Are dance classes useful?

What’s the goal of a person who goes there? There are two: to enjoy dancing and to meet new people. You don’t have to come with a partner, pretty much every class has a rotation of partners. You don’t have to be particularly agile, most classes are self-contained and don’t require any prior knowledge. It makes sense to compare them to free food events in an American university. Once in a while, community encourages you to come out and socialize, and you don’t have to be successful, or charismatic, or even well-dressed. It’s a kind of “free food” in the department of meeting people of the opposite gender: anywhere outside the dance class it is hard to get introduced to a person you don’t know, but would like as a romantic partner. If your paths do not cross, you may well end up not knowing their name even though they are in the same building with you for years. But on dance classes, you have it easy. People of the opposite gender just introduce yourself to you as you go around the circle. Only thing you need is to remember their names – and every 3rd (or so) of them will be available to dance with afterwards. This suggests that if you want free socializing as your goal, then consider joining the class during the times of the year when gender ratio is not too depressive for you.

But replying random “How are you?” questions from people who know nothing about you gets tiresome. In my experience, people who you meet at the dance class, although friendly, never really become your friends in real life. I never met them during lunch in the university’s cafeteria, or during other events. And our university is a small one, only about 1k people, so it must be worse in town, or in a bigger school. It’s good to have an existing friend or two of yours going to the class that you chose to commit time to, so that you have more to talk about with at least someone in the room.

So what about the other goal, enjoying dancing? It turns out to be hard to enjoy dancing if you mess up and notice it. Two ways out of it: stop noticing that you mess up (that’s the choice of people who come to the community dance lessons, many neighborhood seniors who you’ll get to dance with), or become better. But becoming better means commitment, which is not always possible. If the class you go to is sufficiently beginner-friendly, and has good gender ratio, it may be a good choice to attend it for a few month. That will make you comfortable with the basics. After that, the classes will become more complex, and the gender ratio will change not in your favor. The friends that were going with you will drop out, so altogether, it becomes a bad choice for you to keep going. The skill that you have learned will be forgotten within a month or two. So what was the point?

There are a few possible pro-dance class arguments. First, it doesn’t take as much effort and circumstances to keep the dancing skill in a particular dance as to learn after you forget everything. If you put in that effort, the next time “free food” in terms of gender ratio and new students eager to meet you appears, you notice that and come. Second, even if you forget the particular dance, sometimes when people are drunk in the bar, it is sufficient to smile and demonstrate something approximately resembling a dance. Third, even if you forgot the dance, you can still claim you’re practicing it in a conversation, which will make the listeners feel a little bit of respect. Finally, the dance encourages you to look in the mirror and see if the moves you do (or the clothes you wear) look silly, and often gives you specific examples how to improve. In particular, ballroom dances helped a lot with my posture.