I still remember the first time I went to a social dancing party. It was a Wednesday after one month of taking dance classes. I went with a dance friend and, at that time, we thought that we were ready to hit the dance floor. One month of dance lessons were a significant achievement for us.
Your first socials are very important; it’s like the first impression. During your first time at a specific dancing venue, you will build a mental image of that place. I am sure some of you stopped going to various events because you had a bad first experience there.
I used to hate a place because the first time I went there a lady upset me after asking me to dance. She said she had been dancing for seven years and wouldn’t dance with a beginner.
When you are in a dance class, the instructor chooses the music that matches your level and the appropriate tempo for the routine he/she is teaching. However, things are different at socials. The DJ plays a variety of songs to please all dancers and there are a lot of intermediate to advanced dancers.
The goal is to not be discouraged after your first social; it’s just a new experience and you will adjust quickly if you keep these four points in mind.
Observe, Observe, Observe
You paid $10 to get in and $2 plus tip for a coat check. Before dancing, you should go and sit/stand in the corner and watch! This is your observation phase. As some wise man said, “Never test the depth of the water with both feet.” Take some time to observe what’s around you. Watch the advanced and beginner dancers, the latter will make you feel more comfortable about asking for practice dances. The advanced dancers will help you challenge yourself. Second, listen to the music; each DJ has a preferred style. For example, if you are into Bachata, some DJs play more traditional music while others play sensual or fusion Bachata remixes.
Below is a common scenario new dancers fear at socials and what they may be thinking.
Newbie: Hi, would like to dance? (In their head: You better say yes!)
Experienced Dancer: Sure. (In their mind: What do you thinking I am doing here? Counting people?)
Newbie: By the way, I have been dancing for one month – please bear with me. (In their head: Why am I the only person who doesn’t know cool turn patterns? I also hate my shirt – maybe I should say something.)
Experienced Dancer: No problem! (In their head: It’s going to be a loooong dance. Yikes!)
Be upfront with your dance partners. Tell them that you are a newbie and you are there to practice. All dancers have been there. Most of the dancers are very nice; they will adjust to your level and may give you some helpful tips. Both of you will feel less stressed if your partner is also a beginner. Remember the positive reasons why you started dancing and that things are usually better than they seem.
You have been taking dance classes for a couple of weeks and I’m sure you daydream of spinning on center stage of the dance floor, and everybody is holding their breath watching you. Wake up, sleeping beauty :). This is not going to happen for a while, and your first night out will probably suck. Remember to manage your frustration, as it’s the only way to stay motivated. Also remember why you started dancing – either to enjoy it as hobby, or you are serious about your dancing want to improve in order take your dancing to the next level.
In both cases, you shouldn’t stop after the first mistakes. There will be many of them but just be patient.
Social dancing events are different from events at regular clubs. Most likely, you will meet the same dancers again and again. After a while, you will start seeing many dancers repeatedly – perhaps at least once a month or even twice a week. You will find that many in the social dance community are dancing machines and you will become comfortable dancing with many partners. Having a friendly demeanor at social dancing events (particularly if you enjoy a specific venue) will help you make friends quickly and you’ll share great moments with them. You will become more comfortable and improve faster as you get to know more dancers.
In summary – you may find your first nights out dancing are not that enjoyable, and you might get mad at yourself because you can’t perform some moves. Don’t get discouraged! You should be proud of yourself simply because you decided to dance.
You can learn anything you want faster by applying deliberate practice techniques. I did it myself and I’ve written a checklist that describes how “deliberate practice”, among others principles, can help you improve faster.