We often tout the importance of social dancing as a great way to practice and improve your own dance skills. And on one level, it is. Dancing with different partners, of different skill levels and styles, makes you a better leader/follower, and helps hone your technique.
However, social dancing is also just that – social. It goes beyond merely practicing your moves, and is, in great part, about the connection between you and your dance partner. Often times, when we’re eager to learn or practice some new steps, we become very focused on ourselves and forget to dance with each partner. While that’s fine for a practice session, social dancing is a different matter, and at socials, partner connection always comes first. Below are a few tips to avoid using your social dance partners as a practice dummy.
Tips for being a good social dance partner:
- Asking for a dance
When asking someone to dance, or accepting an invitation, treat the other person as you would anyone you enter a conversation with. Make eye contact, smile, ask politely. Stretching a hand out while barely looking at the person you’re asking to dance is rude, as is accepting an invitation without making eye contact, and being dragged to the dance floor while you’re still trying to finish the conversation you were having with your friends.
- Starting the dance
To this day, far too many people go onto the dance floor and straight into complicated turn patterns. The start of every song sets the mood for the next 5ish minutes, so make sure you start by letting your partner get used to you, and by feeling out the song. If there’s a slow intro, take the time to do a few simple steps in place, make small talk, and wait for the song to start in earnest. Your partner will feel much more appreciated than if you do 15 turns before the salsa beat even starts.
- Keeping the connection
Throughout the dance, don’t forget that you’re still dancing with a person rather than a salsa dummy. That connection you made at the beginning of the song can easily disappear whenever you default back to going through patterns while looking like you’re doing math in your head. Stay connected to your partner – make eye contact often, smile, adapt your moves and styling to him/her, and make sure he/she is having fun!
Sidenote: scoping out your next dance partner while dancing with someone makes you a bit of an ass. Your partner will notice, and odds are he/she will feel slighted. So don’t do it. If there’s someone or something in the room you need to keep an eye on, let your partner know and apologize for not giving him/her your full attention.
- Ending the dance
When the song ends, the “nod and walk away” is a common and none-too-personal move. Instead, thank your partner for the dance, and walk off the floor together. Guys: a gentleman will walk his partner back to her seat, every time. If either of you get asked for a dance before you have a chance to get off the floor, make sure you acknowledge your last partner and thank them.
We want to hear from you – what do you look for / appreciate in a social dance partner? What have some great social dancers done that made you want to dance with them again? Leave a comment and let us know!