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 allThis 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!