There are several bad habits or shortcomings on the dance floor. Some – like poor hygiene – you can’t really do anything about at the moment of dance. Sometimes, the primary concern is keeping yourself safe with a dangerous partner. However, we have put together a list of some of the most common dance floor complaints, and ways that you can help make these dances fun for yourself.

1. Off time. There goes the ‘1’ again.

The Feeling: “The beat. It’s right there. How do you not hear it? It’s literally the only thing I can hear.”

The Assessment:Well, yes, it may be the only thing that you can hear at that moment… but unless you’ve got some awesome superpower, there is no way you will convince your current partner to hear it in the next 3 minutes. If they’re just a little off, it’s possible to do a minor correction by speeding up or slowing down your own steps to try to pull your partner on beat – but if they truly can’t hear the rhythm, there’s not much you can do to fix him or her.

Fix Your Dance:
Strategy 1: Find something in the music to dance to other than the beat. Interpret something else in the music that speaks to you.

  • If your follow isn’t on time, try slowing down or adding specific accents to fun parts of the music.
  • If your lead is the one that is beat-deaf, try using any spins or open movements to add your flair to parts of the music.

Strategy 2: If there is absolutely no cohesion between song and partner, then ignore the music. Concentrate on your partner. See if you can find something challenging or unique in the lead that allows you to work on connection or push your limits in a fun new way. Look at an off-beat partner as an opportunity to practice instant lead-follow reaction. Sometimes, an off-time partner can fast-track your ability to connect in new and innovative ways to compensate for the fact that there is no distinct rhythm to rely on.

2a. (Follows) Backleading: I Didn’t Lead That.

The Feeling: “Oh. Hello. You’re over there now. How did you get over there? I certainly didn’t recommend that. Do you think that’s styling? That’s really not styling.”

The Assessment: Well, she is just going to do what she wants anyways. She may even think she (or he) is following. Maybe someone taught them that this one particular ending always follows that one particular entry. Whatever the reason, it’s best to adapt to the follow than try to force her back on your page.

Fix Your Dance: If she goes somewhere, let her. You follow her. She went for it? Great. Challenge yourself to make something creative out of it. She clearly had something in mind. Who knows? She might open your mind to a brand-new move that you never thought of before.

2b. (Leads) Show-offing: I’m Here Too.

The Feeling: “Helloooooo. I’m here toooooo. Great. Yeah. Ok. You can do 5 spins. So can I, but apparently you spend more time learning how to make yourself look good rather than paying attention to how I feel.

The Assessment: Well, if your partner is going to show off, you pretty much can assume carte-blanche to do the same. Be funny, goofy, sexy, or totally outlandish. Take your pick.

Fix Your Dance: See if matching their energy will draw their attention back to you. Sometimes it will work, and they’ll realize they have a partner that wants to share the spotlight. If not, just rock out. Make the dance yours, and let them have their own personal dance a few feet from you.

3. Not Hitting the Musical Accents: Can’t you hear the awesome song that’s playing?

The Feeling: “Ohmigawd. I love this song. It’s amazing. And you’re ignoring it. The rises and falls…. the accents… they’re just… passing by. It’s like the river is full of fish, and I’m holding a rod, but someone forgot to put the bait on the end of the line.”

The Assessment: Kind of like not hearing the beat, there’s very little chance you’ll be able to fix this in the next song. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t express your own musicality.

Fix Your Dance: Except in the closest-of-close holds, you likely have a body part free. Use it. Have a foot? Flick it. Have a hand? Do something with it. What about your head? Or a core body roll? Leg sweep? Shoulder roll? Hip roll? The possibilities are endless. Stop focusing on your partner’s shortcomings and focus on what you can do to make yourself feel the music.

4. Limited Repertoire: We’re doing that again?

The Feeling: “Ok. I tried to do something new. You clearly don’t know what the heck I’m leading. I feel so confined by all these basic movements” OR “Ugh. Can’t you lead something else? We’ve done this same move like… 20 times. I want something new. I want challenge.”

The Assessment: This is where patience is a virtue. They’re not going to learn something new on the floor. Additionally, these are often the people who need the most support and encouragement because they are likely new or inexperienced – and trying really effing hard to do well.

Fix Your Dance: Take the basics, and spice them. For follows: try styling. Play with isolations. Find opportunities for self-expression within the simplest moves. Practice technique. For leads: Find different ways you can create new moves for yourself while respecting the follow’s abilities. Maybe add a turn for yourself, or some extra footwork. Practice technique and frame. These types of people can turn into wonderful practice partners – if you let them.

5. Bad Connection pt. 1: Where’s My Partner?

The Feeling: “This person is invisible. Not invisible like ‘marshmallow light connection that feels like rainbows and everything made of pure light and beauty‘; rather, there is actually nothing there. Nada. No connection. I know because I feel nothing, and they don’t respond to any direction I give them. If they were not visible I’d assume I was dancing with nothing.”

The Assessment: Well, connection (or lack thereof) is the problem. Solution: create more!

Fix Your Dance: Try using a closer-hold or body contact position. The more points of contact you can establish, the more you can do with this type of partner. Add more frame. If necessary, just abandon what you formally think of as ‘the dance’, and allow yourself to move into a realm of just moving with the person.

6. Bad Connection pt. 2: TOO MUCH PARTNER!!

The Feeling: “TOO MUCH FEELING! You do not need 200 tons of force to execute that move. Seriously. Wooooah, Nelly.”

The Assessment: The immediate need is to make sure you don’t get hauled around. Focus on lightening what is going on.

Fix Your Dance: Slow things down, if you’re a lead. This can help calm a follow. If this goes in hand with backleading, use the same strategies listed above. Close holds can also work well to mellow these dancers. For both leads and follows, disengage your arm muscles. Stay relaxed, but keep your core. Don’t try to fully lead or follow, as that can get dangerous. Mellow the dance by providing less connection, and if necessary, just dance on your own and ignore commands that are too harsh, abrupt, or dangerous to execute.

Always remember:

Your partner is a person too. You may actually be one of their favourite partners. Be kind. Some of these people may be trying very hard to correct these very issues. Some may be beginners. Some may be dancing just for fun and a social outlet – and whether you agree or not, that’s totally allowed too. Some may be downright terrified that they’re not dancing well enough.

Dancing with them may not make your night, but it doesn’t mean you didn’t make theirs – and that is its’ own special, wonderful feeling. As a teacher, I get to experience this all the time. These dances will always be part of the social dance world, and learning to embrace and rescue these dances can be your key to enjoying social dancing on a consistent basis – rather than stewing in frustration and becoming jaded with the dance scene.

Dance on. Revel in the great dances, enjoy the good dances, and learn to make the others into the best dance it can be!

How do you rescue dances and turn them into an awesome memory?

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Photo: Brian De Rivera Simon, Tarsipix Studios