How to Survive A Dance Social (As A Beginner)

Everybody can dance. You’ve done it as a kid, in a bar with friends or by yourself at home listening to your favorite tune. Besides its proven health benefits, social dancing is a great opportunity to learn a new skill while building confidence for everyday life. There are so many styles of dancing to choose from that you will never stop learning.

PRICE: Social dances can range between $5-$15. It all depends on whether there is a live band or DJ. One of the great things about social dancing is that drinking is not required. You will working-up a sweat that the beverage you will reach for is water. SAVE MONEY by not purchasing alcohol on a Friday or Saturday night and avoid the battle of getting the bartenders attention.

Below is a video I recorded of an east coast swing (a.k.a. Lindy Hop) social dance at MIT’s Student Center; this social is free for both MIT Students and the public. More info at http://web.mit.edu/swing/

Below is a video from Salsa in the Park in Boston. There is a FREE lesson from 6:00PM-6:30PM and social dancing until 9pm on Mondays to practice what you learned!

BRING A FRIEND/SIGNIFICANT OTHER

The easy cope-out is to bring a friend with you to the social dance and free lesson prior. It’s a cute date idea to learn together but you will not develop as fast by exclusively dancing with one person. I encourage you to dance with ONE person the entire social dance–everyone has their own style. Dancing with one person will limit your breadth of moves or following techniques that you need to learn in future social dances.

HAVE A BEVERAGE BEFORE

Have a red bull, caffeinated soda or (if you are 21+ years old) a few shots to get you hyped-up or calm your nerves. You may have your own rituals, so do what works for you to get ready.

Action: Head to Local Convenience Store —> Buy Beverage of Your Choice —> Drink Beverage —> Go Dancing

YOUTUBE, YOUTUBE, YOUTUBE

Whether you are researching basic moves before your lesson or new partner dance combinations, YouTube is an excellent resource to find free instructional videos—but there is no substitute for practicing with a partner!

Action: Visit www.YouTube.com > Search ‘[type of dance] [lesson/tutorial/tricks/tips] and start watching. Take mental notes and re-watch videos to nail down the basics before the beginner lesson.

IMMERSE YOURSELF IN THE MUSIC

To make your first few partner dancing experiences more fun, spend a few hours listening to the music (of the style of dance you want to learn) to get the rhythm down.

Action: Search YouTube, Spotify, Pandora or another music service for the genre of music and IMMERSE YOURSELF.

GO TO THE FREE LESSON

Most dance socials have a free beginner lesson that gets the beginner comfortable with the footwork. You will dance with many partners during the lesson. But this is a blessing while starting out; you will receive tips and tricks from advanced beginners and intermediate dancers looking to improve on the foundations/basics skills. I also recommend going to the lesson before the social because you will know who are the beginner dancers to practice with post-lesson. Once the lesson ends, the room gets darker and the experienced social dancers will be mixed-in with your peers from the beginner lesson.

Action: Go to the Lesson > Learn the Basics with Friendly Strangers > Keep Dancing with Strangers

DON’T CARE WHAT PEOPLE THINK OF YOU

It’s not easy to recommend “stop being self-conscious” but I thought I should remind you. It’s natural to be nervous in front of an unfamiliar crowd, doing a activity you have never done before. We’re all guilty of having these feeling but there’s so much to gain by dancing.

Action: Be yourself, act silly, stop saying “sorry” while dancing and have fun!

HAVE A LIBRARY OF CONVERSATION STARTERS

Note: This recommendation more for beginner leaders. 
Dances are 3-5 minutes in length before you move onto the next partner. You have a limited mental database of dance moves & combination, and might need to use a valuable strategy: conversation.  If you happen to be dancing with an experienced person, you need something to kill time. I’m not discouraging learning to dance, but if you encounter the feeling of dancing with an experienced dancer you find attractive, you will thank me later.

Action: Google Conversation Starters. Super generic examples (but they work): How long have you been dancing? Do you do any other types of dances? Amy recommendations for a beginner?

DANCE WITH SOMEONE OLDER OR YOUNGER THAN YOU

As a beginner social dancer, you might not have the confidence to ask someone to the dance floor. (You’re going to get better with practice!). Depending on the type of music, social dances are fast in nature. As a beginner, I’ve learned that someone who is older tends to be slower and will let you practice your beginner dance moves.

Action: See above recommendation.

which Social Dance Should You attend?

  1. The music you enjoy listening to the most or the music you are the most curious about.
  2. The type of dance your friends attend the most (accountability!).
  3. Most popular social dancing events in your city/town.
  4. Most Popular Dances in the U.S. [See Table]
Keyword Monthly Google Searches
how to swing dance 2400
how to salsa dance 2400
how to line dance 1900
how to bachata 480
how to latin dance 90
how to west coast swing 70
how to east coast swing 40
how to blues dance 40

IN SUMMARY

In the end, there was a reason you spend time in your life to attend a dance social. You are there to have fun, escape the stresses of life and be part of a great community. All these recommendations may not apply to you but I do hope you keep them in mind. Do whatever works for you to step-out onto that dance floor and have fun. Get out there!

  • Danielle Winkler

    If you’re a beginner beginner, don’t feel shy about asking “experienced” people to dance! (And don’t take it personally when some say no, because some will).

    The ones who say yes are doing that because they love dancing and sharing it with other people. Don’t stress yourself out by worrying if they’ll get bored because all you can manage to do is “the basic step” and clumsily half-ass a turn, they’ll still have a good time. If you can actually multitask and dance and have a conversation, I second the “conversation starters” of talking about dancing. Good dancers get good because they love it, so they’ll probably have a lot to say if you ask. I love talking to other people about how I found dancing, or asking about where they learned or what their favorite style is.

    Also, if you’re a girl, don’t be shy about asking guys to dance. It’s easy to want to wait around for someone to ask you, but you’ll definitely get to dance more if you do the asking. Beginner guys especially are often relieved to not have to do all the asking.