By People Staff
Updated October 20, 2004 06:00 AM

Richard Gere has slipped back into his dancing shoes, and this time the Chicago showman has an experienced teacher: Jennifer Lopez. Gere, who plays a married man secretly taking lessons in Shall We Dance?, recently talked about learning from the actress-pop star, taking the lead and enjoying family life.

Were you nervous the first time you danced with Jennifer?
Very. I mean, she’s a beautiful woman, a great dancer, and I am not either. So, yeah. She was very patient with me.

Did she have any tips for you?
No, we had different approaches. Probably from the way her life has evolved and the kind of thing where she’s doing videos constantly, she just wants to know the choreography – “Just give me the steps.” I’m the opposite way because I’m not a dancer; I need to know the story. Until I know that, I can’t learn the steps. They don’t mean anything to me.

During Chicago, you said you were nervous about dancing. Looks like you’re over it now.
I know. … I did (Chicago) and I was proud of it and it was well received. So this script comes and I’m like, “Oh my God. Ballroom dancing.” I’m flashing on the ballroom classes that I had when I was probably in junior high school.

Why do you think your character was reluctant to dance with his wife?
I think that’s a question of – and I’ll probably get in trouble – (her wanting) him to lead. It might be a modern situation that men don’t feel confident enough to lead.

So you think women like it when men lead?
Absolutely. But the way that our culture has evolved it’s so equal, and power has to be balanced very carefully, and when you’re dancing, someone has to lead. That’s the only way it works. You lead and your partner is with you in such a way that you don’t even know who’s leading anymore because it’s so together. [IMAGE “2” “left” “std” ]How old is your son Homer now?
Four and a half.

What’s that like? Does he make you watch SpongeBob?
He’s past that. He’s into very hyper Japanese cartoons and computer things – and chess, actually. He’s flipping me out because he’s playing chess.

How has having a child changed your life?
What hasn’t it changed? Look, I was 50 when I had him. Although I’d been living with a stepdaughter for some time. I think that I had romantic fantasies that while I was babysitting I’d be reading all the books that I hadn’t had a chance to read. I still have yet to read any of those books.

What other projects do you have coming up?
Bee Season. (It’s) an amazing book written by Myla Goldberg. It’s an art film. As entertaining and kind of embracing as Shall We Dance? is, this other one is very dark and difficult.

What’s the role?
I play a religion professor at Berkeley. This is a dysfunctional family, extremely dysfunctional, and no dancing. (But) I had to learn the violin, which is the hardest thing that I’ve ever done, and in the end it wasn’t me (playing onscreen). I had these visions of me playing my own violin stuff, but no, I couldn’t do it.