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Your First Dance Social: Welcome to the Jungle

For many of us, dance socials, whether at clubs, dance halls, or your local studio, are fun events that you look forward to eagerly, visit regularly and know you’ll have ready partners calling your name when you step through the door.

This article is not for them.

The people I’d like to speak to are the ones who love dancing just as much, want to be just as good as anyone else. It’s just that the thought ‘putting yourself to the test’ by taking it into a social environment is enough to make us curl up on the couch and turn on the television instead. Sound familiar?

The good news is, you are in good company: I’ve been dancing for over 17 years now, and I still get nervous going out to an unfamiliar club, or breaking out a dance I haven’t used in a while. Hopefully you’ll come to recognize as I do, that our hesitation stems not from any real threat, but is a reaction to being exposed to too much, too quickly. Let’s start with…

The Approach

Any challenge is made easier when it is in smaller, manageable chunks. For instance, the first time you go to a social, just sit down and watch for a while. If you feel up for it, make yourself available to dance, or try asking someone. Or if you’re too scared to go in, just walk past and look (I’m serious). Or drive by in your car. If it pushes your comfort zone, it’s enough.

The Back-up

Once you’re ready to actually get through the door, it helps to have a loyal friend at your back, especially if they have been before and can introduce you to some of the regulars. Non-dancing friends work too, if you just want to watch and take it in.

The Attire

For your first expedition, you want to fit in, rather then stand out. Ask your teacher, or other students who’ve been there, and check online for any gallery pics of the place. A well-thought-out attire sends a silent message to the other social dancers: ‘I belong here.’

The Unexpected

Every person’s first experience at a social is unique, so when someone tells ‘how welcoming the dancers are’ or how ‘everyone’s cliquey, stay away from there’, take it with a grain of salt. In the end, you’ll have to experience it for yourself, and decide whether you agree with them.

The Persistent

Wayne Gretzky once said ‘you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.’ But he didn’t score every time he took a shot either – he just kept on getting back into the rink until he was the best player out there. When you decide to attend that first social, acknowledge to yourself that the first time is the learning experience, where you pick up all the little things that will make every social afterwards more fun. So take in as much as you can, and come back soon.

Dancing at socials is a skill like any other, and requires practice to build confidence and enjoyment. Our next article builds on how to amplify your experience, with a look at etiquette at a social dance.

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