Imagine, if you will, the crowded room of a regular salsa night at a local restaurant. You are surrounded by many dancing couples as well as people who are enjoying their meals and watching the dancers. Your partner is feeding off of the energy in the room and having lots of fun practicing some of the tricky moves he has learned in class. You’re feeling it too, and maybe showing off a bit with some of the styling you’ve learned. Confidence kicks in and you’re feeling fierce. So, instead of sticking with the basics, you decide to lift your foot to your knee during a cross-body lead because it looks pretty to hold it there for a brief moment just before you take your next step. Then, dread washes over you as your eyes widen and you feel warmth coming into your cheeks, indicating a lovely shade of crimson. You make eye contact with your partner, your eyes screaming “HELP!” but he doesn’t seem to notice what just happened. He didn’t see…but everyone else in the crowded room did.
In that brief moment when you held your foot just a little too high in a hitch on your leg, your skirt–which was a little too stretchy and a little too flowy–got caught on the bottom of your heel so that when you stepped–with just a little too much hip–the skirt was pulled down, past your waist, past your bum, down your knees, and around your ankles. That’s not where it’s supposed to go.
I think it’s fair to say that if you’ve been social dancing for a while, you’ve probably experienced at least a few mishaps and likely, one real zinger of an embarrassing moment. You know, that special memory you cringe at every time someone mentions it.
It’s okay–we’ve all been there, so just try to laugh at yourself and move on! I mean, sure, I half-mooned an entire restaurant full of people (and not just people who were distracted by their own dancing, but people who were sitting and dining and likely not expecting a peep show). You’re welcome, folks, I’ll be here all week. At the time it was an absolute nightmare for me but now, I can look back and laugh at how hilarious this must have looked. The skirt incident is the reason why I now wear shorts every time I dance in a skirt or a dress. Don’t learn this lesson the hard way like I did, folks. Dips can also reveal more than you would like on the dance floor.
I could have continued to dwell on the fact that I showed a room full of people my zebra-striped undies. I could have decided, “Well, that’s it. I’m so embarrassed, I’m giving up dance. I’m not showing my face (cheeks, in particular) around here anymore.” What did I do instead? I crouched down quickly, pulled up my skirt in one awkward motion (that counts as a body roll, right?), and kept dancing. To this day, my partner claims he had no idea that it had happened.
The funniest part is that anytime I reluctantly share this story, I can see empathetic smiles and glimmers in the eyes of my dance friends. Usually, three or four more people end up sharing their dance faux pas (#solidarity!). I’ve heard all kinds of funny stories, ranging from wardrobe malfunctions, unintentional touching, tripping, dropping, and smacking. I even had one friend recall a moment when he was practicing with his partner and when the move didn’t work the way he had planned, he sighed and lowered his head in frustration.
Unfortunately, he hadn’t calculated the ratio of her height in relation to his own, so he ended up face-planting right into her chest. Not knowing what to do, he lingered there for a moment before emerging to the surface. I think they both knew that “the motorboat” is not a typical salsa move.
Regardless of experience or ability, all social dancers will face some kind of embarrassing moment eventually. Just remember, it’s not the situation that is a reflection of your character, but how you handle it. Here are some helpful tips to avoid or resolve these dance mishaps:
1. Dress for success
As I mentioned earlier, wearing shorts under skirts and dresses is tremendously helpful. You may also want to avoid tube tops, very loose clothing, jewelry that dangles, or fabric that can unravel. Otherwise, wear these items at your own risk. Richie Kirwan also discusses clothing in his article “An Idiot’s Guide to Dance Etiquette Part 1,” and he suggests bringing an extra-t-shirt. It’s never a bad idea to bring extra clothing in case what you’re wearing gets too sweaty or, heaven forbid, destroyed somehow. Wearing the right clothing for dance is important for your own comfort, but also to be considerate of your partner.
2. Apologize for any mishaps and learn from your mistakes.
Dance is a contact sport and sometimes, unintentional and awkward touching may happen. If you’re guilty of smacking another dancer with your arm or hand, stepping on a foot, or the ever-so-humiliating accidental boob graze, apologize and try to be more careful. Obviously, if this is something that happens to you frequently, you may need to work on your technique and talk to your instructor about adapting your movement. In order to avoid Dance Injuries, it’s important to consider the safety of your partner and others on the dance floor at all times. Accidents happen every now and then, but don’t make risky movement a habit or people may avoid dancing with you.
3. Don’t let these moments discourage you from dancing.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: never give up! Nothing worth having comes easy, including dancing ability. Mistakes happen, but we all learn from them. If you’ve had a mishap, move past it and continue to learn more and improve as a dancer. Likewise, if you’ve danced with someone who has had an “oops” moment, don’t avoid dancing with her or him. Recall your own early dance days (or more recent embarrassing moments) and give them another shot. If someone has caused you injury and you do not want to dance with them again, let them know how you feel. Hopefully, this will encourage them to dance more safely in the future.
Were you able to relate to some of these dance mishaps? Leave a comment below or share your story on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter with the hashtag #dancemishaps