Recently, I was at an event that was organized by people who are not partner dancers. In other words, they enjoy dance, but mostly in a solo, freestyle, do-what-expresses-you style. Nothing wrong with that, of course—in fact, there’s a lot right with anyone expressing their feelings about, and interpretation of, great music (or even not-so-great music!). But, dancing with a partner is different. Dancing with a partner means connecting with more than the music and your inner muse; you have another, separate and apart muse with whom to concern yourself. I provided some of the music and helped to create the environment for a time. When the organizers took over, the dynamic changed. So here are some suggestions for non-dancers organizing a dance party.
- The music should be relatively unambiguous, irrespective of its style, so that both partners can hear the same beats, cuts, hits, bridges, and other coordinating aspects. Not all music to which one can dance solo is optimal for partner connection.
- Do not switch the song in the middle of a song. A partner dance is a conversation, not a soliloquy or manifesto. If you don’t happen to like the song, tough it out—it’s a measly three or four minutes of your life and won’t kill you. It will kill the connection and feeling on the floor if the music is suddenly cut, and something else unrelated suddenly appears.
- If, upon changing music, your dance floor goes from 50 people dancing to 3 people dancing, you’ve made a mistake. It doesn’t matter how dope your song might be. As the DJ, your job is to ensure the dance floor is full as much as possible. Notwithstanding Rule 2, bring the non-dancing music down ASAP, switch songs, and reignite your dance floor.
- Corollary to Rule 3: If your dance floor is full with people who look like they’re enjoying themselves, you’re doing a great job. Keep up the good work!
- Match the music to your event. For example, if your event is called “Something Swing,” play music that swings. If your event is called “Something Tango,” play music for tango. If your event is called “Something Scots” then it’s tartans, kilts, and bagpipes. If you advertise Top Urban 40, you probably shouldn’t be playing salsa or bachata… and vice versa.
- Rely on the judgment of a partner dancer (or better yet, experienced DJ) experienced in the style for which you nominally want to program (see Rule 5)—they probably know what will work to create a great party, when we…
See you on the dance floor.