How many times should you ask for a dance?

swing and blues dancing at the Blue Note Grill

We all have our favorite partners…

Usually, these are partners where we could spend a long time dancing with them, and still enjoy our time. Sometimes, we’re more than happy to ask and re-ask for dances throughout the night.

A re-ask (for the purposes of this article) is when you ask a person for a dance more than one time in a night. It doesn’t matter whether your first ask was accepted or declined; later asks are still re-asks.

Re-asks tend to be less of an issue if you and the other person have the same ‘threshold’ for number of dances in an evening. They tend to be more of an issue if you want to dance with the person a lot more in one evening than they wish to dance with you.

It’s almost impossible to know if someone is on the same page as you unless you’ve had a lot of previous experience with that person. In general, it is best to assume that the two of you have a different threshold – unless past experiences have proven otherwise.


When you both enjoy the same amount of dances

When you and that person both enjoy the same amount of dances with each other, things tend to work perfectly. Essentially, both of you are on-board with how many dances you can have together before wanting to move to other partners. It also means you’re generally on the same page when it comes to re-asks.

For example, both of you may tire of each other around the 4-song mark every time you dance, and you may be up for a maximum of 3 rounds in the night. Or, it could be a person you are happy to dance 10 songs with – but only one time.

Most frequently and in most genres**, most partners are happy to dance 1-2 songs 1-2 times per night with any given partner. More than this tends to only be reserved for dances that are ‘favourites’.

**Disclaimer: Tango and Kizomba for sure have different rules on this. I’m not sure about some other dances, like blues.**

At this point, partners don’t generally need to spend too much time thinking about re-asks. Since they’re on the same page, they tend not to frustrate each other with re-asks. Very often, there’s eye contact and some sort of ‘wanna go again?’ body language going on.


When you don’t both enjoy the same amount of dances

The ‘we like the same amount of dances’ rule is great – when it happens. Sometimes, partners have a different ‘threshold’ for how many dances they can have with the other person before they want to move to another partner. For example, one partner may want to dance 5x a night for multiple songs with a person – while the other one is comfortable dancing 2 songs 1 time.

It’s a common misconception that the person who wants fewer dances is more advanced, while the person who wants more dances is less advanced. There are several other reasons  that this imbalance can occur:

  • One partner isn’t a fan of how the other leads/follows – regardless of level
  • One person may prefer a higher/lower energy partner
  • One partner may not mesh with the type of movements the other is doing

Very often, the personal relationship, relationship status, other favourite partners, and just personal temperament may also influence the number of dances one wants to have with a particular partner.

When you want to re-ask a partner who may have a different threshold, body language and respect for boundaries is very important. Like everything else in dance, the less-comfortable partner sets the boundaries. This means that the person who wants to dance fewer songs gets to make the decision.


When you re-ask

It is important to remember that each re-ask gives a higher chance of being declined for a dance.

When you ask someone to dance the first time in an evening, you never run the risk of them being ‘overloaded’ with dances by you. Basically, it’s a clean slate. They still may say ‘no’, but it’s not because you’ve already danced and they’re ready for a different partner.

After that first dance, each re-ask is more likely to get a ‘no’, or a ‘yes’ out of pressure or obligation. This is because each re-ask increases the likelihood that they have reached their max. number of dances with you for the evening.

There are a few useful rules to generally adhere to when it comes to ‘re-asking’:

  • Say ‘I’d love to dance again later!’ at the end of your first dance.

When you say something along these lines at the end of your first dance session, it opens an opportunity for them to agree that they’d like more. If they say “Yes! Come find me!” it’s a good indication that a re-ask will be welcome. If they just say maybe, thank you, or just smile, they’re probably at their limit. This type of sentence also opens the door for them to ask *you* later in the evening.

  • Make eye contact first

When you make eye contact before re-asking, it gives you a good idea if it will be a welcome ask. If they maintain eye contact or smile, they’re probably into it. If they avoid eye contact, act disinterested, or move away, it’s probably their limit for the evening.

  • Take ‘No’ as ‘No, for the evening’

Guest writer Trevor Copp wrote about something similar he does regarding all requests to dance – but it’s especially useful in re-asks. Basically, if someone turns down your re-ask, leave it for the night. Chances are, the person isn’t eager to get on the floor with you more in that same evening. Even if they say they’re taking a break, leave it for the night. Ask them again the next time.

If they want to dance again that night, they’ll find you.

  • Stop while they’re still saying ‘Yes’

If it’s someone who likes you as a person or as a dancer, chances are they’ll say ‘yes’ a few times past their ideal limit. This is because they still want you to know that they enjoy your dancing and company. However, each time they say ‘yes’ past their limit is likely to cause mixed feelings and awkwardness. It may also cause them to burn out of their enthusiasm for your dances.

A good way to counteract this is to switch back and forth on the asking. If you have already asked twice, leave it until they ask for another one. If they don’t, occupy yourself with other partners for the evening.


“But I really want to dance with them more!”

I know. There’s people I really want to dance with more, and never get the chance. It’s just the way things are. But, your desire to dance does not trump their desire to not dance. In order to make any future dances between you awesome, it’s important to give them the space to actually *treasure* your dances together – rather than shy away from yet another ask.

Basically, if you are constantly over-asking, you can actually damage your long-term dance relationship. If you under-ask a little, you preserve the constant desire to ‘get’ dances with each other.

Think of it like chocolate: If someone gives you a truffle, it’s fantastic. If they give you a whole box of truffles and expect to watch you eat each one, it’s not so fantastic – it’s overkill, and may even stop you from liking more truffles in the short-term future.

Instead of spending time focusing on the dances you didn’t get, put your focus somewhere else. Find someone else to dance with. Have a conversation with the person, instead of asking them to dance. There are other ways to connect besides only dancing.

Finding a great dance partner is fantastic. If you keep control of re-asks, you can enjoy a long dance relationship that is always a treasure.

Remember: it’s always best to err on the side of fewer dances!



Laura Riva
Instructor, Performer, Author
The Dancing Grapevine
Original article: “How many times should you ask for a dance?

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