Friday, May 7, 2010

Florida No-Fault

I've noticed that new dancers are often intensely concerned about making mistakes on the social dance floor. My advice? Don't be.

Surely, we all approach the dance floor with the intent to put our best foot forward. But how do you respond to that inevitable miscommunication, bump into someone's toe, or memory lapse? Simply put, but harder to execute: Move on, Move on, Move on!

Clearly, if the same "mishap" becomes a recurring theme, it probably needs to be addressed - if something in the system isn't working right, let's flush it out and correct it. But those aren't the mishaps I'm really talking about.

I'm speaking of all those imagined horror stories that people dream up in their heads, which often prevent them from getting out there and giving it a whirl. What if I forget the steps I learned? What if I turn the wrong way? What if lead a slow turn and she buzzes around in a spin? What if I lose my rhythm? What if I step on her toe / bump his knee / elbow him in the chest / the floor opens up and I fall into a craggy, lava-encrusted nightmare?

Really. This is social dancing, not search-and-rescue on a volcanic island. The stakes aren't really as high as you're making them out to be. And don't worry. I get the embarrassment factor. As a shy introvert by nature, I am the last person who wants to make a fool of myself on the very public dance floor. But when I was a newbie, I probably let my own hyper-critical self stand in the way of a lot of fun - not to mention learning opportunities - on the dance floor.

Keep in mind that a huge factor in social dancing is how you and your partner pull off everything you've learned while caught in the tempest of a floor of swirling, flailing other couples. There really is no other experience, other than that very experience, to prepare you for that and make you confident with it.

See the logic but still not convinced? Then make it easier on yourself. Wherever you are, do your homework and find out which dance crowds in your area are most welcoming to new dancers. Of course, in my silly little universe, any dancer worth anything at all is patient and kind with other dancers, es-pe-cially new ones. But maybe that's the teacher in me talking. Anyway, it's not far-fetched that occasionally, one of you out there will run into a social dance partner who isn't the most forgiving of your newness. I think that's sad, and encourage you not to take it personally. Finish the dance and find a nicer partner. Hopefully it's even rarer that you find a whole social dance group or club that way - I call them dance cliques, and I don't have the time or patience to try to break in to their little circle. Take me as I am or I'll cheerfully go somewhere else!

But I digress. Back to the point: if you're new, and have new-ness concerns, ask around. Talk to other dancers. It shouldn't take long to pinpoint the nightclub(s), studio(s), or organization(s) that offer a friendly, supportive atmosphere to all dancers of all levels of accomplishment. Attend those dances first. Build your confidence. Build your library of dance floor skills. And then, if you're still interested in dancing at the other places, you'll have the experience you need to feel like you can hold your own with any partner. How fun that'll be! So what are you waiting for? Get out there and dance!