The vast majority of us are not social dancing for the sex, but a lot of us have had at least one crush on a fellow dancer.
When I say crush, I mean an actual, romantic crush. I do not mean a dance crush, where you absolutely adore the person as a dancer – but without the romantic attraction. I mean you actually want to explore more of a romantic connection with that person.
This is where the intersection between dance connection and romantic connection can get tricky.
When we are romantically interested in someone, it is natural to try to look for signs that the person is interested in you. That is the foundation of the age-old ‘do they like me?’ question. Is that smile a flirty smile, or a friendly smile? Did they touch my arm because they thought I was a good friend, or because they wanted to touch me romantically?
Or, in the case of social dance: “Do we have this amazing dance connection because they’re into me?”
This is the Dance Trap.
As long as there’s no romantic intention between two parties, it’s relatively easy to discern that it is simply a good, connected dance. However, if we have feelings for the person, that dance connection can feel like a sign that they’re into you.
The problem: it’s not a reliable indicator – especially with accomplished dancers.
The more accomplished a dancer, the more likely it is that a ‘sensual’ dance connection is simply a sensual dance connection. Or, that flirty dance-look is just an expression of that dance connection. Or, that smooth arm caress is just the best transition to another dance hold. Minus an on-floor grope (which isn’t appropriate at all), the ‘connection’ you have is a very poor indication of romantic interest.
This becomes even more problematic when a good dance connection is being used to justify the idea that the person is ‘showing signs’ that they’re interested – even when there’s no real romantic overtures off the floor. For example, if the only interaction you ever have is a good dance connection, they’re probably just not that into you. Many people get this, accept it, and move on – but others get stuck in that rut.
There’s also a small subset that use dance connection to ‘prove’ someone is into them – even if the partner has specifically stated that they do not have romantic feelings at all. This ties into the entire idea of consent, which is not the subject here. In brief: a ‘No’ is a ‘No’, whether in response to a dance request or a romantic overture.
Can a Dance Trap cause any damage?
Yes. It can cause a lot of damage.
The first risk is the relationship between the two people. A single rejection is usually not a big deal, and most objects of affection can handle a gentle decline to date. Sometimes, it’s even flattering. However, if the admirer continues to come on strongly it can place the other person in a very uncomfortable position. In fact, it can destroy the good ‘dance chemistry’ between the two individuals AND damage the social relationship.
The social relationship is at risk because the person without romantic feelings is not being respected. By pushing the idea of a romantic relationship towards the person, it can put that person in a position where they repeatedly need to reject the admirer. Eventually, the person will withdraw and simply not engage with the person.
This, in turn, affects the dance relationship. If the social trust has been compromised by repeated romantic pursuits, the object of affection is likely to also withdraw their good dance connection. Basically, withdrawing that dance connection is the last way to put up a big sign saying ‘I’m Not Interested’. This is especially common if the admirer is using a good dance connection to enforce their opinion that there is ‘romantic interest’ – or if they’re trying to use dance to ‘win’ the other person over.
What should you do instead?
If you do have a romantic connection and don’t know if the person is feeling it in return, ask.
If they say “No”, respect the “No” and move on. Rejection stings, but that’s OK. It’s just a part of life. Please refrain from trying to ‘convince’ them to like you… it doesn’t work, and can lead to awkwardness!
A ‘No’ from a fellow dancer in response to a relationship request is no different from any other romantic ‘No’ in the rest of the world. It is up to you to handle the rejection in a healthy way. It’s not up to the object of your affections to ‘prove’ that they’re not interested.
You can still have a successful dance friendship with someone you are (or were) crushing on. For the object of affection, they will likely be very happy to continue as if nothing has changed. Once you’ve handled the rejection, things can pick up where they left off – as good dance friends. It’s up to the admirer to handle their feelings. Just like in a dance, the intimacy level is set by the less-comfortable partner.
Avoid the Dance Trap. Remember that a good dance connection does not mean a person wants to date you – they are simply dancing with you. Like everything else in dance, navigating potential romantic relationships comes down to respecting your partner.
This includes respecting No’s, Yes’s, and the idea that a dance connection does not equal a romantic connection!
Thank you so much. Great articles.
Keep up with good work, Laura!
excellent article Laura I can relate it to my ballroom dancing phace . where I think the relationship between teacher and ballroom student is quite different than the Latin salsa dancing relationship .
my experience was that my local ballroom here everything is based on monetary compensation and you never really know if that person even likes you or not because if you were paying them to dance with you it was just a weird vibe. my experience was that my local ballroom here everything is based on monetary compensation and you never really know if that person even likes you or not because if you were paying them to dance with you ,it was just a weird vibe .it Took me several months to figure that out . I feel it can produce disingenuous relationships and I the student is the one who loses .
it was very evident after I discovered my local Salsa community and pretty much it never went back to ballroom dancing because the motivation is totally different . and the community is supportive because they want you to enjoy just having fun no crazy rules ,no specific way I dance has to be performed and never worried about who am I going to dance with or am I gonna have enough money to pay for this lesson.
I was intrigued to read this article. “No” is not always interpreted as “No”. I am a dancer teacher and spent many years looking for a good dance partner I felt comfortable with, so was used to dancing with different people. Eventually I met a great guy at work whom, after marriage, I introduced to dancing. To encourage him to learn at his own pace and gain confidence, I bought him beginners class lessons to attend on his own and we would practice moves at home later. He became confident and competent quickly, and in demand. The trouble started when a woman not used to dancing etiquette, mistook his relationship intentions and started pestering him. The only encouragement she needed was an offer of a lift home once. My husband thought was helping her out due to the heavy rain and as he drove directly past her place, it seemed mean not to offer. She made a pass at him, which he politely turned down! But then she thought it was a game to try to hook him and did everything she could to ensure only she could dance with him, which made it difficult for the other dancers and dance teacher to intervene. After a few weeks he decided that he could not deal with it by himself and started to worry about leaving the class which he now loved. To begin with I thought it was mildly amusing that he had an admirer, but realized he was actually scared of her. So I went along to the class with him to see for myself. I knew the dance teacher and offered to dance as a leader to help with the numbers, but the woman did not know who I was. During the dance rotation in the lesson, she chatted about the new man she was going to marry and when she pointed to my husband I realized just how fixated on him she had become. Now I was scared too! I calmly explained that he was already married – to me! After a wailing fit, she stormed up to my husband, hit him and complained loudly about how he had lead her on, and that she thought it was just an excuse when he said that he was married, for her to chase him. Then she disappeared to the bathroom and left. Then her friend came over to me and started calling me names, saying that we were really cruel and had broken her heart!
So I can only reiterate your words, think carefully about starting a non professional relationship with a fellow dancer (and make sure that they are unattached before you develop a crush)!