In many Western cultures, the idea of the 7 Deadly Sins is a common way we frame undesirable attributes. They capture habits that are easy to fall into – but may create havoc in our personal or professional lives.
In dance, we have our own ‘Sins’ that can sabotage our dance experience. Some of them are primarily interpersonal problems; they affect our relationships and reputation. Others are primarily personal; they affect our own internal experience – and can even cause us to leave dance forever.
The dance sin of Lust is using social dancing solely as a mechanism to make sexual gestures. You’ve committed the sin of Lust if you suffer from wandering hands, or if you hold your partner hostage to your sexually-charged moves.
You’ve also committed the sin of Lust if you’ve used dance as a way to pressure or trap someone into a sexual or semi-sexual situation, despite their unwillingness or reluctance to be there.
The sin of Lust is very different from starting a relationship with another dancer, or even a consensual hookup. Lust is when you exploit your dance abilities or partners in order to obtain sexual gratification or power – without the other person’s consent.
The sin of Sloth is not being present with your dance partner. These are the dancers who couldn’t be bothered to put in the energy or effort with new or ‘undesirable’ partners. They may look past their partner, refuse to smile, or default into ‘autopilot’ mode while dancing.
There are many legitimate reasons that people end up embodying Sloth. For example, tiredness or a lack of connection to the music. But, the real price of Sloth is interpersonal.
Being a Sloth can cause a dancer to be viewed as rude by fellow dancers, even if it wasn’t an ‘intentional’ slight. Instead, those prone to Sloth would be better off waiting until they have the energy or motivation to give a good dance, rather than accept every dance out of obligation.
The sin of Gluttony is dancing too much. Yes, this is actually a thing.
There are some dancers who take every workshop, go to every dance, and spend all their other time doing dance-related activities. Very frequently, these dancers burn hot for a year or two – and then burn out, never to be seen again. The pace and volume is simply too much.
View it like a chocolate shop. Everything is delicious – and one chocolate every day means you want more. But, if you eat a whole box of chocolates every single day, eventually you’ll end up hating the thing you’re supposed to love and look forward to.
There are some exceptions to the general pattern of Gluttony – but they are rare. Frequently, the exceptions go on to become teachers, DJ’s, or other fixtures in the scene.
If you do intend to dance a lot as a hobby, make sure that you keep each experience fresh. If you feel yourself burning out, take the time to recover – before the spark is completely gone. Take care of your mind, body, and life.
The sin of Envy is jealousy towards other dancers. It can be anything from trash-talking another dancer, to berating yourself for not ‘measuring up’. While on first glance it appears to be an internal problem, it can have a severe impact on your interpersonal relationships as well.
For example, some dancers get jealous of a person who gets more dances or attention. Very often, that person is then seen as an ‘asshole’ or a ‘bitch’ as a way to validate the other person’s feelings of envy. While the actual cause of the envy is a perceived ‘benefit’ the other dancer gets, it manifests as a negative attitude and preemptive judgement.
This can also happen when someone is rejected by a partner viewed as desirable. If that partner then goes on to accept other dances, the jealousy of not being ‘chosen’ as a partner (which can feel ‘unfair’) leads to similar resentment.
Jealousy is a natural feeling – and it strikes everyone at some point. But, you can manage it by understanding why those feelings emerge. Then, refocus those feelings into something constructive – like self-improvement, or refocusing on other things you feel good about.
The sin of Wrath is best seen in workshops, but can happen on the social floor as well. It is when a partner gets frustrated or angry to the point where it impacts their interpersonal relationships. For example, getting frustrated and pulling harder on a follow to ‘make’ them do a move is a form of wrath.
Keep in mind that wrath is not always directed at someone else. Sometimes, people get very angry at themselves for what they feel are defects or problems with their dancing (or personality). Self-directed wrath may feel less ‘intrusive’ to the sufferer, but it usually still spills over to their partner.
If you feel the frustration mounting, take a moment to reset and recalibrate. Or, change the movement or activity to cut the frustration. In classes, you can also tell your partner how you’re feeling if it’s self-directed.
The sin of Pride occurs when dancers think they’ve reached the ‘top’. It is very often accompanied by anger if that mastery is challenged in some way. Very often, we refer to this as an egotistical dancer.
If you feel like you’ve ‘learned it all’, you’re likely suffering from Pride. Please, take off the armor and enjoy being a student. Be open to what you still have to learn. I promise it won’t make you look like an idiot. In fact, the people who leave the best impressions are usually the ones who are willing to admit that they don’t know everything!
Another type of pride is the one who feels like they’re ‘above’ other dancers. They may make beginners feel like crap, or treat mere ‘social dancers’ as undesirable clutter. But, the message is the same: I’m better than you. Even if it’s not explicitly stated, the body language and attitude can speak volumes.
If you know you’re prone to this, take a step back and evaluate the situation. What do you have to lose by treating the beginners well? What do you have to lose by learning something new?
In dance, the sin of Greed is when we feel entitled to things, but give nothing. It’s when we expect good dances with the professionals, but don’t want to spend time nurturing the less-experienced dancers. It’s when we expect free or heavily-discounted services for no reason. It’s when we expect those in our communities to fulfill us without ever giving something back in return.
These people are not the ones who volunteer or give back. These people simply take. They want a discount to events – but don’t want to volunteer. They want dances with all the greatest dancers – but don’t want to spend time nurturing the newbies they could help inspire.
These people can severely impact their entire dance community. For example, if a local dance is barely able to make rent, a few of these dancers sneaking past an unattended table can force the event to close. And, when it comes to classes and events, the people who tirelessly ask for free stuff but refuse to volunteer or promote can make artists and organizers feel unvalued.
If you want to have a great community, be prepared to give back. Be prepared to nurture other dancers. Be prepared to either pay for the services you love, or volunteer to support them in other ways. But, try not to only take from the community you love.
Have you ever struggled with the 7 Deadly Dance Sins? Leave your stories and thoughts in the comments!
How do you call a sin of buying yet another pair of dancing shoes or a piece of clothes? 🙂
Would this be considered a deadly one as well?
I think that comes under Gluttony!
It’s an addiction not a sin..lol
How would you categorise the sin of making suggestion after suggestion after suggestion about what marketing, promotion, events, etc the organisers should run… but don’t want to help, or tell you that they have no time.
Thank you for this delightful list of how social dancing becomes anti social at times! These are all cautionary tales and the warning is that dance communities are ephemeral, being constructed out of the desires, interests and happiness of the dancers. We all have to take the responsibility to be sociable and give everyone a good experience so they keep coming back for more dancing! Its important to dance with newbies and also tell them that every new dancer who is now good has gone through their first night on the dance floor of not knowing what to do. We all have the duty to learn to manage ourselves better socially in order to help dance survive. As soon as old dancers stop teaching new dancers how to dance, dancing starts to die!
I have been a dance all my life . a teacher for 25 years . your article is well written and frames the sins beautifully. Simply put
DO AS YOU WOULD BE, DONE BY . ONLY GIVE WHAT YOU EXPECT TO RECIEVE
I got here by means of the MOB facebook group… This is a nice read…
I want to point out there are some, very few, blog posts about social dance etiquette… I had some rare notion of what were OK things to do or not do until I read some of them…. There are cultural differences, different upbringing, and some of us are late bloomers or just did not get early on a good understanding of what could be construed as good social manners…. So I’ll speak for some of the comments that I have received myself and try to bring something more to this article and those of you that are starting in the salsa scene either for a new recreational experience and/or those of you that have been on the dance floors of the world over….
I have what is some times described as RBF (Resting Bitch Face) syndrome… So my serious face is seen 99% of the time as a deterrent of fun and dynamic salsa dancing, or bachata… So I am a constant recipient of comments such as “why aren’t you smiling?”, “don’t you like dancing?”, “Am I boring you?” and so on and so forth… Believe me when I say that, I am having a good time when I dance… I just can’t help but to be serious-faced… I grew up a quiet kid and a quiet grownup, save for recent 10 years in which I found salsa…. and oh boy have I learned a lot about myself… we never stop learning, we never stop seeing others…
There was a comment from a DJ in Santa Monica… he reminds dancers once in a while that we all come from different experiences in the day, and in life and we may not be at our best 100% that night in which seemed out of it, serious, or just not really present on that song, or songs in which we seemed to be lacking the energy we “could” have… So I have to say I am glad for those dancers that helped me when I was starting, that gave me pointers, that smiled, that made something funny and busted a move only they could pull off cause they love dancing, even the bad ones that left me on the dance floor in the middle of a song because I was either not good enough, out of beat, or just dealing with stuff from work, life, etc….
I think there are other sins, like those that do not errr…. freshen up before dancing, or forgot to wear deodorant, or have something they many not be yet aware of… Not really sins, no. I guess we all learn what we need to when we can and are able to.
I had recently asked a friend what to do when a lady dancer did not wear deodorant, or at least it seemed that way… I think the suggestion she game me is a good one (just say thank for for the dance and walk away)… though if it could be one of the things taught more often in all studios and or salsa places, I think we could all help each other out… Remind people of good hygiene… I do recall taking my first salsa class at a community college and the teacher mentioned a few things: You will learn to lead, how to properly ask a lady for a dance, to remember to brush your teeth, wear deodorant, not wear an excess of cologne, never to leave a person in the middle of a song, be courteous, be friendly but not over friendly, and most important, have fun and help your partner have fun.
If I recall correctly, from reading many blog posts, it is OK to decline some dancers if: you don’t feel the beat of the song, if you don’t like the song, if you are tired, if the person asking you seems tired, if the person seems to be seeking something other than a friendly dance, if you got stepped on and need to rest, if you get a bad vibe from the person, etc, etc, etc… Just be polite about it and try not to seem rude… Still, I have to add, if they are newbies and they can use a dance, please remember we all were there at some point… so try and steer them in the right direction… mmm k?
I think vanity may have been a sin too? not sure if that applies… but having a good presence helps to the whole scene, though sometimes wearing a T-Shirt and jeans on a day that you just need to enjoy the music is OK.
In terms of lust, I gotta say, since I dance rather close in bachata, not everybody is OK with dancing close. So, please do be aware that this goes for both men and women. If a woman says not to dance too close, it should be taking into account. Ladies, same goes for guys, if we are not leading you close, please do not over do it. Chemistry in the dance floor is something that happens naturally and moves and evolves organically. For those of you still trying to figure out what your are not doing right, try and have fun and be the dancer you want to be… then “generating chemistry” will follow on its own, don’t force it… But do enjoy dance often…
I think I wrote a lot for being a quiet guy…. hopefully it makes sense… And again, take it easy on those of us with Resting Bitch Face… Happy dancing.