The definition of “social media” that I mention above – namely, “A means of communication that enables large groups of people to interact, share information, develop social contacts, and enable social networking” – applies pretty well to lead/follow partner dancing. Granted, the “information” being shared is entirely physical (or kinaesthetic, to get technical about it). But one cannot really dispute that the social dance scene enables interaction and connections among large groups of people who might otherwise not even have said hello to each other on the street. When one travels, seeking out the local dance scene is often a means to experience the local culture in ways that other visitors would miss. And there is no question that one’s life can be transformed in incredible ways through the social connections made through partner dancing.
Given that this week is Salsaholics class outing to El Rancho (we’re heading down after class – even if you don’t usually join us at the church, come say hi at the club!), I thought it might be worthwhile to share some ideas that will help you have a good experience on the social dance floor.
Before you go: Partner dancing is about sharing an experience in close proximity to another person. Therefore, you’re going to want to look good and smell good. The looking good part can be accomplished an any number of ways depending on your style; the smelling good part is pretty much the same for everyone. Come across as “clean,” with no strong scents (neither overly sweet nor sour – leave that for the Asian food!). And speaking of food, breath mints or gum are your friend. Likewise a change of shirt through the evening.
While at the club: Smile. (You’d be surprised at how many dancers look like they’re taking a final exam or starting a factory shift while participating in one of the most joyous activities known to human kind.) If you’re asking someone to dance – and this can be either gender inviting the dance – make eye contact, smile, ask politely, and extend your hand in invitation. The person being asked has the option to refuse without giving a reason. But please, PLEASE, if you’ve just turned down a dance with someone (especially if you use the standard excuse of “I’m taking a break”) don’t get up immediately thereafter and dance with the hot dude or chick. Be discreet and respectful!
Do dance with a “beginner” (i.e. someone you assess at a lower level of skill than yourself), and not as a “pity dance.” If you’re a leader, follow your follower’s cues and capabilities. If you’re a follower dancing with a less-skilled leader, you can enhance your own experience (and possibly be remembered as the “best dance of the night”) by adding extra styling and interpretive notes. Whatever you do, appear interested and engaged rather than bored.
If you find yourself in a “bad dance” – by which I mean dancing with a dangerous dancer, that is, one who is hurting you or “creeping” on you – you have every right to politely ask the person to stop doing whatever is wrong, or if need be, stop the dance, and leave the floor.
At the end of a dance: Look your partner in the eye. Smile. Thank your partner for the dance. If it’s been particularly great and you’d like another, ask. With a smile.
Most of all, have fun, be safe, and relax. It’s not a test.