Dangerous dancers: we’ve all danced with one. If we’ve been dancing a while, probably several. But, one thing many people do not pause to consider is:

Are we the dangerous dancer everyone keeps talking about?

It is important to note that I have never, ever met a dancer who is actively looking to hurt or endanger their partner. I don’t think anyone comes to social dance and thinks “How can I cause harm to this person today?” Otherwise, I probably wouldn’t be social dancing.

There are also a few ‘types’ of dangerous dancers. Some dangerous dancers can even be really good partners when conditions are right – but when conditions fail, all hell breaks loose.


Type 1: The One Who Thinks They’re Doing It Right

Who they are: This is the type of dangerous dancer we think about more often. This is the dancer who pulls their partner around, self-dips, or otherwise ‘forces’ the partner into movements.

They’re like the driver on the road who never thinks they’ll get into an accident because they’re ‘too good a driver’, so they ride the edge of safety – thinking they can ‘handle it’.

Where it comes from: 

  • Overleading, backleading, or arm-leading.
  • Lack of connection and awareness of the partner’s body.

How they’re dangerous: These ones are generally most prone to injure a partner through force. This is where pulled shoulders and bad backs most frequently come front. Whether the ‘blame’ is placed on the partner or not, it’s the dancer’s faith in their own skill set that is the cause of peril.

You may be one of these dancers if:

  • You think you’re doing it 100% right, or you refuse to get training
  • You assume that because a move didn’t work, you should lead or follow more forcefully
  • You assume that because a move didn’t work, it’s your partner’s fault
  • You assume that leading happens by ‘making’ the follow go somewhere
  • You assume that dips are all partner-supported
  • You learn ‘cool stuff’ from YouTube – and don’t get formal training.
  • Your lead stays only to very basic movements, even though you think you can do more
  • Your follow is adding resistance to the connection, slowing down movements, or aborting some movements
  • You invitations are frequently declined, or
  • Many people seem to tell you about ‘injuries’ they have – and ask you to please dance softly/gently.

How you can fix it: Practice your connection skills, and learn how to sense when your partner is not in the movement with you. If you are a lead, try leading with less force and arm motion. If you are a follower, err on the side of not dipping and taking your time to understand the lead.


Type 2: The One Who Speeds

Who they are: This dancer loves fast speeds – even in super-complex moves. They tend to forget to breathe and wait for their partner

They’re like the driver who goes 160km on the highway. As long as conditions are good and there are no other drivers, all is good. Then something goes wrong – and what could have been a not-so-bad outcome can be catastrophic.

Where it comes from: 

  • Speeding
  • Lack of connection and awareness of the partner’s body.

How they’re dangerous: Usually, these injuries come because of one little thing gone wrong. For example, not letting the head finish a movement before yanking back, or starting a new movement without quite waiting for the end of the first one. At slow speeds, these tiny pieces don’t cause much damage – but momentum can cause a greater chance of injury.

You may be one of these dancers if:

  • You feel the need to hit everything in the music – regardless of partner
  • You do not adjust the level of your dance to the speed of the song
  • You have a habit of not finishing movements
  • You dance fast, but sometimes don’t take the time to know where your partner’s body is
  • You have a problem with anticipating movements (follows)
  • Your dances are best described as ‘challenging’ – lots of cool stuff, but no breathing room

How you can fix it: Practice your connection skills, and learn how to sense when your partner is not in the movement with you. If you are a lead, try leading slow-motion to find hiccups in your connection. If you are a follower, practice waiting. Chances are, you’re overshooting a movement before your partner is even there.


Type 3: The One who is Totally Oblivious

Who they are: This dancer may have great connection with their partner – but they have no idea what is happening around them. They’re so focused on their partner, they forget floorcraft. This means that accidental bumps and collisions are quite frequent.

This is like the driver who switches lanes without checking their blind spot, or just didn’t see that stopped car up ahead. They may be a great driver when there’s no one else around – but become a hazard as soon as they have to deal with other bodies.

Where it comes from: 

  • Lack of awareness and floorcraft

How they’re dangerous: These are usually indirect injuries. Basically, they will either injure someone else’s partner by running into another couple, or they’ll injure their partner because they threw them into another couple. Sometimes, it can even be obliviousness of another oblivious couple – which leads to two partnerships that both realize too late that there’s a collision coming.

You may be one of these dancers if:

  • You find yourself frequently hitting other couples
  • You find yourself frequently being hit by other couples
  • You’ve never heard of ‘dancing for the floor’

How you can fix it: Learn floorcraft. Try dancing in a confined space. Try keeping an eye on where all the other couples are while you are dancing. It takes practice, but you can become aware. Even if it requires going more slowly or adjusting your dance, place a high priority on making sure that you have room to execute the movement. Learn how to abort movements if someone comes into your line of fire.


Type 4: The Nervous One

Who they are: Nerves can get the best of anyone – but nervous dancers can suffer from jitters that actually make them dangerous! These are the people who are so convinced that they can’t do something right that they second-guess every movement. Rather than follow through, they’ll over-correct or switch suddenly. It’s like the driver who realizes they’re drifting, so over-corrects their car into the other lane.

Where it comes from: 

  • Nerves
  • Lack of faith in one’s own abilities

How they’re dangerous: They tend to injure because they spontaneously take the movement in a new direction, or they go too big in an effort to be ‘clear’ in leading or ‘responsive’ to following. Usually, there is a ‘stop-and-go’ feel that leads to roughness at the start and end of moves.

You may be one of these dancers if:

  • You get really really nervous
  • You freak out, and change your mind on movements frequently
  • You have a tendency to hold on too tight or overdo movements.

How you can fix it: Breathe. If you need to go slow, go slow. Follow through on your movements. Get training. You’ll likely outgrow this, but in the meantime you need to calm down to keep control of what you are doing.


Type 5: The Drunk One

Who they are: They’re anyone, but drunk. Much like a drunk driver, it’s just a bad idea.

Where it comes from: 

  • Alcohol, or drugs

How they’re dangerous: Lower inhibitions, higher opinion of one’s dancing, and worse motor control create an easy-injure cocktail. Everything from every other type (except maybe Nerves) plays into this. Plus, they’re probably not as able to understand their partner’s reactions.

You may be one of these dancers if:

  • You get drunk, or really tipsy

How you can fix it: Drink less, pace yourself better, or refrain from drinking until after you’re done dancing. There’s no excuse for creating a dangerous situation because you wanted to get a buzz.


I’m worried I might be a dangerous dancer. How can I tell?

Ask! Your teacher likely has a pretty good idea – especially if they often follow or lead you. If a teacher is not an option, ask a collection of more advanced social dancers. If they know that you’re open to feedback, they’ll likely provide ‘cushioned’ feedback, like:

  • “Well, sometimes you’re a bit rough”
  • “It’s challenging to dance with you sometimes”
  • “I need to be in top shape to keep up with you”
  • “You travel a lot”
  • “I sometimes get a little bit stressed when we are dancing”

Usually, people ‘go easy’ on the feedback to avoid offending you. If you get feedback like this regularly, you may be a dangerous dancer that needs to tweak some things you’re doing. If you are a dangerous dancer, we don’t think you’re a bad person! We just want you to fix those things so that it’s easier to dance with you!

When asking for feedback, keep in mind that beginners are usually a pretty poor indicator of whether or not you are dangerous. While they are the most likely to get injured, they’re also most likely to mistake ‘rough’ for ‘strong’ and ‘fast’ for ‘good’. They know they’re a weaker dancer, so they’re simply trying to ‘dance up’ to the level, and may not realize that there are dangerous behaviors.

If you are dancing with a dangerous dancer and you don’t think you can protect yourself, say something. You can be nice, but let them know! I’ve done this too – and it sometimes works very well. It’s not worth getting injured.

Be safe, lovely dancers!


Did we forget a type, or do you have some comments to add? Leave them below!


Photo Credit: Brian De Rivera Simon, Tarsipix Studios