pay for the classes in advance and turn up, but when they look through the door they see a lot of "experienced dancers" (who are probably only on week one or two themselves), decide they can't possibly do that, and they go away again without coming in.

The thing is though, we've all been there. Every single person in a dance club had a "first night". My own first time dancing was a while ago now, but I still clearly remember walking through that door and feeling like everyone in the room stopped what they were doing to watch me walk across the floor to a spare seat. Obviously no-one actually did that and I doubt anyone other than the lady on the door knew I was even there, but I felt like I was under a microscope. But I had decided that I'd give it a go, so I sat down, did the class, and went home again as soon as possible after the teaching had finished! But something had clicked, and I was back again the following week to give it another go. And eventually... well here I am.

For men in particular there's also peer-pressure to contend with, and the reaction you're likely to get if you tell people you dance or that you're thinking of learning to dance. Dancing isn't seen as "manly" these days (whatever that's supposed to mean), and mockery from friends and colleagues can be difficult to deal with. If you told them that you went out on a Friday night to drink 17 pints and passed out in a taxi they'd slap you on the back and say "Well done!", but tell them you go dancing and they'll laugh and ask "Why?". This says a lot more about society than it does about dancing, but whatever the cause the pressure is real, and so even if you overcome the fear of walking through the door that first time, unless you keep your dancing life completely secret you still have to deal with what happens when you walk back out again.

But if it's that scary, why does anyone ever do it? If everyone feels like that when they turn up at their first class then why do they ever come back? And what even gets them through the door in the first place?

There are a lot of health benefits to regular dancing and I'll be talking about those on here in the next couple of weeks, but if it was only about fitness and health then we could all just go to the gym. There must be more to it than that. So what is it about dance that makes it special? Why do some people - quite a lot of people if you look at it nationally - choose to push through that initial fear and carry on dancing? I could get all scientific and start talking about endorphins and the psychology of dance (I'll touch on some of that in the next few posts), but most people don't worry about all of that; they just know it makes them feel good.

And that's the most important part of it all. If you talk to anyone who dances regularly and ask them why they do it they'll start off by telling you "because it's fun". They might then go on to tell you about the challenge or the exercise or any number of other technical aspects, but look into their eyes whilst they are talking and you will know that what really drives them is "fun". We need fun. We need to be able to let off steam for a while or we go crazy. We need to be able to relax and do something a bit different.

So what conclusion can we take from all this? That your first time dancing is going to be scary? Yes, it will, but it was just as scary for everyone else in the room when they first started as they had exactly the same insecurities and fears as you. But the other conclusion is that you will never know if you really love it until you try, and in order to find that out you have to take the First Steps into the room and give it a go.

Posted by: Graham   Permalink: link   Keywords: First Time  Dance  

Why Take Dance Classes?

23 Jul 2017 - by Graham

Dancing is strange. When you stop to think about it, dance is little more than wiggling bits of you around in time to some music whilst trying to keep hold of someone else who is also wiggling around. But there must be more to it than that, surely? Or why would so many people consider it an essential part of their lives?

In a world where everyone has daily responsibilities, schedules, places to be and jobs to complete, taking time out for yourself is becoming more and more important. We need time to reset, time to forget about the routine and escape, time to release our minds from routine and let the creativity flow, time that whether we realise it or not is as important as sleeping. We all know the body needs a good few hours of unconsciousness every night to keep on functioning, but a few hours of creative fun every week is just as necessary, and is often overlooked in our rush from weekend to weekend.

A good dance class is more than just a place to go and learn a new skill. It’s a social club where you meet old friends and make new ones, a place where you can relax and feel at home for a few hours a week whilst doing something completely different. A dance class is full of laughter and fun, and whilst there may be occasional frustrations that you can’t do ‘this’ move or stretch in ‘that’ way as easily as you would like, none of this matters as no-one is judging or assessing you. It is, after all, only dancing.

But you can get the same social club experience in the pub, so why go dancing?

Dancing is obviously more active than sitting in a pub so the exercise benefits are clear, but the positive effects of dance go a lot further than that and are not just limited to the burning of calories. It has been shown to improve brain function as the repetitive movements inherent in dance exercise different parts of the brain to our normal everyday tasks. It improves balance, as you find you become much more aware of how you are standing and how you move. It improves your blood circulation and your flexibility, and yes it does also burn off more calories than sitting around in a pub with a pint.

The way I started to dance was a little unusual, but very soon after I began I was completely hooked. Dancing became my centre, my happy place, the thing I looked forward to in the week. It didn’t matter that I was not particularly good at it or that I was nowhere near fit enough to manage half the things I wanted to try. All that mattered was that I danced. And so I went, at first just once a week then I added in another day here and another day there until I was going three or occasionally four times a week.

And a few years later I launched Jivebeat. After 25 years as a quality manager, auditor, and regulatory consultant in some of the most corporate environments you could ever expect to find, I am now a dance teacher… and it was the best decision I ever made.

So if you have ever wondered what all the fuss was about dancing and why so many otherwise rational people choose to spend their evenings wiggling around to a variety of different types of music, all I can say is give it a go. When I first started I expected to be terrible at it and I assumed that I wouldn’t enjoy it, but it turns out I was very wrong on both counts. If someone like me can love, live, and breathe dance, maybe you can too.

But you will never know until you try.

Posted by: Graham   Permalink: link   Keywords: Dance  Benefits  

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