How To Learn How To Dance If You’re Shy

7838hdq72eghI have a crippling fear of dancing in public. I love to dance. No, there is not a contradiction between the two. Every day, as I walk home from work, I have my earbuds in, The Gap Band playing, and am dancing down the streets. I am by no means a fantastic dancer, but I can now confidently say that I can listen to music and feel comfortable dancing to it in public.

This post is for every person out there who wants to learn how to dance but is terrified of dancing in public. You hear music and your body wants to move but you don’t know what to do or don’t feel comfortable doing it. Perhaps you hear some music, you begin to get fidgety, you want to dance, but all that comes out is wild flailing or jumping up and down.

My Story I have always loved moving whether it be capoeira, rollerblading through city streets, rock climbing, or acrobatics. But the thought of dancing (whether it be club, swing, or contra dancing) has always scared the crap out of me, despite my desire to learn. I always wanted to know what to do with my body when I was inspired by music.

The most that I was able to do was to jump up and down, flail, or just do the side to side shuffle that most guys resort to in public.  When I took breakdancing classes, I was overwhelmed by the dance circles and the people watching me. I would either freeze up and somehow resort to a mutant form of Irish step-dancing or dance awkwardly enough that friends would actually pull me away for my own sake. I wished that there was a better way of learning how to dance other than having to scare myself shitless every time. After trying out different methods, I found a method to learn new moves while limiting the “oh dear god I want to shit myself this is uncomfortable/awkward/scary” moments. Why Learn? Although I could go into a deeply spiritual and psychological description as to how learning how to dance will bring you to a higher stage of self-actualization, the essence of all of this can be summed up with one word- excitement.

There are obvious benefits, such as getting in touch with your body and exercise, but the real reason we do anything is for the enjoyment and excitement we get out of it. Learning how to dance is exciting and the feeling of having confidence in your dancing is even more exciting! It’s really as simple as that. Yes, dancing in clubs, parties, or whatever social setting is scary and will probably take some energy. The idea for this post isn’t necessarily to teach you to learn how to dance in order to be able to start wowing everyone at parties. This is to get you more connected with your body and start allowing it to speak. You’re learning the language of your body.

Instead, I’m advocating learning to dance like Kevin James. No I don’t necessarily advocate learning those moves, but if when you hear “Yeah!” and you start doing the shopping cart- YES! Own it! If that’s what your body feels when you hear that music, listen to it and do it! As scary and uncomfortable as it may be in the beginning, just remember how wonderful it will feel to hear music and be able to dance to it without a second thought.

How to Learn Step #1: Move! Close the door to your room, put on some music that makes you want to move and just start moving. The point of this is not to come up with dance moves to be on America’s Got Talent. The point of this exercise is just to free yourself of any judgments that may arise from knowing that people are watching. If you feel like hip thrusting- hip thrust. If you feel like swaying- sway. If you don’t know what else to do- jump up and down and start swinging your limbs about! No one is watching, let yourself go completely!

This includes your own judgments. Stop thinking and just move in a way that FEELS right. After a few minutes, your mind will hopefully shut off. It is as if you were in grade school when teachers would ask you to free write, to keep moving your pen without stopping to think, for a period of time. When you were done, having gotten your ideas out unfiltered, would you decide to go back and tweak it? Don’t start filtering before you’ve even given yourself a chance to let something new and creative out!

The goal is to listen to the music, let those feelings well up, and just start MOVING. Step #2: Take a class Find the nearest class in breakdancing, hip hop, modern, or whatever else strikes your fancy and sign up. And bring a friend! No matter what, it’s going to be uncomfortable and scary. In fact, this is a good thing. Having a little bit of fear will motivate you to keep learning more on your own and make sure you commit.

Remember that everyone else is more concerned with how they’re dancing to notice others. This will also provide you with some foundational tools to start off with. Think of this as learning your ABC’s. Once you get your fundamentals, it will be much easier and more comfortable to start expanding on your own, if that’s what you want. Step #3: Research Now comes the fun (and less scary) part.  Find videos online of your favorite dancers.

Watch constantly, over and over again- eevery dayand try for 20x. Soon some of the moves will begin to just seep into your subconscious. Watch the videos over and over again until subconsciously you begin projecting yourself into them. You will start to notice that when music comes on, some of the moves you watched naturally flow from you.  And don’t worry about biting (copying) moves. You’re teaching your body new vocabulary to one day create its own sentences. If you are like me and hate the playback features of youtube, you can download the videos, convert them, and then play them back frame by frame to get a better understanding of the mechanics of certain moves. Here are the programs I use: to rip videos (using Firefox): to convert: frame-by-frame playback: Another option is to watch some tutorials of some of your favorite dancers or music videos.

One favorite of mine is Step #4: Experiment There are two aspects to the experimentation phase: solo and group. On your own,  start listening to your favorite dance songs and beats wherever you go. Listen to the songs you really want to be able to dance to and just let the beats seep into you. In addition, come together at least once a week with a group of friends to experiment or go to clubs/places in which other people are present. This isn’t meant to be comfortable. It’s to give incentive for learning more and actually put your learning to use. If it feels uncomfortable and scary- good! Make a fool out of yourself and try something new!

Once you‘ve gone through it, it isn’t nearly as bad as you originally imagined- things rarely are. At first you are going to feel like a child, literally. You have a few words you know but can’t really express anything coherent or complicated. Don’t worry- this is the best part! Each new movement you find that you like or awkward experiment at dancing in your room is like learning to talk for the first time. You’re learning new words and new ways to express yourself. You’re learning a whole new language- that of your body and emotions. This is the most organic way to express one’s self. It is not filtered through language or culture or syntax, it merely comes out if you let it. It is a language with no wrong ways to communicate, only different paths.

Sure, there are the fundamentals to each dance style, but they are only there to give you footing, tools in which to work with. It’s not until you understand and learn the rules can you come to bend and break them. Take what you see and make it your own. Do something foolish! The more times you’re willing to make a fool out of yourself, the greater your growth. Just imagine how satisfying it will be when a song comes on that gets you pumped and before you can consciously think of something to do, your body is already moving. Just imagine how wonderful it will feel to hear music and be confident in your dancing. Now you have the tools to make that possible.

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