We all have our favourite partners. Usually, these are partners where we could spend a long time dancing with them, and still enjoy our time. Sometimes, we’re more than happy to ask and re-ask for dances throughout the night.
A re-ask (for the purposes of this article) is when you ask a person for a dance more than one time in a night. It doesn’t matter whether your first ask was accepted or declined; later asks are still re-asks.
Re-asks tend to be less of an issue if you and the other person have the same ‘threshold’ for number of dances in an evening. They tend to be more of an issue if you want to dance with the person a lot more in one evening than they wish to dance with you.
It’s almost impossible to know if someone is on the same page as you unless you’ve had a lot of previous experience with that person. In general, it is best to assume that the two of you have a different threshold – unless past experiences have proven otherwise.
When you both enjoy the same amount of dances
When you and that person both enjoy the same amount of dances with each other, things tend to work perfectly. Essentially, both of you are on-board with how many dances you can have together before wanting to move to other partners. It also means you’re generally on the same page when it comes to re-asks.
For example, both of you may tire of each other around the 4-song mark every time you dance, and you may be up for a maximum of 3 rounds in the night. Or, it could be a person you are happy to dance 10 songs with – but only one time.
Most frequently and in most genres**, most partners are happy to dance 1-2 songs 1-2 times per night with any given partner. More than this tends to only be reserved for dances that are ‘favourites’.
**Disclaimer: Tango and Kizomba for sure have different rules on this. I’m not sure about some other dances, like blues.**
At this point, partners don’t generally need to spend too much time thinking about re-asks. Since they’re on the same page, they tend not to frustrate each other with re-asks. Very often, there’s eye contact and some sort of ‘wanna go again?’ body language going on.
When you don’t both enjoy the same amount of dances
The ‘we like the same amount of dances’ rule is great – when it happens. Sometimes, partners have a different ‘threshold’ for how many dances they can have with the other person before they want to move to another partner. For example, one partner may want to dance 5x a night for multiple songs with a person – while the other one is comfortable dancing 2 songs 1 time.
It’s a common misconception that the person who wants fewer dances is more advanced, while the person who wants more dances is less advanced. There are several other reasons that this imbalance can occur:
- One partner isn’t a fan of how the other leads/follows – regardless of level
- One person may prefer a higher/lower energy partner
- One partner may not mesh with the type of movements the other is doing
Very often, the personal relationship, relationship status, other favourite partners, and just personal temperament may also influence the number of dances one wants to have with a particular partner.
When you want to re-ask a partner who may have a different threshold, body language and respect for boundaries is very important. Like everything else in dance, the less-comfortable partner sets the boundaries. This means that the person who wants to dance fewer songs gets to make the decision.
When you re-ask
It is important to remember that each re-ask gives a higher chance of being declined for a dance.
When you ask someone to dance the first time in an evening, you never run the risk of them being ‘overloaded’ with dances by you. Basically, it’s a clean slate. They still may say ‘no’, but it’s not because you’ve already danced and they’re ready for a different partner.
After that first dance, each re-ask is more likely to get a ‘no’, or a ‘yes’ out of pressure or obligation. This is because each re-ask increases the likelihood that they have reached their max. number of dances with you for the evening.
There are a few useful rules to generally adhere to when it comes to ‘re-asking’:
- Say ‘I’d love to dance again later!’ at the end of your first dance.
When you say something along these lines at the end of your first dance session, it opens an opportunity for them to agree that they’d like more. If they say “Yes! Come find me!” it’s a good indication that a re-ask will be welcome. If they just say maybe, thank you, or just smile, they’re probably at their limit. This type of sentence also opens the door for them to ask *you* later in the evening.
- Make eye contact first
When you make eye contact before re-asking, it gives you a good idea if it will be a welcome ask. If they maintain eye contact or smile, they’re probably into it. If they avoid eye contact, act disinterested, or move away, it’s probably their limit for the evening.
- Take ‘No’ as ‘No, for the evening’
Guest writer Trevor Copp wrote about something similar he does regarding all requests to dance – but it’s especially useful in re-asks. Basically, if someone turns down your re-ask, leave it for the night. Chances are, the person isn’t eager to get on the floor with you more in that same evening. Even if they say they’re taking a break, leave it for the night. Ask them again the next time.
If they want to dance again that night, they’ll find you.
- Stop while they’re still saying ‘Yes’
If it’s someone who likes you as a person or as a dancer, chances are they’ll say ‘yes’ a few times past their ideal limit. This is because they still want you to know that they enjoy your dancing and company. However, each time they say ‘yes’ past their limit is likely to cause mixed feelings and awkwardness. It may also cause them to burn out of their enthusiasm for your dances.
A good way to counteract this is to switch back and forth on the asking. If you have already asked twice, leave it until they ask for another one. If they don’t, occupy yourself with other partners for the evening.
“But I really want to dance with them more!”
I know. There’s people I really want to dance with more, and never get the chance. It’s just the way things are. But, your desire to dance does not trump their desire to not dance. In order to make any future dances between you awesome, it’s important to give them the space to actually *treasure* your dances together – rather than shy away from yet another ask.
Basically, if you are constantly over-asking, you can actually damage your long-term dance relationship. If you under-ask a little, you preserve the constant desire to ‘get’ dances with each other.
Think of it like chocolate: If someone gives you a truffle, it’s fantastic. If they give you a whole box of truffles and expect to watch you eat each one, it’s not so fantastic – it’s overkill, and may even stop you from liking more truffles in the short-term future.
Instead of spending time focusing on the dances you didn’t get, put your focus somewhere else. Find someone else to dance with. Have a conversation with the person, instead of asking them to dance. There are other ways to connect besides only dancing.
Finding a great dance partner is fantastic. If you keep control of re-asks, you can enjoy a long dance relationship that is always a treasure.
Remember: it’s always best to err on the side of fewer dances!
One additional thing at least I occasionally encounter is that I and my favorite partners like to set a limit somewhere just to get a chance to dance with other people as well. I have a couple of partners with whom we mesh well enough that we could dance for hours on end and be still left wanting after the music is out (as in, we’ve done that with each at least once).
However, even with such partners we generally strive to limit ourselves to maybe 5 song pairs an evening. One simple reason is that there are plenty of other lovely partners too, and no matter how otherworldly dances with somebody are, different partners offer different experiences and variety is still the spice of life (and dance). Of course, the other big reason is social. Simply maintaining old and building new dance relationships requires dancing with multiple partners after all: familiar partners will inevitably begin wondering if I don’t like dancing with them if we are both frequently present at the same events without us ever actually dancing; and it’s hard to come to know new partners if one never has the time for anyone but the old favorites.
What do think of the practice of re-asks in the context of a welcoming dance environment for the entire event. Should there be any consideration of having danced with nearly every available partner before allowing yourself the luxury of the re-ask?
Is re-ask a privilege that must first be purchased with a generous amount of first asks?
I think that a welcoming dance environment is partially created by people being able to do what feels good to them.
If we create an ‘obligation’ to ask a certain amount of people before re-asking, it cheapens the dances with the others that were ‘first asks’ because they become a means to an end: the re-ask.
While I think that it is generous to dance with many new partners, bought generosity might as well not be generous at all!
If a person legitimately has no interest in other partners, it does make them a bit anti-social in the context of social dancing… but I suspect that forcing them to dance to ‘purchase’ a reward would only serve to enforce negative dance experiences for those they dance with simply for the privilege.
May I weigh in from a personal perspective? My first dance social is still very fresh in my mind. I was a total newbie (It was only my second week!) and completely overwhelmed. Every time someone asked me to dance, I was certain it was just a pity dance, or from a sense of obligation, but once we began dancing, those feelings went away. I could see they asked me from a genuine desire to welcome me and see me enjoying the dance. One or two even came back for re-asks. It’s a feeling that I have never forgotten and has made me want to help create the same feeling of welcome and joy with everyone I dance with, regardless of dance level.
That being said, I’ve had one or two pity dances and obligation dances, and frankly they made me feel awful. That welcoming atmosphere you want to create should come from a place of generosity, not martyrdom. And it shouldn’t stop you from enjoying the dances with those you genuinely want to dance with. Just like it’s been said many times on this wonderful site, you’re under no obligation to say yes, you’re under no obligation to ask in the first place either. If someone feels slighted or unwelcome because you did not ask them to dance, unless you promised them a dance or gave a strong impression you intended to, it’s really up to them to examine why they feel that way, and if it’s truly coming from an unwelcoming place, or if it’s really coming from a place of ego and entitlement.
To address your threshold of amount of dances with Blues Dancers. Coming from that community I believe that the normal blues dance usually is only 1 song long. Unless of course the people know each other well and have had multiple dances in a row previously or they have established some sort of precedence.
A 2nd dance in a row can be socially acceptable if both partners enjoyed the dance and someone re-asks. Or if the first ask was more than half way through the song, a 2nd ask for another song is acceptable.
Thanks for the clarification, Jeff! 🙂 It’s very helpful to know. I try to write cross-genre as a lot of the concepts are pretty universal – but sometimes certain dances have specific ‘rules’ that are dance-specific.
Re-asking (and just asking) is always a subject of nerves for me, because I’m still a beginner and naturally shy, so I’m constantly watching the floor for cues and hoping a lead will ask me first. I have a tendency to split people up into “principal dancers” and “sideline dancers.” The principals being those that are constantly on the floor, seeking and accepting new dances. For them, I find it hard to re-ask, partly because they usually have a partner before I can, but mostly because I’m afraid of “hogging” them. Especially when each dance is with someone different. So with them, I usually just ask once, make it known I’m open for more (and I try to be specific like “I hope I can get a salsa with you before the end of the night” which usually ups my chances of getting the very next one) then wait for them to make the next ask.
“Sideline Dancers” are much easier for me to approach, even when they’re more likely to tell me no. I just find a better opening and less pressure off dance floor. And when I find someone who doesn’t like to ask, but likes to accept (like me), I’ll sometimes ask several times in the night.
This is a great one! I know for me the question of whether our not I’m “on the job” also comes into play. If I’m dancing somewhere where I’m on staff I try to spread out my dances as much as possible. I feel that’s part of being a professional. But if I’m out with friends or in a different dance scene where I’m more of a visitor, I’m far more likely to re-ask and re-accept throughout the night.
I understand why some people dance mostly with each other but I am always reluctant to ask one of these people for a dance and appreciate it when they circulate more. I find swing dances to be the best for equal opportunity partnering. My goal when I go to a dance is to “do it once” with every leader in the room because, as I like to say, no one should go home unpunished! Of course in large venues that is not possible. And, on the contrary, in very small groups we must dance more than once with the same partner. Men who are good dancers and dance with everyone need to be cloned.
And, I should add, I always accept re-asks, accepting them as a compliment. I only say no when asked to dance by someone who is drunk.
I am not part of the Tango and Kizomba scenes, so I am curious: What are the rules for those?
I dance Salsa, Bachata, Lindy Hop, and Blues. In all of my local scenes the norm is one dance, with re-asks being a personal matter as discussed here. Two dances in a row seems to happen only in Lindy Hop, only if the first was the last bit of a song; and in Blues, for that reason or if the two people are really into it. Others in these scenes, is this consistent with your experiences?
Zouk is 1-2 songs. After that, people who have a great connection can go upwards of half an hour.
Tango is organized into a special set of 3-4 dances, with a musical ‘break’. You’re expected to dance until the start of that musical ‘break’ with your partner. If you’re not sure about a partner, you ask them to dance when there’s only a song or two left until the break.
Kizomba is generally rude if it’s anything under 2-3 dances, from what I’ve seen.
I’ve been dancing for a bit and consider myself an Intermediate. I recently attended a great event where toward the end of the night I danced with a very good lead, well above my skill level, never met him before and he indicated a willingness to continue – we danced 3 Sensual Bachatas in a row! No words spoken, no weird vibes, he just led really well and I managed to follow him well the entire time. How would you interpret this within the topic of Dance Etiquette?