I want to tell you a true story.
It’s the story of a woman who said no to a man when he asked her for a dance. She had never met him before, and didn’t want to dance with him at that time.
The man was a bit hurt. He felt he had been judged prematurely. He felt that he had been looked up and down, and declined because he didn’t ‘look’ like a good dancer.
He decided to never ask the follow to dance again.
Flash forward two years. He’s still dancing. He has still never danced with that woman, although they’re regularly at the same events. This time, she walks over to him and asks,
“You never ask me to dance, even though we see each other all the time. Is there something wrong with me?”
They have been friends since.
The reason that this man decided not to ask that woman to dance for 2 years was because he felt she had been a ‘snob’ when she said no to him that first night. Basically, he interpreted the ‘no’ as ‘I’m too good for you’ and decided he therefore would refuse to dance with that follow – until that follow made the first move.
In a way, it was a form of social punishment. The punished is basically unaware, but it feels weirdly good for the person doing the punishing to ‘withhold’ their dancing from the punished. It is a ‘because you made me feel bad, I’m going to exert my power to never ask you to dance again because you don’t deserve my dancing!’
This is not an unusual phenomenon. We have a bit of a judging-people problem in the dance community. Some people dislike the ‘basic dancers’. Some dislike the ‘elitist snobs’. It’s as if we have an invisible battle-line drawn down the center of our dance scene. You’re either a snobby elitist, or a ‘social dancer’. You’re either a basic dancer, or a ‘real dancer’.
There’s some lucky ones who fall in the middle, but they have a very specific set of characteristics they must upkeep:
- They must continue to improve
- They must feel at least decent as a dance partner (the higher level, the better!)
- They must ask people of all levels to dance
- They must not decline a dance simply because they don’t feel like it.
- They must always be nice (no ‘off’ days)
For some people, they’re happy filling these criteria. For others, it doesn’t come naturally.
If a person fails to improve and is happy with basics – or if they don’t feel good – they are a boring, basic dancer. If a person does not ask others to dance, dances with their friends too often, sometimes has an ‘off day’ personality-wise, or declines more than once in blue moon, they’re a snob.
I already addressed the idea of the skill-based judgement basic dancers are sometimes targeted by, so today I want to talk about the ‘snobs’.
Sometimes, the ‘snobs’ are not really ‘snobs’ at all. Sometimes, they are:
- Having a bad day/in a bad mood
- Looking forward to dancing/chilling with friends
- Shy/uncomfortable with new people
- Don’t feel like dancing with you at that moment
- Not feeling the music
Are some of their behaviors an etiquette faux pas? Yes. After all, it is rude to say you’re sitting a song out and dance with the next person. Rather, you should just say ‘no’ and move on… but people can be silly, and some can be really bad at just saying ‘no’ without an excuse because it makes them feel bad.
The thing is, whether they said ‘no’ to a dance really doesn’t tell you anything about how much of a ‘snob’ they are. Rather, a ‘snob’ is defined by a set pattern of behavior over an extended period of time. For example, a ‘snob’ could be someone who:
- Believes ‘basic’ dancers are a downer
- Constantly criticizes or belittles dance partners
- Treats dancing with them as a ‘privilege’ someone should be happy to have, or
- Refuses to dance with a large portion of dancers on a regular basis (or actively avoids being near/around those people) because they are not ‘good enough’ in some way
The last one is the hardest to assess. When we social dance, we have a tendency to extrapolate our individual experience with someone to create our ‘idea’ of who that person is. This, coupled with insecurity and the vulnerability present in social dancing, makes it very easy to put someone in the ‘snob’ box after a single bad experience.
For example, say we get rejected by a dancer we were really looking forward to dancing with. It was a rather curt ‘no’, with no follow-up explanation. So, naturally, we assume we’ve been pre-judged. Why else would they not want to dance with us??
It is possible that they rejected us because they felt we weren’t ‘good enough’, but it’s not *usually* the reason. There are many other reasons a dancer may say ‘no’ to a dance – just like there are many reasons to say ‘yes’. When we assume it was because we weren’t ‘good enough’, we simultaneously put ourselves – and the other person – down.
The best way to counteract our judging tendencies is to take a step back and really think about why we are judging the person. Is it because we feel hurt? Are we assuming they are a snob because we don’t actually know why they declined? Or have they legitimately engaged in a pattern of exclusionary behavior?
There are snobs out there – I’ve met them. Some of them even recognize they are snobs, and try to curb their own behavior. But, many times, there are very nice people painted into a ‘snob’ box prematurely.
Let’s resist the urge to categorize people as ‘snobs’ when we don’t know them. Give people a chance to show you the full range of their personality, and you may be surprised at how many of the ‘snobs’ are really just introverts, awkward, having a bad day, or seeking to just have some chill time with friends 🙂
Photo Credit: Brian De Rivera Simon, Tarsipix Studios
Really LOVE these Dancing Grapevine articles. This one hits the nail right on the head: So often have I had the same thoughts. I do believe anyone has the right to dance with whomever they want. It’s not for the ‘rejected’ (no matter how offended they feel) to take it personally. As you have pointed out, there are many reasons for s ‘snob; to say no to you. I might also add some other reasons: maybe the ‘rejectee’ asked in an aggressive, rude manner? Maybe he/she had bad hygiene (B.O., bad breath) that they were unaware of. Maybe the “snob” had been approached so many times that evening that he/she needed a break. I have heard many men complain that they were intruded upon incessantly by females because of the disparity in the number of leaders to followers. Could be anything. Everyone, be nice to each other. Don’t get angry at your friends because they ‘hog’ the ‘snobs’ who never ask you to dance. There’s always another evening….
Sorry I really feel you missed the opportunity to explore this phenomenon in reverse. Such as the woman who continually makes eye contact or stares at me to the point where you would feel it. or even queues to dance with me only for her to turn me down when you’ve bothered to ask her, with her refusal comes a wry smile. Another tactic is walking a bit near you while songs change so that you could ask them to dance but then quickly turning and walking in the other direction. It’s happened with quite a few girls usually the ones who think they’re totally hot and should be front lining congresses instead of being their teachers assistant! I find this activity strange and creepy I can only equate it to a man who wants to follow you around but never makes any effort to talk to you or ask you to dance. Indeed it is harassment, such behaviour does not have any place in events which advertise themselves as being about dance, because when presented with the opportunity to dance it is withheld as if this is how somebody can raise their value or change how others perceive them!
I’m not sure what you mean by ‘this phenomenon in reverse’?
ian, please note that a lot of guys do the same. i don’t think this is a gender-specific behavious.
Could you elaborate more on your thoughts on this comment:
“You never ask me to dance, even though we see each other all the time. Is there something wrong with me?”
The guy could be thinking the exact same thing since the girl never asked him to dance. Was this in a scene where follows don’t ask leads?
With these particular two dancers, she didn’t ask because she felt an invitation wouldn’t be welcome by him. It was an instance where both of them thought the other was stuck up. 🙂
In our scene we remind people about hygiene, teach (and roll play), respectful behaviors, gracious asking and declining for both dance roles. No explanation required. Why? No one owes you a dance. We want people to feel empowered and own their own bodies and choices. That being said, we encourage everyone to mix and mingle and more importantly, we practice what we preach. Scene leaders have the power to influence their scenes to help create welcoming and supportive environments.
For me, it’s less about thinking the person is a snob, and more about a feeling I get about whether they want to dance with me or not. If they’re mean about rejecting me for a dance, sure, I’ll won’t ask them again, but that has never once happened. Everyone is very polite about rejections, usually more polite than is necessary. But then, even someone who says yes, dances a song nicely, smiles politely, sometimes I get a feeling like they would have preferred I not ask them. As someone who does the asking 90% of the time, I’m not as inclined to ask people who give me this feeling. And that can be difficult, because it’s often the better dancers who I get it from. I’m on the newer end of the spectrum, and I want to get better, but I want to have fun in the meantime. It’s hard for me to get over that feeling of “this person doesn’t actually want to dance with me; they’re just being polite.” I don’t think of them as a snob (unless there are other reasons), but I also won’t ask them to dance again for a while. It’s not like I consciously put them in some kind of dance time-out, but if I look at somebody and remember feeling no excitement from them, it’s not going to be likely that I’ll come back to them soon.
Sometimes I do wonder if there are people who I don’t ask who think I dislike them, but I don’t know how to avoid it. If they want to dance with me, they can ask. I do have sympathy for a person in the scenario you outlined, where someone feels like I don’t ask them because I don’t like them, but it’s too much to think about. If I don’t get a good vibe from the person, it’s unlikely that I’ll ask them again soon. I know I’m missing out on some great dancers, but I don’t know a good way to shake that feeling.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with how you are feeling. I actually think you have a great attitude towards rejection in dance 🙂 This article is more directed at people who feel they are entitled to an enthusiastic dance, and go out of their way to give the cold shoulder because they feel it was rude. By contrast, what you are saying is that you are choosing dances that give you a good feeling – thus avoiding the dreaded ‘obligation dance’.
Keep up the awesomeness!
Hate to beat a dead horse here, but it seems like the whole situation was based on the idea that it was him that should be asking her to dance. Even if she felt an invitation wouldn’t be welcome by him, the article seems to imply this was BECAUSE he didn’t ask her to dance again in the first place.
There’s an equality perspective here where if the guy and girl both felt that they were equal in expectations of asking the other to dance they could both feel that the other person not asking them meant they didn’t want to, and it may or may not be legitimate. However, he had an added reason to feel that way in that she rejected him in a way he felt was negative. He seemed to have some reason to believe that she didn’t want to dance with him in the future.
Based on everything that was said, it seems that her only reason for believing an invitation would be unwelcome came after time went on where he didn’t ask her to dance, but yet if she had before that point(or even after that point) then the situation would have resolved immediately with a happy ending. I’m not even sure it’s a social punishment if he was ready to dance with her as soon as he asked.
The whole situation seems centered around this idea that greater responsibility falls on men to ask women to dance. As I dance WCS I don’t know how this dynamic changes however depending on the style of dance. Thanks for the article.
I don’t mention this in the article, but I know both the lead and the follow very well. The lead specifically said that he had originally never asked her again as a form of social punishment, to show her ‘how wrong’ she was for rejecting him (he has since matured in his perspective).
Conversely, she had several times went to approach him for a dance – and he had ignored her pointedly… thus leading to her assumption that he didn’t want to dance.
I certainly agree that the burden for asking should be on both. However, there is a mentality about putting people into boxes (‘snob’, ‘basic’ dancer) that bothers me. This particular situation was to highlight that the situation isn’t always how you read it to be!
I’d like to know people’s opinions on the “redirecting” asks. The scene, at one social a particular gentleman I met for the first time had asked me to dance about three or four times, each time I accepted, but on the next I was beginning to feel singled out a little too much, especially with so many more follows than leads that night, and said “Actually, I would love to see my friend dance this one.” They both accepted, and later she thanked me because it had been her first dance of the night, and so I felt like I had done the right thing.
My question is, do you consider this better or worse than a simple but polite “no”? Would you even consider it bad etiquette or downright rude? I didn’t want to hurt the gentleman’s feelings and I wanted to help out the friend. While I was trying to be considerate of everyone’s feelings, it didn’t occur to me in the moment that I may have put the man in the situation that he now had to ask my friend to dance or else look like the snobby or rude one, and she had to accept for the same reason. Even though it worked out in the end, and this gentleman has continued to ask us both to dance at future socials, I would like to know other opinions on the etiquette of redirecting asks.
I personally find it a great way to meet everyone’s needs 🙂
I am a lead and have been dancing formal salsa for over 10 years taking classes, going to socials and clubs, and going congresses. I also grew up in a neighborhood that had plenty of salsa and dancing. I’ve been told by many random dancers that they like how I dance.
I travel a lot and when I go to clubs I get rejected by many of the good dancers. The “reasons” include I’m taking a break (followed by going to the dance floor to dance with someone else), or I’m getting some water (followed by dancing with someone else).
My approach has been to not ask them again and dance with other follows. I’m following the one strike and your out rule and not asking them again. I spend the night enjoying myself dancing with others.
Am I being childish? What is a better approach? I am clean, use breath mints, don’t leave thumb prints, and smile, but am a new face.
Please help me decipher the new scene problem.
There’s nothing wrong with your approach; the healthiest way to move on is to simply go find someone else to dance with – which seems to be what you’re doing. In your reasoning, I haven’t seen you call them snobs or elitists simply for declining you; you simply moved on to find people who were excited to dance with you!
The point I was making here is that putting people in a ‘snob’ or ‘elitist’ box because they declined is beyond what is necessary. You can have a 1-strike rule because you don’t want to step on their boundaries by asking multiple times. It can also be because you just would rather get enthusiastic yes’s, and they’ve made it clear it’s not for them right now.
If you travel to new scenes frequently, there is always a ‘breaking the ice’ problem – especially if it’s a new scene. Keep in mind that in many places, follows also have to be careful not to get the “club n’ grind” leads because the venue is also a bar. So, some of the stronger dancers may say ‘no’ because they’re unfamiliar with you and therefore don’t feel like gambling on whether you’re actually there to dance.
Saying no can have long term consequences for both involved. (my belief)
This weekend I was asked by a follow who was a senior in leading as well as following already back when I started 4 years ago, but she’s been out of the dance scene for a while because she got a child. While dancing with her I realized that I still considered her to be one of those seniors that I as a junior should not ask (too often) or just risk that they say no, even though that we are now maybe perhaps on comparable skill level, or at least much more comparable now. However I still am reluctant to ask her, and even though I know that I know how I feel, I will probably still be reluctant to ask her, and/or only approach with caution.
I dont remember if she was one of those who said no a lot when I was new, but I certainly feel that I’ve been socially indoctrinated to not ask the seniors/high level follows because they’ll just say no anyway. Why? because my memory tells me that when I was:
* a newbie lead, most beginner-intermediate and above follows said no
* when I was a beginner lead, most intermediate and above follows said no
* when I was intermediate, most advanced and teacher follows said no
* … and so on
Even now when I am almost advanced (in my local scene) I am still reluctant to ask the skilled follows, and it only takes a few no’s before they end up on the “dont bother (to ask) them” list. Until they come asking me, I’ll just have a blast dancing with my friends, newbies, beginners, … pretty much anyone else that looks like they’ll say yes, or even those that repeatedly ask me 😀
Unfortunately it is not like a single one time they ask me will totally reset the social indoctrination I feel subjected to. It will take a while, and they probably will have to ask repeatedly before I’ll move them into the “okay, I’m allowed to ask them now” list.
As a consequence of my “belief” that: “saying no has long term consequences” – I pretty much never say no when I’m asked and especially not when I am dancing locally.
I am very shy guy and have low self esteem. I almost never ask someone new to dance, but I never say no to someone new asking me to dance. I’am not a bad dancer and gotten a lot of compliments from dancepartners and onlookers alike
Its no so much the shyness that keeps me from asking but rather me thinking i might not be good enough for her.
Our seen is not that large, and there are girls I regulary see but never danced with for Years… After a while , even when I know that Iam good enough for her now I cant ask because its wierd after such a long time…
The other reason I dont ask is I have Problems dancing with peoble who cant keep the beat or rather skip the “slow”.
It throws me of and I cannot relax, and I need to be able to relax to dance well…
ive just red the comment by Jon Bendtsen and I fully agree with everything… most important is this
“Unfortunately it is not like a single one time they ask me will totally reset the social indoctrination I feel subjected to. It will take a while, and they probably will have to ask repeatedly before I’ll move them into the “okay, I’m allowed to ask them now” list.”
As young single man, I confess I have been snobby multiple times in social, and even now. I go out for at least one of theses reasons: 1. just have fun and dance, 2. want to get laid (yes yes).
1. I barely refuse to dance or say no. I ask every girls to dance, try to satisfy most girls of the social. I ask more beginners, shy-girls, less solicited or asked girls for any reasons, less pretty girls (yes yes, prettiest girls never get a break in kizomba social) stand back corner or right at dancefloor border,.
So in this case, I am right on the kizomba social spirit, which is sharing, dancing with everyone.
2. I am in this mindset to find and connect with a girl who I am attracted and (hopefully reciprocally) and build more this night or further. I can picky in this can. And I may say no if I am waiting to dance with a specific girl. I will stand back and kinda enjoying seeing people dancing. I may just say hi to regular friends (not have to dance every social). I will not ask or say no to the girl who friendzoned me or vice-versa. I will be ok with snobby label on me.
The bottomline is when someone pays from is pocket, we can do (almost)everything, specially being picky or snobby. (I have been snobbed many times too, never took it personally). That’s why TAXI Dancers are created. It may sound weird concept but that’s how realty is, how our society is build.(some girls 90% of time in social not dancing or asking, some pay for 1-2 dance the whole night). I think all these aspects and behaviour in kizomba social are our society and real life reflection in an infinitesimal scale.