How to deal with a partner on the dance floor is sometimes a source of much consternation, particularly among newer dancers. From discomfort with asking and accepting (or declining) a dance, to uncertainty about what to do if you mess up or are injured, social dancing can be frought with potentially uncomfortable situations. Well, fret no more! Just read on…
What do I do if I am being hurt or groped on the dance floor?
If your partner hurts you more than once while dancing (or gropes more than once), it is OK to simply stop dancing and leave the floor. Say something like “I’m sorry, my wrist is hurting me,” or be more direct and say “ouch, you’ve managed to wrench my shoulder.”
Why do I say “more than once”? Because once could easily be an accident.
How do I ask for a dance?
Take a deep breath, walk up to someone, and say “want to dance?” Try to ask one specific person, rather than a group. “Would any of you like to dance” will usually result in a long pause, while the group nonverbally checks with one another until someone finally steps forward. A group of girls will usually take a LONG time to respond to this question, because everyone will defer to the others out of politeness. Meanwhile, the asker has to stand there feeling uncomfortable.
How do I accept or decline a dance?
Accepting is easy. Say “sure” and get up and go out to the floor with your partner.
Declining is also not hard. If you just simply do not care to dance with whoever is doing the asking, say “no, thank you.” If you have a reason for not wanting to dance to that particular song, but wish to dance later, say something like “this song is too fast, but I’d love to dance the next time a slower song is played” or “I’m exhausted after that last song, but maybe later.”
It is polite to sit out the entire song after declining an invitation to dance, so if someone else asks you during the same song, you must refuse them, as well.
How do I end a dance?
Thank your partner. Traditional etiquette is to walk your partner back to where you found them, but this is a somewhat awkward social situation these days, and many people prefer to end a song by simply thanking their partner, and then running off. This is not rude, but merely a byproduct of so many DJ’d dances these days leaving less time between dances to find a partner for the next song.
If you wish to dance another song with your current partner, ask first. “Want to dance another one?”
What if I mess up during a dance?
Well, this is likely to happen – EVERYONE messes up. All followers miss a lead on occasion, All leaders lead inadequately from time to time, and everyone takes a misstep now and then. Don’t sweat it. Don’t feel that you have to apologize. Feel free to apologize if you want, but if you find yourself apologizing after every third move, that’s probably too much! I have had, on occasion, dances where I’m in far less than perfect form. I’m sick, or distracted, or whatever, and I mess up SO MUCH that I feel an apology and excuse are in order after a dance is over. “Gosh, I’m sorry about that. I’ll owe you another dance on a different day. I am so exhausted tonight, I’m kind of stumbling over my own feet!”
Dancing with dancers of different skill levels
Please dance with dancers who are better than you, and who are not as skilled as you!
If you’re a leader and dancing with someone less skilled than you, stick to easy things until you’re confident she can/will follow more complex moves. If she struggles, take it down a notch. If you’re a leader dancing with someone MORE skilled than you, don’t sweat it! Lead what you know, and don’t feel compelled to try to do only complex moves in an attempt to impress your partner.
If you’re a follower dancing with someone more skilled than you, he should make the dance easy on you – as ANY leader should make a dance easy for ANY follower. If you find yourself consistently unable to follow his leads, don’t worry about it – it is NOT your fault! He’s either not leading properly, or he’s trying to lead things that you just don’t have the skills yet to follow, and he should be catching on to that fact and adjusting. If you’re a follower dancing with someone less skilled than you, keep your steps basic, and don’t throw in fancy footwork variations until you’re sure they won’t confuse him.
Some of the dancers are so snobby!
To borrow from the Austin Swing Syndicate, “Sometimes a perception exists that good dancers only hang out with other good dancers. This is a by-product of the fact that many dancers have been dancing together for a long time and know each other better. For the most part, few people within the scene are intentionally reinforcing this perception. Feel free to break the ice if they don’t.”
Lots of more great tips at Gotta Dance and Austin Swing Syndicate.
Up next…. What about aerials, dips, fancy moves, and erratic dancers?