“We’re fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance.” – Japanese Proverb
My wonderful wife loves to dance. If there is a drum beat a-breakin’, something is a-shakin’. One time we were at Animal Kingdom in Disney and we got separated. It was one of those scenarios where I took a detour into a store with my sons and she kept walking. When we left the store, realizing she was not with us, I knew exactly where to find her. I could hear the beat of music not too far from where we were; like a moth to the flame. There was some Indian DJ playing Indian music with an energizing rhythm. All of these colorfully dressed Indian women were out there doing a dance and Summer was right there with them. Imagine her frustration being married to me, a now recovering non-dancer, for so many years. I was a musician, and unless there was a guitar in my hand I just felt out of place swaying to a song. I still feel pretty unsure of myself on the dance floor but am starting to get the hang of it.
All of that is to say, I am not a natural nor an expert in the area of dancing, but as I have come about dancing later in life, some of the aspects that may be old hat to many are new to me and are fresh on my mind. If you are married, you already have a dance partner, and while you may want to ask another lady to dance, you have a fallback option so there isn’t quite as much pressure. If you are single, and particularly if you are young and single and new to dancing, asking a girl to dance can be intimidating. Here’s how to ask a girl to dance, with manly confidence.
How to Ask a Girl to Dance
“There is a bit of insanity in dancing that does everybody a great deal of good.” – Edwin Denby, American Dance Critic and Poet, 1903-1983
So, you’ve made it to the dance. Perhaps you have even made it through the group lessons at the beginning, which have no doubt confirmed your suspicions of having two left feet. Now the music is playing and it seems that everyone is cutting a rug in epic style. The ladies are across the way, separated from you and your buds by an ocean of sound and cutting lights. As you try to look cool talking it up with your pals, and not dancing, your mind goes into overtime; keeping the conversation going with them while thinking of some smooth line to lay on that cute girl you’ve had your eye on. Meanwhile, your body is making sweat in the worst place possible: your palms. Who puts sweat glands on palms, anyhow? In what scenario does this make sense?
If You’re Not Dancing, You’re Insane
Let’s get something cleared up at the outset that took me some time to understand. If you happened to be, say, at a funeral or a court hearing and you started dancing, people would think you are crazy. However, when at a dance, where people go for the purpose of shaking their rear and twisting their legs and other such gyrations, dancing is the most sane thing to do. In fact, if you are not dancing, you look silly. Standing in the corner talking and laughing with your friends may be all well and good during a break, but coming to a dance and not dancing is dumb. So, corner friends are out, girls who like to cut a rug are in. Got it?
A Dance is Chivalrous
“Never give a sword to a man who can’t dance.” – Confucius, Chinese Philosopher, 551-479 BC
While the culture is shifting in this regard, dances are still by and large led by men. The dance, therefore, starts with a man asking a lady if she would like to dance. As a gentleman, your job is to have regard for your lady dance partner. You show her this particular admiration and respect by how you introduce yourself and ask for a dance, lead when dancing, and thank her when the dance is complete.
Asking a girl to dance can be intimidating, but once the ice is broken and you’re on the floor you will find your groove. Follow the steps below and you can be confident even if you are not yet a good dancer.
Hygiene – It Matters
I asked a car full of teenage boys how important they thought hygiene was at a dance. They all agreed it was critically important. Let me remind you that teen boys are not big on cleanliness, so if they find it important, then it must be.
Since dancing is an intimate encounter, clean breath and clean pits are pretty important. Come to the dance prepared with some gum or mints. Mints may be the better option so you aren’t chewing while trying to make polite conversation. Shower-up well and utilize some manly antiperspirant to keep you dry.
In order to ask a girl to dance you are going to have to walk over to her. While this may take some gumption to get moving, it really isn’t a big deal. There are a few things to keep in mind to help this phase go smoothly.
The best time to ask a girl to dance is just before the end of a song so that you are ready to take the floor once the next song is starting. However, don’t use this as an excuse not to ask. If you see a girl not dancing during the middle of a song, head on over and ask. This can work out in your favor, actually. If she’s a bad dancer or has bad breath or is sweating like an ogre, you only have half a dance to deal with it!
Don’t walk over aimlessly towards some group of girls giving them no clue as to who you plan to ask. Show them that you are decisive. Make eye contact and smile.
Here comes the moment of truth. Will she or won’t she? Had you been alive in the Victorian period the ladies would have a dance card. The names of the men who asked her to dance would be written on the card sometimes slotted for a particular piece of music. A girl who had her dance hard filled up for the evening was thought to be very popular.
While this may seem overly formal, there is a certain mechanical, rule-based comfort in the process that we likely miss today. Hopefully these few ideas will help.
Introduce Yourself (optional)
If you don’t know the girl, an introduction is appropriate. Some people save this for out on the floor, which may work, especially when it is a bustling dance hall, but it’s not the gentleman’s way. A simple handshake and a “Hi. I’m [insert name here],” will get the job done. Be sure to remember her name. You will need it after the dance is over.
Pay Her a Compliment (also optional)
This is easier to do if you know the girl, but is a strong tactic either way. Compliment her dress or just remark that she looks nice.
Ask Her to Dance (not optional)
I have seen some young men, no doubt nervous, just hold out their hand as if that was supposed to convey the general message (which has actually worked in all of the instances I have seen, but I think that may be because it catches the girl off guard).
Something simple like this will work: “ Would you like dance?” or “ I was hoping that you and I could have a dance.” or “ May I have this (or the next) dance?”
Don’t extend your hand until she actually agrees and it is time to take to the floor.
What if She Says No?
Tough break my friend, but that’s about as bad as it gets. Move on.
What if I Can’t Dance?
The good news here is that everyone has to start from some where. While some may have more of a knack for it, everyone can learn. Just let the lady know before you head out to the floor that your still learning and will probably need a good deal of help. Don’t take yourself too seriously and you’ll have a good time.
After the Dance
Be sure to thank your dancing lady — by name — when the song is over. A handshake will certainly work, but if the music is right and you feel so inclined, a high-five is also a strong way to go out.
It is reported that Socrates took up dancing in his 70’s:
“Or is this what provokes your laughter, that I have an unduly large paunch and wish to reduce it? Don’t you know that just the other day Charmides here caught me dancing early in the morning?” – Socrates in Plato’s Symposium
Fortunately, I have not waited that long. Neither should you.