DARE TO ASK: When it comes to dancing, white people
seem to have missed the beat
By PHILLIP MILANO, The Times-Union
I've noticed white people don't have rhythm when it comes to dancing. Why is
Janice, 22, Atlanta
I've seen black toddlers two-stepping to hip-hop six months after learning to
walk. The parents encourage it. Black people get introduced to rhythmic dancing
at an early age.
Eric, 29, white, Kansas City, Mo.
White boys tend to find interest in music that doesn't have [good] beats so
it's really hard to dance to. Try doing a Kid 'N Play to Metallica. Now, if
you're a white boy like me who listens to all types of music, we can bump an'
grind with all the beautiful sisters.
J.B., 23, Bridgeton, N.J.
Most white people seem to move to the 1 and 3 beats rather than the more
rhythmically pleasing 2 and 4 beats.
Heidi, 32, white, Durham, N.C.
White kids never watch BET. Where are they going to learn to dance?
Kira, black female, Willingboro, N.J.
Eminem can dance to rap, but I bet you he couldn't line dance. It's not what
a certain race can or can't do but what the individual can or can't.
Anna, 17, white, Memphis, Tenn.
White guys dance because: 1) the woman wants to, 2) to get close to a woman,
or 3) to get in bed with a woman. They don't sit around and watch MTV for the
latest dance moves.
Brad, 22, Asian, Madison, Wis.
It's more acceptable in the African-American community for people to take
risks in making themselves look stupid. So dancing is more easily passed from
one generation to the next.
Jessica, 18, white, Chicago
Maybe white people are less self-conscious or get drunker quicker, so they
dance even if they know they're no good.
Milly, white, London
We put this one to exceedingly white dancing phenom Wade Robson, creator of
MTV's amateur dance contest show The Wade Robson Project and choreographer for
Britney Spears, 'N Sync, Usher, Mya and others.
"I guess like other traits, race has nothing to do with it at the core," he
said, missing nary a beat. "It depends on what you grow up listening to and
But this guy has taught thousands to shake it and kick it, so allow him his
"I find black people have more of a natural funk and feeling and vibe, but
that they have more trouble picking up the steps, and vice versa [for white
people]. ... Culturally speaking, black people tend more to grow up watching
movies, videos, going to clubs with friends, and it's more about improvisation.
White people tend to put their kids in classes early on -- ballet, jazz, etc. --
so they tend to be more technically driven."
And what exactly makes a good dancer, anyway?
"It's not about cockiness, it's about a carefee feeling," Robson said. "I've
seen dorky white dudes get up and don't care and have a blast. Maybe they're not
the funkiest on the block, but they let their passion come through. You can be
technically great, but if you're inhibited, you'll look dorkier than someone who
doesn't have talent but doesn't care."
Phillip Milano, author of I Can't Believe You Asked That! (Perigee),
moderates cross-cultural dialogue at Y? The National Forum on People's
Differences. Visit www.yforum.com to submit questions and answers, or mail to
Phillip Milano, c/o The Florida Times-Union, P.O. Box 1949, Jacksonville, FL
32231. Include contact information.