I have been in this amazing world of dance, primarily West Coast Swing, for over 25 years…. I was lucky enough to have started as a line dancer and country couples dancer in the late 80’s…. For those who do not know, Achy Breaky Heart, recorded by Billy Ray Cyrus (Miley’s dad), was the huge hit that brought a surge of new dancers to the Country Western scene in the early 90’s…
I was also lucky enough to have been part of the amazing social couples dance scene on the west coast at that time, teaching at Denim & Diamonds and Country Rock Cafe in Southern California.. The social scene in the Orange County area was the most amazing I have ever seen. I am so proud to have been part of it as a dance instructor and social dancer and I am still friends with many dancers and students from that time, some who took my beginner lessons and are still dancing today. Many couples who met at my lessons are still married today and dance partnerships are still going strong.
However….. I have been seeing a trend in the social dance scene that is so disturbing that it is, in my opinion, the biggest reason why new dancers do not return to the social dance environment of West Coast Swing…..
In the past year, I have had way too many conversations with brand new dancers who have taken one or two lessons and are falling in love with WCS, but have been intimidated, criticized, told they need to take more lessons, told not to come back until they have taken more lessons, told they basically suck and shouldn’t bother with WCS until they get better…
Where is this happening?
On the social dance floor…..
The only thing worse that can happen on the social dance floor is to physically hurt your partner…..
If you had the power to change the one thing that drives more new fans away from WCS than anything else would you do it? I would hope so!!!
STOP CRITIQUING YOUR DANCE PARTNER!!!!!!!
STOP TEACHING ON THE DANCE FLOOR!!!!!
Do not give unsolicited advice on the dance floor…
Don’t think that just because you ask if someone would like your help then it is ok to tell them what they are doing wrong!
It is your job to adjust your dance to the person you are dancing with!!!!!
If you have to tell them what they should/shouldn’t be doing than you shouldn’t be doing that particular move/combination/concept with that particular partner…
If they are brand new then figure out what they already know and help them practice it! Remember, you were there once too!!!
Do not offer your help on the dance floor! If they miss the move you are doing then try to do it again… However, adjust your lead/follow when you do! If you are asked for your help then help them to do what they already have learned, do not teach them new stuff that you want to do…… Do not dance for yourself, dance for the newbie! Or wait until after the dance and go to the teacher together for help….
We want this dance to continue to grow..
If you could change the one thing that has the most negative impact for so many newer dancers then PLEASE…. PLEASE…. PLEASE….. DO IT!!!
STOP TEACHING ON THE DANCE FLOOR!!!
If they only know a left side pass and a sugar push then enjoy the dance and help them to practice what they know!.. Others should have done the same for you when you were starting.
On a more personal note, I remember attending my very first dance convention. At that event I built up the confidence to ask a “professional” to dance. For the next three minutes all she did was critique my dance and tell me everything I was doing wrong. Keep in mind I had only been dancing for three months. At the end of the dance she gave me her business card..
Is this a subject that hits home for me personally? HELL YES!!!
Please do not teach on the dance floor or give unsolicited advice! I’m not saying everyone does this, but it happens way too often and we all need to take a look at ourselves and how others might be interpreting our actions, no matter how well-intentioned. I’d recommend keeping your reactions to mistakes as subdued as possible while social dancing. That reaction you just had due to personal frustration could be misinterpreted as frustration towards your partner, not yourself.
So please, be the positive influence on the dance floor that you want to see and encourage these attitudes amongst your friends. Let’s help foster the growth of the dance we all know and love by making social dancing the most uplifting experience possible for every new dancer you meet!
Dance for the love of it… Dance for the experience of it… Dance for the joy of it…
See you on the dance floor.
-Gary Jobst The Pondering Westie
Please feel free to comment with your personal experiences as well as other subjects that you would like to see discussed in this format. Keep in mind that I will do my best to give each subject personal, in-depth thought. If you suggest a subject and I feel passionate about it then I will make it one of my future posts…