The Thin Line Between Entertainment And War

I went to an open dance at the City Dance Hall last Saturday, and I ended up having a pretty strange conversation about the state of social dancing in my area with a couple of ladies while I was there. That was not something that I expected at all when I hopped in my car to head to the studio that night. But someone had brought in a pumpkin pie for the people at the party to share, so I was quite happy to eat pie and be a part of this conversation for a little while and learn about the strange things going on that I didn’t know about.

Mmmmmm… pie.

Apparently there has been something of a revolt against the women hiring dance hosts for the social parties on the weekends. Do you know what a dance host is? If not, in my area a dance host is a dance instructor (usually male) who will offer to be a client’s dance partner for the night at a social dance party. As you can imagine, because there is a large difference between the number of female social dancers and the number of males, most of the dance hosts that I end up seeing at parties are male instructors who are hired by one or more female social dancers for the night. Occasionally I will see a male who goes to a party with a female dance instructor to dance with, so both sides do hire hosts, but predominantly I have seen the male instructors hired out in this manner.

I guess that there are a group of guys who think that this practice of women bringing male dance instructors to dance with is getting out of hand and it’s making them look bad. The complaints range from saying that the male dance instructors are doing too many “fancy moves” on the dance floor and the guys think that those moves are unsafe at a social dance, or men feeling like dance instructors are making them look bad because they are better dancers, or the fact that, strangely enough, the men feel like they don’t get a chance to dance with all that many partners because the women who are hiring professionals for the night aren’t dancing with them.

So, based on those issues, this group of guys is banding together and has decided to boycott social dances hosted by certain ballroom clubs in the area because those clubs won’t control the dance host situation at their parties. There are a couple of clubs that have rules in place which limit the number of dance hosts that they allow to attend any given party, and these men still attend those parties, but any clubs that do not have such rules run the risk of having all these men abandon their events until changes are made.

Does that seem… petty to you? It felt that way to me when I heard that these guys were doing this. My first thought, as I can imagine some of you are also thinking, is that this reaction is not going to teach anyone a lesson, and may only make the issue worse. After all, in the past I have talked to a few women who have hired a dance host for a party, and one of the reasons that they say that they do this is because then they are guaranteed to dance more during the evening. If a bunch of guys stop going to parties, then more women will end up sitting on the sidelines for more dances, which may end up making those women also start looking into hiring a dedicated partner to dance with. What a weird, vicious cycle!

A lot of the issues that these men seem to have risen, at least in my opinion, are self induced. For instance, if these men think that the dance instructors are making them look like bad dancers, don’t you think that would be motivation to go out and take some more dance lessons to improve their own dance skills, rather than just stop attending dances? I know for a fact that there are a lot of female dance instructors in the area who would love to have more clients to teach, so there is lots of opportunity to connect with a teacher if these men wanted to get better. Who knows? These lessons might also be able to help them with floorcraft skills so that they feel more comfortable around any dance host who pulls out one of those “fancy moves” they seem to fear!

And the complaint that these men don’t get to dance with as many partners just makes me shake my head in sadness. There are lots of ladies that would love to dance with these men, even if you exclude the small subset of women that hire a dance host for that particular party. The problem is that some men who like to complain about lack of partners to dance with have a… particular type of lady that they want to dance with. Remember back in the day when I told you about Mr. Grouchy Face and Vader and their preferences for partners of the young, attractive, and also not-very-knowledgeable-about-dance type? Well, though these two older gentlemen are particularly notable, they aren’t the only older men who have this preference.

My competitive partner Sparkledancer could probably write a looooooooong dissertation about her thoughts on how older men seem to enjoy teaching their knowledge to pretty young dance ladies and go out of their way to do so, so since I don’t have much first-hand experience with the phenomena I won’t go into it too much. But the side effect of these men always preferring to dance with the few young, attractive ladies who they can teach things to is that there are a lot of older ladies, who may also not know how to dance very well, that end up sitting out a lot because the men like Mr. Grouchy Face or Vader will keep going back to dance with their preferred type of partner at parties rather than dance with these older ladies.

So when I hear someone say that these men who don’t like the dance hosts are complaining about lack of dance partners, all I can think is that what these men really mean is that they feel there is a lack of pretty and young dance partners at these parties. That’s probably not really what their complaint really meant, but that’s the first thing that comes to mind.

Is there a solution to this problem? I don’t think that’s going to be an easy thing to answer. Obviously the men seem to know that they are in high demand at ballroom dance events, so if they opt not to show up their absence is sure to be noticed, and maybe they can use that power to get the situation changed in their favor. But the problem only started because of a lack of men in the first place, based on what I am hearing from the ladies, so I don’t know if this is really the most productive way for the men to begin arguing their case to get all these ballroom dance clubs to change their rules regarding dance hosts.

What do you think? Are the men in the right for looking for a change to limit the number of dance hosts allowed at parties or not? Do you have these same sorts of issues in your own dance community?

OK, enough about that. One last note – Wednesday night I headed out to the Electric Dance Hall for Standard Technique class. When I got there, there was only one other student waiting around: Bony. Lord Junior was there talking with her, and they wave me over and he tells me that it may just be the two of us for class because everyone else is staying home sick. Bony still had her coat and boots on and said that she wasn’t really there that night to dance, she just came to socialize, so if I was the only one who was going to show up she was just going to leave. No offense to me, of course (though I was a little offended).

So Lord Junior looks at me and says that if there isn’t going to be any dancing during class, then since I was probably the only other person who would show up at the studio that knows anything about cars (yes, it’s a thing… but also a long story) then I can help him out testing things out with his car for the parade that we are going to be in this weekend. He and I headed out to the parking lot to go poke around at things in his car, and Bony actually ends up hanging around outside in the cool night air with us the whole time rather than going home for some reason.

The basic plan which Lord Junior outlined for me was that we were going to represent the studio in the parade by actually dancing through the streets, using the car as a pseudo ‘float’ for our place in line. He had a bunch of ladies from the studio that were going to decorate the car before the parade so that it would look OK as a pretend float, but what he wanted my help with was testing out the sound system. Obviously if we were going to be dancing along as we go down the parade route, we would need music, right?

He and I managed to find some settings that we think will work pretty well. It is going to involve having the trunk of the car open to help project the sound from the rear speakers and the subwoofer, and we had to tweak the bass and treble levels a bit so that the rhythm from the songs would be audible no matter what the noise level of the crowd would be. A friend of Lord Junior’s is going to drive the car so that Lord Junior can be out dancing, and I think that poor guy is probably going to need to wear both earplugs AND noise cancelling headphones, because the volume level needed for this to work is a bit deafening if you’re inside the car. But I’ll be outside dancing, so it won’t be an issue for me!

So yeah… I’m going to be in a parade this weekend. And also dancing. Who knows what that is going to be like! Probably a little weird, but I’m hoping it will also be fun. I know for sure that it will be out of the ordinary. Are you going to come watch the parade? If you do, wave to me and I will do my best to wave back!

2 thoughts on “The Thin Line Between Entertainment And War

  1. I’ve heard of the practice but haven’t been to enough non studio social events to see how prevalent it is. Do you suppose there is any competition among the ladies to see who gets to bring the best “dance host”? The whole thing about “fancy moves” is just total BS because a pro should know how to navigate a floor. Sounds a whole lot like some guys with bruised egos whining about having better male dancers around. I mean if they were better dancers and the ladies were having fun dancing with them, then there would be no need for dance hosts. Don’t see why any place would limit this practice except to not have to listen to old guys whining.

    1. Part of the compounding problem in all this is that for so long, the average male social dancer was coddled by the ladies because there’s just so few of them. As a relatively rare commodity, bad technique and bad behavior (like teaching on the social floor) was overlooked because it meant the lady had a chance to dance.

      It’s a very weird dynamic, and for a long time the men held most of the power. If you offended a male dancer (and let me tell you, those egos are fragile!), you risk not having them want to dance with you again. For a lot of ladies, it was preferable to grit their teeth and just smile through whatever transgression occurred. When I first started dancing, it was the running joke I couldn’t go a whole party without some guy telling me everything I was doing wrong. My favorite? Apparently I “walked wrong” by moving from the knee, not the hip (?????).

      With dance hosts, that power dynamic is shifting, and the men aren’t adapting well. For too long, they never had to improve their skill. The same 5 moves poorly led (blame the lady when it goes wrong–no one else has complained, so it must be her!). They had their pick of ladies–go with the young inexperienced ones who don’t know better, and mainly ignore the older women.. Explain down to her everything she’s doing incorrectly. Floorcraft? What’s that?

      It’s going to be interesting to see how this shakes out, but I do know attendance has been down at many dances. And yes, there is certainly competition among the ladies to secure the best dance hosts. Hosts get booked out months in advance, and finding a host for a formal party is an expensive and difficult process.

      Personally, I’d much rather have a host dancing on the floor next to me. I’ve been rammed into more times than I can count by a social male who has no idea how to handle floorcraft–and it hurts! I’m very lucky that the Thespian is my primary partner, and I don’t have to deal with the issue very much. People here know we dance competitively together, and generally don’t ask either one of us for many dances. That said, there’s one older social lady who has been trying very hard to be friends with me. She keeps “joking” that if she becomes close with the two of us, that means she can have more dances with the Thespian. So… that’s awkward, but pretty much sums up the seedy underbelly of social dancing around here.

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