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
  • Tired
  • 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