Alice was talking to a coworker recently about dancing (specifically, why he refused to). He said when he's on the dance floor, he feels like everybody's looking at him, thinking he's not good enough and he should stop. I have to admit I feel much the same way when it comes to the dances where you're actually supposed to be coordinated with your partner, as opposed to just getting exercise with music. Alice asked her coworker if he'd be embarrassed to stand in front of everybody and try, and fail, to hit a baseball. He said no. Why?
Is it something about masculinity - that baseball is a manly pursuit and it's OK for any guy to try it, but dancing isn't?
Here's my theory. When someone sings in public, it's common to cringe a little and wish they'd stop. You're embarrassed for them because they don't sound as good as the artists we hear on the radio. Mediocre dancing arouses the same feelings: the cringe, the embarrassment. Do we compare ordinary couples' dancing to some kind of professional ideal?
Our mastery over nature - our technologies, the specialization of our skills - is a blessing and a curse. It fixes a lot of problems (disease, malnutrition) but robs us of some subtle pleasures. Once we know what a Snickers bar tastes like, eating a ripe apple is practically a chore. We won't cook because the salt, fat, and refined sugar we've succeeded in putting in processed food makes our own dining rooms dreary. We won't sing because we don't have pitch correction software in our throats.
Participatory culture is a popular blogging topic. Doing it yourself, whether it's painting portraits or painting walls, is the opposite of the sterile consumerist transaction. It makes you feel alive. You learn by doing - you learn nothing by buying.
I say this, but I'm still too self-conscious to dance salsa. It's easier said than done.