Note: Drinking can be a problem for both leads and follows at congresses or events. This article is written from the perspective of a follow, but should be applied equally to both leads AND follows.

Congresses are fun. Many are fun not only for dancing, but for partying with friends. At these parties, some people tend to drink a lot. Some of the people that drink think that it makes them a better dancer.

It doesn’t. Maybe 1 or 2 drinks makes you more ‘creative’ and less inhibited; 5 or 6 do not. As for 10+, deeeefinitely not.

Want proof? Let me tell you a story…

Recently, I went to a great event. I had a swell time. I had some of the best dances of my life. I also reconnected with a number of my favourite dancers from around the world. These are people who I simply ADORE dancing with.

I danced with one of them on Saturday night. I ended up spending the rest of the night in my hotel room nursing my shoulder.

If any of my friends happen to be reading this and second-guessing their dances with me… you already know if this person was you. If you aren’t sure if it’s you, it’s very likely not you 😉

What happened?

With partners that we trust and like, it is easy to get into a pattern of assuming that things are going to go well. It can also be easy to ignore warning signs. Instead, you’re just looking forward to that fun dance.

On this particular night, this favourite dancer of mine was very drunk.

In retrospect, I should probably have seen the signs. If I had paid attention, I could probably have avoided needing to nurse my shoulder the rest of the night. What were the signs?

  1. He didn’t ask me to dance; he grabbed my hand and pulled me to the dance floor.
  2. He didn’t smile or say hello.
  3. He pulled me through the crowd, during which I caught an elbow to my upper arm. He didn’t notice.
  4. He didn’t spend time to connect with me at the beginning of the dance.

But, I trusted him. I’ve always had good dances with him. I’ve danced with him while he was tipsy with no big problem. So, I didn’t have my guards up. 30 seconds into the song, he winched my shoulder back on a basic turn. It really hurt. I was lucky that there was no lasting damage. I could have been way less lucky.

I still finished the dance anyways, because I didn’t want to walk away. I probably should have in retrospect, even if he was a friend. However, I did ‘dance defensively’ the rest of the song.

I wish people would control their behavior so that I didn’t need to ‘defensive dance’. I wish that I could have trusted this person without injury. Unfortunately, my trust cost me a night of dancing.

“But I don’t dance like that when I’m drunk!”

Well, the lead who injured me probably thinks the same thing. The funny thing about getting drunk is that it can (ironically) make you think you’re a waaaay better dancer. That you’re relaxed and smooth and everything is magic. Ever seen the quote “Trust me, you can dance. – Vodka”?


The truth is far more dangerous. Drinking sets you up to severely injure your partner – especially if the partner already trusts you or you have a reputation as an advanced dancer. With trusted or advanced dancers, a follow’s ‘guard’ is lower at the beginning of a dance. There’s a feeling like we need to ‘keep up’ the standard. So, we (unwisely) sometimes push ourselves more than we should to ‘keep up’ with a bad dance. The same can also apply to leads dancing with drunk follows.

You can’t know what you’re like as a drunk dance unless someone tells you. Some leads tone things way down and stick to simple movements. For these leads, drunk dancing can be less pleasant (ie, shoddy connection and unclear leads) – but not dangerous. Others gravitate towards complex patterns and spins. This can be dangerous.

Some just forget all about floorcraft – so other couples end up injuring their partner.

So, I can’t drink at congresses now?? 

I never said ‘Don’t Drink’. What said is that drinking correlates to an increased level of danger and risk. This really shouldn’t be new information. After all, it’s why many places have rules against drinking and driving.

Honestly, if you want to have really good dances, I’d suggest not drinking. Maaaybe 1-2 drinks. No more than that pleasant tipsy feeling. If you’re there to party and don’t really care about dance quality, drink as much as you want! HOWEVER, it’s your job to understand if drunk-you can control your behavior so that you are not a risk to your partners. This means it is your job to make sure you have enough of your mind left to not hurt people.

If you drank too much and are a risk to your partners, sit out or completely remove risky movements. Dance extra slow. Dance off-beat if you have to. Don’t be the person who is forcing movements with your partner and going crazy.

We love to use the excuse of “I was drunk” for bad behavior. Sometimes, it makes light of an awkward or stupid incident. However, when it is used to excuse the fact that you HURT someone mentally/physically/emotionally, it is no longer appropriate. If you cannot control drunk-you, then you should not be getting drunk in a situation where you can hurt someone. End of story.

Don’t be dangerous by getting too drunk at events. It will ruin your reputation, and it could ruin your partner’s weekend. Instead, let’s keep our behavior on the safe-and-happy end of the spectrum. Side effects include:

  • Better dances
  • Happier partners
  • Fewer hangovers
  • Better memories!

Seriously. Sounds great to me!!