If you’re going to dance, you’d better do it well.
Otherwise there’s an audience ready to laugh you off the floor.
That’s not much of an incentive to take up dancing, even if studies are showing that it can help you beat the advance of age.
Regardless of how you look doing it, dancing is seriously healthy.
It can reduce the risk of dementia, speed up recovery from stroke and cancer, act as therapy for Parkinson’s disease, improve sexual functioning, and even make you smarter. Not to mention the benefits to heart health, muscle mass, balance and endurance.
An Argentine tango fan and plastic surgeon, Dr. Richard Baxter, summarizes the scientific research in a neat conclusion:
Dancing may well be the most powerful anti-aging thing you can do.” 
So why is it so intimidating?
I blame “Dancing with the Stars.”
For the past decade, we’ve been inundated with the idea that anyone can learn to dance like a pro—given 6 hours a day x 7 days a week of training with a professional support team, including a nutritionist and personal trainer.
So when we actually creep into a dance studio, pay the fee, and take our place, it’s humiliating to realize that dancing is a lot harder than it looks on TV.
I’m speaking about myself, of course.
I was born with farmer feet. That’s worse than two left feet.
My feet were raised to clomp in boots through a field of hay. Or cow pats, as the case may be.
I did not have a delicate gait. I had no sense of rhythm.
The only thing worse than sweating in a cold gymnasium hoping to get asked to dance was actually getting asked to dance … and knowing I’d be making a fool of myself in front of my entire high school, not to mention the boy, who’d get to see my anxiety at close quarters.
Several years spent in South America should have cured that. I had a Latino boyfriend who could salsa by the time he was three. I went to endless parties in living rooms, chairs pushed up against the wall to create a dance space, with a massive sound system booming from its throne.
And I still couldn’t do it.
I couldn’t follow him or the music. I had no excuses. I was with someone I loved, there was no pressure, and still all I could hear was the white noise of electrical signals fizzing up and down my spinal column as my muscles and brain cells frantically tried to communicate, circuits about to blow.
Jump ahead to 2005. “Dancing with the Stars” was all the rage. I was online dating, and everyone was talking about it. If you wanted to meet cute single guys, you should take up ballroom dancing.
So I did.
I went with my flatmate, which on retrospect was never going to be easy. I’m about 5’5”. He was about 6’3”. He had two left feet to go with my farmer feet. We were hopeless.
There weren’t a lot of cute young singles at our dance studio, either. Instead, there were a lot of retirees gracefully floating across the floor. Plus one lone middle-aged man, who looked creepily hopeful.
Each week I gritted my teeth, tried to copy what the other dancers were doing, and sweated my way through a torturous hour.
I. WOULD. BE. GRACEFUL!
Who was I kidding?
I couldn’t do it. There was no point in humiliating myself any more.
I had to accept I’d never dance. All those health benefits … out of reach forever.
And then a miracle happened.
Cut to 2015. A community hall in the depths of rural Oregon. The stars twinkle overhead, a bonfire burns, and men in full beards and flannel shirts tip back beers.
My 3-year-old daughter races across the dance floor. She’s hearing the fiddles sing on stage, and she wants to have fun. “Come on, Mummy!” she yells.
She pulls me around in circles. I twirl her away and back. She jumps up and down; I jump up and down. Nothing we do is in time with the music. There’s no way we look anything but ridiculous.
But who cares?