When we start social dancing, we go through a period of time where we feel like all our mistakes are under a microscope.

We feel that, whenever we mess up, all those people who are sitting down at the social are judging us. Perhaps they’re thinking “How could you mess up the basic timing?” or “I can’t believe you can’t properly do that move yet. Amateur.”

These feelings can lead to a massive amount of pressure. They can lead to newbies who are afraid to take to the floor, and experienced dancers feeling pressure to ‘perform’. But, in the end…

Is anyone really watching?

The 95%

Unless you’re a top pro, no one is watching 95% of the time. First of all, most people are busy with their own dances. Second, those who are sitting are generally falling into one of three camps:

  1. They’re distracted by a friend
  2. They’re distracted by watching someone specific dance
  3. They’re processing something else (like their own insecurities or fears of judgement).

Think about how much time you spend judging other people who are dancing. Do you spend your time to the side of the floor nitpicking every mistake you see someone else make? I didn’t think so.

Quite frankly, most of us are way too preoccupied with things that affect our own experience to notice things that you’re messing up. Most of us have our own insecurities and doubts to worry about. We really don’t have space to think about your doubts and worries as well.

Just try to think of the last time you saw someone screw up, and decided what they did was a terrible, judgement-worthy mistake. My guess: you probably can’t remember a single time.

The 5%

5% of the time, you may be watched by someone. But, it’s usually not going to be when you’re having a bad dance.

What I’ve noticed from my own personal dance-watching habits is that I watch people because:

  1. I like what they’re doing (they’re having a really awesome dance)
  2. I want to dance with that person next
  3. They’re my friend or student, and I’m having a ‘proud dance teacher/friend’ moment
  4. They’re having a wardrobe malfunction
  5. They’re doing something SO BAD that it exceeds all realms of normal badness.

“I like what they’re doing”

If someone is watching you because they like what you’re doing, it’s a good thing. It means you’re inspiring people. Usually, this happens when you get two professionals dancing to a song that they reaaaaallly like. It can happen other times as well, but the point is, it has to be a *really* good dance to get noticed simply because of ‘how good’ the dance is.

“I want to dance with that person next”

Sometimes, we watch a dance because we are intrigued by what the person is doing, and we want to dance with them next. This is different from ‘I like what they’re doing’ because it’s more about hoping to experience that connection/style/dance for yourself, as opposed to watching in awe. Once again, if they’re watching you for this reason, it means you’re doing something good – not bad.

“They’re my friend or student”

This one is self-explanatory. It makes people happy to see their friends happy. When I have students who go to their first social and I see them trying the basic step socially, I get really happy. When I see one of my experienced students dance with someone they used to be intimidated by, it makes me really happy. When I see a friend of mine who is finally dancing on-time consistently, it makes me really happy, too!

You get the picture. This is also a good thing, because it’s basically people who know you being really happy about how things are going in dance for you.

“They’re having a wardrobe malfunction”

If your boob is out of your shirt, your skirt is above your butt, or your fly is undone, I feel for you. I’m probably watching for a good opportunity to tell you what’s up. We’re feeling for you. It’s not so much judgement as “Oh man, poor girl/guy. That sucks.”

“They’re doing something SO BAD that it exceeds all realms of normal badness”

I can almost guarantee you that you are not this person. It takes a very exceptionally unaware person to be this notably bad. This person is NOT someone who is:

  • off-time (even always off time),
  • speeding,
  • ‘too basic’ (which isn’t really a thing anyways),
  • has poor body awareness,
  • is struggling with basics,
  • messes up movements sometimes, or
  • has moments where there’s a weird pause in the dancing.

For me, I’ve only seen this happen 3 times in my entire life. One was a guy who was randomly lifting girls during social dancing above his shoulders. The second was a girl who was so drunk that she was literally falling every 2 steps. The third was a girl who would do head rolls during every single Zouk step – basic, lateral, bonus, simple turns. Everything. Every. Single. Thing. All the time. To a point of danger.

That’s how bad things have to get before I notice something is going wrong on the dance floor.

***

In general, people are out social dancing because it is giving them something. Whether it’s a social life, the chance to meet someone new, or for dance itself, all of us have reasons for being in that room.

Our reasons for being in the social dance hall usually do not include the chance to judge other people. Most of us have way too much to worry about in our own social dance lives to be thinking about all the mistakes other people are making. Really, the only place that people are watching and ‘judging’ your dancing are in three places:

  1. Competitions
  2. Auditions
  3. Classes

Even in these three areas, people aren’t judging how ‘bad’ you are; they’re assessing your strengths and weaknesses. For auditions, it’s to determine what your level is and what you can handle. For competitions, it is to figure out who is the strongest (not the weakest) competitor (not dancer). For classes, it’s to figure out how to help you improve.

It can be difficult, but try to leave your fears of judgement behind. Your social dance life will be much better for it!

Photo Credit: SV Photography