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Tips to Practice Dance in a Social Setting

December 8, 2011

For many social dancers, the only opportunity to practice new skills or work on basics will be at a dance. (Note: read my article on Optimizing Your Practice to ensure that you understand what “practice” means).  But to get your practice time in means that you need to dance as often as possible. That can be intimidating, whether you are entering a new social (dance) scene for the first time, or are a shy or introverted person even in familiar territory.

Maybe some of these social dance tips can help you. I have used all of these tricks myself at some point, and some I use regularly still today. You might be surprised to find that these tips can actually improve your *social* experience by starting conversations and making yourself accessible.

 1. Set goals for the dance or event

Some examples of goals you might set for the evening:

  • Choose one bit of technique or “new thing” that you will focus on when you’re dancing.
  • Choose one dancer who you think is better than you and set yourself a goal to ask them for one dance.
  • Decide that you won’t sit down once all night. Even when you are not dancing, stand near the dance floor and look like you WANT to dance.
  • Try one new thing – such as dancing to a style of music that you usually sit down for.
  • Set a goal to dance with one person whom you have never danced with before.

2. Ask beginners to dance

For a follower, dancing with beginner leaders is one of the best opportunities to practice new styling ideas or technique, because they will more predicatably lead basic patterns.

For a leader, dancing with beginners is a great test of how well and how clearly you can lead your basics – it’s also a great chance to work on styling or basic technique using simpler patterns.

A useful approach you can try when asking beginners to dance is: “Hi! Would you like to practice with me?”

3. Ask better dancers to dance

(See tip #1 above.) It can be intimidating, but it’s useful to challenge yourself by dancing with people you know are much more experienced than you.

4. Be willing to dance a few dances badly.

When I’m working on something new or trying to change a bad habit that has cropped up, I often turn into a “hot mess” for a while. Try this: “Hi! I’m working on something new – I’d really like to dance with you but I have to warn you that I might be a bit distracted.” This can lead to interesting conversations, too!

5. Smile your ass off!

Too often, we don’t realize that we’ve got our “thinking faces” on when we are social dancing … and more often than not, your partner will interpret this as your not enjoying them or the dance. So pay special attention to smiling and making eye contact with your partner now and then. Tip #4 above can also help alleviate any misunderstandings if you are dancing distracted.