In a perfect world, we would all learn to dance the way God intended: via personal instruction from Kevin Bacon, in a cornfield, listening to "Let's Hear It for the Boy." Alas, it's not a perfect world, and "Footloose" — cinematic masterpiece that it may be — is no match for the legions of men and women who live in fear of the dance floor.
Well, lay those fears to rest. The Faker's favorite prescription? Take two parts tequila, one part Lady Gaga and you should be ready to shake that thing. But if that doesn't do it, we've lined up some professional help. James Joseph, author of "Every Man's Survival Guide to Ballroom Dancing" (BlueChip) and a reformed dance floor-phobe (his Web site is ihatetodance.com), let the Faker in on some juicy dance secrets, including this one: "Most people can't dance."
See that? You're in good company. Now get off your duff and put his other secrets to use.
Talk yourself out of the chair. The guy slouched in his folding chair while the rest of the wedding guests get their groove on looks a lot sillier than the guy trying to Macarena to Kanye West. "It's not about showing off," says Joseph. "It's about engaging in the ritual — just showing up." Take a drink, and get on your feet.
Look confident. "The only time you look embarrassingly bad is when you're uptight and bothered by your inability to dance," says Joseph. "Don't worry about making mistakes; mistakes are rarely noticed and everything, even a mistake, looks better if it's done with a smile."
Have a foolproof move. "The eight-beat basic side step, which is just a side-to-side shuffle, is the easiest and most versatile," says Joseph. "Using the traditional ballroom hold — the closed position — leaders start with the weight on the right foot and step left on count one, followers do the opposite: Side together — side touch — side together — side touch (no weight change on the touch). This survival dance can be done to a vast range of tempos and musical genres."
Learn to turn. "An easy move that works anytime and in any dance is an underarm turn. It's intuitive: The leader raises his left arm, the follower walks under it. Even when it's done poorly, it still looks like an underarm turn."
Copy the crowd. If your side step is getting old and you're feeling frisky, peek at dancers around you. "Watch the dance floor and see what others are doing," Joseph says. "Match your ability to the situation. Observe and steal moves. In my early years I often danced next to competent couples to help me find the beat and get the rhythm for my feet."
Look as if you're having fun. "You can get through most wedding receptions if you do a basic sway (side touch — side touch), smile, exchange a few words and laugh a little, and maybe throw in an underarm turn or two," says Joseph. "Follow the advice of the late, great Frankie Manning, the grandfather of swing dancing: Pretend you're in love for three minutes."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun