October 7th, 2014

How You Can Learn to Dance (and Why You Probably Should)

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I started dancing in my early 20s, about the time my peers were pairing off into their chosen careers. While my 20-something peers didn’t condone dancing, I grew up in a town where football was king, and pick-up trucks pulling donuts in the High School parking lot was considered an excellent form of after school entertainment. To say that a man dancing was socially unacceptable is to mistakenly called getting covered in rotten eggs (which also happened) a slightly uncomfortable experience.

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But my humiliation around dance didn’t stop with the lack of my peers’ judgement. I’m pretty sure I was my own worst critic in my first ballet class, surround by beautiful, experienced ballet women, wearing corduroy and completely unaware of the french techniques being described. Somehow I survived my childhood, and my college ballet class mortification and have only danced more every week in the ten years since.

I share these early experiences so that you, the reader, might understand that you don’t have to be born in a culture that accepts dancing, to be able to dance. I hear regularly, when asked what I do, some version of admiration followed by self-denial. “That’s great that you dance so much. I couldn’t ever, I have two left feet.” This is my manifesto and the message is simple: you, too, can dance. And you probably should.

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Doubters, read this first:

  • Dance has always been around, is here to stay.
  • The first documented evidence of dance is some 9 thousand years old
  • Dance can be found as an element in every major and minor modern religion
  • Every country in the world has some native form of dance, most have many
  • 17 million people around the world dance Zumba each week
  • Videos of dance are more likely to be shared virally on social media than any other single topic
  • Whether you are approaching dance from a business, health, financial, social or dating perspective dance has something important to offer.

Beginners Start Here

The way I learned to dance need not be the way you go about beginning. I don’t recommend getting egged, or doing ballet wearing corduroy. Instead, start simpler.

The 7 Simple Steps To Dance

  • Make sure you are alone in a room. No one is watching you.
  • Turn on a song that you know well and enjoy
  • Close your eyes
  • No, really: close your eyes
  • Listen to the music
  • Begin moving in any way to the music that you hear
  • Pay attention to how you are moving – both how it feels and what you are actually doing

Congratulations, you just danced.

I am organizing Design for Dance, a conference put by Stanford University’s BJ Fogg and the Persuasive Technology Lab. If you are interested, sign up for my mailing list and I’ll keep you apprised of the details!


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