At BYU-Idaho, dances are held on a weekly basis. Women tend to outnumber the men at these events.
The lack of men dancing comes from a mixture of pride and fear, said Michael Hall, a sophomore studying physics.
“It’s kind of humiliating to do at first,” Hall said. “It’s nerve wracking doing something you’re not competent doing in front of other people.”
Many men deal with these fears, Hall said.
“There is a huge learning curve to get over,” said Garth Malin, a dance instructor at the weekly country and ballroom dances and a senior studying plant and wildlife ecology.
Malin said he has been dancing for two years and is now on the collegiate dance team.
“I was terrible when I first started,” Malin said. “It takes going to practices for a few weeks to get some of the basics down.”
Many girls who go to dances end up waiting around most of the time, just waiting to be asked to dance, said Kimberly Zimmerman, a weekly ballroom and country dancer and a junior studying nursing.
“Maybe they think girls are scary,” said Katherine Paul, a sophomore studying early childhood development and special education. “It is a possibility.”
Annee Jenks, a dance instructor for swing dance and a sophomore studying social work, said that not knowing how to dance is a common problem among students.
“I think not knowing how to dance dissuades many of them from coming,” Jenks said. “Also, not really knowing how to talk to girls could be part of the problem.”
They are nervous about looking silly, Paul said.
“I think many people, not just guys, are uncomfortable with dancing and moving to music in an unfamiliar way,” Jenks said.
McKenzie Clarke, a junior studying fine arts said prior musical knowledge can play a part in men not dancing. She said having prior musical knowledge helps people understand the beats and rhythms needed to feel the music and how to move with the steps.
Not everyone knows music and timing as well as others, Zimmerman said.
“It’s hard to dance if you don’t know about music and timing,”he said.
Zimmerman said she began dating Hall during spring semester and since then has been helping him learn to dance.
“Not knowing music does make it a bit difficult cause I always have to ask before a song what dance it is, but I think that can be learned with practice and time,” Hall said.
Females are much more likely than males to participate in school performing arts activities, and males are more likely to participate in sports, according to Data Trends Data Bank, a research group dedicated to researching trends about youth. DTDB said these trends show that musical knowledge might play a key role in learning and wanting to dance, according to this study
“For the guys, there is a lot more pressure to dance well because they are the ones leading the steps and feel like they are the ones in charge of making sure the girl is having a good time,” Zimmerman said.
Hall said he agreed with Zimmerman, as did Joey Bond, a sophomore studying sociology.
“Guys don’t want to just dance the same basic step over and over again while worrying if the girl is having a good time,” Zimmerman said.
Hall said that dancing is not just moving your feet and smiling, but is also knowing the steps, knowing the beats of the music.
“Having the courage to ask girls to dance and be able to talk while dancing is part of the experience too,” he said.
He said many guys avoid dancing for many other reasons, such as fear and pride.
“Every dance needs more guys,” Malin said. “Dancing is awkward at first, but after a few weeks, it gets better.”
Paul said learning to dance is like learning any type of skill and that it can take time .
“Do it often and be willing and ready to make a lot of mistakes along the way,” Paul said. “You have to be willing to put in the time and effort to learn it.”
Other resources to help men learn swing are the websites West Coast Swing Online and Lindy Hop Moves, Jenks said.
“For videos and channels to learn how to dance, I just do a YouTube search and look for professionals,” Malin said.
Hall, Zimmerman, Jenks, Paul, Clarke and Malin all said that dance has changed their lives.
“It has made me more confident in my own abilities,” Zimmerman said. “I would not be as happy if I wasn’t dancing.”
Before dancing, Jenks said she was an introvert.
“But, through dance, I’ve made so many new friends and become so much more outgoing,” Jenks said. “It’s given me something to love, and something to inspire me.”
Malin said that dance has widened his social circles and created many new friends.
“It’s an attractive quality to be able to move to music and lead a partner in dance,” Jenks said.
There is always a need for more guys to dance with Jenks said.
“If you don’t know the steps, I will teach you a few of the basic steps and a few other moves,” Zimmerman said.
She encouraged everyone to come dance and learn how to dance.
“If you don’t know how to dance, come to dance instruction and ask the instructors, it’s what they’re there for,” Zimmerman said.
She said students should not worry about messing up.
“I grew up dancing and I still mess up,” Zimmerman said.
Jenks said she is willing to dance with anyone of any skill level.
“To the guys, if they can find me, I’ll dance with them,” Jenks said. “To everyone else, come dance. You may say you don’t dance, but until you’ve tried out different types of social dance, you’ll never really know.”
Free weekly country and swing dance workshops are at 7 p.m. on Wednesdays with a dance afterwards until 11 p.m., and ballroom and Latin dance workshops at 7 p.m. on Fridays and dances afterwards till 11 p.m., according to the BYU-I Social Activities Web page. There are additional ballroom workshops on Tuesdays at 8 p.m., and a swing workshop on Saturdays at 11 a.m. Country and Latin are in the Manwaring Center grand ballroom, and swing and ballroom are in the Gordon B. Hinckley Building gym.
Jenks said people should bring big groups of friends, because the more people that come, the more others will want to dance.
“You will have more fun the more people you know and bring with you,” Malin said. “It can be as a date or as a group, just invite your friends to come and learn and enjoy dancing.”