Last night, a student asked "What is the best thing to do to overcome intimidation when social dancing?"
If you've asked yourself that before, you are not alone.
When you're first getting started, social dancing is scary as h***.
Dozens of people spin around looking totally effortless, on a dark, crowded, loud dance floor.
You can barely hear yourself talk, let alone think.
You may or may not know other people there and it seems too hectic to try to introduce yourself to strangers, let alone dance with them.
Does this sound familiar?
Let me tell you a story.
When I first started dancing, I was a freshman at College of Charleston and would beg my friends to go to Southend Brewery or Toucan Reef with me for the Latin nights.
I did not have any friends in the Latin dance scene, and I would hug the edges of the dance floor, silently hoping someone would ask me to dance but too nervous to ask someone myself. I knew the basic step and that was about it. I thought my ballet background would get me through, but besides keeping my balance during turns, it hindered more than helped me because I carried myself stiffly and was NOT used to having to follow.
But I was hooked, and went as often as I could and occasionally someone would take pity on me and I would stumble through a merengue or Salsa, totally lost and totally thrilled and totally frustrated at myself but determined to "get it."
Eventually, I made a friend in the Salsa scene. And then she introduced me to the ever fabulous and welcoming Yaenette Dixon, who took me under her wing and introduced me to more and more dancers.
I started taking classes and training with a performance team, Estilo Seis, and practicing with other dancers. Then I went to my first Salsa congress.
I spent the weekend taking classes and social dancing and, like magic (or it seemed like it), things started to make more sense. Like the counting. The pause on 4 and 8. That you always went back to the basic. The nuances of footwork during turns and different steps. Body motion. How to step.
A whole new world opened up to me.
The Salsa congress, plus learning, practicing and making Salsa friends transformed my dancing.
Social dancing stopped being so scary and frustrating. I knew people in the scene who I could dance with and, more importantly, I understood more about the dance itself.
There were people I still felt too intimidated to dance with, but my confidence grew the more I learned and the more I practiced.
There's a point with social dancing where you have to just Nike it and DO IT. Like jumping into cold water, you have to just brace yourself and dive in and eventually you'll get used to it and warm up.
But the amount of time it takes to "get used to it," decreases the more you prepare, practice and learn outside of social dancing. The more you can take classes, work on your moves, and meet other dancers, the easier the transition will be onto the dance floor.
So , based on my experience, I advise this:
-Learn and practice outside of social dancing.
-Introduce yourself to other dancers. It may feel like an awkward networking event at first, but don't be afraid to take the first step. [Bonus from taking classes: you'll meet other people in the same boat.]
-Push yourself to just do it-- go out social dancing, ask someone to dance, and be ok with your dance not being perfect.
It's not necessarily easy, but the pay off is worth it. You will grow as a dancer and as a person.
I still get intimidated when I go to big events and feel too shy and nervous to dance with certain people.
But the more I learn, the more I practice, the more I do it, the easier it becomes.
It feels awkward to whip out your phone and ask to add someone on Facebook, but it helps to know you'll see a familiar face next time you go out.
Dance, like life, is a work in progress, and always will be.
I hope this helps you get out on the dance floor. If you're not a member of the Holy City Salsa Dance Fam on Facebook yet, join our group and use it to connect with other dancers and stay informed about what's going on in the community.
As always, happy dancing!