I have been teaching dance class for what will soon be 14 years. It is hard to recollect every aspect of when I first started teaching, but I could swear I noticed a trend occurring from way back in 1998 to today. Since I wasn't sure and wanted to confirm it, I asked Natasha (who took my class 7 years ago) a simple question;
"Have you noticed how men are just not leading anymore?"
And she said,
"Yes. There's a definite trend."
"So in your short 7 years of dancing, you have noticed it?"
So now that I know I'm not imagining it, permit me to speak of it.
Understand how ballroom or any partner dancing works is that one person MUST lead the other person MUST follow. The dynamics of this is not a "superior" leading an "inferior" person around, it is more akin to electricity. In order to have a current, you need a positive and a negative. Following is just as important as leading otherwise the dance just plain doesn't work. It may be more analogous to driving. Only ONE person can drive the car at any given time. If you have two people driving, the car will invariably crash and if you have no one driving it will crash a lot quicker. This relationship between the lead and follow and thus the man and the woman MUST be instilled before any kind of turns, throws, dips etc, can be taught.
Now traditionally it has been the women who have difficulty in playing their role of the follower and try to lead. And this has nothing to do with feminism or women wanting to take on more of a role in society. It boils down to women simply wanting to "help," but failing to realize that "helping" is antithetical to following. And by "helping" you are by default leading. And once I explain this to the women, they usually get it and start following real well.
It is the men I'm seeing deteriorating in their role of leading.
Be it the fact they plain don't want to be there, they're tired or even their wife won't let them lead, the trend I'm noticing goes beyond that. There is a noticeable decline in men's ability to take command on the dance floor and lead. And I cannot help but wonder if it isn't the sociological and economic environment that has led to it.
I see more and more men, who just plain have that defeated, domesticated look on their faces. I provide all the instruction, explain step by step what has to happen, and above all else explain to them they MUST pull their wife this way, send her out that way, they MUST LEAD. But when the time comes and the music plays, instead of a Steve McQueen like fashion, they look sheepishly at their wife or girlfriend and barely produce a slight tug on the girl's hand, all the while looking at her for constant confirmation and approval they're doing it correctly.
I can break it down, again and again. Repeat and cheer them on to be like John Wayne, and instead of leading, the men "suggest" the women turn a certain way, or ask their permission to turn them a certain way.
The women of course get frustrated (not only because viscerally women like strong men), but because the dance is structurally failing. They don't know where to turn. The lead is so limp and the man so unsure, the women is forced to take over and turn herself.
And then the whole system collapses. Instead of listening to me or the beat of the music, the rookie dancers try to figure it out themselves. The women (who had NOT been trained in leading) start lecturing the men (erroneously most of the time) as to what they're doing wrong. The men, obviously predisposed to listen to their wife or girlfriend over me (who technically is a complete stranger) miss out on my vital commands and instruction as to what is wrong and how to fix it. And when we try again, it doesn't work because it is now a joint effort when the men and women both amorphously lead and follow, mixing their roles. It's not until we have three or four lessons under our belt do the men get comfortable enough with the idea of leading (or the binary nature of the lead/follow and how the two do not intertwine), is there progress. But it didn't take 3-4 lessons in the past.
Further convincing me of my theory or observation is real, is that every once in a while I will have a guy show up with a confident little smirk. The age doesn't matter. I've seen that face in 18 year old kids and 65 year old retirees. One eye brow is always higher than the other. He has a Captain Jack Sparrow like sinful smirk on his face, his girlfriend/wife is always smiling ear to ear and without fail I will catch him pinching his significant other's derriere.
He is the alpha male and I have no problems ever getting them to understand the concept of leading.
Even if they're not on beat, they don't care.
There's the right way, the wrong way, and if they can't do either, they'll do the Max Power's way.
It may be a bit forceful, it may be a bit too fast, it may not be on beat, but there is no ambiguity to the ladies as to what these men want them to do. Additionally, all the women smile when they're dancing with these men. Why?
Not only because it is clear what the guy wants his partner to do during the dance, the dirty little secret is that women like strong men.
Of course, their numbers are dwindling. And in 14 years no less.
Now I could go on about the sissification of America and could postulate theories about economics and how the economy may be depressing men and lord knows whatever other sociological/psychological theories, but has anybody else out there in the ballroom community noticed this? I'm being serious, I'd like to be able to figure out the problem so I can solve it.