India is known for its rich tradition, culture and values. We are acknowledged all over the world for our great music and dance forms. In fact, our god of dance is Lord Nataraja and Lord Krishna is known for his raaslilas. Before we perform any form of Indian dance, we pray to the god of dance, Lord Shiva, known for his magnificent tandav. But, in spite of our dance gods being male dancers, Indian men are shy to dance. They feel dance is not for them or what you hear most often: Real men do not dance.
But is this true? What makes us men feel we have two left feet? Is it our upbringing or is it the society we live in? Most men who go to a dance class are either looked down upon or are made to feel that they are doing a ‘girlie thing.’ Who decides if it is a ‘girlie thing’ or not? I am sure Lord Shiva and Lord Krishna did not feel so when they began to dance.
Pt Birju Maharaj, Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly and many more man have made a name for themselves around the world in the field of dance. In India, Shiamak Davar has taught dancers and choreographers to make a business model out of their passion for dance. Michael Jackson was not just a legendary singer but a dancer par excellence. He was the one who made the break dance form so popular that people associated a dance form with his name. His moon walk will be remembered forever.
Gotipua, Chhau, Kalaripayattu and many more Indian dance forms are male-dominated dances. In fact, if one digs back into history, one will realise that only men would dance in olden days as women were not allowed to step onto the performance arena. Then when did the men start to shy away from dancing? What was the cause of men getting disinterested towards dance? Was it the modern approach or was it the male chauvinist attitude that developed over the years?
Today, with Western dance forms getting popular, male dancers are getting out of their shell and stepping into their dancing shoes. But do they still face criticism and emotional lectures from their families before stepping onto the dance floor. With my experience of teaching dance to thousands of students in India, I would say, ‘yes.’
Even today when a boy walks onto the dance floor, the questions he asks are: “Will I be able to dance?” or “Is it very difficult?” or “I am here because my ladylove wants me to dance.” These questions make me feel we men doubt are learning capabilities but just the effort he has taken to come to a class makes me feel that there is hope.
Many men feel that it is the upbringing that makes them think this way. From a young age, they are made to stay away from dance and dancing stuff. Their parents tell them to go out and play various games without being aware that some forms of Western dances like Latin and Ballroom are part of Olympic Games. Later, some of their male friends discourage them from dancing, saying only girls learn to dance. But do they realise that the best way to woo women is on the dance floor and it is a great way to share an emotional bond. Like coffee breaks gets people together, dance is also another form that creates a great bond.
Today, men are showing great interest in learning various dance forms mainly because they want to impress girls but when they take it up seriously their wrong attitude changes and they start to learn dance for the sake of self-pleasure and expression. I am sure that soon the myth ‘Real men do not dance’ will break one day and we will see ‘Men do the real dance’.
Dos and don’ts of starting to dance
1) Do not worry about what the world will think, just follow your heart.
2) Join a good dance class (depending on what style you are inspired to learn).
3) Be open to learning new steps and hand moves.
4) Once in a class, one feels shy to dance initially so do not bother about that, remember all your batch mates are new dancers
5) In case you are not getting the steps, relax. Remember that ‘Rome was not built in a day’.
6) Dress correctly (clothes and shoes) for the class. It is very important to feel right.
7) Make friends in the class and go out dancing with them, you will learn more watching others dance too.
8) Practice what you learn daily. Remember ‘practice makes one perfect’.
9) Understand the mood and attitude of your dance. Try to bring it out in your body language. Remember: ‘Dance expression is most important’
10) Use your dancing skills to makes new friends and not to show off your skills to others, ‘a show off dancer does not go a long way’