Category Archives: skills

Why Aren’t I Getting Asked to Dance?

So, I came to Jive Junction, and nobody asked me to dance. What gives?

This is a question we sometimes hear, and a fear we’ve probably all had!

The Numbers
Many people assume that most people come to dances with a partner, and they dance only with that partner the whole night. That may be true at some dances, but it has not historically been true at Jive Junction.

One particular evening, I kept a tally. About 60% of people who came to Jive Junction that night came with one other person of the opposite gender (so, as a couple). The remaining 40% came either alone (about 20%) or part of a group of either mixed-genders or the same gender (20%).

About 75% of those who came as a couple danced with another person (other than their “partner”) at least once during the night. (This is kind of a rough figure, as I cannot follow everyone around all night, I just tried to keep a tally in my head of who I saw dancing with whom.)

Generally speaking, those who dance only with the person they came with tended to be beginners, who probably lack the confidence that is generally needed to ask a stranger to dance. And that is completely understandable! (And, uh, also those who have small children and rarely have an opportunity to dance together just for fun these days…)

(For the record – S3 tends to be heavily weighted towards singles. Only four people ever came as part of a couple – Randy and Sarah, Mike and Janet – and those four rarely danced with their spouse. Nobody who came to S3 sat out any dances unless they wanted to.)

The Experience
Alright, so we know statistics are on our side. But that doesn’t guarantee that everyone will be asked to dance, or that everyone will get to dance every dance, or even that everyone will be able to dance as many dances as they want.

I’ve also spent several Jive Junctions observing those who are seated during any particular song, and particularly those seated two songs in a row. Here’s what I’ve observed:

– Many of those seated seem to be engrossed in conversation. Available dance partners seem to avoid interrupting a deep conversation to ask someone to dance. Light conversation seems to be interruptable.

– Many of those seated for multiple songs in a row looked cross or inaccessible. Their facial expressions were closed, eyes looked down, they avoided eye contact, their arms were crossed. They looked like they’d rather be grocery shopping than dancing. This does not generally say “please ask me to dance!”

– Seating also plays somewhat of a role. Single people who choose to sit along the back of the room seem to be asked to dance less frequently than those seated (or, better yet, standing) closer to the door. That’s just the traffic pattern at JJ.

– Those are remain seated a lot tend to also seem to not know many people at Jive Junction. Becoming friendly with fellow attenders also increases the number of times you are likely to be asked to dance. It is less intimidating for EVERYONE to dance with someone they know than to dance with a total stranger.

– Remaining seated tends to play a role, too. Think about it. First, if you’re sitting down and look like you’re comfortably settled, you look less accessible. Second, when you’re sitting down, you’re much much shorter than potential dance partners, who will typically be standing. It makes conversation awkward.

So – if you’re coming to Jive Junction and are not satisfied with the frequency with which you are asked to dance – consider whether you look approachable. Sit or stand along the side wall, make eye contact with others, be open and friendly, and you will greatly increase your chances of being asked to dance.

And – please don’t forget – if you want to dance with someone…it’s usually as simple as asking them. Folks rarely turn down an invitation to dance at Jive Junction!

My own experience at dances (outside of Jive Junction) has been very similar to my findings above. When I’m engaged in deep conversation with someone, I am rarely asked to dance. When I sit in the corner or off to the side, I am asked less frequently. When I am focused inward, looking down, sitting defensively with my arms crossed, and avoiding eye contact with others, I am not asked to dance. (This worked great when I was in my last trimester with Wally and didn’t feel comfortable dancing with strangers!)

When I am seated near the dance floor, easily accessible, making eye contact, looking happy, and focused on the activity around me – I am asked to dance much, much more frequently.

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Getting Better

So often, dancers say something along these lines, “gee, I wish I were a better dancer, but I’m not sure what to do to get better.”

Well, ladies and gents, I am here to provide that answer!! Here are five tips to get you moving down the path to being a better dancer than you are today.

1. Practice. Practice, practice, practice, practice. Nothing takes the place of simply doing something over and over again until it’s second nature. Consider any other skill you wish to develop. Want to become a better piano player? Play the piano more. Want to lift more weight? Lift weights more. Want to dance better? Dance more.

2. Go out dancing. Go to dances. Go to places where there is music. Go out in public and dance. Dancing at a dance is different than dancing in the privacy of your own home. In your own home, you might have a tendency to stop and start, to work on something you feel needs improvement, and this is a good thing. But you also need to just dance, to have to start and then complete a song without stopping in the middle.

3. Dance with others. This is the other benefit of going out dancing. The opportunity to dance with others. You will get better faster (and better, period) through dancing with people other than your regular partner, if you have one. You and a regular dance partner will tend to do two things: 1: fall into bad habits with each other, 2: get really predictable, and lose your lead/follow skills. Dance with others!!

4. Record yourself dancing and watch it. Watching yourself dancing can be very humbling. I remember the first time I watched myself dance. I was so embarrassed that I had been out – in public – dancing like that! yikes!! But it gave me a great opportunity to notice a few really visually annoying things that I did, and it also showed me some places that I needed to work on my technique.

5. Learn some new skills. Some people need more moves to feel more confident, some people want to learn or develop their skills – leading and following, footwork, improvisation, whatever. Sometimes these skills can be learned best through a class, sometimes through experimentation.