I’m so happy you decided to social dance. I’m so happy that you’ve decided that this magnificent world has caught your interest – and I hope it holds it. You’re going to meet many, many amazing people, have fantastic nights, and perhaps even travel to unbelievable events.
But you’re also going to be told ‘No’.
The ‘No’ will come in many forms. It may come in a head shake, a ‘No, thank you’, or a desire to get a glass of water. It is likely that sometimes the ‘No’ will hurt a little. It is likely that sometimes the ‘No’ will make you doubt yourself.
I want you to understand that a ‘No’ is rarely about you. It’s almost always about the person who said ‘No’.
If they want a drink of water, the washroom, rest, or to finish a conversation, it’s not about you. It’s simply that they need that song as a break – for whatever reason. They may not tell you that this is why they are saying no.
If they have an injury that they’re nursing or are worried about getting re-injured, it’s not about you. They’re taking care of their body. They may not know you, or the dance connection the two of you have may be bad for their injury. They may not even tell you that they have an injury, because it might be very personal.
If they just aren’t feeling the music or are in a bad mood, it’s not about you. It’s about something that they are or aren’t feeling which will prevent them from enjoying their dance with you. Trust me, it’s a good thing when someone says ‘No’ because they aren’t feeling it. It means they understand themselves well enough to not give you a shitty, disconnected dance. They may not tell you that this is why they said ‘No’.
If they are looking ‘down’ on you because you are new, ‘less advanced’ or ‘don’t look right’, it’s not about you – it’s about their attitude. Unfortunately, there are people who act like that. Luckily, the majority of dancers are not like this. They are not worth your time. Let them stick to their familiar territory, while you grow with the open and accepting people in the scene.
It is easy to mistake people for snobs if they don’t tell you why they said no.
Dear beginner, please try not to judge the people who say ‘No’. Unless they tell you, you will not know why they said ‘No’. Let them be. Sometimes, they’ll come to you later for a dance. Sometimes, they won’t. But, please don’t wait for them. There are too many other people who want to dance with you!
There are a few times, dear beginner, where a ‘No’ may be about you. These things are usually easy to fix, if you ask for help.
Someone might say ‘No’ because you smell bad or are really sweaty. Make sure that you always shower, bring breath mints, and extra shirts (if you need them). If you don’t know, ask a friend you trust to tell you if there’s something making you physically unpleasant to touch.
If you wear a lot of scented things, some people may also say ‘No’ because you smell *too* much – some people have allergies. If you avoid wearing too much scent, you may find some people are better able to dance with you.
Very rarely, there can be something about your dancing that makes people say ‘No’. Sometimes, it can be that you are accidentally hurting people with a habit. Or, you could be holding people in a way that makes them uncomfortable.
If you are worried this could be you, talk to your teacher or a trusted friend. Remember that you should only go to a dance teacher to fix the problem. Your friends can give their opinion, but unless they are a teacher, they probably cannot help you fix the problem. Usually, a good teacher can help you become aware and fix these problems pretty quickly.
There is one last thing that can make people say ‘No’ to you.
Most of you do not have attitude – especially when you are a beginner. Try to make sure you do not develop this ego. In social dancing, people like dancing with nice people. If you treat other people in the room the way that you hope to be treated, you’ll find people treating you well.
This can include asking newer dancers to dance, and to make friendly conversation with people who are not dancing. It can be smiling at your partner, or enthusiasm. It can be complimenting dancers you think dance really well.
You should make sure that you are not mean to other dancers. Sometimes, things we think are helping actually make people less happy. For example, you should never try to teach your partner how to do a move in social dancing – leave that for your teacher. If a move you know isn’t working, try something else.
The same goes for timing. If your partner cannot hear the beat and you don’t know how to help them hear it without words, dance with them instead of the music. Your first priority should be having fun and connecting with your partner!
Dear beginner, I can’t wait to see you grow. I can’t wait to see you improve your dancing, fall in love with the music, and make friends. I can’t wait to see you go to your first big event, and to watch you bring your friends to dance. I can’t wait until I see you reach out to the Newbie in the corner and invite them to dance with you.
Don’t let the ‘No’s dissuade you; the ‘Yes’s are so worth it!
I have no problem dancing with a beginner. Just remember it’s not about how many patterns u can do, thenwe It’s about the connection with your partner, just to get the basic right and enjoy dancing with your partner. Also being gentle is important, no one like getting hurt and a rough leader. Another tip is not to wear any metal, watches, rings etc. Many followers got hurt and scared because of it. I do say no to dancers by looking at metals they are wearing. The more pleasant and have oral and physical hygiene you are the chances of getting a “yes” is high.
@Spicy Paprika: “Another tip is not to wear any metal, watches, rings etc.”
In my community it is much more common that follows wears stuff on their hand/wrist than leads does. No I dont pass based on that, but it is still slightly annoying. So can some clothes be.
Hey Danceplace! I was googling this question today after attending a social dance. I’m a beginner at Latin dance and people at my studio are really nice and supportive . I guess I’m also lucky. But I often find myself embarrassed and having to explain myself to more experienced dancers when I’m not that good. Just today, two people asked me to dance and then they didn’t any more – I almost feel that it’s because I’m a bad dancer? And they danced many times with the other women. And then one man asked me to dance one type of dance, and when a different style of music came on, he asked if I’ve ever done that dance and I answered ‘I have but not as much as the first’, so he proceeded to walk away from me and asked about her girl to dance. I mean I understand – maybe if I was more advanced, I would not ask beginners to dance….but as a beginner it hurts. I know I’m not yet very good, but I want to practice nonetheless.
For me it is always about the person.If i Know that you are gonna two step through a whole song…if I know that you are inappropriate…if I know that you dance like a clown…I say no.
Is this post for men asking women to dance? I’m an older female and in Australia (where I live) it seems that,at my age, if I don’t ask a male to dance, I won’t be asked. I have followed all your tips regarding clothing, hygiene, attitude, complimenting good dancers etc etc(which are in my repertoire anyway) and I still cannot figure out why I don’t get asked to dance. Just to clarify, I’m not a beginner in my standard of dancing but I’m a beginner to ‘asking a man’ to dance!! You do say not to take it personally, but when a man says ‘no’ to you and 5 minutes later dances with a younger person, then it does affect your self esteem. I’m not sure what more I can do to get a few dances at the social dances that I attend.
This advice flows both ways – it’s just as applicable to women who do the asking 🙂
I’m sorry that you get this type of reception at your social dances – it’s definitely a not-fun feeling. Sadly, there are a few (certainly not most, or all) people who judge people based on their age or physical appearance. Very often, those people are also not truly there for dancing 😉
I’d encourage you to keep asking. See if you can figure out who the people are who do say ‘Yes’ are. I think you might be surprised by how many! For the ones who are less quick to accept, you can also try to talk with them without dancing and build up a rapport. Sometimes, that can help to ‘break the ice’ and secure dances more easily with those people.
It can be hard not to take it personally – but it is possible! Keep trying, and you’ll find the people who are loving and accepting dancers – and thrilled to dance with you!
I have been dancing since 1999, and waaaay back then, I was lucky enough to start in a scene where everyone asked everyone else to dance. Social dancing is 100%/100%. It can’t happen without the committed participation of both a leader and a follower. Therefore (in my mind) it’s ridiculous to think that only leaders can ask followers to dance, and not vice-versa. We need each other!
And speaking of leading, learn how to do it! Now! 🙂 It will make your following infinitely better once you realize there’s at least one thing you do that makes you awkward or challenging to lead. (And trust me, we all have those things.)
Another awesome thing happens when you learn how to lead, and lead well. Followers dig you, and they ask you to dance. There are a lot of lady followers who are too shy to ask male leaders to dance. Or they’ve had one too many “creeper” experiences with male leaders. For whatever reason, once you gain a reputation as a leader who is not all about throwing “moves” at a follower (dancing or otherwise) everybody wants to dance with you. Amazing! 😉
my ice breaker when among strangers:
When I am in a social dancing situation, but don’t know anyone,
I look for people moving rhythmically to the music, while standing. I approach a small group, wait for an opening, say hi, and ask them if they know anyone who might want to dance with me, a competent lead.
then there is always the tango convention, where you try to lock eyes with someone, if they linger on your gaze, it means interest…hold out your palm . good luck.
Great advice, but I wanted to mention that in some non-tango dance scenes the cabeceo with extended palm is considered rude and off-putting.
I am sorry you have had this experience -I do think you age & sex is a factor.
1 followers are almost always in over supply
2 as older women (me too) we are not percieved as part of the potential partner pool – I don’t think this is cognitive. Very primal.
3 after 5 years of dancing I thinking the ask /be asked ratio is about equal. So hang on in there.
4 make friends
5 there will always be some people who are very selective – don’t bother with them if you are turned down several times.
6 learn to lead. You will always get a dance.
Janice – As an ‘older’ dancer myself, I have a thought to share with you. It parallels Laura’s comment. Social dancing is at least as much about the community as it is about dancing (or not dancing). My view, but I think there is a lot of agreement out there around the world. So (and I did this alot, with good advice from more experience dancers, including a couple wonderful daughters)I just set out to accept and be accepted by the local dance community. Talking, sharing, offering help at community events. Not to ‘get’ somewhere of course, but just to belong. It was super easy, and honestly, if no one had ever said yes, or asked me to dance, I would have treasured the experience for its own value. 10 years later, it is still one of the greatest areas of my life! Oh, and yes, as a trusted member of this community (and others around the world), I seldom get told no. And when I do, I promise you I move right along. Best to you, and however you manage this? Don’t ever give up!
I’m so sorry Janice. I’m an older woman in my scene as well, which is luckily very welcoming. And to top it off I’m an introvert. I did ask a lot when I first started, and one of the things I did was to ask older gentlemen and obviously nervous newbies to dance with me. They were easier for me to approach and I figured more willing to say yes. Over the last few years those newbies have grown in their dance, and many of them still remember that nice lady who asked them to dance and made them feel comfortable when they were new–so I have my own “harem” of leads who are happy to dance with me!
Hello, Janice, Asking men to dance has been a mystery to me, too. Here in Houston, Texas, there still seem to be men who hold onto very old-fashioned habits. One night, a great song started playing. A man I loved to dance with was at the table next to mine and had not been asked to dance. I popped over and asked him. Mind you, we had danced together before, quite a bit. Well, he gave me this look, said yes, but, then followed with a few terse words that men should be the one to ask…He has never asked me to dance again. Yes, it is about the other person most of the time. I have found that many of the men who become friendly in my group classes, will ask me to dance regularly at dance parties. Do not lose faith!
“You do say not to take it personally, but when a man says ‘no’ to you and 5 minutes later dances with a younger person, then it does affect your self esteem.”
Dont let entitlement affect you. While everyone can ask anyone for a dance, no one is obliged to say yes and dance with you and neither are you obliged to say yes and dance with anyone who asks.
Almost as @Peter Clement said: do you appear likely to say yes if someone asks you? do you appear like you want to be on the dance floor? If you look pre-occupied, people are not going to ask.
I go out dancing with my dance pardner and make sure she is well entertained,I dance with other people the good dancers who are not too
stock up(who feel they are too good to dance with anybody)is very enjoyable.The beginners are a little timid,so I dance with them at their level and have fun,but when a dancer feels they are too good,I just relax and watch.
As men we always been rejected due to many reasons but We have to respect all kinds of reasons except if someone reject you because you are not good enough thats because all of this called social dancing
For me as a man I enjoy dancing with beginners because I can master any move and also enhance my leading techniques plus helping them to grow and improve
I don’t believe in what so called beginners or advancers , I belive more about the connection between two humans ))
Amazing article! Thank you! – beginner
Great tips. As a woman, the most common reason I have to say no is when I’ve already danced with someone and found that they are a ‘rough’ or careless dancer who doesn’t understand body mechanics that can hurt or throw their partners off the balance…or who have holds that are too tight to allow proper movement and often are inappropriate. Guys, its more important to do the moves right and make your partner comfortable than to show off. Girls won’t dance with guys when they’re afraid they’ll get hurt or can’t trust that the guy can protect them from falling or running into people.
I’m with you there, 100%! I won’t subject myself to rough leaders. Sometimes I tell them so – they need to know! But I’m happy to dance with beginners – sometimes one gets a nice surprise. A good, considerate lead in time with the music is great, even with beginners’ moves!
Every dancer has unique potentials, training, and preferences, (and problems). One challenge of being a partner is the vulnerability that communicating who you are brings. There are books and books on personal boundaries, (which isn’t always what saying no is about), but suffice to say it’s an art worth learning. The art of opening and closing your own doors. It’s a big part of social dancing for me.
I’m a male, I’ve been dancing for about 3 years. I am still hesitant to ask good dancers to dance. I think I dance fairly well, but not as good as the dancers that go around and asked multiple women to dance. I usually ask women who I think are not as good as me. I need to step out and take a chance. Are there any guys out there that feel the same.
Yes, you do need to ask the “better” dancers! I’m trying to be better about doing the same as a follow, and to encourage my partner to dance with the “better” follows. So it goes both ways for those of us who are a bit perfectionist in our dancing. 😉
YES! Ask them! If they think they are too good for you, they are not worth dancing with. Some of them are sad because guys are too intimidated to ask. Ask away!!
Women are more sensitive to smells. Scientifically proven.
If this is scientific, I’d love to see the studies where you found these statistics 😉
Woah. ‘Pimping’ and ‘prostitution’ is something I have never seen in a social dance scene anywhere.
South America is a continent, and has some of the richest social dance scenes in the world. As for Europe, I’ve danced there, and I have not had anything near that experience – and neither have the men who came with me.
I hazard a guess that the places you have been dancing were not the social dance locations most dancers go to.
I’m not sure what race you think I am, nor do I have any idea what race you are.
My guy friends include my dance partner, students, and friends. I am also a woman who leads. I can guarantee none of them would stick around a social where they need to pay for their dances.
I was responding to the fact that you made a very broad and sweeping statement. Perhaps you have had some unsavory experiences, but it is by far not the norm for a social dance scene!
I rarely said no. Yes, I was a snob. In demand, and there were people I wanted to dance with. It was my evening, too. But I DID make sure I had the next dance lined up. I might say ‘next dance?’ Mostly, I put up a wall to keep the beginners and those I didn’t care to dance with away. And I did dance with some beginners.
Did I feel bad about this? No. You want to dance with me? Get better. There are a hundred or two dancers. Beginners can’t expect to dance with the upper-tier, right off the bat. That’s unrealistic. But part of the learning curve is understanding that. Like ‘don’t go to a weekend dance until you are comfortable and can keep up.’ Or asking a senior to the prom when you are in the 10th grade. The dance scene is incredibly egalitarian, and you will dance with everyone on the floor in an evening. Maybe not as their partner, but they will notice you. And your skills, and lack of them. Be bold, but wait for your time.
Dancing is a very personal interaction. But you also have to learn the dance of the social aspect.
One of my favorite things about dancing was how you could quickly assess the other person’s experience, and comfort level. As soon as hands touched in the line, you a fair idea of what they wanted, and were comfortable with. A twirl at the end of the swing, sending them in the proper direction? How much weight to share? How fast to swing? It was like ESP, in a tactile language.
One wonderful moment – in a line, I gave a lady an ending twirl. The next lady up was well-known as a singer. I didn’t think she would be that comfortable with anything fancy. She said ‘oh no – I want what she got! (she being younger, slimmer). She was right to call me out on my lack of boldness. That body language isn’t always infallible… ;>
(and generally – people hate it when I talk about ‘the pyramid’. It sounds terrible, but it’s human nature. And isn’t as cold-hearted as it sounds. Put another way, I’m a musician, and used to be in a touring band. But that doesn’t mean I’d try to join Richard Thompson onstage – unless I was a much better player – and much bolder! I might, in an after the show jam, if he did things like that…
It is this attitude that makes everybody else in the dance uncomfortable, despite the dinger. It will backfire on you, and you will be called out noit. Especially, the extra twirls. You misread when people don’t want ’em and you are screwed. Because, some people have injuries. Try to be a nice guy and not so focused on yourself.
I disagree with some of this. We cannot liken beginners wishing to join a social experience, as if they wished to join us in performance.
In my experience the truly advanced dancers are the ones who dance with beginners. One, it requires a lot more hard work on the advanced dancers side.. they need to hold their own balance and frame along with the new partner. It’s good training!
It’s also wonderful to welcome the new dancers who will become your favourite dancers in a few years to come! Yay!
In my experience the ones who truly hate dancing with beginners are usually dancers who think they are better than they truly are and usually ending up injuring the beginner or trying to teach them, or criticising them so badly, they never wish to dance again.
Yes it’s awesome to have dancers with various levels, our own and higher and we can’t sacrifice those completely for beginners..
but I’m not going to ask someone to ‘get better’ to have a chance to dance with me. How is that possible, if noone gives them a go?
I am ever thankful to the guys who put up with my clumsiness and accept whatever level I’m dancing at.. beginner or awesome.
If I can dance at all today, it’s due to them, fueling the love.
yeah, your attitude definitely is what beginners fear and what turns them away from the scene.
I’m not suggesting you (or anyone with confidence) only dance with beginners but that you occasionally single out the obviously timid ones who might just need one experience that night to keep them going. It doesn’t even have to be a dance! Just talk to them! People do slip through the cracks, and if they have enough bad experiences in a row, they are gone. It IS an obligation for the experienced ones to encourage (it is still up to them to do the work) the beginners. If there were no beginners, there would be no intermediate or advanced dancers; and there is a normal attrition rate for experienced ones too, so you need a continuous influx. For now anyway, as far as I can tell.
Again, it doesn’t have to be a dance.. As a beginner now, after 6 months of trying I still feel like a total outsider – I don’t have the skills or experience to have what I consider a fun dance, and so the only thing left is to hope to be included in other ways. I’m more turned off by the social dynamic in general than I am about not being asked to dance.
A South American tale – I once went to Rio. I went alone, and knew no one. It wasn’t a lot of fun. And I did something I’d never done before in my life – I went to a disco. It wasn’t cheap to get in, and was really not my scene. A dark club, with gorgeous, fancy women! I started to think I was the only male there to dance. And these women looked like they stepped out of Vogue! The most incredible thing was the strobe lights. When they flashed in the darkness, on the dance floor, a woman would be looking at you with the sexiest, most intimate look imaginable! WOW! It shook me down to my toes! After a few of these moments, burned into your retinas with the powerful strobe, I realized they were all prostitutes, and I had just seen their calling cards!
Luckily for me, I spotted two ladies from Australia on the floor. They were there to dance! So I got to dance, and through them, met the English-speaking youth hostel crowd. The next night we danced atop the lesser Sugarloaf mountain, in a huge crowd of salsa dancers. I knew just enough to stay on the floor. It was an incredible night!
But I don’t know where Ray is coming from. Paying, for partners? In contra crowds? We are the cheapest crowd in the world, and whine about paying $5-10 to dance with some wonderful dancers, with live music. Without drunks or smokers!
I am a woman who only leads. I do not follow. I run into a lot of rejections in any new social dance setting (where folks don’t know me). You might add to your list of why people say “no” an inability to separate perceived sex from dance role. I lived and danced in London throughout the 90s and no teacher would consider saying “gentlemen” and “ladies” when what they meant was leader/follower. In too many social scenes in the USA, people’s notions of dance are stuck in the 1950s.
You feel that all dancers should make changes for your sexual prefense, is this what is so goddamn important to you?
The leader follower concept has worked quite well for years. It was identified by the preponderance of leads are men and women.
Why is it so important to change this concept and make a big announcement for one person. You could place yourself where ever you wanted and let the class move along.
[The final paragraph of this comment has been removed by TDG. Personal attacks will not be tolerated in our comment section.]
Times are changing. Even in our dance scene in Nebraska, over the past year, we’ve had more men following and women leading, and we encourage it. It’s great to see dance become a place where a person can truly be the person he/she wants to be, and to explore, create, innovate on the dance floor. Dance is art after all. I think this has the added benefit of ‘scaring away’ the bad apples who have a mind closed to equality and change, with the net result of a more supportive, healthy, and safe dance scene.
I don’t turn someone down on the basis of gender roles, but there is comfort. I am a woman who started out following but also do a fair bit of leading. I usually am more physically comfortable leading women than I am leading men. There’s (usually) a different energy about men, and they hold their weight differently, not always in a way that is comfortable for me. But because it is common enough, it has become a preference that I mostly only enjoy leading when my follower is a woman (or holds him/herself like one moves like one – take that how you will).
Does this mean I have a sexual/gender bias? No. There are quite a few men that I physically feel good about leading, but experience has shown me that this is the exception rather than the rule. I will almost always accept when someone asks, “Will you lead me?” regardless of gender, but I will almost always ask female follows.
Not to say there isn’t gender bias – it is HUGE in a lot of dance scenes – less in the ones I’m most involved in (Argentine tango, blues, and lindy hop), but I’d like to point out that there is more than one reason why some people may turn down dances from someone dancing different from a traditional gender role.
Formula for hearing fewer “nos” is quite simple for men, irrespective of age:
3.Good personal hygiene.
4. Damn good dance skills.
I am a dance teacher mainly bachata, Kizomba and zouk. I have been dancing socially for 14 years . No is fine but really is it so hard to give a follow up explanation for a no.
Beginners do take it personally. I always say now with a quick follow up like “I’d love to but I can’t right now because I really need a rest ” or ” I need a toilet break” or if it’s something like their appearance or body odour “sorry I just promised my friend a dance first”‘and if you find yourself thinking “oh dear I need to be explaining to people all night why i can’t dance with them” you probably should be asking yourself why you are there in the first place
As a relatively experienced dancer (20+ years of all sorts of social dance, plus competitive ballroom, ballet, and musical theater), I consider it an obligation to dance with beginners. It’s important for them to experience a more advanced lead or follow, and to further the welcoming atmosphere that’s crucial to a good dance scene. After all, lots of more experienced dancers danced with me–I’ve got to pay it forward!
However, I’m beginning to worry about the same thing as Janice–I’m getting older, I’ve had a baby, I’m not the Bright Young Thing I used to be, so anywhere other than the Bay Area (more men than women) and Japan (cultural factors + smaller numbers in general) can be a little tough to navigate and I’m trying to balance my expectations with the efforts I can make with my appearance and manner. Hopefully as we all get older it’ll become less of a problem! Happy dancing, everyone!
EMT, what a great perspective on things! It’s so nice to hear from people who are fostering beginners 🙂
I hear you on getting older; it’s a complaint I’ve heard from both men and women in dance. It may not be as easy to get your foot in the door with brand new crowds, but it certainly can (and should) be done!
I have never taken ‘no’ personally. I usually get a reason, and if I say no, I give a reason. When I began contra dancing, I gave several of the men a very good reason to want to say no to me, but when they saw that I was going to keep coming, they very kindly took me aside and explained the dance mistake I was making (sorry, guys, I didn’t mean to choke you when you started swinging me). They gave me a chance to ‘get’ it.
About the only time I say no to a beginner is if she asks me to dance to a fast song. I think it’s fair to save the fast numbers for a partner who knows what they’re doing, and dance the slower numbers with beginners. If a beginner asks me to dance, and it’s a fast song, I politely explain to them that this song is fast, and that I’ll come find them when a slower song comes on. And then I always make it a point to follow through on that promise.