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The Job of a Social Dancer

If you are worried about being worthy of your dance partner or keeping them entertained: I feel for you, but that is *not* your job. Your job is to listen to the music, connect with it, connect with your partner, and move authentically to that music. That authenticity might mean you do slow drag in close embrace for a whole song, or you never split from three swing outs and a circle, but neither of those are inherently *boring* or *less entertaining* Your job is to entertain yourself. To find delight in what you're doing for your own sake, to groove. If you can do that while still being aware of your partner and respecting their interpretation of the music...y'all are gonna be just fine.

About two months ago, I wrote the above Facebook post in response to a conversation that was occupying a lot of space on the American Vernacular Facebook dancersphere. Ruth Evelyn, a prominent international blues dance instructor started a conversation about not being asked to dance at events. Her story was corroborated by a number of phenomenal follows of varying levels of introversion and extraversion, different default facial expressions, different friendliness levels in their public personas. Embarrassingly, many men (and it was almost uniformly men) tried to find ways that the problem was with these utterly fantastic follows: were they talking to their friends? too far from the floor? maybe their faces were unpleasant? maybe they didn't look available to dance? And had they ever heard of just asking? It was incredibly frustrating for those of us with personal experience being that follow, standing on the edge of the floor, attempting to make eye contact, smiling and asking every partner we ever danced with to watch Ruth and these other follows be treated like it was all their fault. (I'll point you to this post I wrote in January for what I think is actually a much bigger factor in this phenomenon.)

But the other thing that happened in the comments that was more heart-breaking than rage-making. Many leads talked to the fear of boring or disappointing a top follow. They were intimidated, they said, that the follow would feel like they had wasted their time dancing with such a person. The number of times this variety of comment appeared and the number of likes prompted my words above.

This particular viewpoint does a strong disservice to all of the dancers involved. Obviously the leads are down on their own dancing, but they are also failing to account for the fact that to be a top follow is much more than being able to follow whatever anyone throws at them -- it also means being able to bring up the dancer they're dancing with. A truly advanced follow can take an uncertain lead and turn it into something really, truly, quite rad. Follows do more than just carry out dance requests -- they friggin' dance, y'all. If you're afraid of boring someone, you're forgetting just how much they're going to add too.

If you're intimidated by someone's skill, remember that part of that skill is going to be creating a mad awesome dance with anyone. So, maybe, the next time you see an instructor or advanced dancer sitting near the dance floor, you could try politely asking them to dance instead of sitting out yourself too.

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