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 This Is West Coast Swing are looking to expand upon these with stories from our own Westies each week – proof of these tips in action!
Stepping into a room filled with strangers is intimidating for most people. Now, throw in the additional aspect of moving their body rhythmically with these strangers, and it’s sure to make the pulse rise and maybe a few hands shake with nerves. It’s not uncommon to catch newcomers’ eyes scanning the crowd searching for that friendly face.
I recently learned how strongly a warm welcome impacts someone new to a West Coast Swing community. On two occasions, members of my local dance community came up and shared their hearts with me. They both explained I was the reason they continued dancing. This was, in my opinion, the biggest compliment they could have given me. They didn’t compliment me because I was the best dancer nor because I was the most entertaining nor because I was a master move maker (I’m not these things), but rather because I noticed them and included them when they were new on the scene. I ended up being that friendly face they were hoping to find.
Their complements served as reminders to keep my eyes open for newcomers and be inclusive. The more seasoned we get as dancers, the easier it is to fall into routine and forget about creating an inviting atmosphere. It’s important we avoid traps that can kill the growth of a dance community.
Here are three traps to avoid when it comes to newcomers:
- Allowing skill level to filter your dances. Please remember, WCS is not a dance based solely on skill. It is a highly social form of dancing. The social aspect is one of the qualities that makes the dance so great. If you only dance with people at a certain skill level or people you’re familiar with, you are filtering out the variety that spices up the dance scene. By removing variety from your dances you limit yourself, you limit those around you, and you stunt the growth of your community. You send a message that says, “Newcomers are not welcome. Our dance community is big enough.”
- Allowing fear to prevent risk. Newcomers often sit by themselves or in a less trafficked area of the room. Walking across the room can be daunting, especially for someone who is used to being asked to dance rather doing the asking. Don’t let that long walk prevent you from building a new connection. TAKE THE RISK! The way I see it, the worst case scenario would be you walk over, the dancer says, “No thanks, I’m not sure I’m ready to social dance yet.”, you stay to learn more about them, and then tell them you want that dance when they feel ready. Either way, you’re making a new friend.
- Allowing comfort to blind you. Comfort zones are probably the most common pitfalls when it comes to getting to know other dancers. People tend to flock with people they know. That’s where we feel most comfortable and where we focus most of our attention. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t want to spend time with friends on a social dancing night. All that means is, as part of the WCS family, you need to force yourself to be mindful of others. It may simply mean taking an extra five seconds to scan the entire room between conversations. It may also mean saving a dance for someone you don’t normally dance with.
Whether someone is new to WCS or new to the community, the level of reception the person receives will often make or break the dance relationship. It is up to us as the WCS community to make new dancers feel welcome. It’s the only way to continue growing our community.
This isn’t simply accomplished by a single dance. When you notice a new dancer or someone sitting alone, be sure to talk with them a bit, introduce them to others, tell them you hope to dance again next time, and follow through when they return. Show them there’s no test or initiation; they’re part of our dance community simply by attending. Show them what WCS is all about. BE THAT FRIENDLY FACE!
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.