Maybe you want more dances in an evening, or maybe you would just like more enjoyment of the dances you have. You could be wondering how to be more musical, or you could simply want to stay on time. No matter what, if you’re a leader on the dance floor, you would probably like to become a better one.
The following hard-won advice are things I’ve picked up or learned from others on how to be the best leader you can be, from when you first see a potential dance partner, right up until the music ends.
1. Ask, with confidence.
Many of us fear rejection so much that we sabotage ourselves before the dance even begins. When looking to ask someone to dance, you may need to ‘trick’ your body into behaving more confidently than you feel:
- Imagine that you are the best dancer in the room, and it’s her loss if she says no.
- Rehearse a simple phrase like ‘would you like to dance?’ until you can say it automatically and confidently.
- Watch for the less experienced dancers and ask one of them first. This helps relax you can boosts your confidence, so you can take on more advanced dancers later.
2. Plan ahead, and be assertive.
Many beginner leaders worry about being creative enough; they try to show off and usually end up awkwardly switching to a new step halfway through the current one. To avoid this, dance patterns you know well, while planning ahead for the occasional advanced step. Remember that your partner would rather dance simple steps comfortably and safely, than be jerked into patterns at the last second. Over time, you’ll find you can still plan ahead while dancing more and more difficult combinations.
3. Learn to smile!
What easier way to instil confidence in your partner, while conveying that you enjoy dancing and invite them to enjoy it with you? A smile, even if you have to plaster it on your face, instantly makes you less distant and scary-looking, and therefore more like someone worth dancing with. And as a bonus, studies have proven that even a fake smile creates a feeling of happiness, allowing you to dance better and shrug off mistakes faster.
4. Protect the partnership.
Another important role of the leader is that of protector on the dance floor. To keep yourself and your partner safe from collisions, practice thinking like a car driver:
- Stay constantly aware of nearby couples, and try to anticipate and avoid problems early.
- Maintain a buffer of space (one metre if possible) between your partner and any other solid object.
- Look for openings between couples where you can merge with traffic.
- Guide your partner gently on and off the dance floor with a hand on her back.
5. Forgive mistakes, yours and your partners.
No matter how hard you try, mistakes and missteps will happen on both sides. When this happens, the best thing you can do is swallow your pride, smile, and perhaps offer a lighthearted joke (‘don’t worry, we won’t have to amputate this time…’) Time spent berating yourself for a mistake is time you could have spent enjoying the dance, so move on! I can honestly say there have been dances where my partner and I enjoyed it more because we’d both made mistakes, and laughed them off – far better than two perfectionists trying to outdo each other.
Notice that none of these tips have anything to do with how good a dancer you are? Focus on being a decent human being to your partner instead, and the dancing will come with time.