Saturday, October 01, 2011

The Bubble and Burst of Ballroom Dancing

Tonight was an epiphanal night for your Captain, and he wishes to share it with all your fine upstanding junior, deputy, aspiring, official or otherwise economists, and that epiphany is about the realm of ballroom dancing.

I am often faced with a quandary when middle aged women ask if their young, teenage sons should learn ballroom dance. Understand this is a quandary for me because my experience has both pros and cons to it, neither of which (until tonight) has edged out one over the other.

The battle between learning and not-learning basically boils down to two things.

1. When I was literally the best swing dancer in the entire state of Minnesota in the late 90's and early 2000's, it was grand. Swing was hot, I was hot, and I think I racked up over 200 dates alone in that 3 year time span. Dated the hottest (and most psychotic and dumbest) girl on the scene. Icing to the cake was the Salsa craze that followed. I wasn't necessarily the best dancer, but any "gringo" who wasn't all hands and didn't have a green card as an ulterior motive to dance with the ladies came at a premium. Again, life was grand.


2. Inevitably all good things come to an end, and they come to an end in an eerily similar pattern. First there is the craze. Everybody wants to do it, hot people, ugly people, people who climb on rocks. Then the skill level of everybody increases. Some people get better than others and this insults the former "kings and queens" of the dancing world. Cliques form in a very middle school manner, and of course, there may have been some dating going on, not all of which ended successfully. Sure enough due to failed relationships some people leave the scene, one clique won't dance with the others, and it all goes to pot. But worse, hastening the "goes to pot phase" is the entrance of two very different types of men, but PRECISELY identical effects on the dance scene - Green card searchers (latin dancing) and Single Christian Middle Aged Males (swing/ballroom scene).

These men, desperately incentived by ulterior motives, ABUSE ballroom dancing and essentially scare all the women away. Women now can no longer just "go out dancing" and enjoy a good night of it. They are now harassed by illegal aliens looking for a green card or desperate middle aged men looking for a wife. The dancing no longer has merit unto itself. It becomes a tool for desperate men.

This, more than anything else, scares the women away in droves and leaving the dance scene a nerdy-remnant shell of its former greatness.

Thus the cycle is complete, boom to bust, and ballroom dancing returns to where it "normally trades at."

The question then becomes, should the young man ever bother learning to ballroom dance? Does he learn in the hopes he times it right like I did, and with the added benefit of timing two ballroom bubbles and avail himself of (literally) limitless romantic opportunities? Or does he just pursue other pursuits and move on with his life?

I'm happy to tell you I've found the definitive and correct answer;

Do not learn ballroom dancing until you have a girlfriend or wife you dearly love.

The reason I say this is because of the "stable market value" of ballroom dancing.

Understand, though in the past I was a big proponent of ballroom dancing, that is only because I was lucky enough to live through two bubbles. Bar the great 90's swing dance craze and the early 2000's salsa craze, inevitbaly these things come to an end. And if you look back at the past 100 years, maybe, MAYBE 7 of them cumulatively were ballroom dance crazes of any time.

Regardless, that's what they precisely were.


They weren't "normal."

They weren't "the base line" of society.

These were fleeting, ABNORMAL phenomenons in society.

And if you timed them just right, fine, all was well and good (pretty great actually).

But if you got on the bandwagon too late, it was single Christian groups and green-card potlucks.

So you have to determine whether you should learn to ballroom dance based on the other 93 years or 93% of the time when ballroom dancing is "trading" at its normal market value and is not in a craze or "bubble" stage. And it is most decidedly NOT worth it.

The reason I say this is because of my experiences tonight. I went to about the only place in all of southern Montana to do some ballroom dancing. The venue was actually quite large. The band was quite good. And there was no less than 300 people. I walked in thinking I hit gold.

But the a couple observations.

1. NOBODY knew what they hell they were doing. Bar the SCARCE old couple who genuinely knew how to two-step, the remainder of the dancers were just flinging each other around and faking it about as bad as you could. Pockets of "woo-girls" filled the center of the floor as they danced with their beers in hand, and not one man on that floor could have ever been called a "leader" because the women were just turning themselves. I've seen mosh pits more organized than that.

2. Because of #1, even if you KNEW how to ballroom dance it wouldn't matter because no women knew how to follow. And conversely for the Lady Cappy Cappites, it wouldn't matter if you knew how to dance, because none of the men could lead, let alone keep the beat. So again, you could be the best dancer in the state (and I'm not joking when I say, I think I quite literally was), but it won't matter because you ultimately need a partner who knows what they're doing.

3. A reminder that suburbanite princess mentality transcends all rural, suburban and urban broders: There was one time I was at The Times Cafe in Minneapolis. I was in a suit, Vic Volare and the Volare Lounge Orchestra was playing. They had a GREAT floor open and martini's were pouring. It was probably the single best dance floor/joint in the entire Twin Cities and you could not ask for a better floor or band. After getting shot down 4 times in a row, I just decided I would plum ask every single looking lady to dance in the joint. After 30 minutes, I was summarily shot down by every girl in the joint. The floor remained open, until a cackle of woo girls decided to go out on the floor and dance with each other.

Tonight was a repeat. New to the venue I asked a lady sitting next to me at the bar if the band "ever played anything danceable." She said it was her first time there, but her friend from across the bar had been there plenty of times and would know. So we BOTH start beckoning her over and she yells across the bar, "But I don't want to dance with him!' We roll our eyes, continue to beckon and inevitably she comes over. I asked her, "Do they ever play any danceable music? Let alone does anybody here REALLY know how to dance?"

No, not really, she said, and I thanked her for the information.

Of course, fresh in my mind was her presuming I wanted to dance with her. Yes, who else would I want to dance with besides her and her fellow 40 something, aging women friends, with 1980's clothes and noticeable aging physical features? Brushing it off, I could brush it off no more when 10 minutes later I see these same women, acting like veritable 14 year old girls as they start dancing with each other on the dance floor. And I'm not talkign the jump up and down, wiggle butt dance. I'm talking they're trying to swing dance with one another, while there is literally over 100 genuine, tall, good-looking cowboys of their same age.

In short, it was tonight I realized just what a bubble ballroom dancing is when women would just plain prefer to dance with themselves than perfectly capable guys.

So the lesson to learn here gentlemen of the Capposphere is that unless there's a ballroom bubble, there's no point in learning how to ballroom dance. Most women, in a stable market of ballroom dance, will have no interest in dancing with you. Most women will shoot you down. And most women, would actually prefer to dance with each other than a clean cut, good looking guy 10 years their junior who is a stranger. And if you do enter the ballroom world, you can be prepared to join a world of middle aged to elderly single folk looking desperately for some kind of edge or skill that will give them game.

The conclusion is obviously not to learn ballroom, but I will provide one caveat.

Ballroom dance is worth learning if you have a signficant other. THe reason why is it is a currency for men. Just like flowers, poetry, buying drinks, paying for dinner, all of that is WASTED on girls you are merely dating or trying to date. All of those, including ballroom dancing should be reserved for a special girl that actually DESERVES those things. Do men REALLY like ballroom dancing? Sure some, but even I tire of it. Did I like writing funny, witty poems to impress the girls in college? No, but I thought it would work, of course it didn't. And how much money did you waste buying soon-to-be-dead flowers, soon-to-be-eaten-chocolates, or soon-to-be-drank drinks?

You will soon realize ballroom dancing is merely one of many forms of what is ultimately categorized as ATTENTION.

And all men, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow will soon realize you don't use attention to get women (that's where indifference, ignorance and lying about your income come in). You use it to reward the nice sweet ones that treat you nice and don't play games and like you for you.

Therefore, the Captains' new official policy on dancing (as well as poetry, buying dinner, paying for drinks and any other form of attention) is reserved for those special women you are either seriously involved with or married to, or good female friends you really do like and respect.

Wasting these talents or efforts on women as a means to cajole them into dating you, is simply that. Wasting talents and efforts.


Suz said...

Agreed, sadly. No doubt I'm showing my age here, but "back in the day," freshman P.E. at my high school included a couple of weeks of "social dancing." We learned the waltz, two-step, fox trot, Virginia reel, and we even did some square dancing. The polka was omitted. (Odd, that, and we were just a few miles from Wisconsin!)
I'd like to see most young people get that much training right off the bat. Developing the skill, however, should be shared with someone special, as you suggest.

Marvin the Martian said...

Too bad you missed the 1940s. You would have had a better shot wih the ladies at dances, I think. Of course, a lot of the availability of ladies was thanks to the USO.

Anthony said...

That's horribly depressing, though I've seen something similar at modern ballroom venues in the Bay Area. A few caveats:

Swing dancing has its own scene here, as does salsa, and tango. People mostly don't learn those dances in the large ballroom dance venues.

What I've seen in the big ballroom dance venues is a bunch of 40-something and 50-something Asian women looking for *good* dancers. They're not husband-hunting, they're looking for something to do involving contact with men while their husbands are slaving away over a hot CRT.

However, I've seen scenes which are not filled with green-card seekers or middle-aged men. The main thing they have is a rather athletic style of dance. I've done Irish ceili dance (and destroyed my knees in the process). There aren't many middle-aged men there, and those that do show up, and who are actually competent, do pretty well with the young women with daddy issues. Vintage ballroom has some fairly energetic dances, too - imagine a night where more than half your waltzes, and about a third of all the dances, are Viennese Waltz, and some of the other dances *are more energetic*. That scene has a larger contingent of middle-aged men, but being the Bay Area, they're mostly not Christian, and they're mostly not wife-hunting.

The swing scene here is still pretty big, and there are still a lot of young men *and women* in it, even though there are lots of older folks, too.

So the advice I'd give regarding teenage (or early-twenties) men is to find a dance scene which weeds out the old folks by being high-energy (not by being on-campus), and get good at it. I'd suspect that most places, that's going to be the swing dance scene, or what's left of it.

Jocelyn said...

I've been a ballroom dancer for awhile now. I have noticed that far too many people dance as if each dance is something they must accomplish and scratch off the 'To Do' list instead of savoring the opportunity to connect with another person and have fun. Men are no longer allowed to be masculine. Women are scolded if they cling to 'archaic' female virtues. Thus, you see a sloppy mash-up on the dance floor of men who have no clue what it takes to lead and women who have idea what it takes to follow.

While I don't always love my many septua and octogenarian dance partners (one poor bloke dances like Frankenstein after a failed hip replacement**sigh**), what they may lack in agility, they usually make up for in their ability to actually lead a lady around the dance floor. Some of the best Argentine tango partners I've ever danced with are the older men. They don't try anything fancy, but they give me clear signals and they know how to protect a woman while dancing at a busy milonga and know exactly when to let the lady show off a bit. And they look casket sharp...dressed to impress. No hipster, just rolled out of bed crap.

It's sad that more people can't simply enjoy dancing without having an agenda. I can't think of a time I get to feel more elegant and feminine than while out dancing. And I just want a man to be a man, for crying out loud!

Rant over.

Anonymous said...

Well Cap, thanks for at least acknowledging that there are those of us out there who are not "the norm." That we don't treat your kindness and gifts as a currency.

There are still some of us who save the roses you give us and turn them upside down to dry so we can keep them in a vase for years to come.

We cherish the poems and pick me ups you write for us and tuck them away in a secret spot so we can pull them out later - just to make us smile.

Some of us really do appreciate a real man who will open the door for us or pull out a chair for us to sit. We are the real women.

Dancing is one of my all-time favorite things to do. But, the man I was married to refused. Oh sure, I heard stories from him of how he would go out and dance before I came along but I practically had to drag him onto the dance floor for the first dance at our wedding. I would have LOVED to be able to dance with him on a regular basis. But, no. Needless to say, I took my first dance class ALONE three years ago. I have loved learning and being able to dance with different people but the Captain is right. It's different when you're dancing with someone who really matters to you.

Men, don't go dancing to look for a woman. Look for a woman and then go dancing...or buy flowers...or send notes...or call for no reason-just to say hi.

Captain Capitalism said...


About the only real men left on the dance scene from my observations are the old widowers who had a nice wife at one time who unfrotunately passed away.

The women all feel secure and safe dancing with the guy, and he is eating it up knowing he can dance with the 20 somehting girls while their male counterparts sit and watch.

In the the end the widower knows he just got the best end of the deal, but at the same time pities NOT THE MEN, but the women who opted to choose him as a dance partner and not the similarily aged men.

Perhaps that is why he is smiling so much as he knows the women he dances with are wasting their youth on him and not something that may have a future.

Regardless, I salute the old men who woo the ladies to dance with them and smoke out their 1/4th aged competitors. He's actually doing those men a favor.

CtZ said...

I'm going to say something that I noticed about ballroom dancing:

Ballroom dancing sucks.

(Although I entertain the thought that the few times I specifically went ballroom dancing, it was at the worst time of one of your cycles)

I've been swing dancing long enough that I can show up in almost any city across the country and immediately meet people, especially girls. In fact, once I establish my skills by getting out there and dancing, sometimes girls will come up and ask me to dance before I can get to the next girl I want to dance with.

I'm not the best dancer in the state I'm in, but I've definitely been in a situation that in a small area, I was the best swing dancer. I don't get turned down when I ask for dances from swing dancers, except for maybe 1-2 times a year. There are cliques, but if you have the right attitude you can break through them.

Every time I've been to a ballroom dance, I got irritated at how upright and proper it was, and how many older people there were. There were some high school girls that I didn't feel quite right dancing with, and one or two girls in college, but everyone else was 50+. Swing dancers, for the most part, seem to exist in the 18-35 age bracket, with a peak around 22-25.

The music for swing is a lot more free-form and interesting, and when you know it well enough you can hit breaks and dance to melodies in a way that will set you apart from the pack.

The problem with swing dancing is keeping a solid core of leads that know what they're doing, otherwise the girls don't show up. I imagine it's the same for ballroom. Maybe the younger girls don't show up because they don't want to dance with the legions of 50+ year old men that are at ballroom. There are some older male swing dancers, but they are far rarer than older females. Sometimes when I date dancer girls, they want to do things like take tango lessons or things like that, and they don't go unless I'm interested. _I_ get creeped out by the older guys there, even the teachers, on a regular basis.

Lindyhop probably gets to be too much of a workout for men at some point. I do notice an older crowd with balboa, but it doesn't seem to vary much from the lindyhop scene that I've observed.

But I would suggest focusing on swing.

Anonymous said...

Amazing how northern / urban your readers are in mindset.

You get in a Southern honky tonk where there's dancing, and if you know how to two-step, you'll meet women. Age appropriate women who appreciate a man asking them to dance, and knowing how to lead.

Good lord, I miss Texas.

Anonymous said...

Do you think there is a reason the women might tend to dance with each other rather than strange men?

Check this:

(although it's mainly about Swing)

Anonymous said...

I think your conclusion is spot-on. Some girls don't deserve all of the effort it takes to become a good lead. Use leading skills as a currency to be nice to the girls who are nice. That is really good advice. The other parts are probably accurate for your own area and experience but I don't know if they can be extrapolated to every place in exactly the same way. What is wrong with being a Christian anyway? I mean they could just be middle-aged singles.