Surviving Your First Social Dance

Dance Beginnings or Bombs?

The first social dance I ever attended was interesting to say the least. I’m not talking about those junior high social dance classes that you took where everybody was awkward, nobody knew what they were doing and yet turning someone down for a dance was strictly against the rules. I’m referring to the type of social dance that happens when you’re an “adult’, or at least a college kid for most.

My first social dance experience was cleverly disguised as a Big Bad Voodoo Daddy concert. My sister had graciously surprised both my girlfriend and I with extra tickets that she had won earlier in the day, which just so happened to include a free swing dance lesson! I had no idea what I was getting into. Armed with nothing but my two left feet, repetitive learner’s syndrome, a very non-superhero-like immobility power and my acute deer-in-headlights gaze culminated into a what I perceived to be a perfect storm of failure. Struggling to accomplish just the basic steps while everyone else seemed to instantly blaze on ahead left me with a very long lasting and frustrating impression. So much so that I didn’t even think about the idea of dance without the “someone stepped on my grave” chills running down my spine for an entire year – until my first desk job…


Your Mileage Will Indeed Vary.

While I have no doubt that the majority of other people’s experiences will be vastly different than mine (which is a good thing!), there are some things that would have helped me maximize the most out of my first social dance experience, or for you when you are ready to take the plunge. Rebecca Brightly’s article aptly titled “How to Survive Your First Social Dance” posted over at Dance World Takeover is almost exactly what is needed. It’s jammed packed with all sorts of good ideas for dipping that big toe onto the dance floor or for scratching that dance itch that you’ve had in the back of your brain. It’s amazing what an always sitting at a computer desk job will motivate a person to do. Even try new things that they swore that they’d never attempt again, like finally taking those dance classes!

Strategy, My Dear Watson!

Rebecca’s blog post covers many great, and more importantly, strategic ways for attending your first social dance. Four strategies to be exact! Everything from taking baby steps to build up to going to the dance, finally venturing out onto the dance floor, applying the safety in numbers tactic by bringing friends or classmates with you to the very Zen and mindful strategy of assuming nothing. She has even included the age-old hunter’s strategy of adopting clothing “camouflage” to blend into the surroundings! How clever is that? Having these fantastic strategies in you back pocket will surely help with the first time one decides to have a go at a social dance!


Almost Perfect? Where Did I Go Wrong?

Reflecting back on the past experience with attending my first social dance, I ran through the checklist:

  • Baby Steps: Check! I only jumped in as far as I was comfortable
  • Power in Numbers: Check! I had my sis and my girlfriend with me.
  • Look like I belong: Check! I was dressed at the same level as the majority of those attending the concert as well as the lesson.
  • Assume Nothing: Double check, check! I had no clue so I really had this one covered.

So why was my first experience such a downer then? While Rebecca does a fantastic job of giving newer dancers a great set of tools for making their first experience a positive one, there is an underlying assumption that the person venturing out has some sort of dance experience first such as the kind gained through dance classes! This vital part was completely missing from my original experience.

Making Some Changes…

Taking social dance classes was the answer that I was missing. Being able to learn the various dances at a slower pace with others at the same level really helped boost the confidence and added to the social aspects of the dance.  Having the lessons under my belt gave me a new sense of appreciation for social dancing and I fell in love with the swing dance genre dances. After a few months, I was ready to try again at attending a dance and… SUCCESS!



But Wait, There’s More!

That second time at my “first” dance was quite a few years ago now and I have kept dancing. Looking back, there are a few more things that I like to include for the first timers…

  • Show up for the lesson! This is a great way to warm up, get into the dancing mood and shake off the long drive (if you had one). On top of that, you get the added benefit of learning something new from another teacher (always a good thing) and you’ll get to meet the people that you’ll be dancing with later! Even if you are far enough along and know all of the moves being taught, you are helping to build an awesome community by giving the newer dancers a chance to hone their skills with a more experienced dancer.
  • Those that ask the most, dance the most! You are the sole person in control of how awesome you make your dancing experience, so be proactive! It can be intimidating for some people to get up the nerve to ask someone to dance, but it sure beats sitting along the sidelines and waiting to be asked. Any communication style can be effective – direct, indirect or anything in between. Me personally, I like to just extend my hand out to the person with an inquisitive look on my face with an occasional “Dance?” thrown in. See what works for you. By the way, it IS socially acceptable to interrupt conversations for dances…
  • Try not to take offense to someone who tells you “no”. There are many, many reasons for someone to turn down a dance- they are tired, hurt, thirsty, not in the dancing mood yet etc… Keep in mind that they are just saying no to that particular dance and not to you as a person. If on the slim chance that they are say no to you as a person, you don’t want to be dancing with them anyway.

Dancing has changed my life. I am so grateful for all of the wonderful people and amazing experiences that have materialized from just venturing out to have a dance. I hope that you also give yourself the opportunity to take a chance at that first step on the dance floor, and as always- save a dance for me!




Matthew Vazquez
Dance Instructor, DJ and Owner

One thought on “Surviving Your First Social Dance

  1. Well, this is my first post. Let me know what you guys think! Is there anything that should be included? Please share your thoughts below!

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