God Awful Dancers

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“My God! How long is this bloody song?”

What dancer hasn’t thought this? It could genuinely be that the song is exceptionally long, that you’re running out of moves as a lead or you’re getting bored of the same stuff as a follow.

This happens, and there are plenty of salsa songs that bring you into that terrifying seven, eight or even nine minute territory where only the most experienced and skilled salseros feel comfortable. Given time, these are perfectly avoidable if you can remember which songs are particularly long. Just listen to the start and if you know it’s a long one make yourself scarce. Maybe it’s time for a bathroom break?

But I’m not going to talk about those dances that feel long because the songs are long themselves; you learn to manage these with time, experience and plenty of improvisation. No, I’m going to talk about the other “LONG” dances; long because of the person you’re dancing with.

Now you all know what I’m talking about right! The kind of dance that feels like it’s never going to end. The type of dance where the torture just continues in excruciating slow motion. Where you struggle to hide the look of unhappiness/boredom/pure terror on your face.

My God! When will the torment end???

My God! When will the torment end???

These dances happen on occasion and for a variety of reasons. Some of the most common GADs (God Awful Dancers) I’ve carefully categorized here for easy reference.

NOTE 1: This is a non-exhaustive list, some people will always find new ways to make a dance unpleasant!!!
NOTE 2: This list is completely unisex. While it may seem like I’m speaking about a specific gender, both men and women alike are capable of these offenses.

The Claw: One of the most common of the unpleasant dancers, the claw is characterized by their vice-like grip and inability to let go when they’re supposed to. Encounters with The Claw often end in sprained fingers, wrists and even shoulders resulting from high speed turns that would have gone smoothly if they had just left go.

Can be identified from a distance by abnormally well developed forearm muscles and fingers.

Unpleasantness Rating: 7

B.O. Bob: Another beast that occasionally rears it’s ugly head on the scene is the crafty Body Odor Bob. I say crafty because from a distance they can appear to be perfectly harmless, maybe even attractive but as soon as you get up close and personal your nose-hairs begin to melt and you scream internally in the knowledge that you can’t hold your breath for the entire song.

Can be identified on occasion by slightly discolored armpit-stains and a small swarm or flies buzzing overhead. A good long-range sense of smell can also help with avoidance.

Unpleasantness Rating: 9

Cat o’ nine tails: Beautifully flowing cross-body lead, perfectly executed turn-pattern, now into the double-spin… WHACK. Time to eat extensions, amateur. Spinning hair can be a true safety hazard on the dance floor and the level of pain/discomfort inflicted varies according to the length of the hair, the style it’s tied in and the speed of the turn. I’ve come up with a simple formula to calculate the pain inflicted by spinning hair:                                    

                                                                 P = S x (T x L)

where P=Pain, S=Spinning Speed, T=Tightness of the Plait (based on a scale of 1-5, 1=a loose ponytail and 5=one single solid plait (otherwise called “the nunchuk”) and L=length.

Identified by long, untied hair occasionally with some poor guys teeth hanging off the end.

Unpleasantness Rating: Variable from 1 (kind of annoying) to 10 (could someone help me find my eyeball?)

Ever get hit with one of these babies full force in the face? Try dancing salsa and you'll get a good idea of what it feels like.

Ever get hit with one of these babies full force in the face? Try dancing salsa and you’ll get a good idea of what it feels like.

Wandering-Hands Will: Mostly a worry for female dancers (although “Wilminas” have also been documented) “Wandering-hands Will” is infamous for a tendency to put his hands where they shouldn’t be. No matter how simple the turn or combination, Will can find a way to touch parts of a woman’s physique that only her boyfriend (who Will prays is not watching) has permission to touch. Be it hands wandering a little bit too far south in the rear or a little too far north in the front, Will will “chance his arm at anything” and if he senses his prey has taken offense, will only reply with an incredibly fake “Sorry” or an disturbingly creepy sneer and wink.

Not that easy to identify as they come in all shapes and sizes but keep and eye out for the guy with his shirt unbuttoned to his naval and enough grease in his hair to fry a bag of chips.

Unpleasantness rating: 7-10

Bossy Bertha: The scourge of any lead, Bossy Bertha refuses to be told what to do and insists on controlling the flow of the dance herself. Simple turn here? “Nope, I want to do another basic”. How about an open-break? “No way, I want to do a cross body lead”. Let’s get back in time with the music? “What are you talking about, my rhythm is perfectly in time with the song. Do what I’m doing”. It simply does not matter what you do with Bertha, she will reserve the right to change it at her discretion at whatever awkward moment she sees fit. Oh and by the way, when something goes wrong… it’s your fault, not hers.

Identified by a constant scowl and general inability to smile…ever

Unpleasantness Rating: 8-9

The Screamer: This is going great, she’s followed everything I’ve thrown at her perfectly. This is one of the best dances I’ve ever had. Oh here comes that part of the song that I love, time for a super smooth dip… EAR SHATTERING SCREAM!!! There do exist some follows who, no matter how well they dance, are just not comfortable with dips. Be warned because if you try one you’re the one who’s going to have everyone looking at you like you’ve just molested someone.

Again, hard to identify but be aware a slightly nervous look in their eyes and traces of human skin under the finger nails (from the last time someone dipped them and they had to grab on for dear life).

Unpleasantness Rating: 5

Poker Face: Especially common amongst dance newbies, Poker Face’s distinguishing features are lack of … well, distinguishing features. No matter how much they’re actually enjoying the dance, they are gonna do their best not to show it. No smile, no eye contact (before anyone makes a comment I’m already well aware that I’ve had problems with this myself. I’m improving…I hope) no indication of emotion whatsoever. A dance with a Poker Face can really make you feel like you’re the worst dancer ever, no matter how well the dance actually went.

Can be easily confused with Bossy Bertha off the dance floor but in general they’re lack of smiling only stops when the dance starts.

Unpleasantness Rating: 6-7

Demolition Man: His objective, eliminate as many couples in his vicinity as he can using only his partner as a weapon. The Demolition Man will pull, push, throw and swing his partner into every couple on the dance floor with little regard for his follow who ends up feeling much like a rag-doll that’s been played with by a pit-bull.

Identified by a complete lack of spatial awareness, this is the guy that pushes grannies and small children out of the way when he’s trying to get on a bus.

Unpleasantness Rating: 15 (he bothers other couples too)

The Lost Boy: The Lost Boy dances in a perpetual “search mode”. Perpetually searching for the beat, that is. It’s a phase that many of us go through at the start but there are a few specimens that never seem to find it, no matter how long they’ve been dancing. They know plenty of combinations, plenty of tricks but they put it all together with the smoothness of a drunk monkey filling a dishwasher i.e. a complete and utter disaster.

Some people are about as efficient as this little guy at finding the beat.

Some people are about as efficient as this little guy at finding the beat.

Identified by an over enthusiastic twinkle in his eye when asked to dance and by uncoordination in simple tasks such as walking from his seat to the dance floor (when of course it’s already too late)

Unpleasantness Rating: 5-8

Caveat Dancerus There are many more ways that people can make a dance absolutely horrible but I think I’ve covered some of the main culprits with this list.

The main problem is that you can never really know how someone is going to dance until you actually dance with them. Every time you ask a dance of or accept a dance from someone you’ve never danced with before you run the risk of meeting a B.O. Bob or a Bossy Bertha. You can however, rest assured that they will let you know quite early in the dance who they really are… just so you can fully enjoy the torture of the next few minutes.

Which of these GADs have you met yourself? Let me know in the comments.

Keep Dancing Folks

What is your least favorite GAD?


  • Brittney says:

    Though I don’t condone screaming during dips (because: ears!) it must be said that any dips in social salsa beyond the teeny tiniest little leans are potentially very dangerous for the follow. Bachata is much slower and easier to control and it is (usually) easier to predict the behaviour of the folks nearby so some dips can be okay. Salsa on the other hand is fast and involves lots of quick direction changes which can make it very hard to be exactly sure where the couple next to you will be when you reach the bottom of that dip. So unless the floor is empty and your partner trusts you very very much, I would argue that dips just shouldn’t be a thing in social salsa for the sake of followers’ heads and necks everywhere! Save it for the stage.

    • As you said, if they’re kept small AND if the lead is well aware of his surroundings AND has the space for it AND knows what he’s doing, I don’t see any problems with basic dips in social salsa. There are a lot of qualifiers in that sentence though ;)

  • Cait says:

    As far as I’m concerned, the “demolition men” and “bossy berthas” are by far the worst because those two can be really dangerous. Occasionally, we all might miss something or even get a little careless. For follows, perhaps we misinterpret a lead for a move we aren’t familiar with or anticipate a lead incorrectly. Yes, I know we aren’t supposed to anticipate leads, but even the best follows have done it once or twice, at least early on. Leads might just get so excited to try that new pattern they just learned and forget to double check their surroundings. And accidents will always happen no matter how careful everyone is if the floor is crowded. BUT a follow who just won’t listen and wants to show off will eventually end up turning a simple right turn into some complicated god-only-knows-what, and leave her partner with an injury. And I have danced with leads who made me want to drop down to my knees and thank God all mighty that I survived. I have been spun into other dancers, innocent bystanders getting a drink at the bar, poor, defenseless chairs, walls, columns, tables (once one with lit candles on it), speakers and one waiter carrying a tray of sushi. That last one ended badly. But, regardless, just please remember that being slammed into people and inanimate objects (particularly ones near open flames or trays of food) is very painful. And be aware that many women wear high heels. Which hurt. A lot. Especially when they are forcefully stomping down on my foot by the girl who was just spun into me. I have even seen certain truly cruel leads try to show off by doing lifts on packed dance floors, their follows being used as battering rams to clear out the crowd (how the hell did that aforementioned high heel become face level?!) or dropped onto people, chairs or hardwood floors. Like I said, we all make mistakes. There are no perfect dancers. I sure as hell am not. And the point of social dancing really is just to have fun. Just be considerate and PLEASE don’t kill me before I’ve reached legal drinking age in the US.

    • It sounds like you’ve had more than your fair share of “experiences” on the dance floor!

      • Cait says:

        Those are really just a few extremes that stand out. For the most part, my dance nights usually go excellently, and I really do love my local latin dance community. Everyone tends to be really considerate and we all look out for each other. Anything seriously bad is really rare. Plus, I started dancing in college, and college age male are not widely known for being highly responsible, particularly in the presence of alcohol, which seemed to be a contributing factor in a couple of those incidents.

  • Melissa West-Koistila says:

    Great article!!

  • Sarah Liz Vuong says:

    Haha, a few of my friends call the “poker face” dancers “stone-cold killahs!” This article is fun, but I also think it’s important to remember that many of these problems arise due to lack of experience. Maybe “Bossy Bertha” genuinely doesn’t know how to follow yet or the “Lost Boy” may not have had enough exposure to Latin rhythms to know how to be on beat. I definitely agree that some of these GADs are unpleasant (and sometimes dangerous) and need to consider some of their faults, but we all need to be patient with one another when we’re learning. :)

    • Of course we need to be patient with new dancers, that’s how we foster their development in the dance scene. The article was just meant as a bit of a laugh.

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