Learning to dance is fun—and it is easy. In a sense it is like learning a new language—a language in which moods and emotions are expressed in movement; a language of rhythm, grace and harmony. It is new—but in a very real sense it is the oldest language in the world, for dancing is the oldest form of art.
We know people danced as far back as the beginning of recorded history. The dance appeared in various forms in ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome.
Dancing gives expression to a deeply rooted emotion in man so profound as to border on reverence. This is evidenced by the fact that some early dances were a part of religious rites.
The Bible mentions dancing in numerous places—one of the most frequently quoted verses being that taken from the 150th Psalm: “Praise ye the Lord in all your songs and dances.”
There is an instinctive urge in all of us to express rhythm. Primitive men satisfy this urge by beating drums and dancing around a campfire until they drop from sheer exhaustion. We, of the civilized world, satisfy this same instinctive urge in a more cultured way. We dance in a conventional manner to rhythmic music and conform to certain set patterns. We observe the rules of conduct that society has set for us.
Dancing is a wholesome, natural outlet for the emotions. It develops grace and poise, timing and balance. Men take pride in their ability to lead their partners with assurance and poise. Girls enjoy the ability to follow their partners smoothly, expertly and correctly. The ability to dance develops personality, and above all—it is fun.
Dancing is fun. Unfortunately, however, many persons miss out on this fun because they do not dance well. Girls are apprehensive that they will not be able to follow their partners. Men are worried about stepping on their partner’s toes.
Many persons are reluctant to try to learn to dance, because they believe they do not have a sense of rhythm.
This is regrettable, for all of us have a sense of rhythm. Rhythm is one of the governing laws that makes for order in the universe. Rhythm appears in many phases. The competent typist has rhythm; the public speaker, the musician, the author all make use of rhythm in the practice of their arts.
Even the engine in our automobile has rhythm—it must fire in perfect time to operate successfully.
While it is true that some people find it difficult to express their innate sense of rhythm, this is due largely to some form of inhibition. Primitive man, completely uninhibited, found it easy to stomp his feet to the beat of a tom-tom, giving expression to his sense of rhythm.
We do not dance in such an abandoned manner because we feel ridiculous to let ourselves go so completely. Our desire to express rhythm is tempered by our feeling that we do not know how to dance as well as others.
Even after learning a few of the simpler steps, some people are still afraid to relax and keep time to the accompanying music because they fear they will make a mistake and be ridiculed. This fear of criticism and ridicule can be so overpowering as to cause certain persons to become immobile. If the desire to dance is thwarted often enough, a psychological block can be set up in the nervous system which leads to discouragement and a desire to stop trying, and these folks say, “I have no sense of rhythm.”
Dancing has been described as poetry in motion. By observing the similarity between the rhythm of speech, particularly as applied to poetry, and the rhythm of motion, as applied to dancing, anyone who can recite a simple jingle in rhythm can learn to dance.
Occasionally a person will come to our studio and insist that he absolutely has no rhythm. We frequently ask such persons to read: “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” After pointing out to them that they do have a sense of rhythm, or they could not have recited this poem in perfect meter, they develop confidence enough to apply themselves to learning rhythm of movement.
I have never met a person who could speak, who could not recite poetry rhythmically. Reciting poetry, naturally, is easier for most people than moving the body in perfect rhythm. Some people learn to coordinate more easily than others, but with practice it can be learned, and it is simply not true that you, or anyone else, cannot learn to dance because you do not have a sense of rhythm.
If you are a beginner who has never danced at all, you can, if you apply yourself, learn all of the steps presented in this book. If you are already enrolled in a dancing class, you can use this book as a supplement and as a guide for practice at home. In dancing, as in any other art, practice brings perfection.
If you are an advanced dancing student, or a teacher, you can find aid and inspiration here by acquiring a new viewpoint, as the author has found valuable aid in the dancing books he has studied throughout his career.