If I had a dollar for everyone who walked into the dance studio and said, "Good luck! I've got two left feet!" or "I just can't dance, but she (or he) thinks it's worth a try"...I always respond with, "Well honey, you're job security for me!"
We are funny this way. We undermine our own capabilities before we even start something new. I've been teaching beginners how to start or continue in their dancing for almost ten years, and truly what I find more than not, is that many of us who believe we can't dance, CAN in fact dance with just a little practice.
But the question remains: Are there really a few of us who just "can't dance?" Researchers at McGill University in Montreal conducted a study on beat-deafness, where participants were asked to tap their feet along with a metronome, and the results showed that while rare, there are individuals who find severe difficulty in connecting to an external rhythmic cues. However, the study did not further examine what happened when these beat-deaf individuals were tapping or dancing along with someone who was not beat deaf. Think about how much better the celebrities look on Dancing With the Stars because they are dancing along with trained professional ballroom dancers.
In my experience, though mostly anecdotal, I've found three things that ensure the success of any person's ability to enjoy social dancing.
1. Do you have a good instructor? Experienced professional instructors will identify fundamental elements to help any student get off on the right foot. Good dance instruction includes patience, detail-focus, and individual tailoring to each students needs. If you are taking dance lessons, and find that you're struggling, consider trying a new instructor. We all teach a bit differently, but the most important thing an instructor can do for you is to teach at the pace that works for you.
2. Do you practice? it's hard to find the time, right?? And the space sometimes! I know, I hear this all of the time. But it's like any other skill. Without practice, we will never master. Even practicing listening to dance music is important! Many studios offer practice parties, and even open practice hours, when volunteers are available to assist you with questions. Take advantage of these things if you're looking to improve.
3. Do you have an open mind? Our minds are powerful tools, and they can certainly work against us if we let them. If you tell yourself that you cannot dance, then you are less likely to do so with comfort and ease. Some people take dance lessons for an event like a wedding, some decide to try so they can get in better shape, and others just made a promise to someone they love. No matter the reason that prompts you to make your way into a dance studio, come with an open mind.
So, what's the harm in trying? You just might unlock something so lovely that your friends will start calling you Fred, or Ginger!