White Men can't Dance

Discussion in 'General Dance Discussion' started by asdepique, Jun 29, 2012.

  1. asdepique

    asdepique Member

    Why the popular Saying "White Men can't Dance" and "black people can dance better" seem not to apply in dance competitions? When I watch some ballroom competition videos on YouYube, I never saw black couples.
  2. DanceMentor

    DanceMentor Administrator

    I think it is a stupid premise. I have met people of all races that can dance well. Some dance forms can be more appealing based on where a person is from and what they are exposed to but it has nothing to do with their race.
    ajiboyet likes this.
  3. clumsy fellow

    clumsy fellow Active Member

    You lost me at "Why" . . .
  4. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    I don't think either of these "popular saying"s are true outside of specifc situations.

    Pick the right venue with the right music and dance style, and surely someone who has been dancing that style for some time will look better than someone who is unfamilair with that style of music and dance.
    Take someone who looks great at a hip hop club and put them in a country western place, and I'd bet really good money they wouldn't look so good trying to do two step, schottiche, etc., unless they are familiar with those dances.
    Some styles of movement are taught "at home" among some ethnic/socio economic groups, and passed on from generation to generation. (but then popular dance changes, too) In general ballroom isn't one of them. Ballet comes to mind, too, as dance that requires very specific training.

    Although stereotypes often have some basis in truth, there is an awful lot of BS in the world, too. It can be a real challenge to find reliable sources that help sort the BS from the truth that may or may not lie within.
  5. DWise1

    DWise1 Well-Known Member

    Reminds me of the Dragnet theme music: Dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb. Dumb!

    Apples and oranges and whatever incongruous and inappropriate and idiotic comparison imaginable.

    Such statements about blacks being better dancers than whites stem from a preconception (whether true or not) that blacks have natural rhythm whereas whites do not. If anything, I would attribute any such differences to culture/sub-culture. Everybody needs to learn to dance. Some cultures include early exposure to dancing (eg, Latino and black), such that kids grow up with dancing, while others' cultures do not include such exposure (eg, whites, to whom dancing involves poles and the removal of clothing), such that kids do not grow up with dancing and hence have to learn it later. I doubt very much that "rhythm" and dancing are genetic, but rather believe them to be cultural. Similarly, the Japanese language has been found to use different parts of the brain than European languages do, but there's no difference between genetically Japanese and genetically Europeans both raised on the Japanese language; in this case as with "natural rhythm", it's nurture, not nature.

    Furthermore, you single out ballroom! Hello? That form of dance requires training and practice above and beyond the call of most mortals. "Natural rhythm" does almost nothing whatsoever for you when it comes to ballroom. If anything, where you would expect "natural rhythm" to come to the forefront would be with dances that require little or no formal training, such as free-style.
  6. toothlesstiger

    toothlesstiger Well-Known Member

    If we assume, instead, that the OP is sincerely asking why he doesn't see more people of African descent as top level ballroom competitors, we can perhaps address it better. ;-)

    And I think the answer is the same as why we don't see more people of African descent at the top levels of, say figure skating, ice hockey, yacht racing, etc.

    It costs a lot of money for the training and the travel and the equipment. Sub-Saharan Africa is not known for a large, relatively affluent, middle class. There are middle class and affluent African-Americans, but perhaps not enough for the numbers to have had an impact, yet.

    In the large studio I first learned to dance in, I met two African Americans out of maybe 1000 dancers. Where I dance now, I've met one, who actually was the US National Youth Champion, half African American.

    If you watch Salsa competitions, there's no lack for top level competitors who clearly have some African heritage.

    So, the better question, in affluent countries, where there is a significant population of African descent, why don't they dance ballroom? And, yes, this sounds suspiciously similar to "why don't more guys dance?"

    This is not a question about talent, it is a question about culture, access, and marketing.
  7. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    I was looking for a New Year Post article from 1958 when I happened across this...
    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/13/e...t-of-segregated-education.html?pagewanted=all
    A System Divided

    Separate but Uneasy
    This is the second article in a series examining the changing racial distribution of students in New York City's public schools and its impact on their opportunities and achievements.

    Why Don't We Have Any White Kids?

    Would it be better if it were integrated?

    “I think they would stop calling me white girl if there were white kids,” she said. “Because my skin is a little lighter and I can’t dance, they call me that. Some of them can’t dance, either.”

    What else?

    “I could talk the way I talk.”
    Other students speak street slang that she repudiates: “They will say to me, ‘You are so white.’ I tell them, I have two black parents. Do I look white?”
  8. Wolfgang

    Wolfgang Member

    Based on my experiences, there is absolutely NO co-relation between ethnicity and dancing skills/talent.
    It's a pop-culture myth, no more.
    Bailamosdance likes this.
  9. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

    Would not call it myth, simply an overdue act of self-assertion
  10. Don Silver

    Don Silver Member

    It totally agree with you that it's exposure based. I have a dance instructor friend (black) who tells me she can't remember a family get together where they didn't have music/dancing. From a BBQ to a birthday, they danced. There was always music playing... the little kids danced with the adults, and nobody cared how anybody looked, they just did it.

    Her experience is normal is some cultures. They dance when they get together socially, and the younger set is exposed and everybody thinks it's cute when they dance, even if the early stages are a bit off. By the time they are young adults, they have refined without thinking about it, like most adults walk/talk reasonably well compared to a toddler.

    In other words, when she started salsa & tango as a young adult, she already had years of movement background, and she looked "natural" way sooner than most.

    In my family I don't remember dancing at ANY get together, for any reason until someone got married. (I watched, like most of the room.)

    It wasn't common at any of my friends/neighborhood events either. Music was sometimes in the background, but more like the shopping mall/elevator types... not inspiring for movement.

    I suspect my background is normal for many mid-western American kids.

    BTW - Great free-style is hardly for the untrained. At least here in LA, where some of the strong Hip-hop dancers train just as hard as the ballroom/ballet dancers. And many do "formally train" by taking classes, taking privates, etc.

    While the dance looks "free-style", they are similar to well trained jazz musicians, where they combine elements on the fly. But the elements themselves are highly trained/practiced/taught. (Sorry, I don't mean to hijack this thread... different subject for another day.)
  11. toothlesstiger

    toothlesstiger Well-Known Member

    Please reread the thread, lest your epithet apply most accurately to yourself.
    Mr 4 styles likes this.
  12. Zyrai

    Zyrai New Member

    i Am black but i highly disagree
  13. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

    Hi Zyrai, welcome to DF! With what do you disagree?

    Perhaps you never saw them winning. Far more important was, that you also never saw them exit or drop out.
  14. juwest333

    juwest333 Active Member

    We do compete in (and sometimes win) competitions. Look up Javier Johnson and Jamin Jackson (lindy hop dancers) to name a few.

    But that whole White Men Can't Dance thing is a complete myth.
  15. Race is never an indication if you are a good dancer or not. For as long as you love to dance, and you train really hard, and you pursuit your dreams, then you can be a great dancer regardless if you are black, or white.
  16. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    Hi Elizabeth! Welcome!

    And I agree. Race has nothing to do with it. :)
  17. DWise1

    DWise1 Well-Known Member

    True. Though culture may play a role. As well as economic conditions.

    My picture pretty well tells it all, Irish-Scottish with a trace of German. When I was a teenager (mid 1960's), our family gatherings involved some dancing for the older members, but we youngsters weren't expected to join in. And then dancing became more of a spectator activity. My understanding is that in Hispanic families the youngsters also join in, so they grow up with dancing. I cannot speak for the black sub-culture, but I assume that dancing is also part of their up-bringing. If someone grows up with dancing, they will have more experience with dancing and will be more likely to have grown up "a natural dancer". We apparently can somewhat safely assume that blacks and hispanics had grown up with some exposure to dancing, while whites in general had not.

    Then comes the training. Training costs money. If whites are more likely to have more money, then they will be more represented. Then comes the motivation. Who is motivated towards ballroom? Would the hispanics who grew up with merengue and salsa want to excel in those dances or move on to ballroom? Maybe not so much to ballroom.

    This thread seemed to start off by looking only at ballroom. There is so much more to the overall dance community than just ballroom.
  18. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    Hi D! :)


    Yes. Culture and economics can and do, IMO, play a huge role in answering questions about dance. Who dances in my culture? Men or women or both? Which kinds of dance are acceptable? Who has time to dance when they have to earn a living? How much is dance going to cost? Why dance -- for fun, to acquire a life partner, for self-actualization, to teach the youth a shared heritage?

    There are many more culture-related questions, but none of them, IMO have much to do with race as a causative factor in dance ability. There've actually been a few (none recently, but a few) threads here, written by people who were Latino but who "couldn't" dance salsa, or African Americans who "couldn't dance, period. lol.

    I think that there's a difference between cultural exposure to dance, "natural" ability to dance (whatever that means) and ability/willingness to be taught how to dance.

    Being a white guy kinda pales by comparison to the larger cultural, economic, social and perhaps psychological issues, IMHO.
  19. danceronice

    danceronice Well-Known Member

    Access is another issue--not just cost of lessons, but awareness they're available. Skating is expensive (to do on a serious level), and there's not exactly an ice rink on every corner most places, but even with the reduced coverage on TV people see it at the Olympics, maybe catch nationals, and are more aware of it and can go seek it out. Dancing, there really isn't much (minus the short-lived Ballroom Bootcamp) that shows dance as accessible to normal people. With ballroom, there's not much (DWTS, used to be PBS), which doesn't look beginner-friendly, for a LOT of other forms they're SYTYCD, which emphasizes both how difficult it is and how long these kids have been doing it. In some ways, it may not even be a social stigma, more a case of not realizing the activity's available.

    And I'd personally hesitate to create a big lump "African-American culture." I'm not black, so I can't speak definitively, but IME the average black experience varies by geography and class as much as any other group's.

    And pygmalion mentions psychological issues--if I had a dollar for everyone I've met who's seen me dance (middling bronze) and said "OMG, I could never do that!" I could pay for my next lesson package. And that's just as many, if not more, women than men.

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