Sidenote: I’m glad people are finding this article useful. But, if you are reposting or resharing, please link and credit the original article.
We love to joke about being ‘dance addicts’.
We’re even proud of it. We glorify flying to other continents to pursue our hobby. We see world-famous dancers with 2 or 3 full Facebook accounts full of fabulous people. We laugh about spending more time on dance-related activities than our day jobs.
I’m one of them – and I’m happy to be. It has given me an international network of great friends. It has challenged me physically and mentally. It has given me a sense of purpose and discipline. I honestly can’t imagine my life without dance as a major focus.
But, this wonderful addiction has a dark side.
Social dance is a very social activity. But, there are dance addicts out there who are incredibly, profoundly lonely – especially in large scenes.
Social dancing is somewhat like living in a city. You may be surrounded by people – but that doesn’t mean you know them. You can touch, interact with, and talk to people around you without actually engaging in a relationship.
Some of the most die-hard dancers substitute dance for interpersonal connection. Sometimes it’s because they feel awkward in social contexts. The touch and physicality of social dance doubles as a substitute for potentially awkward conversations. Developing dance skills becomes a form of ‘social credibility’, with dance desirability replacing real friendship.
Even worse, many new dance addicts end up losing touch with old friends as they become more ‘serious’ about dance. In addition to not developing strong connections with their fellow dancers, they let their old friendships deteriorate.
Eventually, the dance addict realizes they don’t really know anyone – even if they’re one of the most sought-after dancers in the room. That can be an incredibly lonely realization.
When you venture into the social dance world, build friendships. You don’t have to be friends with everyone (no one is, even if they seem like it). Even having 2-3 actual friends can alleviate the isolation.
No matter how addicted you are to dance, make sure that you still have people you can hang out with or talk to. It’s incredibly important to nurture friendships that exist outside the dance hall.
Dance is exhilarating and engaging. It’s very easy to run away from responsibilities in order to dance.
The dance floor can become our escape from reality. While this is great in some situations, it’s deadly in others. It’s great to be able to escape from a tough situation for some fun – but only if you’re able to return to the problem re-charged and ready to deal with it.
But, when there’s dancing every night of the week, it becomes easy to run to dance rather than tackle your problems.
Whether it’s financial, interpersonal, professional or other problems, don’t let dance stand in the way of managing your life. Dance is only a magical, wonderful thing if it doesn’t cause your life to go up in flames.
Think of it like alcohol: it’s great if you drink socially for fun once in a while. If you use it every night to forget about your tough day, it’s hurting your ability to cope with reality. When it’s alcohol, we call it alcoholism. We just don’t have a word for it when it’s dance-related.
This issue isn’t specific to dance. It applies to any super-involved hobby. Hobbies and activities are supposed to add value to our lives – not cause our lives to fall apart. Dance shouldn’t ruin a fantastic relationship, job, or other opportunity.
A Note on Finances
Dance should never bankrupt you. It sucks to miss out on some opportunities that you can’t afford, but it’s necessary. I may love Ferrari’s, but I don’t go buy one if I can’t afford it. Similarly, I love private classes. But, if I can’t afford it, I don’t take one.
In most cases, you can find teachers and events that are willing to work with you. Some need volunteers. Others have scholarships available. Or, you may be able to find a practice partner.
Regardless, you need to be able to afford your dance habit. If you can’t, you need to cut back or find a more affordable avenue.
As wonderful as dance is, it’s either a hobby or profession. It can’t be a substitute for other parts of our lives. Dance is simply not everything.
It can’t be. Dance is not human. As therapeutic and social as dance is, it can’t fill in for interpersonal relationships on its own. It can’t make your health and financial security woes disappear. It can’t come to rescue you when your car breaks down at 4 a.m. on a highway and you have no way home (though the people you meet through dance might).
I wouldn’t trade my dance ‘addiction’ for the world. It’s one of my driving passions, and I’ve accomplished so much since I began dancing.
But, I keep my eyes open now. I’ve used dance as an escape before. I’ve also found myself incredibly lonely at times. I’ve seen both the hurt and the healing that dancing can provide. When I use it responsibly, it is one of my greatest tools for happiness and growth.
Being aware of the dark side doesn’t negate the good that dance ‘addiction’ does. It simply makes you more aware of how to use it for your benefit – rather than be controlled by its darker side.
Update: I wasn’t expecting such a huge response to this article, at all. There’s a few common themes that have come up in comments and messages I’ve gotten about this article. I’ve addressed them in a follow-up.
I love dance tremendously, and nothing I wrote here means I love it any less. I simply want people to get the best out of dance, instead of the worst.
When I first discovered social dance, I was in classes at least six hours a week and then going out to the clubs and/or socials 3-4 nights a week until 2am–and I had to be at my full-time, responsible job at 9am. Maybe everyone goes through that phase, like when you first fall in love?
I knew I was in ‘addiction’ mode one night when I went out with 101oF fever because I just COULD NOT miss one single Friday night of dancing. I realized something was really wrong with this. Withdrawl was inevitable, like any addiction. How many of my friends would still go out in a blizzard-because they HAVE to- only to find out an event is cancelled? Some continue to be blindly addicted and some have abruptly quit the dance scene. Loving to dance and finding that balance with the rest of your life is so critical. Good luck, everyone.
Hi thanks for your article and there are many aspects I can relate to in it. I really love and need almost a weekly “fix” of social dancing to be able to carry on functioning in my normal working life but after reading your articles and the comments then I realise that my addiction is not that bad. I do not feel offended with what you have written either, the truth just hurts sometimes. I have been dancing virtually non stop for three and a half years again and made literally hundreds of new Facebook friends from the various dance schools and parties that I attend weekly. However I have personally observed that a certain number of the hard core, die hard dancers who are just like me, …..they are lonely. I don’t know what happens in their case after the parties but I go home alone because I don’t go dancing to look for woman. I go dancing to heal and after two unsuccessful relationships this seems the only way that I can successfully interact with a woman leaving her still smiling. This boost my ego that at least for five minutes on the dance floor I can get it right. But despite seeming popularity on the dance floor with my limited skills the quietness of driving back home in the car and slowly winding down in the kitchen in the early morning hours before you finally crawl into your bed is deafening. Before you fall asleep you are reawakened to your loneliness.
I know a few woman are in relationship but come dancing alone. I warned them that despite the intense plezier and joy of dancing never put this before maintenance and protecting a good relationship. Fespite the fact that it did not help in the end anyway I stop dancing two times for the sake of the relationship because it is of more value and it satisfied those other important needs.
But even when I was single again and dancing my salsa friends would organise some other social activity but then I become anti social and fanatical by responding, ” No Salsa! Then I am not interested “.
I am still really grateful for social dancing because otherwise I would have been completely isolated outside my working hours. What amazes even more than the different ethnic and social groups that come together to dance is the the different age groups. There is no generation gap from teenager to senior citizen everyone is wiling to dance and connect with each other on dance floor. Latin rhythmic music , moving in time to that music and seeing everybody smiling and laughing all night in a world that can be so negative, depressive and divisive has to be good for the human soul.
But despite all of this we still need reminding that there is a life, love and social activity outside social dancing.
Wow. Came to social dance almost 5 years ago. What a ride. I devoted 4-8 hours a week to learning in a college salsa class for one semester. Fell in love with the dance and ended up in a physical relationship with someone much younger. Both of us loved the escape and dancing and practicing but on again off again nature of the relationship was brutal, and had some addictive qualities to it!!
I did not date dancers, but then ended up back with one about a year ago. Very hard to fair well in a relationship and dance. You get the great partnership, but not the freedom. You find out what people are really made of at some point, and you loose your sense of privacy, and freedom. This is the dark side.
Plus exes can be extremely hard to deal with in the dancing club scene. I love to dance but not the alcohol that other dancers drink which leads to awful behavior.
Keep your eyes open. Some go to just have fun and some are there to get lucky.
Keep your eyes open.
I shared this previously and have just RE-read it. It’s a thought provoking article and I absolutely have experienced it. I know balance work, social & dancing more wisely. Thank-you.
I love to dance… My life is full of problems like financial, personal, and all types then my mind started to fantasy…. I used to listen songs and dance and imagine what I want to be…. But due to this I can’t study and I can’t work on my self improvement… That’s why I searched your article… Thanks alot… I hope it’ll help me
Hey Laura, thanks for your courage to talk about yourself! I can find myself in there to 100%. It fell into social dancing after a hard relationship breakup already thinking about quitting my job as a chemist. Social dancing stopped me from working until I was fired. Fortunately, it was the right way for me, as I am now working with dance. It feels sooooo right. But after about 3 years now, I realize that there is so much more in life. My vision is to bring dance into everyones life like watching TV: better move than sit and better be with people than alone. But under the right conditions like eating and talking tohether and not that special only dance event. The interesting thing is: when you balance your social dance party life and show up less often than before all the others addicted are concerning and worrying about wether you don´t like dancing anymore 😀
Thanks for the wise and informed words on a subject that few are willing to acknowledge or even discuss. I’m a dance addict, I dance 6 nights a week, more often or not 7 nights, but it’s good for me, if I miss a night I don’t regret it and I know sometimes I need a break, that said my dance community is very supportive. I’m also lucky that my bon dance friends have their addictions be they partying or golf so we all make time for one another as people have said it’s all about balance.
Dance may be replacing those friendships bc they were shallow and devoid of authenticity to begin with.
Dance can empty the wallet at first but this works itself out once you as a dancer figure out where the good spots are/ who the good instructors are. Even more so after you decide the style you most enjoy – then youre not just spending money feverishly.
Dance does provide an escape; an escape from the life we arent entirely happy with to begin with. Dance shows us our potential . And though evey person we meet on the damce floor wont become a bestie, we can still be sociable, friendly , and cordial without taking on all of the heaviness of a closer relationship.
Social dancing, workshops and congresses have reinvented life in my hometown; a life I was weary about coming back to after living abroad for many years.
It’s great that dance has been such a positive force in your life. However, your experience does not necessarily mean that it is everyone’s experience. There are people who lose great, close friendships because dance overtakes their life. There are people who spend beyond their means, travelling to several events a year. There are also those who dance so much that they fail to fulfill their daily responsibilities.
The article was not meant to say that dance addiction is always bad – but only that we should be aware of the pitfalls and use it properly. Just like exercise, food, and more. They’re all great – as long as they’re used in a healthy way.
Similarly, I had no life to begin with. My so-called friends did not come at my aid when I needed them the most. Dance was a safe way to meet new people and find other, better friends.
It is true though, that just being at a dance event is not enough. I’ve been incredibly lonely at the big dance camps, more than once. So instead I now only go to smaller camps. And I try to do non-dance things with people I met through dance or through my (relatively new) job. And yes, I decided to skip a lot of workshop/dance camp/ travel type things because my savings were vanishing into thin air. I still take a lot of classes though…
I have found the uber cliquey nature of the dance world tough to break into and make friends. I am often reminded by a friend who dances, that I knew in my other world, not to rely or take any of those I think are friends to be real friends you can actually count on. She has many more years in dance than I and has found that the hard way. Another gentleman I’m friendly with in dance recently told me he needed a break because he was feeling rather negative and used by people in the scene as well. I am trying to heed these people and keep my passion (not addiction) balanced. But clearly this essay strikes a chord with many.
I believe the pitfalls you refer to – we owe to ourselves; not to dance or even being addicted to dance. When you talk about dance having negative impacts on our friends and relationships, are you considering the quality of that relationship to begin with? A strong shift towards dancing could be exemplary of the fact that we have outgrown certain friendships or relationships. As we change as people our interests change accordingly. If work is “suffering” as a result of dance, perhaps it is our minds signaling to us that we are more fulfilled spending time on activities that enrich our lives – not just our bank accounts. I’m not advocating spending your last on a dance workshop but take it a step further; if people spend a majority of their time at work, should that work reflect their own interests and desires? Feeling lonely in a social dancing setting is presumably an awful feeling. But we can also feel alone around the family, friends, and colleagues that you claim we are giving up. The feeling of loneliness amongst the crowd is not exclusive to social dancing. In life we struggle sometimes – whether we’re with people or not. But true isolation fosters depression. So, if you’re gonna feel lonely, you’re better off being among like minded dancers.
My experience with social dance and dance in general has been mostly positive. I have also had friends tell me I’m “addicted” to dancing. This is of no consequence to me. I am a better person for having found dance. It is an activity where we must focus our efforts inward in order to be expressive outwardly. Feeling isolated or in need of escape is a sign of imbalance in life. It most likely didn’t start with social dancing and therefore shouldn’t be attributed to social dancing. Among physical activities it may be one of the most therapeutic known to human beings.
I can speak from personal experience as to great friendships falling apart after dance. I had a very wide (and very positive) social network before dancing. I rarely (if ever) talk to most of those people anymore. I can also speak from experience with dance interfering with work or studies.
Is it my own fault? Yes, of course. It is up to each person to find their own worth. But, just like any addiction, dance can function as a conduit to bring out the worst (or best) in a person. It can build bridges, friendships, relationships, and more – or it can isolate and interfere with normal life.
It is not the dance itself that is to blame. But, for those who are predisposed to negative expressing dance addiction, it is a conductor. Therefore, those people need to understand that balancing their life, maintaining friendships, and maintaining their functionality in their life is important. Additionally, it doesn’t necessarily start with social dancing – but it can be made worse when social dance is used as a temporary escape. Because the problems aren’t dealt with, they grow larger and consume more.
I (obviously) love dance. Otherwise I wouldn’t run this blog. I agree that it is one of the most therapeutic activities around. I completely agree that it is of massive benefit to most people. But, just like anything else, it’s not pure ‘good’. It depends on what the person brings to it.
And, for certain, if you bring the wrong things to dance, it can be very destructive.
I like what you wrote.
It is very true about “Feeling isolated or in need of escape is a sign of imbalance in life. It most likely didn’t start with social dancing and therefore shouldn’t be attributed to social dancing.”
I monitored the connection of my state of being before going to the dance event and probability to enjoy the event fully. What I found out – simple rule. If at the moment I am overflowing with anticipation for joy in general and dancing in particular or even when I am sad or tired or have concerns, etc, – yet I am looking forward to my pleasure to see my partners and create the magic – I align myself with the expectation of creating. I take my time to pick the dress, shoes, make up and jewelry. I really get on the mood and bring it to the event! “Don’t be the moth – be the flame!” Great experience is given.
However, in the past, when I went the the dance event to GET better – it back fired every time. I would project neediness and it is not attractive feeling. The gap between reality and pretending to be OK would make it worse. In conclusion: social dancing can not be responsible for vibrational instability.
Laura – very well say and supported, thank you for your input.
❤️ To dance.
The article feels spot on. Dance (as many other sports and activities) is a way that lets you totally forgot about outside world and escape from all current troubles. Plus it fills your body with endorphines. So technically it is not so different than doing drugs. Of course these is the difference, that dancing is healthy for your body (oposite to drugs). But otherwise it can have same effect on your mind and life. Yo ucan easily become addicted with all the drawbacks (loosing friends, spending all your money, reduced performnace in job, avoding real world problems, not spending enough time with family!,…). You have to be carefull :-/ Dancing six hours a day is awesome experience, but can cause troubles for the other 18 hours of a day 😀
I just discovered this article and it certainly speaks to my situation, although I am on the other side of my fiancé’s addiction.
She began dancing about 10 years ago, early in our dating experience. Although I occasional went to a dance party with her, I was not into dancing as a significant hobby. About six years ago, she told me that dance was so important to her that, unless I made an effort to learn, she was seriously considering breaking off our relationship. At that time we had been absolute best friends for five years and were romantically involved. I agreed to become part of her dance community and started taking lessons with her.
We bought a house together and merged households, after taking a trip to Europe. While in Paris, I found a spot to tango on the left bank and surprised her with a cab ride to dance one evening along the banks of the river.
In December that year, I asked her to marry me and she said yes. I continued to go with her to two hour dance classes midweek twice a week and to the Friday night social at the studio. She almost always seemed to find a Saturday workshop or Sunday tea dance and I went with her to those as well.
The deeper we got into our relationship the more demanding she got about my level of participation.
Over the past two years, we had to take a good amount of time off from dancing due to COVID and the need to care for her elderly sick parents. Her father died in February last year and her mother died in September following a grueling bout with Alzheimer’s disease.
I knew I she was going to emerge from that ordeal as a bit of a different person. Becoming an orphan is traumatizing. But I had no idea how much different she would become and how adversely it would impact our relationship.
About a month or two ago she started acting somewhat aloof. I had been dealing with a pinched nerve in my sacroiliac since November when we returned from a trip to California. My time on the dance floor became somewhat limited. It worsened about six weeks ago so I had to shut dancing down completely pending treatments. That seemed to be a triggering event.
A couple of weeks ago she sat down in the living room with me and told me she is not ever going to marry me. She also said she is unsure if she wants to continue our relationship. I am a few years older than she is and she said she believes that is going to limit my time dancing. She said she absolutely loves dancing and said she plans now to dance 4-6 times a week. I told et that I would never be either able or interested in dancing that frequently but that I would not try to constrain her. He has a personal dance instructor – a great guy – the two work on routines for showcases around the area. I have always been fine with that and offer encouragement constantly. I attend her showcases.
But at this stage I’m not sure where we stand in terms of our relationship. She has made it quite obvious that she now seems to love dancing more than she loves me.
To clarify, we have had a wonderful, mutually supportive relationship, laughing, sharing the kitchen, traveling and going to movies and concerts. She is in her early 60s and I am in my early 70s. We have never really had what you could call a fight in 11 years.
But apparently, the pull of dancing – which she says puts her in her “happy place” – just may be to strong for our relationship to survive.
Isolation can also creep in over time as the people you started learning dance with (typically people you forge closest friendships with) start leaving the dance scene and you fail to connect with newcomers
I’m not trying to speak against the author here, just want to share my thoughts. I believe the loner thing is a choice. There’s nothing wrong in being a loner but for that you have to feel comfortable with yourself. You can’t depend on someone you must be self reliant. I’m preaching to the choir here because if you’re already out dancing you most likely had to separate yourself from the herd at one point or another. That’s why we loose some friends, many just don’t have the guts to go out there and learn something new or have a negative attitude and don’t belive they could never dance. To be frank, we need to leave those behind.
Moving on, about those who make it out to the dance floor. If they are social by nature they will make friends easily, just as they would in any other situation. I love social dancing but I am not the most social person. I go out to dance and therefor I dance, period. I never take it upon myself to start a conversation with anyone, unless it’s a nice looking girls ofcourse. I do say hi to people specially those I see often but that’s it. My dance scene conversations are, “Do you want to dance?” And “thank you.” That has always been my nature, I am the same in school, in my actual job, in random house parties, anywhere I go. No I don’t feel lonely, that is just how I am; I love my solitude. Now, regardless of how I am, I have still managed to make a good number of great friends in the dance scene. Friends that I can count on and friends that can count on me. So, if someone like me, who is an antisocial nut, can make friends, anyone can make friends. Having said that, if you feel lonely and without a friend you need to check yourself. There is a possibility that there’s something wrong with you. You could simply be a jerk and nobody likes you and if you want friends you need to change. Another possibility is that you have some psychological issue you need to deal with. For example, many people have issues that create drama and because of their drama they drive people away. Such as wanting all the attention for themselves and when it is not given to them, they create drama to get it. That’s only one example and these dancers need to deal with their issues to make any friends. Yes, I know of psychologoal problems that aren’t really a choice but my point here is that there’s an underlying cause to them feeling lonely. It is not because they are dancing.
I am not addressing the addiction part because any addiction would yield the same results. An addict puts his addiction above anything else including friends and therefor will inevitably feel lonely.
If you do not feel lonely and isolated, and are balancing your life, then it is clear that dance has been a positive influence in your life. There are certainly people who need less direct social interaction to be happy. Those people are sometimes called ‘loners’.
But, I don’t necessarily agree with you that people ‘bring it on themselves’ often. Especially with isolation and depression, it’s very dangerous to ‘accuse’ people of bringing it on themselves. Sometimes, the person may have many ‘friends’, but simply not feel close enough to any of them to open up or to share what they’re going through. For people struggling with depression, this type of isolation can literally be deadly. It’s critical that they make some sort of reliable interpersonal connection in order to keep themselves from complete isolation and loneliness.
I’ve yet to meet anyone (jerk or not; drama-maker or not) who can’t have at least one friend. It is important for people to connect with others and to have those social bonds.
You’re absolutely right that dance is not the ’cause’ of these issues – but it can multiply them (if used incorrectly). That is the root of dance addiction.
(Also, it’s impossible to address this article without addressing addiction, since the entire article is about dance addiction…)
Wow ! One of the best dance related articles I have ever read. I have been dancing 2/3 times a week for 13 years, and this article definitely relates to me. Oh dear, I may have to re assess.
Dancers are a family for dance purposes. If ones own family are missing a void can be filled by good company on the floor. However,this often challenging area can be a lot of added stress -even if one is extrovert like me.
Due to physical demands of dance many are naturally selective in who they care to connect with and will take time. I dance where the vibes are best and am not addicted.
90% of interactions at carefully selected classes or dance venues can be a social plus -but like life, some setbacks have to be tolerated.
Best way is be honest & friendly, enjoy dance for the close social aspect and avoid addiction, of course 😉
Last year, I realized that I have been overdosed with dancing.For several months,my only though was the next festival/dance event/class, you name it.And not only in my own town or country. So, I thought about it, I took a deep breath and I withdrawned, because I didnt have any time for my real friends and my boyfriend. I feel better now.Still looking for festivals though, just not daily/weekly events.Thank you for this article, it truly reflects true.
I started dancing after a marriage breakup of 24 years. I was in a very bad mental state and a friend invited me. It was a social dance group of mostly elderly people. I enjoyed it a lot and learned round dancing and ballroom.
My fellow dancers told me about Ceroc dancing. I joined the Ceroc group and I loved it. I became a helper in the classes which meant that I wasn’t paying for my advance classes anymore. I started competing and had a dance partner for a while. I started doing ballroom and salsa as well. It meant 6 nights of dancing a week. Monday & Tuesday Ceroc, Wednesday ballroom, Thursday salsa, Friday & Saturday was social dancing.
I used to take my youngest daughter with me to the social dancing when I had no babysitter because it was always at a family friendly environment. She learned to dance as well. I started in Hamilton.
This was the best years of my dancing. The dancers that were taught at Christine’s studio were taught etiquette and respect. I danced with a celebrity and loved it as part of a “Dancing with a Celebrity” show. I made life long friends there. The saddest day in my dancing life was when I moved. I had this illusion that my new city will be the same. Well it wasn’t. At least what the social aspect of dancing is concerned. I moved to Wellington and the first thing I had to find was my Ceroc studio. I loved it there. I made new life long friends there too. I helped in class which once again enabled me to be able to afford my dancing. The hardest thing for me about Wellington was that the social dancing on weekends were non existent for a dance addict like I was. The studio also didn’t have ballroom which meant that my group of cerocers were not really doing ballroom as well. In Hamilton we will go to the working mens club and dance all styles all night long. I really missed that social part of my life. I started dancing less and less. I can almost say I became depressed. Being single didn’t help much. I started doing a bit more social salsa on the weekends in those years and totally stopped Ceroc. Now I’m in Auckland and have been for a while. I must say it is the loneliest I’ve felt in my entire time in NZ. I’ve been here 17 yrs. I realized that almost all my friends of the last 13 years since I started dancing were from my dancing. I’ve met a few people at salsa in Auckland and I have maybe 2 or so friends. I find the salsa scene very clicky. I also have to say that I prefer to dance Ceroc more than salsa. The reason for this is that almost all the salsa men dance the same moves (socially). I’m not a fantastic dancer but I like a challenge and some excitement when I go out to dance. These days I stay at home most of the time and dream about my dancing days in Hamilton. .. lol. Thank you for your story, it is true in my case that I only have a very few friends that I met outside of dancing. I still love dancing and it is my passion and I will get back into it. I hope it will be sooner rather than later. Love to all the dancers out there.
I used to escape into dancing. However, for me, dance escapism was an effect of me running away from my life, not the cause. If it hadn’t been dance, no doubt I would have run away to some other, possibly more sinsister, activity. I feel fortunate that the activity I ran to did not have negative consequences. Running away had serious consequences, but dance itself was fine, and ultimately, through dance, I met good friends who helped me deal with my problems.
Hey Nancy, double that! 😀
Excellent article, Laura.
Every word of it fits me when I was a dance-addict. Although at that time, I would never have admitted these…
It’s really hard to not get addicted of dancing 😉
What a load of old bollocks!
It’s too bad you feel that way. Would you explain why you feel this article is not worthwhile?
I started dancing two years ago.
Soon after when I became better, I started to go dancing 4/5 times a week. Between classes and milongas I realized I was dancing almost everyday.
I love dancing but just in time figured out I was missing my old friend and I was making excuses to be dancing vs spending time with family and friends.
I met many great people which are very nice but at the end of the day few are real friends, mostly aqueintences.
Everything in life needs to be balance. Enjoy dancing when I feel but not everyday because it got expensive and sometimes it’s lonely since not everyone is your friend.
Feelings balances every needs of human body. Dance, Music, etc. provides the drivers for these feelings, if you don’t know how to keep them. Deeper levels of yoga and meditations center on the same aspect….We have been told many times the same thing… .but people have to learn to cultivate them internally… At the end of the day how you allow yourself to see the situation makes or breaks you. Everyone will die someday… but there is no point in dying every day until the last..So, is there a dark side to Dance? is there a dark side to human beings? Is there a dark side to the earth? There is no limit to our abilities to think out-of-the-box.. And so there is no limit on how well you can control that situation too 🙂 ..
Thanks for talking about social isolation in social dance. It’s good to hear someone talking about it.
I apologize even now if my English is not correct …
I find myself in complete agreement, the dance can be addictive, on a par with drugs and alcohol;
Personally I also noticed people who after attending for years, dances like the tango, or the Latin American and Caribbean, have changed.
they are mounted head.
They feel better than the rest of the inhabitants of this planet.
I’ve seen people leave their job, to get to improvise dancing, milongas or even dance classes.
Despite being only a beginner !!!
The dance for many is a kind of social redemption from boredom of their daily lives, and unrewarding and solid friendships.
“We glorify flying to other continents to pursue our hobby”. For a minute I thought the dark side was going to be the large eco-footprint of all the flying around, but the focus here is all personal.. I am surprised how little dancers consider taking a long distance train 🙁
Thanks for this article. I have Borderline Personality Disorder and severe depression and anxiety. Throughout my life I always found it difficult to make friends and be accepted by people but dancing changed all that. Suddenly I was part of something that meant I knew a lot of people and could have social and physical contact with people for the first time. It was wonderful and it also meant I could have social interaction but mainly on a superficial level which had the benefit of not triggering my nervousness or having to think of what to say.
It did take over my life as I was dancing 6 nights a week for years and I have lost contact with my non-dancing friends.
I have always been obsessional about hobbies. Previously I immersed myself in non-social hobbies like kite flying and ice skating. I gave up on those activities through frustration at not being able to improve any more without dramatically changing my life.
But with dancing I haven’t hit that brick wall: I still get immense pleasure and satisfaction after 17 years and I have branched out into other dances.
Dance is the one area of my life where I am in demand and admired. This satisfies a need in me to be needed.
In recent years I discovered I am transgender so now I also go to transgender support groups which gives me contact with people outside dance. It’s still difficult to form deep friendships but at least I now talk to other people about emotional issues.
When recently I was in crisis and had to leave my home in a hurry, it was my Facebook contacts (mainly dancers and transgender people) who came to my aid with help packing and moving and temporary places to stay.
When I have depressive episodes (which are frequent) I usually can’t pick up the phone and call anyone as I don’t want to feel a burden, especially not to my family with whom I feel guilty and inadequate, so I post my misery on Facebook and contacts help as best they can through messages of support but it’s not the same as real personal contact. But it’s the best I can do.
Social dancing has definitely given me a social space I otherwise wouldn’t have; I am still somewhat isolated because I lack the ability to connect with people on a deeper level, but at least I do have a kind of social life on tap: I can always go out dancing and find people who are pleased to see me.
(Sorry, I posted my response on your follow-up page by mistake. I meant to post it here.)
Bravo! This is one of the best articles on social dance I’ve ever seen!
I became addicted to dance when I was in college, taking beginning classes in modern dance, jazz and ballet, but, of course, I was too old to be any good. A few years ago, my love of Latin music introduced me to social dancing. I jumped in head first, falling in love with everything – the music, the dance, the culture, the social benefits and even politics. As a political activist, I was excited to learn about the social commentary and defiance that characterize so much Latin music.
I promptly hit a brick wall. I discovered that I’m apparently the only person in the U.S. who gives a damn about the culture, and merely mentioning the word “politics” is poison. Most amazing of all, I discovered that my dance scene is actually ANTI-SOCIAL. Of course, I live in Gothic Seattle, a city that really doesn’t have much of a social scene to begin with, but many of my observations appear to apply to dance scenes far and wide.
For a while, I wondered if I was losing my mind. No one agreed with my comments. I and a salsa DJ based in Cali, Colombia who weren’t big fans of the North American salsa scene were eventually banned from a salsa forum. That’s when things got really weird.
One of my biggest antagonists on the forum turned out to be a local instructor and promoter posting pseudonymously as a “salsa student.” He all but called me a liar. But after I was banned, he confessed that he was driving to Vancouver, Canada to find women to dance with! He later announced that Seattle’s salsa scene had collapsed and was virtually dead!
Have you seen the video “Politics of Rhythm” @ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5XXe2sVZP3g
It confirms that politics, in the broad sense of the term, IS (or at least was) an important part of salsa. As they say, music died in the 70’s – and I think social dance died with it. Though I remain addicted to Latin music, you couldn’t pay me to try social dancing again unless I was able to move to a Latin American country with a real, community-based dance scene.
However, I’ve developed a new interest – dance psychology. There are so many intriguing questions! There has to be a reason 90-95% of beginning salsa students drop out.
One thing I noticed is that the nicest women I met were beginners. As you climb the ranks, they get snottier and snottier. Seattle’s biggest jerks tend to be instructors (the most obnoxious lady I ever danced with became an instructor!), club owners and promoters – the people who control the scene. And they control it in the same manner as politicians, with false advertising, propaganda and manipulation. It’s amazing how many players are Microsofties or attorneys. Seattle’s best known instructor is widely reviled as a lounge lizard and worse behind the scenes – but no one will talk about him in public. Actually, I was the first to blow the whistle on him, and I was amazed at his ability to recruit people to rally behind him and even lie about him. Salsa does have a dark side, and I’ve just scratched the surface.
I recently saw a video where the most famous salsa instructor said salsa has become an Olympic sport. I think that hits the nail on the head. It isn’t a social event; it’s a competition, and nice people are quickly weeded out, a process that might be loosely called the ballroomization of salsa.
It’s cool that dance has mental benefits, supposedly helping fight Alzheimers and making people a little smarter to boot. Combine that with the fact that many Latin dancers are bilingual and are widely traveled, and you’d expect them to be not just really intelligent but compassionate and empathetic with people around the world.
Instead, they appear to be amazingly narrow-minded – and sometimes amazingly dense. The salsa forum I was banned from is very right-wing, and some of their comments are utterly bizarre. For example, one of the many members who likes to condemn the Cuban Revolution (while conveniently ignoring the U.S. embargo that has hurt Cuba so bad) says what Cuba really needs is McDonalds. Another thought it would be wonderful to watch Obama dancing the rumba in Cuba – even while innocent people are still being tortured at Guantanamo???
I’ve come to see social dance in the U.S. as a freak show – littlel more than a series of robot conventions manipulated by commercial and political interests – to be studied from a distance.
In fact, I’m thinking of writing a book on dance politics, but it’s very difficult researching it, partly because no one wants to talk about it. Apparently, no one dares challenge the salsa priesthood. (There are only TWO comments on the Politics of Rhythm video, which was published in 2009!) In that respect, social dance is an example of art imitating life.
I’ll definitely bookmark your article, which confirms so may of my observations.
P.S. Here’s another observation regarding finances.
Many Latin dances were originally community-based activities. Some were more popular among the poor or the working class than the upper classes. In the Dominican Republic, merengue was favored by the upper classes, while bachata represented the poor.
In the U.S. that economic relationship has been turned upside down. Few people have friends or relatives who can teach them, so you have to seek out an instructor. Many people claim dance classes are cheap – and they generally are. But how’s anyone really going to learn without private lessons?
Furthermore, the biggest factor may not be the money but the time commitment. People who are struggling to make enough money to pay the rent probably aren’t going to have enough free time to devote to dance, even if they can afford the classes.
On top of that, there’s a major social divide between “blue-collar dancers” and the yuppies that have largely taken over the social dance scene. People generally laugh at my comments on the yuppie dance scene, but even local media have reported on the loss of some of Seattle’s most famous social landmarks as the city is remade in the image of Microsoft and Amazon. There clearly is a difference between yuppies and non-yuppies, and, in my opinion, yuppie culture is the final nail in social dance’s coffin.
May I mention the competition part in dancing arena. Dance events promote dance competition, with so many categories and a “little” bias on judging. Dancers who compete show the worst and the best in themselves. Competitive dancers sometimes ignore the friendship but rather show the aggressiveness and competitiveness in them. I did compete, but I am changing my view on this part of dancing. I stopped competing. I am loving the social dance part of the dance community. I feel no stress and relieved of self-imposed questions of worth, especially when I do not get the “win” that I was hoping for. Yes, it is a financial burden too; some dancers ignore this part, especially even if it’s true that the judges who judge competitors are the same professional dancers who teach ( make money out of dancer student), and judge in the competition. This is a “dance politics” issue. Well, we all have something in ourselves that need to be filled. The emptiness inside; the need to prove our self-worth; the need the we “belong” to the upper class of winners; etc. Those are all, I think to some extent are being selfish. It is the I am a “winner,” I am “better” than you mentality. Anyway, just want to chime in. Thank you for a great essay; very informative and really influences someone’s “self-awareness” aspect of the dance addiction.
I’m a danceaholic and know it! I’ve been dancing almost 10 years and even though I don’t dance every night my weekend is dominated by it.
Last new year I damaged my ribs in a fall, not dance related, but still carried on and just told people I was sore and to be gentle. Since then I have gotten into blues and expressive dance and I love it.
I still have a balanced life but sometimes I will choose a dance evening over a family party.
Almost all of my girlfriends are “escaping” in one way or another and it’s healthy for NONE of them. Most of them read, some a lot, yet none will not read anything that even hints mildly of reality – they will only read fiction. What do they ever learn? A few dance, to escape of course, they look at men only as a pawn or tool as part of the dancing.
I love to enjoy the men, these girls miss out every time.
Even their best leads never measure up to them, they’re either too short, or not thin enough, or don’t have enough creative moves. Instead of working with a select few men and developing their skills, they move on to the next, and the next, infinitely. All we hear is “I’m not settling”, which is the code word today that nothing (especially men) are good enough. HA! We even have a few girls that are demanding to be leaders now, and let me tell you what a mess that has created. I want to be led by a man, that dynamic can’t be matched no matter how experienced the lady leader is.
So what’s going on today is a massive escapism in our entire culture, I see it all over my girlfriends and we talk about this pretty openly. The problem is that for everyone like me that is open and honest with them, they’ve got 10+ girlfriends that are telling them it’s “normal” to constantly run away, get rid of the men, escape, read only fiction books, NEVER watch a political show on TV because that could cause stress. Heck, they can’t even vote now because they have no idea who the candidates are or what the issues might be!
What you are seeing in dance “escapism” is not a problem, IT’S ACTUALLY A SYMPTOM of the breakdown of the relationships between our girlfriends. The few of us that have honest (and sane) ones that keep us going down a normal path have no problems, the other 90% are surrounded by their “friends” that keep them locked into a world thinking everything is bad and has to be escaped from.
Have you ever noticed how many of the ladies intentionally have strange relationships with men, or refuse to have one at all, preferring only to have “girls night out” for the rest of their lives. Who can possibly think this is normal or healthy?
Thank you for your thoughts, but I think you and I have a very different idea of escapism. What I’m talking about is running *to* dance to escape from the realities of life – sort of like reading fiction. But, that is very different from never being satisfied because something is never ‘good enough’.
As a woman who both leads and follows, I strongly disagree with you that women leading or men following is a symptom of an escapist culture. In many places, women far outnumber men at socials. It is natural that those people who want to dance more will learn the other role. And yes, there are people like yourself who never enjoy dancing with someone in a non-traditional role. But, the majority of dancers are quite open to that particular swap.
Swapping out of your traditional role is not necessarily escaping from things, or saying that men are never ‘good enough’. It certainly isn’t to be equated with refusing to become involved in politics. While some people who change roles may be dance addicts, so are some people who are very strongly tied into the traditional roles.
Thanks for this article. I am struggling not with friends (I have a great group of dance friends and a great group of non-dance friends). My relationship with my boyfriend of 18 months is the struggle. He’s a musician, not a dancer and he doesn’t get my obsession (I dance 2-3 times a month!! – not a heavy addiction). At what point do I lose the relationship and be a happy content single dancer? I love to dance with many partners to learn more and feel different styles, and I am part of a community in Minneapolis that is great. Any advice about navigating a relationship between a dancer (white woman) and a non-dancer (Latin male)??
My sense is that it is not the amount of time you spend dancing that bothers your partner (2-3x per month doing something that doesn’t include him is healthy for a relationship, and it sounds like he does his own thing with being a musician) but the type of activity (spending time touching other men, even if it is just “dance touch”). He may be uncomfortable with it because he is from a Latin background- I am not sure if this is your experience but I have found that I get hit on more often and more aggressively when I go to a Latin dance social vs. a swing or ballroom social. I have not done much Tango or Zouk so I can’t speak too much about those communities. Are there certain dance styles he feels less uncomfortable with you participating in?
As for whether or not you should let go of the relationship- I can only speak from my perspective. Whenever I have started dating someone new who doesn’t dance I have made it clear partner dancing is an important part of my life so the person knows what they are getting into. I am fortunate to have met someone who is supportive of me dancing and has interests of their own that don’t include me. The struggle for me is more internal- do I want to dance this evening or spend time with my partner?
I have almost quit dancing. I am a single man and I used to dance hoping that I would find a true partner in life who I could bond with both on and off the dance floor. But all I am finding are married women or women who have boyfriends who will not dance with them. These women want to dance with me because I have put a lot of effort into learning dance. But it makes me feel used by them. I am not dancing in order to entertain other mens wives. I live in Denver and most of the dance classes I go to there are more men than women. In my opinion social dancing is dying. There are very few young people involved in dance. When all of us middle aged people quit or parish their will be no more social dance. Wish things were different as I love to dance but I am not going to be used any longer.
Lots of people in and out of relationships use social dancing as a way to connect, have fun, and make friends… I don’t think these women are trying to use you – it’s just that not everyone is in dance to find a significant other!
This was an interesting article and discussion reading from the standpoint of a mature man who takes street dance classes in NY for fitness reasons. I simply go when I’m free and can afford it, and don’t miss social occasions or outings with my wife to do so. The classes, despite everyone doing it together, are about as social as a gym membership, which is to say, not at all. I don’t dance for fun, but it is fun to make progress and get better, so there is that addictive element. It sounds like the social dance scene is quite different. Maybe having the word “Social” in the name “Social Dance” gives people more of an expectation that it might be.
The social partner dance scene is definitely different from solo or dance fitness classes!
I liked tha you said tha one reason to consider learning to dance is that it will allow you to be sociial and make new friends. I have been thinking about trying to find a way to make new friends but I haven’t been sure how aI could do this. I will be sure to consider learning to dance so that I can attain this opportunity in order to become more social.
I like your comment Andre as I love the initial article. I feel addicted to dancing since I have tried sensual bachata, after 6 years of salsa dancing for fun. I have been looking for such article in French, and I found a very funny test proning this addiction, but it seems that few people (psychologists ?) are ready to recognize that it is not only a good addiction.
I dance with my eyes closed, to give you an idea of how far I want to escape from reality.
In 2019 your article is even truer as more and more people get into dancing. I thought that this was a positive evolution but I am not sure now. On top of personnal mental health problèms it raises, i feel like the dark side of our society has been transposed to dance : extreme compétitivité, critics and wars between dance schools, teachers, events, organisers, dance types & philosophers (good music, bad music, dominican bachata, modern…) ; unaffordable courses, festivals, privât classes ; casting and compétitions ; social media addiction (professional pics, vidéos, likes & share…) ; specific clothing & shoes, hair types ; judgement ; stéréotypes ; élite & star system ; incredible sexualisation ; loss of fun & sharing for performance and impress the others.
Dance is supposed to be as free as smiling, but they managed to take business into it, just as running, with marathons, training, smart watches, diets, specific shoes and cloths…
In parallèle of what you mentioned as à reason for this addiction, i would add the following:
– the fear of brutal death, physical disability. I spend day at work, but evening as if it was the latest of my life. Event promoters use this a lot too, with this feeling of “thé last of” : last class before summer, last party with this great person, this dancer celebrating his 30th birthday etc. They are selling à kind of “everyday is a spécial day and you have to be part of it” that works quite well.
– mixing with différent people as you said. In particular I get to dance with handsome guys that I am far too shy to approach. Addiction to flirt is another thing… There are also gorgeous very young ladies.
– i also use it as a consolation / compensation to a bad day or an unpleasant effort. Like a pièce of cake after / before an exam. I know that this is not the right way to proceed. Usually it does not help, because i have too much affective expectations in these night out to be satisfied.
– i forget about self confidence. I forget that people & i do not like my body, my hair, my face. The dance partners actually love to see us relaxéd / unleashed.
– i need constant things in my life. In big cities, capitals, people and events are coming and leaving. Going every week to the same place and be quite sure to see people that we know, in a city big like London or Paris, is very reassuring. It is like making your own village town in a chaos, although you do not get to talk to everyone.
– i love the hug. It took me a decade to be relaxed in somebody else arms. I cannot feel my body in everyday life, and when someone touches me it gets very sensible. Thanks to couple dancing, i can appreciate physical contact with other humans much more easily, without feeling agressed when someone just touches my arm or my knee during a conversation. My comfort zone becomes larger.
– i have learned that although my body is not perfect, it is good enough to give me some fun and love, no need to do a full split for that or be size xs
– i am first addicted to listening, singing and dancing on the music. Food brings me no energy with regards to a good song.
– we all have good or bad dancing parties. When you have à bad one, you want to go again to cancel this last feeling. When you have a good one, you want to repeat it… because it was so good !
– the more you dance, and if you train à little at home, the better you dance. You get to learn something or to improve your dancing in every night out / class. It is a very positive feeling on the long terme.
– we are all afraid to miss something if we miss a night out. To forget how to dance, to miss the latest moves, to miss the latest news in the local social dancing world, we are afraid that it would be the last evening out of our favorite dance partner, or that they forget about us, that we exist, if we do not come, or blame us for leaving the scenes…
Wow what a powerful article.
I’ve been dancing 6 months and I can already relate to some of this. Especially the lonely part, at first it was very soothing, but I soon discovered only Hi and Bye’s on the dancefloor.
We have classes for ladies styling and I don’t have friends with time. One time a mutual agreement to have a drink came upon us after attending.
I decided to be the admin of a group, it was meant to be purely to meet off the dancefloor, but It soon began being to do with dance. We already have a tight society and plenty of Facebook groups. I soon realized that these people were completely obsessed with dancing.
When I go dancing and at that present moment I enter the floor, it’s true all my difficulties are blown away. But the next day there still there.
I agree to be careful what your really looking for when your on the dancefloor. Talking and sitting down is like a sin. Many singletons go with high hopes of finding a partner. But if it goes wrong like the group, it’s in your face several times a week. That’s when you will really get down.
When a dancer dates a dancer I have seen people awkwardly not knowing how much to dance with others and changing styles, some dance’s like Kizomba and sensual Bachata are incredibly close. People can’t handle it.
Be true to yourself about what your really going for. There’s more to life than dancing.