Dr Peter Lovatt


Reasons given by men for not dancing

A study carried out by Dr Peter Lovatt at the University of Hertfordshire.  This was an online survey. People were asked: “Do you Dance (yes/no)?” “Why do you dance?” or “Why don’t you dance?”. People could write as much or as little as they liked. The survey was anonymous and at the end of the survey people were asked to give their sex (male/female) and age. These last two questions were not compulsory.


966 people completed the survey


785 reported that they do dance (511 female, 262 male, 12 undeclared)

181 reported that they don’t dance (63 females, 117 male, 1 undeclared)


One of the most frequent reasons men gave for not dancing related to being self conscious.


In this theoretical model Self-consciousness plays a central role in the reasons men give for not dancing. Self-consciousness is defined as being excessively conscious of one’s appearance or manner. In other words, as it relates to dancing, men are excessively conscious of how they look and how they move. Self-consciousness is related to men’s fear/dislike of being watched and/or judged and is fed by competence issues (such as men don’t know what to do) and by a sense of poor rhythm perception, sensori-motor coupling and motor control.


Also within the general area of self-consciousness men report shyness and embarrassment as reasons for not dancing and also a lack of confidence. Some men report a fear of dancing, which can also be related to self-consciousness.

Illustrative examples (reproduced as typed by respondents)




"I don't dance because I am self-conscious, but let me make my point. The thing is that I'm gay, but I don't like to be seen like a sissy. I'm afraid my homosexuality might show if I start moving my body to the beat." (M048)


"I have never danced in my entire life. When I was a young person I was always a bit overweight and felt awkward on the dance floor and performing dance moves, so I simply avoided any situations which would require dancing. I have always felt far too self-conscious to get up on a dance floor and there fore have never ever reallly done so." (M060)


"I never dance. Even when I go out at night I just stand there and watch the others dance or I just get drunk. I'm used to it by now. I know that I missed a lot of chances to dance with attractive females and this really makes me sad sometimes. I'm pretty sure that I know the reason. When I was about 10 years old, our teacher wanted to teach us how to dance. We started with Jazz Dance to some Michael Jackson song. It felt pretty good doing it with the whole class but the teacher wanted to see all of us dancing alone. When it was my turn, some other kids were laughing. I wasn't sure what they were laughing at, but I knew when my teacher said "Don't laugh at him". That was the day my fear of dancing started. There were several other "dance lessons" in school. I was 17 when it finally ended. Until today I don't know what made them laugh at me but I have several theories. Being rather tall, my movements may look clumsy. Also, I'm pretty sure that you can tell if someone is dancing when he doesn't want to. You can see his insecurity. To sum it up, I don't dance because I'm afraid of getting laughed at. Another important fact is that I DO dance when going on rock concerts. Maybe because everyone is watching the band and not me..." (M062)



Being Watched


"When I dance I feel like I am being watched." (M072)


"Self concouious and don't like being on display. I prefer working behind the scenes" (M074)


"whether i dance or not is firstly down to how much ive drunk and secondly how many people were on the dancefloor - the more the better so that you could hide in there. Have always been self conscious about dancing as although i think i 'have the moves' sadly they are never in time with the music!" (M088)




"I do not dance because I feel shy." (M019)


"I use to dance and I would like to do it again. The problem is that before I use to drink before I go out dancing. Now I don´t feel like dancing if I don´t drink and I don´t want to drink therefor I don´t dance. I did go out a couple of times without drinking and I found out I´m kind of shy to dance without a drink, or two, or three..." (M036)


"I'm too shy. I think - no, I know - I'm no good at it. I also know I would be embarassingly slow/bad at learning. Shame, as girls I fancy tend to like dancing and are good at it!" (M116)





Being Judged


"I don't like being watched, assessed and judged all the time. I don't want my worth as a human being to be defined by how good I am at this bullshit. It makes me want to murder all those oh so happy people, argh!" (M018)


"I instinctively tend to avoid others' judgements, I am afraid of looking ridicuolus. I enjoy dancing alone or with close friends with no seduction implications." (M101)


"it doesnt improve my night out at all and its not why i go out, i feel infererior when i do it." (M029)




Competence Issues


"I did, with my GF. I was not nearly as skilled or experienced as she was and got fed up of boring her, and of being made to feel I was wasting her time." (M023)


"I hate not knowing what I'm doing." (M054)


"I'm quite interested in breakdancing and I often 'daydream' being able to do the hard stuff, but in reality, I can't do it." (M056)


"I dont dance because i dont know how to dance. However, when im alone lets say when taking a bath and im playin some sort of music that has a groove on it then yeah.. but goin clubbin and sorta like that.. i dont dance..." (M085)




"I am afraid of embarassing myself" (M098)


"Ultimately I am embarrassed by my belief that I am unable to dance well so avoid it." (M038)


"Acute embarrassment, lack of co-ordinational skills and the absence of any will or inclination to do so." (M087)




Rhythm Perception


"I cannot "hear" or "feel" the music (rhythm?)" (M054)


"I don't dance because I can't. I cannot "feel" the rhythm which my wife does not believe as she thinks rhythm is so obvious no one can miss it." (M092)


"really bad at dancing, no rhythm" (M031)



Sensori-motor coupling


"I have never had any music take control of my nervous system and produce movement" (M001)


"Just don't feel the beat or even the urge to move to most modern music - rock, rap, hip-hop, disco, etc. To me it is mostly noise" (M014)


"I think dancing is about confidence and I am not a confident person when I dance i feel out of my comfort zone. Even socially when I am out with my friends after having a couple drinks I still don't intend on dancing. I feel as though I have no rhythm or co-ordination." (M068)


"I am a trained musician, so finding the beat is not an issue, I just have never felt confident in what to do with all of my separate body parts while dancing." (M104)


Motor Coordination


"I don't dance anymore as I'm too self conscious, plus have two left feet." (M039)


"I'm a bit clumsy and take up a fair amount of space and I know I have a pretty poor spatial awareness. I worry that I'll knock into people. I'd probably spend the evening apologising for doing so." (M041)


"I've always wanted to give dancing a shot but i could never EVER get the hand-bodyleg coordination thing right." (M084)


"Some of those close to me say that I am in fact coordinated (I am reasonably competent in different sports and was quite physically active when younger), but they may be simply trying to encourage me. I believe I can move with grace and style while say, swimming, playing tennis, running, diving, hiking, jumping, maybe even in soccer and basketball... But definitely get some sort of mental block or my mind goes blank when attempting to dance, and I feel completely incompetent, ungraceful, dorky and... not a sight to see." (M096)




Lack of Confidence


"I understand that to effortlessly perform well what is needed is the confidence that comes with many hours of practice, but how or why would I invest all that time when I cannot understand the reward? I do not really comprehend what my _personal_ return on investment would be. I can see why others want me to dance, but, what do _I_ get out of it? as far as I can tell: nothing." (M096)


"I don't understand the point of dancing. The only times I have ever danced were to try and pick up women, and even then, I never felt confident." (M104)


"I do not dance now because I am married with a child and do not present myself in situations where dancing takes place. I do not enjoy dancing because I am self conscious and lack confidence in my abilities."




Fear of Dancing


"Borderline fear of dancing" (M003)


"Lastly, I'd rather be back in Somalia with military check points than on the dance floor, Somalia felt safer." (M092)


"Have always felt extremely uncomfortable doing it. Its torture! I'd rather have my fingernails pulled out." (M102)