Some dancers only dance socially. Many competitive dancers dance socially as well. Even competitive dancers who rarely dance socially, may dance with different partners from time to time. If you fall into any of these categories, or think you might ever do any social dancing, here are a few tips.
Many people think that the most desirable dancers to dance with socially are those who are the most skilled. Not exactly. The most desirable dancers are the ones that feel good to dance with. These 6 points will definitely help you to be one.
1. Respect your partner.
- Pay close attention to your personal hygiene. Most people make sure to freshen up and have on clean clothes when meeting someone they feel is important. Anyone willing to dance with you should be important to you for the time you spend together on the floor. After a long day at work, even sitting in an office, you will have built up sweat and bacteria on your body and clothes. Bacteria causes odor. It might not be enough to cause a smell at the office, but it sure will when you start to dance. It might not be noticeable to the person sitting across from you at a dinner table, but it will be noticed by anyone with you in a dance hold. In general, you may not ever notice it yourself, but your partners definitely will.
TIP: If you are planning to dance straight after a long day at work, change your shirt or blouse. If you cannot shower first, then you should wash or put hand sanitizer under your arms to kill the bacteria that causes smell. I saw a sign with this suggestion in the washroom of a studio I visited, and that alone made me think it would be a great place to attend socials.
2. If you think you know a lot, be careful about how you show it.
- Don’t teach your partner during a social dance unless your partner is truly your student and they request it. When dancing socially, the primary objective is to have fun. When someone gives instruction or criticism during a dance, or stops the dance in the middle of the floor to give you a breakdown and correction of all your flaws it is not fun and it is often embarrassing.
TIP: The best thing you can do to show your skill is to be a great leader or follower. As a leader, if your partner is struggling with a particular step, pay attention and either modify the step or don’t do it again. As a follower your partner may not be leading an exact textbook version of a step. That’s OK. The fun and adventure in following is interpreting whatever the lead might be. Think of life with no variety. Dancing without variety would be just as dull. A truly skilled dancer can adapt to a partner of any level or approach. If you can’t dial it down or adjust, you are probably learning yourself and a bit fragile with your new information. That is OK, but then please don’t judge others.
3. Remember that your next potential partners are watching how you dance with the one you have.
- If you look extremely bored, make odd faces or talk negatively about a partner after you dance, why would others want to risk having you do the same with them?
TIP: Unless your experience on the floor is deeply insulting or could warrant police charges, remember that it will only last 90 to 120 seconds. Just relax, smile and move on.
4. The #1 rule for a leader – don’t knock your partner off balance.
TIP: Never treat your partner like a stick shift. An aggressive push or pull with your hands only instead of a full body lead is extremely unpleasant. It is first of all confusing since the leader’s body and hands do not match. With this, the follower may misstep, and then may lose balance trying to recover. When the leader’s hand moves are not a continuation of their body moves, the follower does not have enough time to respond. With this the follower may appear stuck, and then may lose balance. Also whatever you do with your hands as a leader, the follower will continue in an amplified way. If the lead is overly aggressive, it will cause too much momentum, so again, so the follower may lose balance.
5. The #1 rule for a follower – don’t lead or disregard the lead you get.
TIP: The responsibility of a follower is to respond. The opportunity is to interpret and enhance. To respond to anything you need to be in the moment and ready to go – “tone but no tension, and simply pay attention”. No leader can really cover for you here, and if you are not prepared, you will risk being led like a stick shift. Also, the roles of leader and follower should be clear before you start dancing. It is not up to the follower to back-lead, take over the lead, or do your own thing, unless you both agree. To understand how this feels, think about how it would feel if your leader just stopped leading in the middle of a dance, and just stood there waiting for you to pick-up on a change in their role to now become a follower; and did this without getting your agreement. Dis-regarding the role of the leader feels just as weird as that would.
6. Just Do It!
TIP: Social dancing really is dancing for fun. Even if competition is your only goal, having fun in a social way is great, and can make you more versatile. If you are concerned about losing your competition frame or technique, you might consider dancing socially with just your partner, or replacing a lesson with a planned social dancing event with your teacher. In truth, you actually don’t even have to have a planned evening outing. Dancing for fun in the studio will sharpen you leading or following skills. It will also help you explore your creativity and connect to the joy of dance in the purest form.