by Roger Weiss
This article was published in the March/April 1994 Boston Swing Dance Society newsletter.
As a local dance teacher and producer, I’ve heard a lot of comments from dancers about feeling uncomfortable or inhibited on the dance floor.
Beginning dancers sometimes feel uncomfortable because they don’t know many people and it seems that everybody else at a dance knows each other. Try attending the lesson before the dance, if there is one. The lesson is a good way both to warm up and to get to know people, especially because everyone is usually encouraged to switch partners. By the time the dance starts, you’ve shared a common experience with anywhere from twenty to a hundred people, and you may even have several prospective dance partners.
Beginning (and even not-so-beginning) dancers also worry that they can’t dance as well as the other people in the room. Often , a man is hesitant to ask a woman to dance if he feels that she’s a much better dancer than he is. But remember that a lot of the enjoyment of dancing comes more from the feeling you get dancing with your partner than from doing fancy moves. If, as a leader, you feel unsure about your dancing, here are a few suggestions: stick to moves you know, listen to the music, talk to your partner, and smile. Followers should try to relax and connect with their partners. It’s your partner’s responsibility to make you feel comfortable. A good lead will always dance to your level of experience, and will never show off. Couple dancing is not about how well you can dance, but how well the two of you can dance together.
Many people hesitate to ask the more experienced dancers to dance because they see them as “dance snobs” – dancers who dance only with other good dancers. Keep in mind that a lot of experienced dancers have been dancing with one another for years and have become friends.
Experienced dancers, however, could benefit the whole dance community by making the effort to dance with newcomers to make them feel welcome. If a newcomer has at least one good dance experience, he or she is more likely to come back and perhaps tell friends about the experience. Without a constant influx of new people, the dance scene would eventually dry up.
Remember, we’re dancing to have fun. Taking it too seriously and feeling intimidated wastes a lot of time. Don’t worry about learning every new move; time will take care of that. Listen to and dance with the music. When you do what you can to make your partner enjoy dancing with you, the pleasure will be returned manyfold.
Copyright Roger Weiss, ©1990 All rights reserved by the author. Duplication or use in any other medium, including but not limited to print publication, another web site, or downloading to a storage medium on CD, floppy disk, hard drive, zip drive, or tape, without the written permission of the author is prohibited.