Peter Lovatt, PhD

Peter Lovatt

Dance Psychology

Dance? I'd Rather Have My Fingernails Pulled Out!

Here are the top two reasons why people don't dance.

Posted Mar 05, 2010

I Don't Feel Like Dancing

People can feel sexy, passionate, empowered and alive when they dance. For some people, dancing makes them feel relaxed, content, and whole. For others, the act of dancing brings them close to a state of self-actualization, spiritual completeness, and a state of mind-body harmony. These are the lucky ones, those for whom dance enhances their lives.

Now spare a thought for the others, for whom the act of dancing, the thought of dancing, or even just watching someone dance makes them cringe. Hundreds of people have told me why they don't, or won't, dance. Here are the top two reasons.

Self-Consciousness

So many people, and especially men, tell me that they don't dance because they feel self-conscious. To be self-conscious means that we are consciously self-aware and in addition, we feel that other people are also aware of us, and may be judging us negatively. This is reflected in other reasons people have given me for not dancing.

A women in her 30s wrote, "I feel self-conscious and feel like I'm doing it wrong and that people will notice" and another woman in her 50s wrote, "I don't dance because I am not very good at it and I have this feeling that people are watching and laughing at me."

This lack of confidence in one's "ability" to move freely in public to music clearly has a debilitating effect. One man in his early 30s made the astonishing statement, "I think I'm too ugly to dance" and several other men expressed similar sentiments ("I look foolish," "I look and feel stupid," and "It looks funny") concerning how they think they look when they dance. With such perceptions, it's not surprising that some people steer clear of the dance floor and react negatively to the prospect of social dancing.

Relationships

There are some forms of dance that require a partner, such as the tango and west coast swing. Others are group dances, such as line dancing and party dances like the Hokey Cokey. Still other forms of dance can be done completely on your own, such as Pogo, head banging, or some forms of disco dancing. However, despite the existence of solo dance forms, many people say that their reasons for not dancing are based on relationship issues.

One of the joys of being a parent is the opportunity to dance with your children. However, it seems that dancing with your parents can put some people off dancing for the rest of their lives. One young teenage girl wrote that her reason for not dancing socially anymore is because "I had to dance with my mom once and it sucked." Poor mom. Oh well, at least Mom will have her husband to dance with. Not so. "My husband never danced and I'm too old now to find another partner... although I have asked!" wrote a woman in her 60s.

A number of men seemed to get to the heart of their reasons for dancing and not dancing. For them, it is all to do with finding a mate. "The only times I have ever danced were to try and pick up women," wrote a man in his early 30s. Another man of the same age wrote, "I do not dance now because I am married with a child."

Some scientific evidence suggests that we engage in social dance as part of a courtship display. Furthermore, the way we dance in social settings is influenced by our hormonal and genetic make-up. According to this view, we dance in part to communicate our genetic "fitness" as a reproductive partner, and as such there might be reproductive, hormonal, and genetic reasons why we do or don't dance. I'll address this in my next blog post.

As a psychologist who loves to dance I find people's stories of their low levels of confidence and high levels of self-consciousness very emotive. When people tell me that they want to dance but can't because they feel too clumsy, awkward, unskilled or un-partnered, it convinces me of the need to reframe social dance as a fun and natural activity where there are no hidden agendas and no opportunities to get it "wrong." When you relax and dance in a free, natural way, you express who you are. What can be "wrong" about that?

If you don't dance, I'd love to hear your reasons. You can tell me by going to my website and clicking on the yellow square.

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