Dancer A: I never dance with beginners
Dancer B: Why?
Dancer A: They suck!
Dancer B: (Speechless)…
Unfortunately some people actually do think this way. And you know what? That’s their prerogative.
I’ve recently started using a new catchphrase for how I behave in many of my interactions in my day to day life and that is “Do whatever the f##k you want”. Obviously I don’t apply this to every situation I encounter in life (I’m not a total di#k ;) ) but I don’t think people need to be told how to behave in their day to day life (in most situations). However, maybe people should think about their actions a little bit more.
Anyway, back to dancing. We’ve all been beginners before and we know how it felt to go to social dances as a beginner; for many it can be a terrifying and stressful situation. Try reminding yourself, you had very little experience dancing (maybe none other than a single dance class) and you’re suddenly in an environment where everyone dancing (hopefully many of them dancing well), doing combinations that make your head spin and reacting to changes in the music that fill you with awe and admiration and… fear. The fear of knowing that you can’t dance anything like that.
If you dance well now, obviously you got over that initial fear or at least you were able to bear through it, racking up “experience points” by dancing with better and better dancers and getting to where you are now as a dancer. Go You! (Virtual High-5).
You know it’s not easy, as a beginner, to ask someone out to dance. You’re either terrified they’ll say “No” and damage your ego… or you’re terrified they’ll say “Yes” and then you’ll dance badly… and damage your ego. It’s a beautiful dichotomy really.
We need Newbies
Let’s be honest, dance communities, in general, are very dynamic. People come and go constantly so in order for a dance community to grow and develop there needs to be a relatively constant influx of “new blood” to replace those who eventually leave. As more experienced dancers, who have been through the initial discomfort of being beginners, I feel that it’s our responsibility to at least do a “little bit” towards nurturing the development of newbies.
The inspiration for this article came from a post that a friend of mine (thanks Rui) made on his Facebook page asking more experienced dancers to actively ask beginners out to dance. This way, new dancers would get more experience with higher-level dancers, smoothing-out their transition into the dance world.
It sounds like a great idea to me but I don’t think it’s THE solution that is needed. Of course I encourage higher-level dancers to not only accept dances from new dancers but also to show them a great time while doing it. What I mean is to show beginners that you’re having a good time with them. I say this because when I started out I distinctly remember dancing with some high level follows who showed with their facial expressions, just how uninterested they were in the dance. If that’s how you, as an experienced dancer, think it’s acceptable to dance with a beginner, then just don’t bother! Keep your “Resting Bitch Face” to yourself (and I’m talking to both men and women). If you don’t want to dance with a beginner then don’t but if you do, then show them a good time to encourage them as dancers.
Beginners: Do something about it!
I need to be honest, though; I don’t think that getting experienced dancers to actively ask out newbies is a particularly viable solution. For one, it’s putting too much responsibility on them. People dance for fun, not necessarily to become a dance community crusader. Yeah, I think, they “should” dance with newbies but I’m not going to say that they “have to” either. On top of that, I really think that the initiative should come from the beginners themselves.
That’s right “Newbies”, after all that coddling I gave you at the start of this article, now I’m calling you out. You got into this big, scary dance world because you want to learn to dance. Now you’ve got to step out of your comfort zone and actually start dancing socially.
I know how intimidating it is. You see so many great dancers doing so many things that you “feel like” you could never do and it scares you. You don’t want to make a mistake, you don’t want to bore someone for a whole song, you don’t want to step on somebodies toes… it’s performance anxiety at it’s worst. But you know what? We all had to go through it… and we survived. So will you.
You want to get better at dancing and the only way that’s going to happen is if you dance more… so “suck it up” and ask someone out to dance. If you’re a girl, don’t fall into that ridiculously outdated trap of feeling that you should wait for a man to ask you out to dance. The dance community is much more progressive than that. I rarely ask someone to dance anymore because girls know they can approach me and I’ll be happy to dance with them, regardless of their level. If you’re a guy just strut right up to a girl that’s not dancing (but looks like she wants to) and politely ask her to dance. It’s really that easy. 95% of the time, the person you ask will say “YES”. Remember that.
Caveat: Bear in mind please that just because one person agrees to dance with you once, it doesn’t mean they want to spend the night dancing with you. People usually go social dancing because they want to dance with a lot of different people or with their friends. Leave them do that. And remember to always say thank you ;) . Also bear in mind that sometimes, people will say “No” and that’s their prerogative. They may have a genuine reason, or they may not. Either way, don’t let it bother you and just ask the next person. You’re there to have fun so make sure you do.
We all have a part to play!
The dance community can be a really beautiful thing if we nurture it the right way. Experienced dancers don’t shouldn’t feel they have to go out of their way to ask out beginners but it’s also important that beginners feel that they won’t be constantly turned down. Play your part and the community will grow and develop into something bigger and better.
Keep dancing folks.