Rock Steady: The Art Of The Slow Dance

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Invariably this moment will come: you’re at a wedding reception or holiday party and the band starts up a ballad. A few couples take to the floor and your stomach tightens: there’s a beautiful woman you’ve been eyeing all night but haven’t approached yet, and you know this is your chance.

So here’s all you need to know to pull off a sophisticated, seductive slow dance that’s more Cary Grant than high school student, with no ballroom training necessary.

Step One: The Asking

Don’t be afraid of asking a woman to dance even though she’s surrounded by others. Walk over and simply say, “Would you like to dance?” If she’s surprised — understandable in this day and age — her friends will likely encourage her. (If she says no, move on and go ask someone else.) As you head to the dance floor, you can offer your arm for chivalry points if you want, but don’t grab her hand and drag her to the floor like a couple of teenagers sneaking off to make out behind a tree.

Step Two: Assume The Position

You don’t need special skill to slow dance, but posture and attitude separate the men from the boys. If you’re not wearing a tuxedo, imagine you are. Stand tall and firm, but not military tense. Your left hand goes out and meets hers around shoulder height, while your right arm goes around the middle of her back. Don’t pull her against you, which would be too intimate, and don’t place her so far away you could fit a beach ball between you. Do not assume a hugging position. Do not put both hands on her waist. Do not slouch or act like you’re cuddling on a sofa watching Netflix. If you’re lucky, that’ll happen soon enough.

To avoid stepping on each other’s feet, place her slightly to the right of you, with your right foot aimed between her two feet. That also means her face should be on your right side as well, if you were going to dance cheek to cheek, as the old song goes. If you’re going to talk, it’s into her right ear, or left side from your point of view.

Step Three: How To Move

Ballads are slow, but they still have a steady beat, which leads us to the most important thing. Do not start marching on every beat. Instead, allow two beats per step. It should feel very slow, which is more relaxed and sophisticated than writhing around on every beat in a crude caricature of dancing. Put your weight on your left foot and then on your right, and rock back and forth like this while rotating in a clockwise direction in small degrees. That’s it.

Now for some more don’ts. Don’t pump your left arm up and down or push and pull it back and forth. It shouldn’t move at all; this is crucial to having a controlled, masculine embrace. And don’t gyrate your hips from side to side, but stay straight and tall as if you were simply walking.

Depending on your personality and the mood you’re after, you can either start a conversation or you can stay silent and mysterious and try to build romantic tension. You can turn her under your left arm, but don’t send her so far away that you nearly dislocate your shoulder trying to hang on to her. Make it a small turn, and then go back to gently rocking.

Step Four: What Comes Next

When the song ends, the ice is broken. Offer to get her a drink, meet your friends, or go over and meet hers. You should be able to take it from here just fine.

One more tip from Cary Grant. In the movie “Indiscreet” he tells a friend how he handles women. He says he makes clear his intentions (in this case, to remain a bachelor) before anything happens. “That’s where the honor comes in,” he explains.  That’s a good rule to follow.

This article originally ran at TheGentlemansJournal.com

Artificial Intelligence

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In the 1996 film “Tin Cup,” Kevin Costner plays a washed-up golfer who loses his swing (a common plot device in golf movies). When he finally hits rock bottom, costar Rene Russo discovers him shackled in swing aids, plastic gizmos and rubber straps latched to every part of his body in his desperate attempt to remember how to move properly.

Since the days of yore when Scottish shepherds invented the absurd game of golf, there has always been a quest for a magic move, a cure-all panacea that would instantly fix the veteran when his swing mysteriously goes awry, and allow the novice to bypass the traditional learning route, which basically consists of banging tens of thousands of balls over the course of years. Read more

From Dance Cards To Liability Waivers

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A hundred years ago, a woman going to a ragtime ball or afternoon “tango tea” would often use a dance card. A tradition going back to 18th-century Europe, the dance card allowed a lady to exert a certain control over the gentlemen with whom she would dance at an event. A gentleman would ask to have the waltz in the third set, for example, and if she agreed, she would pencil his name in.

The practice would eventually become hopelessly old-fashioned during the Roaring Twenties and Swing Era. And can you imagine kids at a ’50s sock hop penciling their names on dance cards to the raucous sounds of rock and roll?

But when it comes to social dancing, perhaps we’re destined for a return to paperwork, though of an altogether different sort. Read more

Think Tanks

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How does a gentleman who owns 60 tanks celebrate the Fourth of July? However he wants to. In the case of Jacques Littlefield, he will invite several dozen guests to his 470-acre ranch in Portola Valley, Calif., where they will snack, chat, and then cheer as he drives one of his German Panzer tanks over a rattling 1975 Buick Skylark. “People always find that interesting,” Littlefield says.

Given the uncertain nature of these times, the folks of Portola Valley might also find Littlefield’s demonstration of military might reassuring. They can take further comfort knowing that their neighbor’s collection of more than 200 military vehicles also includes self-propelled guns, armored personnel carriers, and antiaircraft vehicles. At most, a dozen collectors in the country possess similar stables of war machines. Read more

Lore Of The Dandy

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Sunday mornings often find me quietly strolling through the past, admiring the patina of old furniture in an antiques shop, and daydreaming about the family that might have sat at some dining room table, or the woman who might have dressed for balls before a Victorian vanity.

Then I’ll come across a malacca cane, tarnished at the handle, or maybe an Edwardian waistcoat resting proud but inanimate, like a fossil from a distant era. And again I’ll wonder, “Who might have brought this to life? Perhaps someone whose sole occupation was elegance?”

Long ago there was a rare breed of man, part gentleman and part fop, classified as “dandy.” Though similar men exist today, for the most part dandies, like dinosaurs, those other great rulers of the earth, are dead and deeply buried, proving the old saying that the bigger they are, the harder they fall.

So let’s dig for bones.

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Fashion Dictator

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Dressing for a summer cocktail party, it would never occur to you to wear a harris tweed jacket with your cream linen trousers. But do you also know that tradition dictates that tuxedo jackets never sport notched lapels? Ah, but who cares about tradition, you cry. Answer: The best-dressed men in the world do, and their dinner jackets always have peaked or shawl lapels.

After four decades of a social zeitgeist whose defining tenet is the wanton celebration of individualism, the idea of invoking traditional customs of male dress – “rules,” if you will – surely strikes many as antiquated and elitist. Even worse, uncomfortable.

Nicholas Antongiavanni is a reluctant apologist for time-tested sartorial rules. He cringes at the idea of being thought of as the style gestapo, and he’s far more interested in individual expressions of panache than bland perfection. Still, his new book, cunningly titled “The Suit: A Machiavellian Approach to Men’s Style,” is solidly based in sartorial customs and traditions crystallized in the 1930s and still with us – however diffuse their influence – to this day. Read more