Ask the Dance Diva: When a Leader Puts a Follower's Safety in Jeopardy

Dance Diva

Dear Dance Diva,

I dance with a very nice man who is a beginning dancer. Recently, he has become rough with me on the dance floor. He practices new moves at home by himself and then tries them out on me. The last time I danced with him he scared me by trying to lead moves that made me uncomfortable. I was afraid he might hurt me by pulling my arm inappropriately or by dipping me and accidentally dropping me. I don’t want to hurt his feelings or discourage his enthusiasm but I’m afraid someone’s going to get hurt. What should I do?

Worried and Wary


Dear Worried and Wary,

Excellent question but one that, I’m afraid, has very limited solutions. Bottom line: If you are ever fearful that someone is going to hurt you on the dance floor for whatever reason— inexperience, ineptitude or inebriation—you should politely decline the invitation to dance. Proper etiquette doesn’t extend to self-sabotage.

My own personal rule is that I will dance with anyone once. If however, during that one dance, I feel that my safety or personal boundaries have been threatened, I feel justified in politely turning down the next, and all subsequent invitations from that person. In all my years of dancing, this has happened approximately twice, so I don’t feel it’s a big loss, nor have I earned the reputation as a prima donna who will only dance with experienced dancers.

If you are asked for an explanation for your change of heart, it would be a great favor to let the person know that the moves he is attempting feel physically uncomfortable and threatening to you and that until you feel more secure, you’d rather stick with less risky executions. You don’t have to say whose fault it is (though clearly, in this case, it is his). But neither do you have to go on subjecting yourself.

In their eagerness to learn new moves, beginning dancers often make the mistake of purchasing videotapes or watching moves on YouTube and thinking that just by copying them to the best of their limited abilities, they have mastered the partnering involved. That is almost never the case. There is a lot of finesse and technique involved in any pattern that cannot be picked up from a video and even advanced dancers can be challenged to translate video moves to smooth actions on the floor.

Beginners would be far better off investing in a few private lessons in order to build their repertoire of moves soundly, in a way that will make them much in demand as a partner rather than avoided like the plague. Even small group classes with a well-qualified instructor who provides technique suggestions and individual feedback is a better route to building a variety of interesting and well-executed patterns.

©Dance Diva (aka Carrie Seidman). Previously appeared in newsletters of the Albuquerque Dance Club ( Reprints by express permission of the author only.

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