Dear Dance Diva,
With so many new dancers in the club, what is the best way for the shy beginners to get out on the floor more often? I know some of the guys are afraid to make that long walk to ask someone they don’t know and many of the girls sit bunched together, making guys think they are not available or interested in dancing. What would you suggest?
New Dancer and a Little Shy
If the Dance Diva had her way, she would probably just stick two fingers in her mouth, give an ear-shattering whistle and stop all the action until she’d hauled these two timid groups together and tell them to cowboy up. But then, admittedly, she is not known for her subtlety. The main problem you’re confronted with here is that you just can’t mandate people’s behavior. Most newcomer’s reluctance is due to a lack of confidence, familiarity and comfort level. Until they gain a modicum of each, they’re likely to send out negative signals, whether intentionally or obliviously. Still, there are a few ways to end-run these tendencies that might help.
Newcomers should be encouraged to take part in the pre-dance lessons and instructors for those classes should be trained in how to facilitate connections between the students. They must insist on frequent rotations and name exchange with every rotation and should suggest the participants seek each other out during the following dance to practice the new moves and cement their acquaintances.
As for the newcomers themselves, they should bear in mind that no one is going to be asked to dance if they refuse to make eye contact, insist upon remaining sequestered in remote corners, or fail to get up the gumption to walk across the room. Rejection is an unpleasant but infrequent part of life—on the dance floor and off—but if you’re not willing to risk it, you’re never going to have a steady stream of partners. For you beginners who are shy but are secretly longing for more requests (this goes for men and ladies), a smile on your face and direct eye contact can make a world of difference. Is it scary? For a few seconds, maybe. Is it worth it? Definitely.
There are a number of things the club might also do (with some advanced planning) that could help, like: designating certain dances as “especially for newcomers”, (using common dance music with an easily distinguishable beat and having beginners select other beginning partners), encouraging experienced dancers to facilitate connections between a newcomer they’ve danced with and another obvious newcomer, designating ladies’ choice dances and “musical chairs” songs (where everyone has to move to a new spot and introduce themselves to a new partner), as well as “blind date” numbers (where dancers must select a partner they’ve never danced with before).
Ultimately, there is only so much that you can do. Eventually, if newcomers are interested enough in improving and increasing their dancing, the inhibitions will ease and, without coercion, they will make themselves more accessible. Until then, the best thing that you can do is try to create an atmosphere of friendliness, acceptance and encouragement.
©Dance Diva (aka Carrie Seidman). Previously appeared in newsletters of the Albuquerque Dance Club (www.nmdance.com). Reprints by express permission of the author only.