6 Important Steps to Becoming a Dance Machine

#3. Don't Forget to Warm Up

One of the biggest selling points of taking dance lessons, aside from making you look like a goddamn hero to your significant other, is that they're excellent exercise. Unless you're already in professional-dancer shape, you're going to get winded learning to dance. The thing is, it doesn't seem all that strenuous. At some point you just realize you're too tired to keep up with the Barry White song that's playing and you sit for a few minutes. It happens very suddenly.

At least I don't notice, because I move so fast.

Did you notice how, in a picture where I brag in the caption about how fast I move, the guy standing still is even blurrier than I am? Anyway, what I'm saying is it's deceptively low impact. I say "deceptively" because, no matter how easily you breeze through that first lesson, if dancing is something you've never done before, you're probably going to hurt at some point afterward. Like any physical activity, you can eliminate or lessen this risk by doing a few simple stretches before you get started. No matter what the physicality of this picture may imply ...

Reminder: Sweatpants aren't just for Walmart.

... this was a step I didn't bother to take at first, and I paid the price for that decision almost immediately. I woke up the morning after the first lesson feeling like I'd just used my calf muscles for the first time in years, because I had, basically. I recovered in time to make the next lesson, but it was an unpleasant week.

That said, warm-up stretching is also a step I still haven't taken at any point during my dance odyssey. I assume my muscles, like most modern engines, have just naturally adapted to being started cold. Still, most articles that provide pointers on performing physical activities recommend stretching first, and who am I to rock the boat?

Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty
If my stock photo searches are to be believed, this counts as stretching.

I'll take any excuse I can get to not have taken that picture of me with my leg up on that bar for no reason. Now that it's work related, I can write off any subsequent emergency room visits that happen as a result of my atrophied hamstrings having a delayed realization of what I put them through a few weeks ago and snapping solely for retribution's sake.

#2. Bring Plenty of Patience

Ha! Doesn't it look like everyone's having a great time in that picture? That's because we are! I promise!

Of course, like learning anything for the first time, taking dance lessons can be a frustrating experience. That's why we stop taking the time to learn new things as we get older. Once you've learned enough stuff to live the life you want to (or make peace with the fact that you're never going to), inviting extra aggravation into the mix kind of seems like a weird way to have fun.

That said, finally learning something that had been outside your skill set up to that point is extremely satisfying. People keep playing video games well into adulthood for one obvious reason -- they're unemployed. When you don't have a career to advance, conquering the next level of a magical video game universe is probably the next best thing.

Ciaran Griffin/Photodisc/Getty Images
Just joking, dorks.

You can fulfill this same need to learn and accomplish new things by taking dance lessons. Also, if there's a better way to confirm the strength of your bond with another person than surviving dance lessons together, I don't know what it could be. At least part of the reason Dancing With the Stars is so popular is that about 50 percent of the show involves watching two people get frustrated with each other while they practice the same dance moves for eight hours every day.

There's only one way to get better at something like dancing, and that's through repetition. The only way to know you need to repeat something is to have someone standing there, scrutinizing your every step so they can let you know every time you do something wrong.

The head over my shoulder is real this time, isn't it?

Also, every time you mess up, it's like the other person might as well have messed up too, because you both have to start all over again.

If you and your significant other can survive that without so much as the promise of a mirror ball trophy and the temporary revival of your '80s acting career at the end of the road, you can probably survive anything. Besides, like I said earlier, once you finally nail that step you've been trying to master forever, it's super satisfying.

As seen here.

You'll do that a whole lot quicker if you do one simple thing before you show up for your first dance lesson.

#1. Learn to Count

Learn to count. That's really all there is to it. Well, that's all there is to the part where you need to learn to count. There's way more to everything else, but if you can come in with a decent handle on how to count out the beat of a song in your head, you'll at least be slightly more prepared than if you just stumble in groovelessly off the street. You can see this principle at work in the 15 seconds or so of video from my recent foray into dancing that my pride will allow me to post here.

Obviously, the goal is to reach the point where you're not very obviously counting out loud, and that's very obviously a point we haven't reached yet. I just said that we've been taking dance lessons, not that we've been taking them for a long time. Long enough to know you need to count, though! If you're thinking about learning to dance or, more likely, if reading this has already inspired you to schedule lessons, set aside some time to do a little couch-friendly practice by counting along to this Barry White song.

Or, you know, any song, really. It doesn't matter. Just sit and listen and count. If for some reason you're unable to count on beat ... it doesn't matter.

As long as you can walk, the Dance Doctor can help you figure it out.

John Cassese would like to remind you that today is Valentine's Day and you probably haven't bought your woman anything yet. If you're in the Los Angeles area, he can help. Adam would like to thank John, Billy Janes (photos), and Diana Cook (love of my life) for helping make this article happen. Also, come see Adam tell jokes this Tuesday in Santa Monica. And follow him on Twitter. That's all!

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