A Reason to Social Dance
By Eric Dahlman
It seems that every dancer has their own story for what brought them into the world of dance. Some people became interested after watching a friend compete, or they just loved the music. Others knew they wanted to be a dancer after seeing the costumes and pageantry. For me, social dancing piqued my interest in ballroom dance. When I first started dancing back at the grand balls in Vienna, what amazed me most was the civility of the people you would meet. If someone asks you to dance there, it is a common courtesy to accept. That aspect does not always exist in other places. I personally loved the atmosphere. Dancing with various people caused me to learn many of the moves and techniques that brought me to competitive dance. I guess that is why I am always a little confused that I do not see other people take full advantage of social dancing.
I am certain there are many reasons why people do not share my same belief of always finding new partners while social dancing. Many couples go dancing for a fun activity to be closer together. In this case, I say more power to them! However, when fellow competitive dancers do not understand the benefits of a social dance, I am always lost. Far too many competitive couples go to social dances strictly as a form of practice with one another. While the idea makes sense at first, those dancers are clearly not making full use of their resources.
At a social dance, one can never truly know the experience of the other dancers attending. This makes social events an amazing venue to test your skills in unexpected ways. You do not know if the next partner you ask will be a beginner or someone on their way to winning their second championship. Either way, a good dancer uses new partners for mutual learning. For example, you ask the first person you see at a ball for a quick waltz, and they accept but on the condition that they are only just learning to dance. As a bad dancer, you try to endure a boring dance with them and quickly look for someone more experienced for the next song. If you are a good dancer, this is your time to solidify your technique! Your partner only knows basic turns? You are going to make sure your basic is so clean that your partner could not misstep if they wanted to. This is the time to show your ability. Show the beginner where you are about to step with your entire body as a lead. React to steps smoothly as a follow. Everyone loves dancing with a person who makes them feel like the best dancer in the room. This is your chance to share that feeling with a newcomer. Perhaps if they are feeling confident dancing with you, you can solidify your knowledge in a step by teaching them a new move. Either way, if you give them this feeling, I can guarantee you will be the highlight of their night. Congratulations! You also cemented your technique and could have placed yourself above your next competition. Plus, you probably had quite a bit of fun while you were at it.
There is always the chance that your next random partner could be your greatest teacher as well. Even if they are not an international champion, you never know who you might learn from. In your next dance a follow might show with their body, a better method to lead someone into a turn. You might find a charming lead who helps you perfect your frame. Won't you be excited to show your newfound experience when you meet up with your competitive partner? By remembering to give the same respect and courtesy to someone as you would expect them to give to you, a good dancer is able to be rewarded with as much wisdom from another dancer as they have given themselves. There are no bad dancers at a social dance. Only the dancers who fail to notice the "social" part.
If you are not already preparing for your next masquerade, you can also think of social dances as the world's best obstacle courses in ballroom dancing. Seriously, what better way is there to practice floorcraft than with a constantly moving stage filled with people of different skill levels? If you have this resource, you might as well use it. Practice guiding different partners across the floor. Nothing helps me learn to communicate better while dancing than safely maneuvering through a crowded quickstep. Try practicing this with your competitive partner after a couple of runs with some new people. You will never fear bumping into someone at a far less crowded competition again.
Social dancing is often a lesson in disguise that many seasoned dancers miss. For some, dancing at an event is meant to be a fun activity for a group of friends. For others it is a way to prepare for a competition. No matter what brings you to a social dance, do not be afraid to make new friends and dance with other partners. You never know what you could experience, but you can always have a wonderful time while you are there.