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The Mystery of the Dancing Men

January 3, 2011

As an avid swing dancer, I’ve gone to, if not all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, then to quite a few of them.  And though they have been as of yet all Humphrey Bogart-less, I have began to notice that there is, ladies and gentleman, certain types of male who swing.  These categories of dancers recapitulate themselves in all manner of places, (for instance, what’s with the dearth of male dancers between the ages of 30-50, and why must 70% of them be old enough to be your father?) and so, for the good of women who enjoy a beat everywhere, here’s a how-to-identify-them girl friendly guide! (Sans pictures, I’m afraid.)

The First Timer

He is dressed like a J Crew commercial, and is very boy-next-door.  As he performs the basic ‘back step, step, step’ and perhaps a nervously executed ‘she goes’ turn, the conversation will go something like this:

HIM: So, um, how long have you been dancing?

YOU: *Indicates a length of time longer than a month.*

HIM: Wow.  You must be really good.  I just started.

YOU:  *Non committal noise* (even as secretly thinking, “I figured.”)

HIM:  Can you teach me some new moves?

Recommendation:  It’s nice to dance with newbies (remember how nervous you were?) and so your dancerly duty is give him a go or two.  Besides, if he’s cute, his mind numbingly easy dancing style is conductive to flirting.  DANCE.

The Malevolent Santa Claus

He cruises around, his corpulent belly exposed with his tight t-shirt, his eyebrows bushy and waggling.  His inevitably scraggly facial hair smells like the old man he is, and his dance moves are uncomfortably close and overtly sexual.  His favorite move will be the dip, because then it is easier for him to look up your shirt.

Recommendation:  He’ll treat you like his ‘ho ho ho.’  And he isn’t strong enough to even last long.  AVOID.

The Playful Gentleman

He usually isn’t a talker, often isn’t that much to look at.  He’s probably one of the younger gents in the joint, and when he walks over to you, he walks in time to the beat.  From the first swell of the song, he will be in sync with you, willing to try fun moves, but also giving you time to shine.  Often it becomes a miniature game of follow the leader, with him demonstrating a move or a flourish, and then you copying it, the give and receive of two people not taking themselves too seriously and just having a really good time.  Sometimes it even degenerates into false disco moves of a John Travolta-like leaning, or walking like an Egyptian.  Regardless, for the duration of the song, you are not going to be able to rely on anything resembling a basic step.

Recommendation:  These gents are a delight to dance with, if you feel confident enough to be able to show off some solo moves and not feel silly if you mess up.  If you are a newer dancer, you might feel bad because you sense you are cramping his style.  But you shouldn’t.  DANCE.

The Full of Himself Asshole

He walks through the room without bothering to look at anyone.  Unexpectedly, he will come up to and grab your hand, knowing that you, of course, are desperate to dance with him.  He will begin to show off with intricate flourishes and fancy Charleston’s, even as he keeps you in a tight lead.  If you make a mistake, you might see him roll his eyes quickly.

Recommendation:  If he’s that arrogant, there’s usually a reason for it.  He’s probably a good dancer.  And it’s worth putting up with his ego if it means you get to practice some killer moves.  DANCE.

The Routiner

This is a guy who doesn’t like change.  He swing dances once a week, arriving at precisely 9:05 and leaving precisely at 10:38.  He always wears a checked polo shirt.  His dance routine is good, very solid.  The first time you dance with him, it will be a lot of fun.  The second and third time, you will feel yourself getting better and better at predicting his moves, and have the heady experience of noticing yourself honing a skill.  By the fourth time however, you begin to realize that you can close your eyes and think of the Queen, and still follow him perfectly.

Recommendation:  By the time you realize that he is, in fact, a Routiner, its time to move on to the proverbial greener pasture.  AVOID.

The Intertwined

They enter holding hands, they dance intertwined, and they take water breaks at the same time.  Often they will end a dance with a highly unorthodox move known as the deep kiss.  Dancing levels range from beginner to mind-blowingly good, but often towards the end of the night, they won’t be dancing so much as fondling in the corner of the room, giggling.

Recommendation:  You won’t be able to separate him from his sweetie long enough to dance with him anyway.  It doesn’t matter at this point whether he is a dancing God with the looks of Brad Pitt thrown into one.  AVOID.

The Professional

He’s older, clean-cut, and intense.  He will ask anyone to dance with him, instantly assess their dancing level, and cater to that level.  If you are nervous, he will chat with you.  If you want to learn a complicated aerial move, he will politely take you through the steps.  Regardless of ability level, during your dance with him you will feel like a dancing queen.  Every move is so effortless, his leading is strong, and you are moving in ways that you never have before with ease.

Recommendation:  The professional is a great person to experience the joys of dancing with.  He is beyond your level, so get your ego out of the way and just enjoy feeling like a natural dancer, if only for five minutes.  DANCE.

The Pick Up Artist

He’s younger and he’s cruising.  He sees you.  No ring?  Check.  Not hideous?  Check.  He’ll come over and invite you to dance.  During the ‘dance’ (basic steps and turns, he doesn’t know much else) he’ll chat you up, try to find out about your life, perhaps start blues dancing with you for an excuse to lightly grind.  At the end of the song, he’ll ask you if you want a drink.  When you point out they don’t serve alcohol there, he’ll say, “I know,” and indicate the door.

Recommendation:  If you are there to dance, avoid The Pick Up Artist, cause he’s lousy and sleazy.  If you are there to cruise, go forth.  Just know that you are encouraging him and those like him to consider dancing spots their own personal OKCupid.  AVOID, UNLESS LOOKING FOR A DATE.

Ladies, any general types that I have missed?

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. January 3, 2011 11:03 PM

    The Cool Kid comes to mind (think equal parts Playful Gentleman, Full of Himself Asshole, and Professional) — cute, definitely in the in crowd, and hella good. You’ll probably have to ask him the first couple of times, but after that it becomes 50/50, and he makes you *such* a better dancer. Also, the Plain and Simple Old Man. Not even bothering with a back step, this step-step-step-step wonder will probably try to talk, and he’s certainly not a newbie, but you’re not there for charity. If you wanted to brighten Grandpa’s day, you would have visited a nursing home.

    (PS – Was The Professional written with Leonard in mind? 🙂 )

  2. January 4, 2011 7:16 PM

    The Professional was written for the Leonard’s everywhere, but yes, he was certainly an inspiration. And I totally agree about both the Cool Kid and the Plain and Simple Old Man. I’ve definitely danced with both of them before. 😉

  3. Jerry permalink
    January 5, 2011 3:12 PM

    Fun blog. Just found it because I have spies on all over the interwebs (aka automatic Google Blog searches) Re: The Malevolent Santa Claus. You either have an incredible imagination or you’ve been dancing in DC.

    • January 5, 2011 6:14 PM

      Jerry,

      Wow. I wish I could claim to have an incredible imagination, but alas. You must know of/have met the man who sparked the the Santa prototype, for I do, indeed, dance in DC, and I have, in fact, been tricked into dancing with Mr. Claus once. Glad you stopped by the site.

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