Dancing for pleasure, sociability and health by Ken Wear, 10-25-05
Next to sex and eating, dancing is man's oldest joyful activity
The tempo-handicapped can learn and appreciate tempo;
recognizing tempo assists appreciation of music for
listening, singing, dancing; see note (end of page).

Dancing is body movement in response to a rhythm; it is probably the world's oldest art form. Apart from the benefit of the physical exercise, there is a social component that is both pleasant and rewarding. There are many forms of dancing, such as line, round, square, clogging, ballroom, folk (with each locality or ethnic group having developed its peculiar rhythms and movements), and several specialty group dances. Since my experience is limited to ballroom, round and square dancing, which require that each dancer have a partner, I emphasize these three forms of dance.

A principle aspect of dance music is the rhythm, preferably with a pronounced downbeat to help the dancer synchronize his bodily movement with the rhythm. I do appreciate melody, that succession or cascading of notes in a pleasing pattern, and familiarity adds to the pleasure of the experience. To me, whether music is Western or country or show tunes or orchestral or old favorites is unimportant since it is the rhythm1 To view footnote, click here. that invites me to move and then encourages me to continue in some organized fashion.

If I didn't enjoy dancing, I wouldn't do it. During my last quarter century of active involvement with dancing I have pondered why it is so appealing. Somehow it nourishes my whole being. The rhythm of the music encourages my whole body, especially my feet, to move with the rhythm. And I enjoy the physical sensations of movement as muscles flex and bones glide in their sockets, which I call the "aesthetics of motion." Apart from the feminine companionship -- I cannot visualize dancing with a male partner -- I enjoy touching, even the limited contact of her hand in mine and my other hand on her back, since my fingers delight in textures. Moreover, there is a social component in the setting in which dancing is done. However well or poorly this fits your notion of worldly pleasures, dancing is perhaps the ultimate social grace and is man's oldest activity -- next to eating -- to express his joy in living.

Ballroom dancing is just you and your partner, traditionally with the man leading and his partner following in whatever figures are within his repertoire. For the beginning dancer, because it is just you and your partner dancing together, minimal instruction can initiate you into an entirely acceptable level of performance; and dancing the most rudimentary figures may be preferable to sitting.
(Click here for a flyer you can print and circulate to friends to encourage them to become involved in ballroom dancing.
[If you want instruction in ballroom dancing, my web page is free and will get you started. It details the man's lead and his partner's response. Click here.]

Round dancing is couples moving in a circle to cues announced by a cuer in keeping with the music.
Square dancing is four couples in a square moving synchronously in response to the calls announced by a caller in keeping with the music. Time-wise square dancing is organized into "tips," traditionally with a rest period or an alternate form of dancing (often round or line dancing) between tips. In both square and round dancing, because there is a preferred response to each cue or call, instruction by an accomplished dancer is important2 To view footnote, click here.. In my experience few pleasures exceed that of dancing in a square with accomplished dancers in response to a good caller.

Clogging does not require a partner although it is generally quite vigorous. My nephew indicated to me that clogging expends nearly as much energy as racing. But he did enjoy it.

Line dances do not require a partner and I have friends who prefer this form of dance. A number of different dances have been introduced and classes are widely available.

Folk dancing is almost totally beyond my experience. Some require partners but others don't. I had a friend who was devoted to Greek folk dances, which apparently don't require a partner. And folk dances of American Indians can be very entertaining.

There are myriad dance clubs practicing either ballroom, square, round, line dance or clogging. Locating one may initially be problematical. As our nest was emptying, my ex-wife found instruction in ballroom dancing in evening classes at a local university and then located a square dance club offering a series of classes. I sort of 'fell into' all three. I am not aware of listings of dance opportunities on the Web, but the Web does offer opportunities to find almost anything a person could want. Local dance studios have their parties (limited to ballroom dancing); while this helps fill a vacuum they have patrons who participate in square and round dancing and who can steer you to a club. There are legion private clubs, many of which require advance notice of visitors. And, at least in this area, there are many ballroom dance clubs formed by senior citizens groups although organized efforts to exploit the Web -- or even seek local publicity -- seem lacking. With a little initiative you'll have no trouble locating an opportunity to commence dancing.

Unhappily, square dancing has been on the decline in recent years. A decade ago the dance flourished and clubs proliferated; it is still popular but there are fewer choices of clubs to visit in your travels. I had initially undertaken a web page dedicated to helping square and round dancers find clubs with which to dance away from home. But publicity would have required cooperation by local associations and organizations of clubs, who apparently feared that opening the door to knowledge of the clubs would further erode their revenues; I abandoned this much-needed effort.

Also unhappily, ballroom dance of the more graceful forms (such as Fox Trot, Waltz, Rumba, Tango, ...) is losing dancers through aging and disability more rapidly than younger people join our ranks. (I am unfamiliar with the more vigorous forms of dance including Shag, Hustle and other enjoyed by the younger set since King Elvis popularized rock.) Recent television programs featuring ballroom dancing -- actually dancesport, since their is a degree of athleticism in the exhibitions and competitions -- have stirred public interest, which is attested by increased visits to my web page introducing the basics. If I could I would encourage everyone to experience dancing in some form since, as far back in history as records extend, it has been an important element of life.

Many churches have space and make it available to square and round dance clubs (or ballroom dance clubs) gratis or for a fee. Other churches consider dancing in any form to be immoral. I have found square dancers to be outstanding examples of morality and citizenship who join together to pursue this form of exercise and sociability without the baggage of other motives. For instance, you cannot consume alcohol and dance, not that the rules prohibit imbibing, but that the slightest trace of alcohol in your system makes it impossible to respond to the caller in a timely fashion; anyone with even a single drink under his belt simply cannot dance and is not welcome. It is of course possible, where people of both sexes congregate, for individuals to pursue their personal interest in a partner (just as in church); however, anyone who has witnessed square dancing recognizes that lewd conduct is not part of the activity and, in fact, there is less physical contact with sexual overtones during a "tip" than there is in a stroll at the mall. Any church should be proud to not only endorse square dancing but promote it, even as part of their community outreach.

Unfortunately, ballroom dancing has been often associated with consumpton of alcoholic beverages. Yet, clubs and other organizations have non-drinking rules or tradition, and that does not seem a barrier to participation and enjoyment. In centuries past there was no physical contact between men and women in popular dances, but for the past two or three centuries couples have danced together. What deterioration there has been in public morals has resulted from other causes and not from dancing.

I offer a second book of instructions, for a fee, that continues instruction in the (Rhythm) Fox Trot , Rumba, Waltz and (Single Step) Swing (introduced at my web site) and includes a repertoire in Progressive Fox Trot, Samba, Tango, (Triple Step) Swing and Cha Cha. These dances cover the range of offerings commonly played in this area unless someone requests music for another dance such as Polka, Mambo, Merengue, Viennese Waltz, Salsa, Hustle, Quick Step, ... I continue the format of offering suggestions to aid the man in leading and his partner in following.

To send an e-mail, use as subject "I read your post about dancing" exactly as shown -- to bypass the spam filter -- and click here. I will be happy to forward to you what information I have on local (greater Atlanta, GA) dance venues; be in touch.

You may go to the Contents of this web site by clicking here.

1 Footnote: Some people are 'rhythm handicapped,' but everyone can learn to recognize the rhythm of music. I can help. To learn more, read on; otherwise use your BACK button.

I can lend you -- cannot sell or rent -- a cassette tape that will help you learn to recognize the cadence or rhythm of music as well as move your body to it. To encourage you to return the tape (so I can lend it to others) I ask a deposit of $10; it will be refunded to you when you return the tape in its box in good condition. I do ask $8 for postage and handling (not refundable) because I do have real costs in doing this. (Because of copyright law I cannot sell or rent a tape. I recorded this so long ago I have no recollection of source and cannot give credit to the musicians, much as they deserve it.) For details in an e-mail, use as subject "I read your post about dancing" and click here.
VETERANS: Dancing isn't marching, but if you learned to march, you can learn to dance. Cadence is rhythm. One - Two - Three - Four - Left - Right - Left - Right

2 Footnote: There is a form of square dance where the caller can give adequate instruction in just a few minutes. My experience is limited to the chance event that interested my ex-wife in dancing, when we were returning from a family outing and chanced to see a group of several squares dancing on the concrete apron of an abandoned filling station; we stopped to see why the excitement and in very few minutes we were dancing as well as the rest of them. It was exhilirating! Use your BACK button now.

My printer takes 3 pages or 2 sheet of paper to print this document.