Are you someone who constantly feels like you’re ‘taking one for the team’ when you go dancing or get involved in the community? You might be a dance martyr.
Dance martyrs are characterized by feeling like they’re sacrificing their own joy, standard of living, or other happiness by giving back to the dance scene.
Dance martyrs can be anyone. They can be the dancer who begrudgingly accepts every dance – even if they didn’t want to. It can be the volunteer who makes the organizer feel guilty asking for help. It can be the professional who makes people feel obligated to support them because of their sacrifice.
Basically, it refers to anyone who emphasizes how ‘good’ they are to the scene by what they have ‘sacrificed.’
The thing is, martyrdom is not a ‘good’ thing. It makes others feel like a burden. Whether you’re a pro or a social dancer, making your fellow dancers feel like a burden is not a good thing. It makes them feel responsible for your sacrifice and misery – or roll their eyes at your dramatics.
When you are a dance martyr, you directly negate any good you have done by your attitude towards your ‘good deed.’
The Pity-Dance Martyr
The classic example of the dance martyr is the person who gives ‘pity dances’. When they accept a dance, they visibly broadcast how ‘charitable’ they’re being to their partner. They clearly show that they would really prefer to be doing something else – but that they’re ‘sticking it out’ anyways.
For the partner of these dancers, the reaction is a process:
- The partner immediately regrets asking for or accepting the dance, but hopes that the martyr’s attitude will change when the dance starts
- The partner realizes the martyr is not receptive to attempts to engage in the dance, and concentrates on just ‘getting through it’
- The partner feels shitty about their dancing. If it’s a beginner, they may decide dancing is not for them and leave the scene
- The partner dubs the martyr a snob, or decides to never ask them for a dance again
The martyr said ‘yes’ to the dance (a ‘good deed’), but at what cost? They gain a reputation as a snob, and they’ve left their partner with a terrible feeling.
A pity dance martyr can be any level. There are pro’s and average social dancers who give pity dances. The ‘victims’ of their pity dances can also be any level. The dominant characteristic is the martyr accepting a dance they don’t want, and refusing to attempt to engage fully in the dance they agreed to.
Escaping Pity Dance Martyrism
If you’re noticing some of these trends in yourself, that’s OK. Even the best of us succumb to it once in a while.
Avoiding dance martyrism is a mental game. You have to set yourself up to fix your own attitude and overcome problems, rather than blame external influences.
For example, the pity-dance martyr can be reworked a couple ways:
- Revising a personal ‘never say no’ policy
- Putting on a faux-enthusiastic face if you’re determined to uphold a never-say-no policy
- Finding ways to turn ‘obligation’ dances into ‘fun’ dances
(ex. building tolerance for low-level or faux-pas dancers)
- Giving preference to creating an engaging dance, rather than a ‘good’ dance
- Learning to give only when you’re comfortable not getting a ‘return’
The bottom line is that you need to stop making other people feel guilty because of your ‘kindness’. If you are making someone else feel bad in order to feed your desire to be appreciated or appear benevolent, you’re actually creating a less-kind atmosphere.
Putting on a ‘Happy Face’
Yes, it’s OK to ‘put on’ a happy face. If I’m starting a dance with that beginner who is (quite literally) shaking as we get onto the dance floor, I will put on an enthusiastic face. Why? Because their comfort, joy and inspiration is more important to me than my desire to have an amazing technical dance.
No, I’m not “lying” by looking enthusiastic. I’m enthusiastic about the possibility of them joining the scene. I’m enthusiastic about them getting inspired, and wanting to learn more. I’m enthusiastic about wanting to give them a great dance.
And, even if I’m not enthusiastic, I’m not going to make them feel like I’m doing them a ‘favour’ by dancing with them.
If you really can’t find something to be (or at least appear) enthusiastic about, say ‘no’. You’ll be doing far less harm by saying ‘no’ than if you give them 4 minutes of pity-time to feel like they didn’t live up to your expectations. You’re not doing anyone any good by giving them the ‘honor’ of an unenthusiastic dance.
Don’t be a Pity-Dance Martyr!
Practice enthusiastic consent, or polite ‘no’s – with all dancers, of all levels, at all times.
Well, I have to admit I have been noticing some of these symptoms on myself. And I will hate myself for saying this, but I dont find it as a wrong approach in some cases.
To clarify – I dont mind dancing with begginers or slower unskilled dancers. On contrary. I love it. You meet new people. Show them few new moves. Even the fact that they are impressed makes you feel good. Its great. And I rememeber how good it felt when skileld dancer danced with me when I was starting. Encouraging me, etc. I feel it is good to give time back to the begginers regardless of the level.
But I also know dancers who are not good (not even catching the rhytm) and they refuse to try to improve and learn for a long time. When you ask them “are you taking any lessons now?”. The reply is: “No, I let the guy lead me.” But when she has this attitude for two years, still is unable to dance basics and still feels it is partner responsiblity to make her dance good, it is another extreme. I was really trying to be pleasant to these ladies. But after some time my patience expired and I stopped.
The resaons? Dancing is a partner activity. Two people are involved. I guess most (all?) of us do it to have fun. And both parties should be somehow involved in giving and receiving. It should not be one way. So after some time of trying I reached the conslusion, that if the lady is not willing to do anything (any practice, any lessons) to make me feel good dancing with her, Im not obliged to take care of her just because she is pretty.
So for me the “annoyed pitty dancing” is not about skill level of the partner. But about her attitude. As soon as I feel that she expects me to take care of her fun and she does not care if it is fun for me, there is not much motivation for me to try. I know I should. But there is limited amount of time on the party. Limited amount of the songs. Too many possible dance partners. I usually can not dance with everybody. So if I have to decide who to avoid, it will be these ladies. And after soem time I stop pretending that I like providing the free fun.
I fail to see how this is at odds with what I said? My philosophy is “if you can’t find a reason to be enthusiastic, say ‘no'”.
If these ladies are this unpleasant to dance with, why subject both of you to a pity dance? Just say “no, thank you.”
There’s still no reason to give a pity dance, and make everyone feel like crap.