Each week, Hugo Miguez and Stacy Kay post Tuesday Tips, advice from the pros to the larger Westie community about everything from dance etiquette to great ways to learn in workshops. We at Wandering Westie are looking to expand upon these with stories from our own Westies each week – proof of these tips in action!
Actually Dancing at a Dance
This post is intended for the people who find themselves sitting out without a goal in mind. Who aren’t watching other dancers, or taking time to catch up with friends, but who are struggling to make their way onto the social dance floor.
To set the scene: You’re at a social dance. Gaze upon the dance floor with wonder and excitement. See friends, strangers, and acquaintances sharing magical connection upon the dance floor. It’s a good time in a great place, either a strange and freshly traveled land or what you maybe find to be your second home.
So why are you sitting out? Moreover, why are you unhappy sitting out?
Social dances are a great place to find, catch up with, and make friends, both on and off the dance floor. And most people find a balance between socializing and social dancing, especially when a dance allows for that balance with enough social dancing time. Yet often people find themselves on the outskirts at a dance, waiting, watching. One of my best friends dances about 25% of the songs when he’s out social dancing. I never noticed this, because I dance about 80% of the songs. But the more I look into it, the more common this phenomenon is.
Part of it comes from knowing people – or not knowing them. Some dance groups travel in a pack, and with it comes the inherent mentality of one. We travel together, we dance together, we experience this event together — and sometimes that “togetherness” can breed a sense of exclusion, especially among newer dance groups. It’s scary out in the bigger dance world, and it’s really easy to just dance with each other. Other times, you know nobody, and it’s hard to walk up to a stranger sometimes.
Trust me, we – the larger dance community – understand. This is why people come up to you if you are sitting out and will gently ask for a dance. we’re a lovely and supportive community who usually wanna help.
There is a reality that you are primarily the one responsible for your dance experience in a given night. Others can pick it up or bring it down, just like any social situation, but it’s initially on you.
With a social dance night comes a great deal of self-awareness and understanding of your own mental state and energy level. If you are feeling unwell, or unhappy after dancing a while, it might be time to take a bit of a break. If the energy in the room isn’t matching yours, that can throw you off. If you’re waiting around all night for people to ask you to dance, it’s on you. It’s not an unfriendly social dance culture.
It is nobody else’s responsibility to go ask you to dance. It is your responsibility to make the most of your experience. It’s your responsibility to go ask people to dance, and to remain aware of your dance environment as well as generally self-aware.
Go do the thing. We’ll love you.
If you need help doing the thing, here are a few tips that I use to stay on the social floor and take responsibility for having an awesome night.
1– Self-aware dancing. Being aware of your energy level on and off the floor makes a huge difference in how you plan your night and how you survive extended dance adventures. Dance the most when your energy is the highest, and dance with people who exhilarate and gift you with emotional energy when you need it. There are always a few beautiful people who I seek out if I need a pick-me-up on the dance floor, and they know who they are because I never stop telling them how much I appreciate our dances. If someone’s taking your energy, on the other hand, give them less of it. Drop your energy level, and then find someone who can help you bring it back up.
2–Get a friend and hop on the floor. Part of my Saturday night routine at events is to find a newer friend I’ve danced well with that weekend and dance a good set of songs with them – 3 or 4, usually. This is usually part practice session and part social dance, because we’re prepping for Sunday competitions – but this also just generates the social dance momentum you need to stay on the floor in a large, crowded, sometimes intimidating room. I try to grab a spot somewhere in the back-middle of the social floor, so it’ll actually be a struggle to make it off the floor without making eye contact. And after several good dances, usually that momentum is enough to keep me on the floor. Even just having a friend who makes you smile and with whom you enjoy dancing can help you get on the floor, and the magic of the dance floor can take it from there.
3–Hang out in the corners. The corners of (event) social dancing tend to be the hubs of socialization. There’s often some seriously quality dancing happening on the sides – people unencumbered by the “pinball effect” people can feel on the middle of the floor at times. It’s a great environment to learn, talk to people, and watch with a friend or even have a social dance. Plus, if you hang out in that area long enough, chances are someone WILL ask you to dance, or you’ll be compelled by watching all that quality dancing. That’s usually my quickest pick-me-up, and occasionally I’ll be so inspired by someone’s dancing that I’ll find I dance better when I get back on the floor.
How you spend your social dance time is entirely based on how you understand yourself and your needs as a dancer and a human being. If you believe it’s in your best interest to hang out and watch, or to dance every song – do so to your heart’s content.
But remember that this is likely everyone’s modus operandi during that social dance. People who say “save me a dance!” may not remember that they did – or may get caught up doing other things. It simply means that they’d love to dance with you if you get the chance. People take care of themselves and those closest to them, and on a dance floor that’s pulsating with all kinds of emotional interactions and emotional energy, that care and mental acuity becomes paramount.
It is on you as an individual to know yourself, to begin to read the room, and to create the experience you want to have. Whether lead or follow — ask others to dance. Look to create those moments, and pursue action over passivity. Chances are, others will respond – and encourage more. We’ll say “Yes! And ____” and we’ll go from there. Create and respond, respond and create, that’s what we’re all trained to do. We just need to start somewhere, so get out there and let’s have a blast.
Hugo Miguez and Stacy Kay are renowned for their precision, variety, and teaching methods within West Coast Swing. Since 2011, they have taken the circuit by storm with their Classic routines and are re-defining the learning process of the dance world. They will lead you through energetic dances while sharing their advice on all things dance. Hugo and Stacy reside in sunny Clearwater, Florida and travel as competitors, judges, and choreographers for numerous events in different dance styles. Both continue to share their passion for dance and enjoy working with all levels of experiences. They work with top professionals in many different dance styles distinctly furthering their education and experience. Their philosophy is to introduce and foster fresh, comprehensive dance knowledge for their students by giving more of themselves within every experience. They can be reached at www.hugoandstacy.dance.