ome of us complain that when we go to big events, congresses or festivals, we have a hard time getting dances. This specifically seems to affect solo travelers more than those coming with a large local group. These experiences can lead to us feeling deflated, insecure, and disillusioned. In some cases, it can even negatively colour the entire event experience.
Others (particularly those who travel frequently) end up largely dancing with the same pool of desired and known partners. While this can be fun, it can also eliminate possible fantastic new partners. It also misses out on the thrills of bringing newer, awesome people into the fold in a welcoming way.
A Two-Sided Issue
This problem has two sides: you, and your potential partners. In some cases, we sit back and hope to be asked to dance. When we are not approached, we feel like we are ‘undesirable’ partners. On the other hand, some of us proactively attempt to approach others and feel sad if they don’t want to dance with us at that time.
I propose a challenge to (perhaps) change that feeling.
At your next event, I challenge you to initiate 5 dances with completely unknown-to-you partners. No pre-evaluating their dancing. No stalking your ‘dream partners’. No pre-judging their age, physical fitness, or choice of shoes. You make eye contact; you ask them to dance. You can pick if you want to do 5 dances a night, or over the course of the weekend.
Imagine if a good portion of people took this challenge. You’d have a whole event making new dance connections! Even more passive dancers who aren’t taking the challenge would have access to an increase in dances.
For my advanced+ dancers (including teachers) specifically, I urge you to take this challenge too. Your willingness to engage in behaviour like this sets the tone for how your scene welcomes new faces. You, with very limited effort (think: 5 dances < 30 minutes of your weekend), have the power to invite new faces into the social community. And, you may even find a great new dance partner.
Accepting 5 Dances
You can compliment this challenge by also undertaking to accept 5 dance proposals. You know the ones: they’re looking at you but you’re looking down because you’re not sure if you want to dance with that person. Maybe they’re unknown; maybe they’re not your favourite partner. Or, maybe you’re just shy and eye contact is difficult.
Whatever the reason, push yourself to overcome that feeling just 5 times. You’d be surprised at what it can do for your weekend – and your partner’s.
“But what if my partner is dangerous, inappropriate, or unpleasant?”
Nothing in this challenge needs to put you at risk. You can still stop an uncomfortable, dangerous or inappropriate dance. You can still say something if you are uncomfortable. These types of coping mechanisms are an important part of your development as an active (rather than passive) partner. It’s easy to be passive instead of clearly but kindly communicating your boundaries – but it won’t serve you or your experience very well.
In my experience, the majority of the time that we complain about something being dangerous or inappropriate, it’s an accidental habit or other behaviour that can be easily negated by our response. Something doesn’t feel secure? Don’t follow it. Self-dipping partner? Don’t present opportunities for a dip. Whether you can work around these to have a fun dance is about you: your mentality, your response, and your abilities.
In the rare instance that someone is truly being inappropriate or dangerous and you can’t negate the behaviour, use your voice or walk away. That’s part of setting appropriate boundaries for yourself. But, it’s silly to sacrifice all possible new and wonderful experiences because you’re worried about that very small possibility.
Do you want to even further change your weekend experience and increase your dance network? You can also consider putting forward a couple more challenges.
Strike up 5 conversations with unknown people. These can be your unknown dance partners, or they can be someone random during the course of the weekend. They can be a chat in a hallway, or a conversation post-dance. Even if you only end up befriending one of those people, you still made 5 great, new connections and helped broaden the dance’s social network.
This also benefits your conversation partner, too. When I travel to off-genre (a.k.a. not Zouk) events, I have to force myself out of my shyness to talk to people. It really makes my day when someone approaches me with an interest in conversation instead. Those conversations can really create a sense of warmth and acceptance among newer faces in the scene, and pull them further into the community in a lasting, meaningful way. It also helps dissolve the feeling of ‘cliques’ that can occur among those who are regularly travelling for events.
If you only have a short conversation, that’s fine! It’s the act of reaching out that is important.
5 New Experiences
Last, you can add a third aspect to your challenge: take on 5 new experiences at each event. This can be anything from accepting a dance or conversation from an unknown partner, taking a new workshop, learning the opposite role, competing, or sharing a room with a new person. If you find it’s your mentality that is often in your way, you can even expand this to include a new way of looking at a typical problem. For example, being more proactive, pushing through shyness, or changing your approach to a workshop you normally feel isn’t challenging.
Not all of the new experiences may be a highlight at the end of the weekend, but you increase your odds of finding a new highlight if you increase the range of things you are open to.
Are you ready?
Do you want to take the challenge? Why or why not? If you’ve already done it, how’d it work out?
Leave your thoughts in the comments below.