Do you remember the first time that you went out social dancing? I sure do. I was nervous that people would judge me as I struggled to get even the basic moves down. I was afraid that everyone would be watching me. I was apprehensive about asking strangers to dance. I found myself pondering a simple but important question: did I eat onions today?
Having been to many socials since then, I now know that these were mostly irrelevant questions (except the last one). Whether you’re going out to dance salsa, bachata, merengue, kizomba, swing, or something else, there are some basic guidelines that we think will help guide you through your social dancing experience.
You will find yourself in close proximity to another human being for at least one song. Try to follow basic hygiene (hopefully you’ve showered within the past day, are wearing deodorant, have brushed your teeth today, etc.); in addition, gum or mints help keep things fresh. Keep in mind that the music will be loud and you’ll be trying to talk to people in close quarters. Follow the Golden Rule of Dancing: smell as you’d like others to smell.
FRIENDS OR STRANGERS
In short: bring ’em or make ’em. If you’re an extrovert, this may not pose a problem. There are many people of diverse backgrounds that come into the dancing scene that will excite and inspire you. If you’re like me, you need a bit more advice than “just talk to people.” If you’ve taken a dance class before, you could look for your instructor(s) and/or people that you recognize from class. Try to encourage your friends to come out with you if you’re nervous about dancing with strangers. Dancing with your friends may help you progress into dancing with strangers.
Though this topic deserves its own post, there are some brief guidelines that will help you navigate through the scene. If someone asks you to dance, you should say yes unless you’re leaving, taking a break, or something comparable. If something goes wrong (collisions, elbows to the face, messed up moves, hurt toes), make sure to apologize even if it’s not entirely your fault. Try to maintain a respectful distance from your partner until you both feel comfortable enough to get closer. Some dances are meant to be danced closer than others and some people will want to get closer than others, so be sure to communicate what you’re comfortable with. When a dance is over, be sure to say thank you!
This is probably the one that most of us need help with the most, so I made sure to ask two instructors about their tips. Salsa instructor Kim Windfield said that most beginners don’t have a lot of self-confidence, worrying that “when they’re dancing, they’re afraid other people are looking at them. In fact, nobody’s watching you. Worrying too much makes it hard for someone to let loose, move their body, and enjoy the music.” I definitely found this to be true. When I started, I thought everyone was watching me. Now, I can tell you with confidence that I’m focusing on myself and my partner when I’m dancing.
People also tend to get frustrated with themselves when they walk in and see the veteran dancers. For some strange reason, we think that we should be able to compete with the people that have been dancing for ten years! Bachata instructor Alvin advised beginners to “be patient with yourself because everyone always wants to learn everything at once, but being patient with yourself means you won’t be too hard on yourself.”
At least one woman that I know always has baby powder with her to help out with sticky or awkward floors. Some of the men that I know bring extra shirts in case they get too sweaty in their first one. Towels can also help to keep the sweat off of you. Bringing a bag with you for your shoes, deodorant, gum, etc. can help get everything in one place.
THE BOTTOM LINE
DO remember to practice basic hygiene. Gum is also good to have and is easy to carry around.
DO remember to have a positive attitude.
DON’T get in your head. You went out to have a good time and practice your moves, not to try out for Dancing with the Stars.
DON’T compare yourself to the veterans. Everybody was a beginner at one time.
Hopefully, you’ll get through your first social dancing experience without any major issues. Just remember to have fun.
Remember your first time social dancing? Have a story to share? Be sure to leave it below!
Next level: being photogenic while you dance.