Do any of these phrases sound familiar?

  • “I’m heavy, so people won’t dance with me – even though I’m an awesome dancer.”
  • “If I was younger, people would dance with me more.”
  • “They’re only dancing with her because she’s hot. She can’t dance.”
  • “If she wasn’t a dance snob, she’d like dancing with me.”
  • “She only dances with super-flashy, ‘advanced’ dancers. She has no appreciation of my solid basics!’
  • “I’m a beginner, so no one will dance with me because I’m not good enough.”

I’ve heard all of these – multiple times.

Sometimes, I really do feel for these people. I feel for the 60-year-old woman who is new to dance, and gets passed over for her younger counterparts. Sometimes it really is ageism.

I’m also sympathetic to the beginner guy, who gets turned down by follows. It’s tough to be a beginner if you’re not in a supportive community or lack friends at your own level.

But, there’s a thread of ‘playing the victim’ by many people who use these lines. There’s a sense of entitlement to having great dances with people – without an analysis of what they can do to increase their dance desirability.

Does it eliminate all the problems? No, but it helps.

Let’s take a look at the various ways that people can choose to ‘up’ their desirability. Not all of these may be for everyone, but even using some of the strategies can benefit your dance desirability.

Strategy 1: Look the Part

I’m not necessarily talking about your physical attributes – like age or weight (though they can have an impact). I’m talking about how you present yourself.

If you show up in sweatpants and without dance shoes, people notice. People sometimes won’t take you seriously as a desirable partner. If you ‘dress’ the part of the dance, people are more likely to assume that you can actually dance.

For example, business-casual clothes to a Salsa club will likely look out of place – whereas it may be your ticket to more dances at a WCS night. Conversely, a mini-skirt with Latin heels at a Lindy night may drive away dances- but aid your chances at a Bachata social.

That doesn’t mean you MUST dress a certain way to get dances – but it certainly does help.

You should also keep in mind which hygiene and fashion choices can hinder your desirability. 

A Note on Weight:

If you are on the heavier side (especially as a woman), you will face some obstacles here. Generally speaking, a ‘traditional’ dance body dressed in the same way will be more popular with people who are unaware of the actual dance-ability of a person. That doesn’t mean that you can’t be a desirable dance partner.

Don’t let your weight become a crutch to ‘explain’ why you can’t get dances. If you can’t/don’t want to change your weight, use other strategies. Your weight is a part of you – but it does not define your dancing, or your desirability as a partner. There’s no reason a heavier person should rock the floor any less than a lighter person.

A Note on Age:

Older dancers (I’m talking 50+) also tend to get a shorter stick when it comes to instant-variety desirability. But, just like weight, age does not define your desirability as a partner.

If you’re a great dancer or a wonderful social butterfly, you will build a reputation as a great partner. You can become a desirable partner.


Strategy 2: Up your Dance Game

There’s nothing wrong with simply having a few half-decent basic steps and doing those all night – but it’s not going to make you the super-popular dancer of your dreams.

If you envy the ‘great’ dancers on the floor and wish to be that popular, work for it. Take the classes. Engage in deliberate practice. Practice your basics constantly. Work on connection. Get a practice partner.

What doesn’t work? Sitting there, and being upset that you’re getting passed over by those ‘elitist’ dancers. If you want that level of attention, rise to the occasion.

Is this the only way to dance with great dancers? No. Great dancers have people without super-skills that they enjoy dancing with for other reasons. However, great dancers are generally more inclined to dance with people they know are really working on their dancing and that are passionate about getting better.

Just remember, great dancers want to dance with other great dancers for the same reason that you do: they’re awesome at what they do.


Strategy 3: Adjust your Attitude

Even if you don’t look the part and aren’t that inclined towards becoming a great dancer, you can be a popular social dance partner. All it takes is the right attitude.

If you are friendly, willing to dance with everyone, and kind, you will get dances. Conversely, if you sit in a corner staring blankly at space and avoiding eye contact, you will not get that many dances.

In order to get dances because of your sparkling personality, you need to make yourself available. You need to show how awesome a person you are. You need to go give that beginner an awesome time on the floor. You need to joyously thank people for dances that you DO get.

If people see how much you enjoy dancing with them, they’re more likely to ask you for a dance next time. If you hide it, they may think you’re not that big a fan.

A Note on Shy People

Shy people sometimes struggle with this strategy because they are self-conscious about putting themselves out there. I can relate, because I feel very similarly at large events.

There’s a magic phrase you can use to up your desirability with virtually anyone: “I really enjoy dancing with you.” Even if you are shy or have issues being open, that simple phrase can alleviate any doubt your partner has about your willingness to dance with them.

A Note on Social Awkwardness

If you are someone who struggles with social cues, it can be tough to be social. But, generally speaking, awkward people can find a home in social dance. Most communities are very accepting of social awkwardness.

However, creepiness and invading people’s boundaries is not ‘awkwardness’. It is creepiness. Therefore, hounding someone repeatedly, holding too close, and other boundary-invading activities will give you an undesirable label – even if you are a ‘social butterfly’.


Strategy 4: Take the Initiative

If you’re waiting to be asked to dance, the chances of having a night full of dancing are substantially less. Even for advanced dancers, the only-being-asked perspective can make it very difficult to get on the floor.

If you want to get dances, ask! The more you take initiative, the more likely you are to get dances. It’s like job hunting: someone may come and offer you one, but more often than not, you have to go apply!


Strategy 5: Embrace the ‘No’

I hear a lot of complaining from people who get discouraged if they get ‘too many’ No’s. Yet, if you learn how to take No’s graciously, you are more likely to get more (and better) dances.

A little secret: almost everyone gets declined dances – especially if they’re an unknown entity. People say no to me. They also say no to my students. Some may even say ‘no’ to pro’s!

You’ve asked 5 people and they’ve all said No? Go ask someone else! Unless the social is tiny and you’ve asked literally everyone, you still have options. If you’re at a congress, chances are you have LOTS of options.

Now, whether you want to dance with those options is a different story…


If You Get Constant No’s

If you’re getting constant No’s, there’s probably something you’re doing to turn off partners. And no, I don’t mean your weight or age. I also don’t mean your dance level. There’s only a small portion of the dance population that actively discriminates on those terms.

Constant No’s does not mean you asked 5 people and they said ‘No’. It does not mean that you’re having a hard time getting that ‘first dance’ to break the ice. It means that people are actively avoiding dancing with you.

Generally speaking, if more than half of the people who are familiar with you or your dancing decline, there is something up.

If you get A LOT of No’s, you’re probably doing something that is making people uncomfortable:

  • It might be hygiene.
  • It may be other smell-related issues, like farting on the floor (yes, it happens).
  • It might be metal jewelry or sweaty clothes.
  • It might be too tight a grip.
  • It might be too rough a lead, dangerous self-dipping, or other major dance issues.
  • It may be that you ‘accidentally’ grab things you shouldn’t, or touch body parts that make people uncomfortable.
  • It might be that someone feels uncomfortable with how often you try to dance with them, or your social habits/attitude (I have a very difficult time dancing with people I strongly dislike).

If you get A LOT of No’s, it is NOT:

  • Your age,
  • Your weight,
  • Your skill level (excluding dangerous or uncomfortable habits),
  • Your partner’s lack of appreciation for your great dancing (if you were that good, you wouldn’t be getting that many No’s).

Are there a few that may discriminate on those things? Sure. A majority? Hell no! There are technically atrocious dancers and beginners with 2 steps who dance the whole night. There are heavy dancers who almost never sit down. There are +60 years old dancers that rock out all night long. Clean basics will almost certainly get you through a social night anywhere!


Take Charge of Your Dance Experience

I have met some people who hide behind their perceived ‘flaw’ as a way of ‘explaining’ why they get a lot of no’s. Sometimes, these flaws play a significant role in the no’s. Other times, they only explain a portion of the no’s, but the person refuses to accept that there may be something *in* their control that is a primary contributor.

I have also met a lot of people who recognize their challenges, and regularly find ways to combat the issues that they are having. That doesn’t mean that their challenges don’t impact them – but they take other pathways to dance fulfillment.

It’s a lot more conducive to a great dance night if you take charge of your dance experience. If you’re not happy with something, find a way around it. You’ll get more yes’s, fewer no’s, and be happier for it!


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