You step onto the floor. You don’t know how to dance. What will you do?
This situation may seem hopeless but it’s not. If you’re on the average social dance floor—an unsophisticated floor, like a wedding reception—very few people know how to dance. She probably can’t dance. Her last partner was probably rough and off the beat. At this point she’s praying that you’re just a decent guy and don’t try to rip her arm off.
Lets look at how to survive this dance and, especially, how to achieve the golden rule of ballroom dancing: take care of your partner (I just made up that golden rule stuff). This will make her happy—and satisfied.
I know, you thought the headline meant sexual satisfaction. Hang tight because the things below can be used in all partner dancing situations (probably club dancing too), which includes demonstrating value to an HB.
But be prepared to dance with a variety of women, some by choice, some not. For example, consider targeting non-HBs because, to get better, you need to practice with many different partners, particularly women who are better than you. And then there are the obligatory dances with Aunt Betty at the family wedding or the boss’s wife at the Christmas party.
Before I go any further, I’ve assumed you can’t dance so let me introduce you to the default, non-dance: try to do, however crude, a rock or a sway. If you can hear the beat, make a weight change on every other beat of music as you rock back and forth: left foot, right foot, left foot and so on. If you both can’t hear the beat, no problem.
One more thing. If you want to neg her, I suggest you do it off the dance floor. Partner dancing is a vulnerable situation for her (you’re the designated leader and her roll, as the follower, is to react). Partner dancing will be awkward for both of you. Don’t risk complicating it.
And away we go:
1) Fake confidence. The only time you really look bad on the dance floor is when you look uptight. So don’t be bothered by your lack of ability. Since faking it requires some skill, don’t try to fake a dance, fake your confidence. The lack of dance training is excusable, but the lack of confidence is not. I’ve seen good dancers look bad because they lacked chemistry with their partners or they danced beyond their ability or they were frustrated over not being better dancers. And I’ve seen non-dancers look okay because they didn’t care how they looked. So hide the fear and settle the nerves (check out number 2 below). And don’t cop attitude about your dislike of dance—your willingness to go on the floor and take a risk, even if you can’t dance, projects confidence.
2) Pretend you’re having fun. Don’t be a square. Be a good sport. How you act on the dance floor is who you are. If you engage easily on the dance floor, you probably engage easily in life. You don’t have to have fun but don’t let her know that. The easiest thing to do is smile as you rock back and forth. At least give a facial expression that suggests you’re having a good time. Nobody wants to dance with a sourpuss.
3) Pretend you’re a knight in King Arthur’s Court. There’s a lot of tradition and formality around dancing. While this varies from dance to dance and from venue to venue, it’s best to start by being courteous and polite, like you were attending a dinner at the White House. For example, when you ask for a dance, look her in the eye and extend your hand; when the dance is over, thank her and walk her back to her seat. (I don’t always do this, but I have the mindset to deploy it in a pinch, e.g., if I were dancing with the bride’s mother.)
4) Pretend she’s fragile. If you’re just doing a gentle rocking back and forth, you’re probably safe, so this tip is if you try to do more. Too often people think they know how to dance or they want to goof around or, worse, show off. This leads to jerky movements, yanking on arms and dragging your follower around the floor. Injuries are common but they’re usually minor so you’ll never hear about it—except the next time you approach her to dance she’ll avoid eye contact, turn and hightail it away. Underarm turns are a problem so be careful you’re not aggressively cranking your hand above her head to turn her. Dips are another problem, not only because they’re done wrong, but followers may resist to protect their necks and backs (the last guy was rough so she’s not taking chances with you). In general, no quick movements. Less is more. Pretend you’re dancing in a china shop.
5) Make good eye contact. Eye contact is easy to overlook. Often you get all caught up in yourself—like trying to remember dance steps or looking at your feet (bad habit) or looking at other dancers (rude)—and you forget about her. Sure, you’ll give her some glances but that may not be enough. So go out of your way to give her warm and frequent eye contact. Try to hold it.
6) Build chemistry. If you can’t dance, you can’t create a dance connection. That’s okay, for now. But there are still ways to connect and build chemistry. Try some of these:
* Mirror her (a basic body language technique). Things to match or mirror: attitude, energy, facial expression, footwork and body styling.
* Show her a sense of play. Respond to something she does (“call and response,” found in music, is also used in dance). Respond to something in the music. Throw her a surprise. Maybe ham it up a little—see my blog post, “Ballroom dance like Steve Martin.”
* Create an emotional connection by taking the advice of the late Frankie Manning, the grandfather of swing dancing: pretend you’re in love with her for three minutes. For many women, there’s a fairy tale quality to dance, an escape from reality. This feeds that fantasy.
* Try to make a “rhythmic” connection. By that I mean getting you and your partner on the beat—in sync with the music and each other—even as you rock back and forth. Funny thing, there are plenty of guys who have lots of moves and think they can dance yet they’re off the beat. Dancing off time looks bad and feels bad to your partner. It will frustrate and annoy her. Ladies appreciate guys who are “rhythmic” so learn to hear the beat before you try to pull any fancy moves. If you can’t hear the beat be sensitive to her back-leading you to get you on the beat.
* Dance is physical. A deeper physical connection through body contact is, well, why we’re all here, right? There are some risks (I’ll do a future article on slow dancing and body contact) but if it seems appropriate, move in slowly and be prepared to abort.
* Conversation is a no-brainer. It’s so important it’s covered in number 7 below.
* If you’re going to try to do more than just rock back and forth, think about this: dance is a partnership, not a competition. Work with her. Even if you can dance don’t try to out-dance her just to showoff. There’s a teaching metaphor in dance: she’s the picture, you’re the frame. Let her shine.
* The way to ruin a connection is to criticize or correct her dancing. Also, try to avoid giving her instructions; for example, don’t say, “drop your head on the dip.”
* Be conscious of her face for fear, confusion or disgust, which will tell you something is wrong and you need to switch gears.
7) Engage in conversation. If you can charm her with some easy talk on the floor, you can work this into something where you barely dance at all and still save face. The caveat is that it’s bad etiquette to talk on the dance floor. But if you’re not getting in anyone’s way (try moving towards the center of the floor where people tend to dance in one spot) and if you continue your feeble attempt to dance as you talk, it’s probably okay. (I repeat: never stop dancing on the dance floor just to talk.) Here’s how it works: it’s hard to dance and talk at the same time. Talking requires even someone who can dance to dumb down their dance moves. So if you focus on light conversation as you rock back and forth, you now have an excuse for your awkwardness and lack of rhythm. Move slowly and keep your movements small and tight. If you’re sarging this is an opportunity to flirt.
8) Compliment her dancing. She probably can’t dance so she may not be worthy of a genuine compliment. So, like a lot of compliments in real life, it’ll be a throwaway line to endear her. But even if she can’t dance, you can be sincere with stuff like this: “you’re a lot of fun on the dance floor”; “you have great rhythm” (“rhythm” is ambiguous and positive); “you’re very musical” or “you have great musicality” (“musicality” is very ambiguous and also a positive); “you move nicely.” And it’s good to finish with a compliment and the line, “save me another dance.”
9) Loosen up. If you can adjust your attitude and relax a little, everything will go smoother. It’ll be hard to relax on the dance floor. But would you rather be a stiff guy who can’t dance or a relaxed guy who can’t dance? It’s natural to feel in the spotlight but, really, no one is watching (people watch the better dancers). Your partner is probably focused on herself and how she looks, not on you. A few things that’ll help:
* Like any activity, the more you do it the more comfortable it becomes. Break the ice and just dance.
* Try to hide on the floor so you’ll feel less self-conscious. If you move to the middle or the back or to a crowded section, you can shield yourself from people on the sidelines.
* Remember to pretend you’re having fun (number 2 above). Body language studies show that even if you do an activity with a forced smile, you’ll enjoy it more.
* Keep it flowing. Avoid stopping and restarting. Keep moving but remember, no pushing or pulling.
* Laugh easily.
* Don’t apologize excessively for your lack of ability or for mistakes. Dance is art, everything is allowable.
* Laugh at mistakes. Don’t take yourself seriously.
* Keep expectations low for your performance, for her performance and for the dance.
* A song lasts only a few minutes. Repeat this mantra: This too shall pass.
While the ability to dance is important, that alone will not guarantee her satisfaction. Even good dancers sometimes don’t deliver: they can be rude, rough, egotistical, insensitive and not fun. Even two good dancers can have an awkward dance as they learn to adjust. So even a trained dancer needs to do more than a bunch of cool moves if he wants to satisfy a woman on the dance floor.
Dancing is hard so a little bit of stumbling around is common. Awkwardness is average. But a dance floor is a test tube of social interaction with a lot more going on. If you can’t bedazzle her with your dancing, embellish your rocking back and forth with the things you can control. Give her attention, entertain her, take care of her and reveal yourself to be a man of character. She will speak positively about you to her friends (social proofing). And she will want to dance with you again.
Is there behavior or lines (spoken words) you use on the dance floor that the ladies like?