In so many ways, I see dance as a metaphor for life. The way men (and women) behave on the dance floor tells me a lot about who they are as people, and whether or not I want to get to know them better. Were I single, it would tell me a lot about whether I’d want to date them (or anything else).
It doesn’t seem to matter which dance scene you go to, either. I am most familiar with the swing scene, but lately I have been participating in the DC-area Salsa scene. The faces are different, but the concepts are the same.
I ran into a guy a few weeks ago who I am going to call John Thomas. I don’t know his actual name, but I know John Thomas is British slang for some male anatomy parts. This guy is British, in his fifties if he’s a day, blonde, and just weird. He acts a little crazy in public, dances flamboyantly and likes to wear strange clothes that stand out in a crowd.
The first time I saw him, he was wearing kind of a neon green gym-type outfit at a dance club, which definitely stands out. And he also likes to shake his thing at people a lot, so he is hard to miss. The second time I saw him, at the same club, he was wearing black jeans, a black snakeskin-printed sleeveless T-shirt (I guess to show off his biceps), and a black leather belt with pronounced metal spikes on the sides.
John Thomas, as I have taken to calling him because I don’t know his name, grabbed my hand and asked me to dance. I am in the habit of dancing with just about anyone until they give me a reason not to, because I am a dance teacher and I know how it crushes people to get turned down without reason.
So I naively accepted the outstretched hand and went off to dance. The beginning of our Salsa dance started out pretty normal, but I quickly realized that John Thomas liked to freestyle. I don’t necessarily mind freestyling—it has its place. If I like the song and I am into my partner, I can let loose and have some fun. But in this case, I was not yet comfortable with John Thomas, so I was keeping with my basic footwork pattern and letting him do all the shoulder shimmys and hip-thrusting he wanted. I just observed.
At some point, he backed up to me and did some booty-popping in my face. And I thought to myself, see, this is exactly why I spent all that time and money learning how to actually dance. Is so that I would not have to go to clubs and have guys stick their tails in my face.
So I backed up a little bit and kept doing my Salsa basic at a greater distance.
Apparently, John Thomas read this as a failure on my part to understand that I was supposed to participate in the hip-thrusting. The next time he turned around, he grabbed both of my hands and pressed them firmly against his metal-studded belt, and then commenced with the booty-bouncing.
Let’s just pause and paint the image here. Me, mid-forties. Nice dress. Something you might wear to church. Him: Sleeveless, studded belt, all black, twerking assertively at me. Me, trying to back away, hands trapped by his belt-studs of doom. Him, popping the fifty year-old gluteals my direction. I mean, sure, you work out, but you really aren’t 18 anymore. And neither am I.
At last, he released my hands and turned around. By now, we had passed the bridge of the song and were into the final minute or so. He returned to his enthusiastic shoulder-shimmying, but this time, seemed to want me to participate, too.
“It’s like this,” He said, demonstrating the rhythmic pattern. I nodded politely.
“Yes, I see. Good job,” I said, making no effort at all to try it.
He made a few more attempts at coaching me in the shoulder shimmys, and the song mercifully ended. In the relative quiet between songs, he said, “It’s ok if you can’t get it. It’s a very complicated rhythm.”
I was a little cheesed off, but tried to bite back my anger. This was the only dance we would ever share, so there was no point in arguing about it. “Oh, it’s not that I can’t do it,” I said. “I just don’t want to shake my boobs at you, that’s all. Thanks for the dance.”
And so, the lessons to be learned from this dance are many. First off, be cautious about dancing with guys who wear the equivalent of animal traps on their person. Very important. You must be able to escape. Secondly, guys, take some time to read the vibes you are getting from your partner. It is entirely possible that some ladies in the club that night would have been all over the booty bouncing and the shoulder shimmying. John Thomas should have caught the look of horror on my face and reigned it in for four minutes. If it is impossible for him to contain his twerk-tasticness so long, perhaps he should be more careful about who he asks to dance, and avoid asking the ladies who look like they may have just stepped right out of afternoon tea with the pastor.
Lastly, in any dancing situation, avoid making assumptions about your partner. Just because your partner “waves you off” on a particular move does not mean they cannot do it. It only means they choose not to on that day, in that particular moment, with you as a particular partner.
One thing I say in Yoga all the time is that every day is different. Some days, you may feel like you own a particular pose and another day, that pose may own you. It’s the same with dance.
Maybe on May 3 right after she ate a giant mega burrito at Carlos’, she just doesn’t feel like doing the super-swivel-switching-shimmies she normally does. Don’t judge her for it, and don’t (necessarily) judge yourself. Unless if she tells you something like I told John Thomas, and then it’s probably a good idea to judge yourself just a little bit—but don’t get discouraged. Just re-evaluate and move on. By the way, I sincerely doubt a guy like John Thomas ever gets discouraged. I sense that he has confidence to spare.