Episode 25: Dance like a man

She says:

I’m so tempted to sharpen my stilettos.

I recently started learning the salsa. A breathtakingly beautiful dance form set to addictive Latin music, it is great fun to learn, once you get your mambo in place. Except for one thing. It’s a man’s dance.

My bright-eyed chirpy instructor — Salsa Boy — just loves the fact. Every ten minutes, he stops class to bellow, “Girls, follow your man, because… ” And every single man in class (including the ones with two dangerously left feet) stop treading on our toes to proudly holler, “It’s a man’s dance.” Sometimes, they thump their chests too. Which makes it kind of difficult to do the required high speed twirls. There are also exercises to keep us in place. One particularly unflattering one dictates that the women act like rag dolls, while their partners push and pull them across the floor. While, of course, Salsa Boy and co yell, “Because it’s a man’s dance.”

Thump. Thump.

At which my bratty teenage partner smirks, “Follow me. Coz I’m the MAN.”

I’ve tried pulling rank on him, telling him I’m older and thus wiser, but apparently belonging to the big-headed, big-footed gender makes him King.

Salsa Boy even walks around with a wooden ruler to make sure no woman sneakily tries to call the shots. Yes, I’ve been whacked across my knuckles, but what’s a woman to do?

Sometimes, men just can’t keep up. We’ve made it quite clear that we will not dance to a man’s tunes in the outside world. Why do we still have to do so on the dance floor?

Some quick research reveals it’s not just the Latin Americans who were all about `all hail the male.’ Jive is a man’s dance. So is ballroom dancing. And Wikipedia tells me there’s something called the `Gourd Dance’ performed by some Native American nations, which is “primarily a man’s dance.” (Sounds familiar?) Apparently “women participate by dancing in place behind their male counterparts”


Clearly, it’s time we storm another bastion. After all, twirls aren’t just for girls.

He says

To the best of my knowledge, barring Kathakali (where men play women too) and the traditional dead body dance (the dance the drunk do on the street during funeral processions in this part of the world, to the native beat of `dandanaka’), most of the other Indian dances have been the bastion of women from the days and nights of Umrao Jaan. I mean, who would today believe that Bharatanatyam was actually something born out of a holy old man called Bharata Muni inspired by Lord Brahma? And the Tandav was supposed to be Lord Shiva’s stress buster. But that was so long ago.

Today, traditional Indian women have completely taken over most dance forms performed on stage. And the modern Indian women have taken over MTV and those Punjabi music videos on `Balle Balle’. One look at Yana Gupta in “Babuji Zara Dheere Chalo” or Aishwarya in “Kajra Re”, and you know who calls the shots in the Indian form: the item girl, of course. Yet, she looks West as far as Latin America, and even pays to learn and follow a man’s footsteps.

I bet she has not heard of techniques like hijacking and backleading that help show off dance skills and steal the lead from the man. (Chuckle, chuckle)

Dance is either ritualistic (social dance) or for concert (performance). Each dance form has an objective. While concert dances such as Kathakali and Yakshagana tell stories, Bharatanatyam interprets stories and presents them in a lucid form, the social dances like Kummi and Koothu are used to express joy or sorrow. Salsa is a social dance that involves one lifting the other. It showcases chemistry between man and woman.

Hence, if you notice most couples who do the salsa, you will find that men are usually heavier and taller than the women.

So it would be unfair to ask the lady to lift you, unless your partner is Karnam Malleswari.

Besides, how many women like someone who follows? Women find leaders attractive, they always go for someone they can look up to. And, as I read somewhere, it’s not about command and obey. It’s about a partnership between two people who are equal but different. Just like bad workers blame the tools, some dancers just blame the rules.

(A fortnightly column on the battle of the sexes)


3 responses to “Episode 25: Dance like a man

  1. Anonymous

    Ah ha..Shonali you are going about it the wrong way. It is true all ballroom and latin dances are led by men but if the dance goes wrong, remember, as always (nothing new there) its the guy’s fault:)

    Plus, if you notice, in all the above mentioned dances, the guy goes forward always with his left foot and the gals go back with their right. So next time, tell ur salsa boy, the man can go forward all the way, but the woman is always right;)

    -The Conscience

  2. Shonali

    Haha… The Conscience. I love the way you look at this! I’ll keep that in mind.

  3. Parijat

    I totally agree and impressed with the lines written by Suderman

    I used to think the way as Shonali thinks while I was taking latin dance lessions. But in my case the teacher was a girl. She used to focus more on girls and their footwork. Whoever sees latin dances watche the girls more than boys. During my training sessions I practised so hard to work on my steps but my dance teacher always used to compliment my female partner. I used to say Huuuh !! Not a single compliment after this hard work! Is this dance for women only?

    Although men lead in this dance but they get very little attention from the audience. In this case, I can safely say that we dance for our relaxation and not for others 😉

    I had the same feelings for girls, which Shonali mentioned in her post, when I took my dance lessons. Now I have decided to learn it from a gents teacher;)

    As Suderman says, it’s not about command and obey. So I won’t blame anyone for this. I think it about TEAMWORK. As far as you are a good team you are not hurt. What say? 😉

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